The Ideal World of Mrs. Widder's Soiree Musicale: Social Identity and Musical Life in Nineteenth-Century Ontario

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The printed program of Mrs. Widder's 1844 Soiree Musicale, a formal concert at her lavish Toronto home, lists eleven musicians performing opera, parlour ballads, and glees. This information helped trace the networks which drew a working tenor and leisured Lady and Gentlemen Amatueurs into a brilliant program balancing aesthetics with social politics. The Widder program reveals how conventions linking class and gender with musical genre and local issues shaped the meaning of musical life both public and private. The Soiree Musicale, a concert form transplanted from imperial London, was the embodiment of an idealized hierarchical universe.

From classical recitals to the Phantom of the Opera, Kristina Guiguet's international singing career prompted this study of nineteenth-century Canadian musical life. Her Carleton University Master's thesis, the original version of this publication, won the University Medal for Outstanding Graduate Work (M.A.).