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Operatic GeographiesThe Place of Opera and the Opera House$
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Suzanne Aspden

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226595962

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226596150.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

L’italiana in Calcutta

L’italiana in Calcutta

(p.119) Nine L’italiana in Calcutta
Operatic Geographies

Benjamin Walton

University of Chicago Press

When Italian opera troupes began to travel beyond Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century, they did so buoyed up by a familiar ideology of opera as a civilizing force. Yet at the same time, opera also surfaced in the writings of European travelers, such as Charles Darwin, Emily Eden and Victor Jacquemont, to communicate the wonders they encountered overseas. This chapter brings these two versions of opera – as touring event and as part of descriptive discourse – into contact, to explore how the meanings generated through opera’s use as metaphor could complicate its role as bearer of civilizational ideology. To this end, verbal and visual accounts of landscape and life in Rio de Janeiro and Calcutta during the 1820s and 1830s – in the form of travelogues and letters, as well as panoramic landscapes displayed in London – are juxtaposed with an opera staged in both cities in the same period: Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, which itself depicts Europeans traveling to a non-European and paradigmatically “uncivilized” land. Only through such juxtapositions, the chapter suggests, can we reach a better understanding of opera’s unstable role within the wider story of nineteenth-century globalization.

Keywords:   Rossini, panorama, civilization, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta, L’italiana in Algeri, Victor Jacquemont, Emily Eden, Charles Darwin

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