Opera, Italian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Abstract

Vocal music is the art form historically adapted to the imperatives of sociability, and the music of the Italian opera was a fashionable and ubiquitous entertainment in the Romantic period in Britain and throughout Europe. Every region had its popular music idioms but Italian opera was the lingua franca of a booming cosmopolitan music industry and print culture, of which London was the commercial capital. The King's Theatre opera house in the Haymarket dominated the socio‐commercial structure of Romantic‐era polite music culture, in which a successful opera song ran the gamut of social venues, both public and private. Beginning on the stage of the Italian (or English) opera house, and performed by a well‐known singer, a favourite air would subsequently be revived at the London pleasure gardens and in genteel concert settings. The ‘delightful airs’ of the Italian opera, Leigh Hunt recalled of his boyhood London, ‘wandered into the streets out of the English operas that borrowed them, and became confounded with English property’ (1928: 61). The destiny of the Italian aria then lay in the music room of the young female amateur musician, where it battled the same tides of fashion to which it owed its own existence for a permanent place in her vocal repertoire. But despite, or because of, its centrality to Romantic‐era music culture, the King's Theatre opera house – the most important in Europe outside Italy – also embodied a multitude of perceived dangers to the British nation: effeminacy, cosmopolitanism, luxury consumption, the tyranny of fashion, and a thriving aristocratic culture of patronage. The result was a constant agitation through the eighteenth century and Romantic period for reform of the Italian opera house.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature
EditorsFrederick Burwick
Place of PublicationChichester
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
Volume2
ISBN (Electronic)9781118300916
ISBN (Print)9781405188104
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Keywords

  • literature
  • acting and performance
  • drama
  • music

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  • Cite this

    Wood, G. DA. (2012). Opera, Italian. In F. Burwick (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature (Vol. 2). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118300916.wberlo004