Journal of Musicology
Comedy between Two Revolutions: Opera Buffa and the Risorgimento, 1831-1848
Francesco Izzo


For more than a century discussions of the relationship between the operatic stage and the socio-political scene of the Risorgimento have relied almost exclusively on serious operas (particularly those of Giuseppe Verdi) and especially on the period after 1848. Roger Parker's recent revision of Verdi's ostensibly exclusive role as "Bard of the Risorgimento" provides an opportunity to reassess the politics of Italian opera during this period, considering also other composers and works. The purpose of this study is to discuss the interaction between opera and the Risorgimento in a group of comic works composed between the revolutions of 1831 and 1848, focusing in particular on the representation and implications of national identity in Luigi Ricci's Il nuovo Figaro(1832) and in two Italian versions of Donizetti's La Fille du rgiment (1840), as well as on the significance of military themes. Furthermore, relevant cases of censorship in these and other comic works are examined. These operas uncover numerous affinities with the political discourse in contemporary serious melodrama, showing that warlike themes, choruses, and other statements of patriotism were not a prerogative of Verdi's operas, nor an exclusive feature of the serious genre. Their authors used conventional buffa procedures, such as modern European settings and encoded allegories of national character, in ways that reveal connections with the tensions and aspirations of the Risorgimento. A better knowledge of this repertory can only improve our understanding of the politics of opera during this crucial period of Italian history.

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