Italy

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44.2632

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Talking About Virtue: Paisiello's 'Nina,' Paër's 'Agnese,' and the Sentimental Ethos

This essay will examine how sentimentality and its valorization of virtue spread through one particular intersection of opera and literature; that is, the seduced maiden narrative is enacted in these operas, once as a comedy of sorts, once as a tragedy. Giovanni Paisiello's "Nina" (1789) was clearly influenced by the works of Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne, while Fernando Paër's "Agnese" (1809) is a direct adaptation of Amelia Opie's popular novella "The Father and Daughter" (1801). Furthermore, both of the operas spin in and out of ideological orbit with Richardson's novel Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded (1740-41), which in turn was rewritten by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni in his dramatic adaptation Le Pamela Nubile (1753), the Irish playwright Isaac Bickerstaffe as the comic opera The Maid of the Mill (1765), and which then was later adapted and transformed by François de Neufchâteau into the opera Paméla (1793). And certainly we can detect sentimental familial concerns in Denis Diderot's dramas, particularly "Le Fils Naturel ou les épreuves de la vertu" ("The Natural Son; or, The Trials of Virtue," 1757). What I hope to suggest is that music and literature have collaborated in constructing a few fairly basic cultural scripts (domestic, familial, painful, and cathartic: recall Oedipus or Demeter/Persephone) that are then retold endlessly, continually readjusting the particulars to accommodate changing social and political conditions. Sentimentality as a value system, a potent ideology, almost a secularization of religion was spread throughout eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European culture not simply through novels and dramas, but also by being performed in opera houses from London to Rome and Naples.
May 2005

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Scott Repatriated?: La Dame blanche Crosses the Channel

Scotland, close enough to visit, far enough to seem untamed and mysterious, enthralled nineteenth-century composers. Fascination fixated on Sir Walter Scott, whose works spawned numerous foreign operas. When these musical mutations migrated across the channel, however, they often collided with Britain's vision of her 'national' author. This is especially true with Boieldieu's La Dame blanche (1825). The opera succeeded in continental Europe, but two separate London productions failed. What stymied this metamorphosis? As I argue, the conflict between Londoners' nationalistic possessiveness of Scott and Scottish melodies on the one hand, yet their uneasiness with the novels on which the opera was based and its complex score on the other, placed these adaptations at a kind of cultural impasse. Ultimately, the layers of meaning Scott's works had accrued in England made the White Lady one citizen the English could not repatriate.
May 2005

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Lussier, "Enlightenment East and West: An Introduction to Romanticism and Buddhism"

Rather than summarizing the essays appearing in this special issue of Romantic Circles Praxis, this introductory essay provides a historical context for the emergence of what is now termed 'Buddhism' into European consciousness during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This essay appears in _Romanticism and Buddhism_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.
February 2007

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Shelley's Pod People

The reader of Shelley’s poetry repeatedly comes upon beautiful slumbering human forms that exist in charged non-relation to a social world. A close reading of these forms as they appear in “The Witch of Atlas” suggests that they represent a fantasy of “the aesthetic” as that which is radically closed to human concerns. In contemporary accounts, Shelley himself is often represented as one who is not of the world, who is only minimally attached to life. I would argue that the Shelley circle’s posthumous constructions of “Shelley” as an other-worldly or unworldly figure are informed by an attentive reading of Shelley’s poetry, which figures the aesthetic as that which does not matter in terms of human economies of desire and exchange.
February 2005

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Note: Jane Williams

October, 1997

Jane Williams, friend of Mary Shelley and the object and recipient of Percy Shelley's last love lyrics (written on the coast of Italy). She lived near Mary at Kentish Town for a time from 1824, during the months the latter was completing The Last Man.

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Note: Italy

October, 1997

Italy


Percy Shelley addressed it as "Paradise of exiles" (Julian and Maddalo) and Byron made it his adopted country until his final sojourn in Greece. Italy was for Mary Shelley's circle a site of symbolic, artistic, cultural--and actual--exile, as well as an ancient ideal standard of civilization against which to measure the fall into servitude and general failings of the present day. (See this 1824 sonnet by Guidiccioni.)

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Note: Italy

October, 1997

Italy


A traditional southern wintering place for the English, Italy frequently became during the Romantic period a site of elective exile and refuge, treated as especially interesting for its sublime layers of history and civilizations set against a backdrop of "primitive" natural beauty.

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