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Interpreting the Italian Voice in London (and Elsewhere)

Interpreting the Italian Voice in London (and Elsewhere)

(p.51) Chapter 3 Interpreting the Italian Voice in London (and Elsewhere)
London Voices, 1820-1840
Claudio Vellutini
University of Chicago Press

An enduring and ever-changing trope, Italian singing became a contentious subject in the opera discourse across Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century. While the dissemination of national ideas increasingly challenged the still ubiquitous presence of Italian singers, conservatories institutionalized Italian vocal pedagogy with the overt intent of cultivating “native” professionals. Yet the extent to which different singing aesthetics could be reconciled in the operatic practice of the time remained a major point of debate. This paper focuses on how discussions of the Italian voice in London intersected with and informed opinions about how the development of a lofty English operatic genre should be modeled upon the essentially lyrical nature of Italian opera. Through the examination of printed materials on vocal aesthetics and pedagogy, voice treatises published in London by singing teachers such as Gesualdo Lanza and Domenico Crivelli, and archival documents from the Royal Academy of Music, this essay traces how the idea of the Italian voice in London participated in a rather fluid discourse that acknowledged the permeability of national and foreign cultures rather than treating them as mutually exclusive.

Keywords:   singing aesthetics, vocal pedagogy, English opera, Gesualdo Lanza, Domenico Crivelli, Royal Academy of Music

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