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From Hindustan to Brabant: Meyerbeer’s L’africana and Municipal Cosmopolitanism in Post-Unification Italy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2017

Abstract

This article examines the political and cultural circumstances leading to the Italian premiere of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s posthumous opera L’Africaine at Bologna’s Teatro Comunale in November 1865. Meyerbeer’s death in May 1864 and the French premiere of his last opera the following year combined to produce a striking moment of transnational cosmopolitan sentiment that built on the composer’s reputation for writing music that had the capacity to communicate across national and political boundaries. Shortly after the Unification of Italy, Bologna was keen to capitalise on these emotions and used the Italian premiere strategically in order to position itself as one of the cultural capitals of the new Italian nation state.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Footnotes

*

Axel Körner, University College London; a.korner@ucl.ac.uk.

References

1 Hanslick, Eduard, ‘Meyerbeer’, in Die moderne Oper: Kritiken und Studien (Berlin, 1875), 138173 Google Scholar.

2 For Italian comments about international elements influencing Meyerbeer’s style, see for instance Monitore di Bologna (10 November 1869). The article reviews a performance of Les Huguenots.

3 Henze-Döhring, Sabine and Döhring, Sieghart, Giacomo Meyerbeer: der Meister der Grand opéra (Munich, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 143ff., 209ff.

4 See Zimmermann, Reiner, Giacomo Meyerbeer: eine Biografie nach Dokumenten (Berlin, 1998), 319 Google Scholar.

5 On the implications of the battle of Königgrätz for Europe as a whole, see Wandruszka, Adam, Schicksalsjahr 1866 (Graz, 1966)Google Scholar.

6 For a transnational perspective on the Italian and American civil wars, see Dal Lago, Enrico, ‘The Spectre of Confederate Secession in Early Post-Unification Italy’, in The Age of Lincoln and Cavour: Comparative Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century American and Italian Nation-Building (New York, 2015), 123140 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Cited in Zimmermann, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 321.

8 For a document-based description of the funeral, see Becker, Heinz, ed., Giacomo Meyerbeer in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbeck, 1980)Google Scholar, 131ff.

9 Cited in Becker, Heinz and Becker, Gudrun, Giacomo Meyerbeer: A Life in Letters (London, 1989), 14 Google Scholar.

10 On Mazzini’s reactions to Dinorah and L’Africaine, see, respectively, Mazzini to Matilda Biggs, 24 July 1862, in Mazzini, Giuseppe, Edizione nazionale: Scritti editi ed inediti di Giuseppe Mazzini, ed. Mario Menghini, 106 vols. (Imola, 1906–43), 73: 37 Google Scholar; and Mazzini to Emilie Ashurst Venturi, Tuesday [June 1864], 78: 246–7; the letter to Venturi must be misdated, because the work was not performed in London until 22 July 1865. For the above-mentioned letter from Mazzini to his mother and other comments on Meyerbeer, see Mazzini, Giuseppe, Philosophy of Music (1836): Envisioning a Social Opera, ed. Franco Sciannameo and trans. Emilie Ashurst Venturi (Lewiston, NY, 2004)Google Scholar, 19ff. Mazzini received some of his Covent Garden tickets from the successful Italian tenor Enrico Tamberlik, who regularly performed in London. Tamberlik’s correspondence contains numerous letters from political activists, including Louis Blanc, Alexandre-Auguste Ledru-Rollin and Aurelio Saffi. See Bibliothèque municipale de Versailles. Catalogue général des manuscrits, 1290: Album d’autographes d’Enrico Tamberlik.

11 Mazzini drafted the Filosofia della musica towards the end of 1835 and published it in summer 1836. On the work’s editorial history, see de Angelis, Marcello, ‘Introduction’, in Giuseppe Mazzini, Filosofia della musica e estetica musicale del primo ottocento (Florence, 1977), 732 Google Scholar.

12 Mazzini to Emilie Ashurst Venturi (21 May 1867). In Mazzini, Edizione nazionale, 85: 44–7. Ashurst Venturi was in charge of the English edition of Mazzini’s writings. At the time of writing his Filosofia della musica he would not have known Meyerbeer’s Huguenots, which premiered in Paris in February 1836, some months before his forced departure from Switzerland to London. This chronology explains the importance of his retrospective addition on Meyerbeer.

