Berta Joncus is Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. From 2007 to 2009 she was a lecturer in music at St Anne’s and St Hilda’s colleges of Oxford University, where she had been a post-doctoral research fellow (2004–2007) and earned her DPhil degree (1999–2004). Before studying at Oxford, she was an editor at the New Grove Dictionary of Music, working with Stanley Sadie. She took her MA at the University of Bonn, Germany and worked earlier as professional singer after finishing a performance degree at the Franz Schubert Conservatory of Vienna.
In her research, Berta focuses on celebrity culture and the role of the performer in creating musical works. Her particular interest is in eighteenth-century British and European music, from the bizarre to the celebrated. A feminist, Berta champions lost voices and marginalized viewpoints, and has started researching, writing and presenting on pre-1800 transatlantic Black music. She specialises also in music editorship and source studies in the digital age.
Berta is a member of the Handel Institute Council and, from January 2020, co-editor of Music & Letters.
Areas of supervision
Berta supervises studies that consider how performers' creative practices shape scores, conventions and reception. While specialising in eighteenth-century subjects, she has advised on topics ranging from Early Modern Florentine nunneries to 20th-century Serbian art song. She welcomes hearing about possible topics for supervision from nascent doctoral students.
Awards, grants and media appearances
The British Academy awarded Berta a Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2004–2007), which she completed at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. She reviews recordings for the BBC Music Magazine, an engagement she considers vital in view of the low numbers of women in arts criticism. She presents regularly for BBC radio and television, the English National Opera, the Barbican, and Early Music festivals in the UK and USA. Her book Kitty Clive, or The Fair Songster was published by Boydell Press in June 2019 and is to be nominated for the H. Robert Cohen Book Award of the American Musicological Society.
Berta looks at eighteenth-century stage music as an outgrowth of celebrity culture, drawing on her fluency in German, French and Italian as well as English to synthesize perspectives. Berta’s 2019 book on singer-actress and radical feminist Kitty Clive (1711–1785) elaborates her historical interests in great detail; re-thinking agency in stardom, Berta shows how the onstage performer altered stage works – Handel’s Messiah included – to her advantage. Berta is an authority on British ballad opera, which she analyses as both genre and social force. Transatlantic Black music of the past, and its impact on London, is Berta’s newest strand of research, which she pursues in partnership with scholars and institutions in the UK (Historic Royal Palaces, Foundling Museum, Handel & Hendrix in London museum), USA (Yale University and the Paul Mellon Centre) and Lagos, Nigeria (MUSON Centre).
As a music editor, Berta has long been fascinated with the impact of digitization and computational tools. Her 2007 output for the British Academy, Ballad Operas Online, was the first web-based resource for this repertory. She is senior editor of the pasticcio opera Love in a Village (1762). Published by Bärenreiter and the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature for their OPERA series, Love in Village is both a hard-copy critical edition and an online environment where users can compare editorial reports to digitized primary sources.
Her research focuses on the eighteenth-century London stage, European vocal music, European popular music before 1800 and, more generally, how vocal stars of the past produced their music and were produced by it. Her research is informed by her background as a singer and her work as a music critic for the BBC. Through her teaching and research, she seeks to cross boundaries of eras, disciplines, media and traditional musical scholarship.
Joncus, Berta and Bucciarelli, Melania, eds. 2007. Music as Social and Cultural Practice: Essays in Honour of Reinhard Strohm. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 9781843833178
Joncus, Berta and Burrows, Donald. 2017. Music and Representation. In: Joanna Marschner, ed. Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 202-207. ISBN 9780300217100
Joncus, Berta. 2017. ‘Ballad Opera: Commercial Song in Enlightenment Garb. In: Robert Gordon and Olaf Jubin, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 31-63. ISBN 9780199988747
Joncus, Berta and Rogers, Vanessa L.. 2014. Ballad opera and British timbre: Henry Fielding’s 'The Mock Doctor'. In: Herbert Schneider, ed. Die Praxis des Timbre in verschiedenen europäischen Kulturen: Eine musikalische Praxis zwischen Oralität und Schriftlichkeit. (40) Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, pp. 101-140. ISBN 978-3-487-15072-7
Joncus, Berta and Rogers, Vanessa. 2013. 'United voices formed the very perfection of harmony': Music and the invention of Harriett Abrams (c.1758-1821). In: Baerbel Czennia, ed. Celebrity: the idiom of a modern era. 70 New York: AMS Press. ISBN 978-0-404-64870-1
Joncus, Berta and Rogers, Vanessa L.. 2013. Ballad Opera and British double entendre: Henry Fielding’s The Mock Doctor’. In: Herbert Schneider, ed. Die Praxis des Timbre in verschiedenen europäischen Kulturen: Eine musikalische Praxis zwischen Oralität und Schriftlichkeit. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, pp. 101-140.
