Book Series Music, Criticism & Politics, vol. 4

Opera In Search of a Just Ruler for a Unified Italy

Jehoash Hirshberg (ed)

  • Pages: approx. 122 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 90 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2017

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-57739-5
  • Hardback
  • Available

The volume focuses on many operas composed in the decade of unification of Italy


Jehoash Hirshberg is Professor Emeritus at the Musicology Department, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His research fields have included the music of the 14th century, the Italian solo concerto at the time of Vivaldi, with a joint book with Simon McVeigh. In the field of and history of Israeli art music he published "Music in the Jewish Community of Palestine 1880-1948" (OUP, 1995).


With the establishment of Il Regno d’Italia in 1861 the heydays of Risorgimento opera as a powerful political tool were  over.  A new category of operas, which is the subject of the present book, was that of the politically oriented operas that replaced the waning category of the Risorgimento operas. Those operas turned public attention to the pitfalls and dangers of forming the new government of the unifying Italy. The new category commenced with Verdi’s "Simon Boccanegra" (1857), "Un Ballo in Maschera" (1859), and "Don Carlos" (1867), in which Verdi indirectly expressed his alarm at the dangers facing the future kings of Italy. A great many operas were composed in the decade of unification of Italy.  Chapter 1 suggests a classification of the operas into the categories of operas of intrigue-and-love, the last Risorgimento operas, operas of social criticism, arrangements of literary masterpieces, and religious operas, and then focusing on the new category. The major section of the book comprises case studies of five representative Italian operas of the 1860s:  "Isabella d'Aragona" by Carlo Pedrotti, "La Colpa del Cuore" by Francesco Cortesi, "Ruy Blas" by Filippo Marchetti, "Vitore Pisani" by Achille Peri, and "Fieschi" by Achille Montuoro. Each chapter presents a summary of the plot, a detailed stylistic and formal discussion of each opera, and a discussion of the manner in which the music interprets the composer’s political and social views. A pre-condition for the selection of the case studies was that they elicited at least "successo di stima" in more than one city, and that they were favourbly judged by the critics, most importantly by Filippo Filippi. The use of musical forms in the service of drama, most importantly "La Solita Forma", was of paramount importance and will be emphasized in the case studies and supported by the many musical examples from the unjustly forgotten operas.


Introduction Opera in Search of a Just Ruler for a Unified Italy
Chapter 1 The Operatic Scene in the 1860s: Operatic Categories
Chapter 2 A New Operatic Category Is Established: Three by Verdi
Chapter 3 Losing a Kingdom for an Obsession: Pedrotti’s Isabella d’Aragona (1859)
Chapter 4 Francesco Cortesi, La colpa del cuore and Il trovatore Scheme (1870)
Chapter 5 Ruy Blas, the Ascent and Loss of a Leader (1869)
Chapter 6 Achille Peri and Vittore Pisani: The Victory of the Fisherman from Venice (1858)
Chapter 7 Achille Montuoro, Fieschi: The Liberator Turned Tyrant (1869)
Chapter 8 The Heritage of the Risorgimento on the Opera Stage
Index of Names