13 For the official English edition in the translation of Ashurst Venturi, see Mazzini, Giuseppe, ‘The Philosophy of Music’, in Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini (London, 1867), 4: 155 Google Scholar; here 52–5. See also the ‘Translator’s Note’ at the start of this volume (no page numbers given) and ‘Introduction’, in Mazzini, ‘Philosophy of Music’, 1–26.

14 On Mazzini’s literary interests, see Sorba, Carlotta, ‘“Comunicare con il popolo”: Novel, Drama, and Music in Mazzini’s Work’, in Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism 1830–1920, ed. C.A. Bayly and Eugenio F. Biaghi (Oxford, 2008), 7592 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 On the reception of Wagner in Italy, see Guarnieri Corazzol, Adriana, Tristano, mio Tristano: gli scrittori italiani e il caso Wagner (Bologna, 1988)Google Scholar; Jung-Kaiser, Ute, Die Rezeption der Kunst Richard Wagners in Italien (Regensburg, 1974); Manera, Giorgio and Pugliese, Giuseppe, eds., Wagner in Italia (Venice, 1982); Miller, Marion S., ‘Wagnerism, Wagnerians and Italian Identity’, in Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics, ed. David C. Large and William Weber (Ithaca, 1984), 167197 ; and Körner, Axel, Politics of Culture in Liberal Italy: From Unification to Fascism (New York, 2009), 221262 Google Scholar.

16 On the general context of Meyerbeer’s Italian reception, see Tedesco, Anna, ‘ Le Prophète in Italy’, in Giacomo Meyerbeer: Le Prophète. Edition–Konzeption–Rezeption, ed. Matthias Brzoska, Andreas Jacob and Nicole K. Strohmann (Hildesheim, 2009), 565602 Google Scholar. See also della Seta, Fabrizio, ‘Un aspetto della ricezione di Meyerbeer in Italia: Le traduzioni dei grands opéras ’, in Meyerbeer und das europäische Musiktheater, ed. Sieghart Döhring and Arnold Jacobshagen (Laaber, 1998), 309351 Google Scholar; and Nicolodi, Fiamma, ‘Les grands opéras de Meyerbeer en Italie (1840–1890)’, in L’Opéra en France et en Italie (1791–1925): Une scène privilégiée d’échanges littéraires et musicaux, ed. Hervé Lacombe (Paris, 2000), 87115 Google Scholar.

17 On Bologna’s social and economic development at the time, see Körner, Politics of Culture.

18 On early local experiences of grand opéra, and in particular the Bolognese reception of an 1840 production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, see Newark, Cormac, ‘“In Italy we don’t have the means for illusion”: Grand opéra in Nineteenth-Century Bologna’, Cambridge Opera Journal 19 (2007), 199222 Google Scholar.

On Italian concerns about the internationalisation of the operatic repertoire, see Körner, Axel, ‘ Music of the Future: Italian Theatres and the European Experience of Modernity between Unification and World War One’, European History Quarterly 41 (2011), 189212 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Monitore di Bologna (19 November 1860).

20 Rivista bolognese di scienze, lettere, arti e scuole 6 (1868), 2: 556.

21 Monitore di Bologna (5 November 1865).

22 Henze-Döhring and Döhring, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 215.

23 Archivio storico comunale di Bologna (ASCB), Carteggio amministrativo, 1860 II, Deputazione dei pubblici spettacoli, Miscellanea, Tit. III. Rub.a 2.a, Delegati amministrativi e provinciali, 26 Nov 1860. On 27 December 1861 the Monitore di Bologna published a letter from Meyerbeer to the deputazione in which the composer also recommended that Mariani be made director of the city’s Liceo musicale.

24 Monitore di Bologna (19 November 1860).

25 Monitore di Bologna (19 November 1861).

26 Monitore di Bologna (5 May 1864 and 1 May 1865).

27 Monitore di Bologna (5 November 1865).

28 Teatri, arte e letteratura, quoted in Vatielli, Francesco, Cinquanta anni di vita musicale a Bologna, 1850–1900 (Bologna, 1921), 14 Google Scholar.

29 La Juive (performed in Italy as L’ebrea) remained a relatively minor work in the local repertoire, receiving only two further performance runs (in 1887 and 1892). On Bologna’s Don Carlo, see Newark, ‘Grand opéra in Nineteenth-Century Bologna’, 208ff.

