Singing Sappho improvisation and authority in nineteenth-century Italian opera /

Publication Type:



Esse, Melina,


The University of Chicago Press,, Chicago, United States, p.1 online resource (2021)

Call Number:




(OCoLC)fst00972484, (OCoLC)fst01046145, (OCoLC)fst01178528, (OCoLC)fst01765315, 19th century., bisacsh, fast, France., Greek influences., Influence (Literary, artistic, etc.), Italy, Italy., MUSIC / General., Opera, Opera., Philosophy, Vocal improvisation (Music), Women singers, Women singers.


Introduction -- History's muse : the spectacle of poetic improvisation -- Corinna's crown : improvisation and authority in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims -- Divinely inspired : incantation and the making of melody in Bellini's Norma -- Saffo's lyre : improvising operatic authorship -- A Sapphic Orpheus : Pauline Viardot and the sexual politics of opera collaboration."From the theatrical stage to the literary salon, the figure of Sappho--the ancient poet and inspiring icon of feminine creativity--played a major role in the intertwining histories of improvisation, text, and performance throughout the nineteenth century. Exploring the connections between operatic and poetic improvisation in Italy and beyond, Singing Sappho combines earwitness accounts of famous female improviser-virtuosi with erudite analysis of musical and literary practices. Esse demonstrates that performance played a much larger role in conceptions of musical authorship than previously recognized, arguing that discourses of spontaneity--specifically those surrounding the improvvisatrice, or female poetic improviser--were paradoxically used to carve out a new authority for opera composers just as improvisation itself was falling into decline"--Includes bibliographical references and index.