Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 9780226241128 Published September 2007
Paper $39.00 ISBN: 9780226241135 Published November 2011
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226044545 Published October 2010

Opera and Sovereignty

Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy

Martha Feldman

Martha Feldman

584 pages | 4 color plates, 46 halftones, 26 musical examples, 10 tables | 7 x 10 | © 2007
Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 9780226241128 Published September 2007
Paper $39.00 ISBN: 9780226241135 Published November 2011
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226044545 Published October 2010
Performed throughout Europe during the 1700s, Italian heroic opera, or opera seria, was the century’s most significant musical art form, profoundly engaging such figures as Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. Opera and Sovereignty is the first book to address this genre as cultural history, arguing that eighteenth-century opera seria must be understood in light of the period’s social and political upheavals.

Taking an anthropological approach to European music that’s as bold as it is unusual, Martha Feldman traces Italian opera’s shift from a mythical assertion of sovereignty, with its festive forms and rituals, to a dramatic vehicle that increasingly questioned absolute ideals. She situates these transformations against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Italian culture to show how opera seria both reflected and affected the struggles of rulers to maintain sovereignty in the face of a growing public sphere.  In so doing, Feldman explains why the form had such great international success and how audience experiences of the period differed from ours today. Ambitiously interdisciplinary, Opera and Sovereignty will appeal not only to scholars of music and anthropology, but also to those interested in theater, dance, and the history of the Enlightenment.

The University of Chicago Press: Gordon J. Laing Award
Won

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Marita Petzoldt McClymonds, University of Virginia

“Martha Feldman wields her vast array of sources with great intensity and imagination, virtually propelling the reader into a memorable one-on-one experience with the previously unfathomable eighteenth-century world of opera seria in performance. Her anthropological approach is startlingly original and yields powerful insights into how this genre of art music functioned within the sociopolitical dynamics of its time.”

Downing Thomas, University of Iowa

Opera and Sovereignty is a decidedly original book on dramma per musica and an incisive contribution to the study of musical practices in their cultural contexts. Martha Feldman deftly undoes the opposition between history and myth that is the common understanding of the difference between Italian and French opera of the time. In the end, we are given a compelling story of ambivalent reforms and persistent, but always fluid, operatic forms.”

Elisabeth Le Guin, University of California, Los Angeles

“I know of nothing else like this book. From Feldman I have come to expect a lapidary, loving marriage of source work with deft theoretical framing, and that marriage shines from every page. So seamlessly does she achieve this, indeed, that I am carried along for long stretches by the apparently effortless commonsensicality of it all—until a casual revelation, a sudden unnerving juxtaposition, brings me up short and breathless: something really new is brewing here! Feldman is not the first musicologist to bring together formal analysis, performance theory, and the sensorial elements of musicking; but, for my money, she is the most successful at it so far. As well as providing the most readable and profound treatment of opera seria yet in print, this book should provide musicologists with a peerless model for what analysis can be. I know I will be reacting to it, drawing upon it, half-consciously borrowing from it, and conversing with it for many years to come.”--Elisabeth Le Guin, University of California, Los Angeles

Choice
"In this dazzling investigation of the vast sociopolitical context of 18th-century opera seria, Feldman provides a detailed quasi-anthropological investigation of the ways in which opera seria reflects and expresses an evolving, ever-shifting concept of sovereignty."
Geoffrey Burgess | Current Musicology
"Opera and Sovereignty is perhaps the most comprehensive study of opera seria to date, and certainly it is unrivalled in the English language. . . . A book of astounding breadth of subject matter, rich source materials, and provocative methodologies. . . . In its richness of ideas, comprehensive coverage of a diversity of opera houses and local practices, multi-layerings of readings, and exhaustive bibliography, this is a truly extraordinary achievement that will offer much to scholars of eighteenth-century opera. This long-awaited revisionist reading of the genre will dominate our understanding of opera seria in eighteenth-century Italy for the forseeable future."
James H. Johnson | Journal of Modern History
"Superbly researched and brilliantly argued, [the book] is fresh, original, and distinguished by unfailing common sense. This is not to say that its formulations or conclusions are simple. The subject is as subtle as it is capacious: how the operatic genre of opera seria at once contributed to and undercut the mythmaking that sustained political elites. . . . Historians and musicologists alike have much to learn from the vision and ambition of this enterprise."
Reinhard Strohm | Early Music
"Through the imposing complexity of the book, Martha Feldman highlights the diversity of a genre that reflects or reveals cultural transitions. . . . Social life, audience studies and institutional history are most consistently addressed in this ever-surprising book."
Contents
Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Editorial Principles

1 EVENINGS AT THE OPERA
   Opera Seria, Sovereignty, Performance
   Ritual and Event
   Magic and Myth
   Public Opinion
   Evolutions
   Crisis and Involution

2 ARIAS: FORM, FEELING, EXCHANGE
   Ritornello Form as Rhetorical Exchange
   The Singer as Magus
   Rubbing into Magic
   Frame

3 PROGRAMMING NATURE, PARMA, 1759: FIRST CASE STUDY
   Enter Nature
   Remaking Viewers
   "Cruel Phaedra!": Ippolito ed Aricia
   Pastoral Redemption, or The Old Order
   Restored
   Appendix: Decree on Audience Behavior, Parma, October 4, 1749

4 FESTIVITY AND TIME
   Time and the Calendar
   Festive Realms / Festive Spaces
   Unbridling the Holy City
   Laughter, Ridicule, Critique
   Nature Revisited
   Appendix: Edict of Abuses in the Theater, Rome, January 4, 1749

5 ABANDONMENTS IN A THEATER STATE, NAPLES 1764: SECOND CASE STUDY
   Compounds of Royalty
   The Sack of the Beggars and the Gift of the King
   Didone abbandonata: Agonism and Exchange
   Apocalyptic Endings

6 MYTHS OF SOVEREIGNTY 
   Of Myth and the Mythographer
   Themistocles, Hero
   History as Myth
   Four Sovereigns and Two Heros
   The Exemplary Prince and the Loyal Son: Artaxerxes and Arbaces
   The Conquering Lover-King: Alexander the Great
   A Hapeless Emperor: Hadrian
   Proud Hero and Imperial Autocrat: Aetius and Valentian III
   The King Cometh
   Bataille's Sovereigns: A Postscript on Identification

7 BOURGEOIS THEATRICS, PERUGIA, 1781: THIRD CASE STUDY
   A Theater for the Middle Class
   What Class is our Genre? Reworking Artaserse
   Whether Purses or Persons
   Toward the Ideology of a Bourgeoisie
   Appendix: Annibale Mariotti's Speech to the Accademia del Teatro Civico del Verzaro, December 31, 1781

8 MORALS AND MALCONTENTS
   Dedications to Ladies
   Conversations and "Femiuomini"
   Regarding the Senses: Continuity, Accordance, Truth
   The Family of Opera

9 DEATH OF THE SOVEREIGN, VENICE, 1797: FOURTH CASE STUDY
   The Death of Time
   Opera in a Democratic Ascension
   16 pratile / June 4
   La morte di Mitridate
   Summer Season: Caesar, Brutus, and Joan of Ark
   Moralizing the Spectator

Epilogue
References
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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