Joncus, Berta. 2013. ‘Ballad Opera’, ‘Beard, John’, ‘Beggar’s Opera’, ‘Clive, Catherine’, ‘Gay, John'. In: David Vickers and Annette Landgraf, eds. The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107666405
Joncus, Berta. 2013. “United voices formed the very perfection of harmony”: Music and the Invention of Harriett Abrams (c1758–1821)’,. In: Bärbel Czennia, ed. Celebrity: The Idiom of a Modern Era. New York: AMS Press, pp. 67-106. ISBN 9780404648701
Joncus, Berta. 2012. 'The Assemblage of every female Folly': Lavinia Fenton, Kitty Clive and the Genesis of Ballad Opera. In: Tiffany Potter, ed. Women of Fashion: Popular Culture in the Eighteenth Century and the eighteenth century in popular culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 25-51. ISBN 9781442641815
Joncus, Berta. 2012. 'Nectar if you taste and go, poison if you stay': struggling with the Orient in eighteenth-century British musical theatre. (Forthcoming). In: Marina Warner and Philip F. Kennedy, eds. The Arabian Nights: Encounters and Translations in Literature and the Arts. New York: New York University Press.
Joncus, Berta and Rogers, Vanessa L.. 2011. Beyond 'The Beggar’s Opera': John Rich and English Ballad Opera. In: Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow, eds. 'The Stage’s Glory’: John Rich (1692-1761). Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, pp. 184-204. ISBN 9781611490329
Joncus, Berta. 2010. Ballad Operas Online (BOPO): Tuning in to Eighteenth-Century Popular Song. In: Michael Burden, ed. A Handbook for Studies in 18th-century English Music, Part 18: Ballad Opera. Oxford: Burden & Cholij.
Joncus, Berta. 2009. Private Music in Public Spheres: Chamber Cantata and Song. In: Simon Keefe, ed. The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 513-540. ISBN 9780521663199
Joncus, Berta. 2007. Producing Stars in dramma per musica. In: Berta Joncus and Melania Bucciarelli, eds. Music as Social and Cultural Practice: Essays in Honour of Reinhard Strohm. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, pp. 275-293. ISBN 9781874833178
Joncus, Berta. 2014. Review of Suzanne Aspden, 'The Rival Sirens: Performance and Identity on Handel’s Operatic Stage'. Music & Letters, 95(1), pp. 96-99. ISSN 0027-4224
Joncus, Berta. 2013. Review: Stefanie Tcharos, Opera's Orbit: Musical Drama and the Influence of Opera in Arcadian Rome. Eighteenth-Century Music, 10(1), pp. 136-139. ISSN 1478-5706
Joncus, Berta. 2013. ‘To Propagate Sound for Sense’: Music for Diversion and Seduction at Ranelagh Gardens. The London Journal, 38(1), pp. 34-66. ISSN 0305-8034
Joncus, Berta. 2011. “In Wit Superior as in Fighting”: Kitty Clive and the Conquest of a Rival Queen. Huntington Library Quarterly, 74(1), pp. 23-42. ISSN 0018-7895
Joncus, Berta. 2011. London Stage Music in Transition: 'Kathryn Lowerre, Music and Musicians on the London Stage, 1695-1705' [Book Review]. Early Music, 39(1), pp. 100-102. ISSN 0306-1078
Joncus, Berta. 2010. ‘“Ich bin eine Engländerin, zur Freyheit geboren”: Blonde and the Enlightened Female in Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail’. The Opera Quarterly, 26(4), pp. 552-587. ISSN 00187895
Joncus, Berta. 2010. Martha Feldman’s Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths Eighteenth-Century Italy’ (Book Review). Opera Quarterly, 26(4), pp. 626-634. ISSN 0736-0053
Joncus, Berta. 2009. 'The Monthly Mask of Vocal Music, 1702-1711: a Facsimile Edition', edited by Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007) [Book Review]. Eighteenth-Century Music, 6(1), pp. 133-135. ISSN 1478-5706
Joncus, Berta. 2009. “A Likeness Where None Was To Be Found”: Imagining Kitty Clive (1711–1785). Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography, 34(1-2), pp. 89-106. ISSN 1522-7464
Joncus, Berta. 2009. ‘Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson, eds, The Monthly Mask of Vocal Music, 1702-1711: A Facsimile Edition’. Eighteenth-Century Music, 6(1), pp. 133-135. ISSN 1478-5706
Joncus, Berta. 2006. Handel at Drury Lane: Ballad Opera and the Production of Kitty Clive. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 131(2), pp. 179-226. ISSN 0269-0403
Joncus, Berta. 2005. One God, so many Farinellis: Mythologising the Star Castrato. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (formerly British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies), 28(3), pp. 437-496.