30 Monitore di Bologna (19 November 1860); Vatielli, Cinquanta anni, 20; Becker and Becker, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 12. Similar judgements are reproduced in Tedesco, Anna, ‘“Queste opere eminentemente sinfoniche e spettacolose”: Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Influence on Italian Opera Orchestras’, in The Opera Orchestra in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe. Vol. 2, The Orchestra in the Theatre: Composers, Works, and Performance , ed. Niels Martin Jensen and Franco Piperno (Berlin, 2008), 187 Google Scholar.

31 Monitore di Bologna (11 June 1869).

32 ASCB, Carteggio amministrativo, 1861, Deputazione dei pubblici spettacoli, Miscellanea, Osservazioni al progetto d’appalto del sig. Ercole Tinti, 31 May 1861. We know that the officers of Bologna’s regiment did not consider Gli ugonotti a sufficient attraction to renew their subscription: see ASCB, Carteggio amministrativo, 1861, Deputazione dei pubblici spettacoli, Miscellanea, Ufficiali del battaglione di Bologna al Cav. Delegato per i pubblici spettacoli, 8 November 1861. On difficulties with Meyerbeer in Italy, see also Jung-Kaiser, Die Rezeption der Kunst, 18.

33 See for instance ASCB, Atti del consiglio comunale 1860–1920, 16 December 1872. Theatre productions increasingly became a commercial activity involving rising costs for impresari: see Piazzoni, Irene, ‘Il governo e la politica per il teatro: tra promozione e censura (1882–1900)’, in Scene di fine Ottocento: L’Italia fin de siècle a teatro, ed. Carlotta Sorba (Rome, 2004), 64 Google Scholar.

34 See for instance Monitore di Bologna (19 and 23 November 1861).

35 Monitore di Bologna (23 November 1861, 8 August 1862 and 4 August 1864).

36 ASCB, Atti del consiglio comunale 1860–1920, 28 July 1865.

37 ASCB, Atti del consiglio comunale 1860–1920, 28 July 1865.

38 Körner, Politics of Culture in Liberal Italy, 240f.

39 Monitore di Bologna (5 November 1865).

40 Tedesco, Anna, ‘Graziani, Lodovico’, in The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia, ed. Roberta Montemorra Marvin (Cambridge, 2013), 208 Google Scholar. In 1860 Graziani had impressed the Bolognesi as Riccardo in the local premiere of Un ballo in maschera.

41 ASCB, Atti del consiglio comunale 1860–1920, 29 February 1872. In 1876 L’africana was staged once more and was also a great success, even more so than the other hit of that season, Filippo Marchetti’s Ruy Blas. On this, see ASCB, Carteggio amministrativo, 1876, X, 3, 4, 11028, Report of the deputazione to the mayor on the past autumn season, Count Salina, 20 December 1876.

42 Tedesco, ‘Le Prophète in Italy’.

43 della Loggia, Ernesto Galli, L’identità italiana (Bologna, 1998), 37 Google Scholar.

44 ASCB, Carteggio Amministrativo, 1871, X, 3, 4, 975. Atti della commissione nominata. See also Monitore di Bologna (4 November 1865 and 5 January 1870); and Il Resto del Carlino (22 December 1885).

45 On Bologna’s claims, see Monitore di Bologna (22 November and 16 December 1868). On the context of the Guillaume Tell performance, see Newark, ‘Grand opéra in Nineteenth-Century Bologna’, 206.

46 On connections between the performance of Rossini and Meyerbeer, see Everist, Mark, Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824–1828 (Berkeley, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

47 Meyerbeer to Rossini, Paris (15 March 1864), in Becker and Becker, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 180.

48 Becker and Becker, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 181.

49 Tedesco, ‘Le Prophète in Italy’, 569.

50 Anna Tedesco has also advanced the argument that performances of Il profeta at the Teatro Regio di Parma reflected the relatively progressive stance of the duchy’s Bourbon ruler Duke Charles III: see Tedesco, ‘Il grand opéra e i teatri italiani: un caso emblematico. Il profeta a Parma (28 December 1853)’, Musica e storia 11 (2003), 139–60.

51 Nicolodi, ‘Les grands opéras de Meyerbeer’, 97.

52 Petrobelli, Pierluigi, ‘De l’alexandrin à l’anapeste chez Verdi: structure poétique et composition musicale dans Un ballo in maschera ’, in L’Opéra en France et en Italie (1791–1925), ed. Lacombe, 215 Google Scholar.

