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"Melodramma," Market and Modernity: Opera in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy


Abstract of “MELODRAMMA,” MARKET AND MODERNITY: OPERA IN LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY ITALY by MICHELA RONZANI, Ph.D., Brown University, May 2015. My dissertation “Melodramma,” Market, and Modernity: Opera in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy is a cultural history of Italian Opera as institution in the years of its first encounter with new audiences, incipient mass culture, and novel conceptions of markets and marketing. The work explores how each aspect of the operatic productive system – production, promotion, reception, and performance – dealt with social and cultural change in the years between 1870s and 1910s. The goal is to investigate the development of aesthetic and cultural hierarchies such as “high” and “low” or art and entertainment in relation to Italian opera. Applying the methodologies of cultural studies, I examine archival documents from the management of Milanese opera house La Scala, marketing products designed by music publisher Ricordi to advertise operas by Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni, musical periodicals, and critical writings by Arrigo Boito to reveal and investigate a tension within Italian opera world between popularizing tendencies and elitist aspirations. The dissertation shows that starting from the 1870s, the time of a bourgeoning commodification of culture, hierarchical categories like those mentioned above started to be applied to opera in order to attempt to define its status. The commercial potential of opera started to be noted and an idea of distinction was used to commercialize opera to different markets. At the same time, because of this tendency toward commodification, some intellectuals, composers and opera managers rejected opera’s marketability and distanced opera from the audience by turning opera-going from an entertainment event into a cultural and artistic experience.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2015)

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Ronzani, Michela, "'Melodramma,' Market and Modernity: Opera in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy" (2015). Italian Studies Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.