Joncus, Berta. 2005. "His Spirit is in Action Seen": Milton, Mrs. Clive and the Simulacra of the Pastoral in Comus. Eighteenth-Century Music, 2(1), pp. 7-40. ISSN 1478-5706
Conference or Workshop Item
Joncus, Berta. 2011. 'Seventy-seventh Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, San Francisco. ‘Listening to Portraits: Music and the Eighteenth-Century Opera Celebrity’. 10-13 Nov 2011'. In: Paper. San Francisco, United States 10-13 November 2011.
Joncus, Berta. 2011. 'Listening to portraits: music and the eighteenth-century opera celebrity'. In: The first actresses: celebrity, performance and representation in 'the long eighteenth century'. National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom.
Joncus, Berta. 2010. 'Fourteenth Biennial International Conference, on Baroque Music'. In: The 14th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music. Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom 30 June – 4 July 2010.
Joncus, Berta. 2010. '"Poison if you taste and go, Nectar if you stay": Struggling with the Orient in Eighteenth-Century British Musical Theatre'. In: Staging the East: Oriental Masking in the British Theatre, 1660-1830. Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom 11-12 June 2010.
Joncus, Berta. 2009. ''This glorious Approbation of Sounds': Handel, Purcell and London’s Eighteenth-Century Entertainments'. In: Purcell, Handel & Literature. Institute of Musical Research, London, United Kingdom 20-21 November 2009.
Joncus, Berta; Rogers, Vanessa and Ozmo, Žak. 2009. 'Music for the Common Man: Handel, Purcell and London’s Eighteenth-Century Entertainments'. In: Seventy-fifth Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society. Philadelphia, United States.
Joncus, Berta. 2008. '"To propagate Sound for Sense": Music for Diversion and Seduction at Ranelagh Gardens'. In: Vauxhall Revisited: Pleasure Gardens and their Publics, 1660-1880. Tate Britain, London, United Kingdom 14-16 July 2008.
Joncus, Berta. 2008. '"Of all the arts that sooth": Imagining Kitty Clive (1711-1785)'. In: Twelfth Conference of the Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale. New York, United States.
Joncus, Berta. 2007. 'Musicological choices: Gender, Prestige, and the Power of Subject Specialization'. In: Seventy-third Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society. Quebec City, Canada.
Joncus, Berta. 2007. '"And Fashion makes me Sing": Eighteenth-century English Ballad Opera and the Birth of a Popular Music Industry'. In: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Symposium 2007. London, United Kingdom.
Joncus, Berta. 2006. ''Charm’d with the sprightly Innocence of Nell’: Re-Reading The Devil to Pay'. In: Twelfth Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music. Warsaw, Poland.
Joncus, Berta. 2006. 'Curse them all for a parcel of Italian bitches’: the seduction of mimicry on the mid-eighteenth-century London stage'. In: Thirty-fifth annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Oxford, United Kingdom.
Joncus, Berta. 2005. ''Charm’d with the sprightly innocence of Nell’: Re-reading The Devil to Pay'. In: Seventy-first annual meeting of the American Musicological Society. Washington D.C, United States.
Joncus, Berta. 2004. 'Eating Pigeon-Pye: Handel and the 'Sweet Bird' of Drury Lane'. In: Fortieth Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association. Birmingham, United Kingdom 12-14 November 2004.
Joncus, Berta. 2003. 'A Star is Born: Kitty Clive and Female Representation in Eighteenth-Century English Musical Theatre'. In: Sixty-ninth Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society. Houston, Texas, United States.
Joncus, Berta and Bostridge, Ian. 2010. Ian Bostridge and the Three Tenors: Beard, Borosini, Fabri.