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Beyond Nationaloper. For a critique of methodological nationalism in reading nineteenth-century Italian and German opera

Körner, A; (2020) Beyond Nationaloper. For a critique of methodological nationalism in reading nineteenth-century Italian and German opera. Journal of Modern Italian Studies , 25 (4) pp. 402-419. 10.1080/1354571X.2020.1764244. Green open access

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Abstract

This article challenges traditional narratives that have tended to highlight the role of opera as a tool of political nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe. Instead, I will show how opera (both the form and the repertoire) served as a means of creating cultural and intellectual connections between peoples, and how it participated in the emergence of a European public. Claims that particular operas played a role in rousing nationalist sentiment are often methodologically unsound, due to the limitations of related sources of reception; or they are based on myths that were constructed long after these works’ original production. Moreover, even works written or described at the time as explicitly ‘national’ operas often relied on musical techniques amalgamated from different national contexts, raising questions over their classification in terms of national culture. Instead, Italian opera in particular assumed a central role in building cultural bridges between and within nations and polities. This was especially the case for the Habsburg monarchy, where opera was understood as a reference to Italy’s humanist legacy, based on a long tradition of reading opera as the reinvention of Greek drama. After 1815 and throughout the 1820s, the triumph of Rossini’s works on almost every stage in Europe shows how opera transcended barriers between peoples, states and nations. A mere ‘national’ reading of such works risks missing the point of why opera became a European art form of a truly global appeal.

Type: Article
Title: Beyond Nationaloper. For a critique of methodological nationalism in reading nineteenth-century Italian and German opera
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/1354571X.2020.1764244
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/1354571X.2020.1764244
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Nationalism, Opera, Italian history, German history, Habsburg Empire, Transnationalism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107953
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