53 Camera dei deputati, 6 February 1873. Reproduced in Masi, Ernesto, Camillo Casarini (Bologna, 1875), 187 Google Scholar.

54 On Fidanza’s, Raimondo Colombo, ossia La scoperta del nuovo mondo (Genoa, 1802)Google Scholar, see Jeanne Cohen, Selma, ‘Feme di gelosia! Italian Ballet Librettos, 1766–1865’, in Bulletin of the New York Public Library 67 (November 1963), 558 Google Scholar; and Antonio Monticini’s libretto Colombo all’isola di Cuba; azione mimica di mezzo carattere in quattro parti, a copy of which is preserved at the New York Public Library (NYPL), Walter Toscanini Collection (WTC), Libretti di ballo (LdB), 332 and 431.

55 Ippolito Monplaisir, L’Isola degli amori, ballo fantastico: NYPL, WTC, LdB, 785 and 793.

56 Everist, Mark, ‘Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto: mélodrame, Opera, Orientalism’, in Giacomo Meyerbeer and Music Drama in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Aldershot, 2005), 101140 Google Scholar.

57 On Hindustan, see for instance Gian Domenico Romagnosi, ‘Viaggio nel paese di Voné nella provincia di Nemar nell’Indostan’, in Opere, ed. Alessandro de Giorgi (Milan, 1844), 2/1: 616–32; and Robertson, William, Ricerche storiche sull’India antica, ed. Gian Domenico Romagnosi (Florence, 1835)Google Scholar.

58 Anselm Gerhard has explored the importance of the symphonic dimension in Meyerbeer’s work: see Gerhard, , ‘Religiöse Aura und militärisches Gepränge: Meyerbeers Ouvertüren und das Problem der rein instrumentalen Form’, in Meyerbeer und das europäische Musiktheater Google Scholar, ed. Döhring and Jacobshagen, 218ff.

59 Nicolodi, ‘Les grands opéras de Meyerbeer’. Della Seta has analysed the Italian response to Meyerbeer’s musical language, focusing in particular on the problems audiences had with a Prussian who wrote French operas that were subsequently translated into Italian: see Della Seta, ‘Un aspetto della ricezione di Meyerbeer in Italia’.

60 The music critic Abramo Basevi did not share the view that Meyerbeer’s operas offered ‘poco canto’, but did comment on the opinion of some of his colleagues: see Basevi, ‘Il Profeta alla Scala di Milano’, Gazzetta musicale di Firenze 52 (7 June 1855), reproduced in Tedesco, ‘Le Prophète in Italy’, 588–90. The quotation is reproduced in Vatielli, Cinquanta anni, 14ff. Sentiments similar to those expressed in the quotation can also be found in: Monitore di Bologna (24 March and 10 November 1869). As Alessandro Roccatagliati has noted, debates about the compatability of German opera with Italian taste can be traced back to the 1850s: see Roccatagliati, , ‘Opera, opera-ballo e “grand opéra”: commistioni stilistiche e recezione critica nell’Italia teatrale di secondo ottocento (1860–1870)’, in Opera & Libretto (Florence, 1993), 2: 293 Google Scholar.

61 Reproduced in Tedesco ‘Le Prophète in Italy’, 574. On the challenges for the Comunale’s orchestra, see also Tedesco, ‘“Queste opere eminentemente sinfoniche e spettacolose”’, 194ff.

62 Zimmermann, Giacomo Meyerbeer, 231.

63 ASCB, Carteggio amministrativo, 1861, Tit. XVI, 4, 157, sentence of the commercial court, 28 April 1862.

64 Rosselli, John, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge, 1984), 119 Google Scholar.

65 Nicolodi, ‘Les grands opéras de Meyerbeer’, 109ff. It should be noted that similar alterations are characteristic of modern performance practice: see Letellier, Robert I., ‘History, Myth and Music in a Theme of Exploration: Some Reflections on the Musico-Dramatic Language of L’Africaine ’, in Meyerbeer und das europäische Musiktheater, ed. Döhring and Jacobshagen, 151 Google Scholar.

66 ASCB, Deputazione dei pubblici spettacoli, Miscellanea, 6 December 1861; and Tedesco, ‘Le Prophète in Italy’, 205.

67 Mayer, Arno, The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War (London, 1981)Google Scholar.

68 Hobsbawm, Eric, The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848 (London, 1989), 311 Google Scholar.

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