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The Traffic in Voices

The Traffic in Voices

The Exchange Value of Italian Opera in Giuseppe Mazzini’s London

Chapter:
(p.33) Chapter 2 The Traffic in Voices
Source:
London Voices, 1820-1840
Author(s):
Mary Ann Smart
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226670218.003.0003

“The Traffic in Voices” traces the multiple roles played by Italian musicians and operatic music in the London of the 1840s, with a focus on the charitable school established by Giuseppe Mazzini to educate Italian immigrants, many of whom were street musicians and victims of human trafficking. The Italian Gratuitous School, founded in 1841, was a key element in Mazzini’s campaign to win British support, both financial and political, for the cause of Italian independence. The School was funded mainly by philanthropic contributions, solicited at two annual events attended by a wide swathe of London society: a prize-giving ceremony that featured amateur musical performances and recitations by the School's students and a benefit concert featuring star singers from the Italian Opera. The centrality of Italian music and of Italian performers in these and other high-profile London settings during the 1840s exemplifies the way Italian music functioned both as a commodity, capable of generating considerable funds for political and charitable causes, and as an affective substance that could change minds, raising the profile of Italians in the British public sphere and directing positive feeling towards the independence movement.

Keywords:   street musicians, barrel organ, Italian immigration, Giuseppe Mazzini, philanthropy

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