OPERA TRANSLATION AND POLITICS IN VIENNA, 1816-1822
Translations of operas played a major role in the dispute between Viennese supporters of Italian and German opera in the early 19th century. Once the outpost of Italian opera in German-speaking lands, Vienna had experienced a prolonged disconnection from the Italian States—and consequently from Italian musical culture—during the Napoleonic wars. This disconnection coincided with a patriotic turn in Viennese cultural policies. German Singspiele became a powerful manifesto of patriotic propaganda and their vocal style a welcome alternative to Italianate virtuosity. After Napoleon’s ultimate defeat at Waterloo (1815), several Italian states were brought back into the Habsburg orbit, and Italian opera singers could return to Vienna. The competition between Italian and German opera performers resulted in the organization of bilingual opera seasons and a flurry of writings about their respective merits. The ways in which the translation of Italian operas into German could contribute to the rise in prominence of German singers was a central concern. This paper examines the Viennese discourse on opera translation by focusing on the early reception of Rossini’s operas. Performed both in Italian and in German, these works shed light on the ways in which the translation of the libretto was the starting point for larger structural transformation involving the generic nature of the operas, their aesthetic outlook, and their performance. Furthermore, they remind us that the rifts in the Viennese discourse on opera translation were inseparable from the political and ideological tensions characterizing the Habsburg regime of the Restoration.
Claudio Vellutini is a Postdoctoral Resident Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor in musicology at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University, Bloomington. In July 2016 he will join the faculty of the School of Music at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He received his PhD in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago. His research interests focus on the cultural and reception history of Italian opera, historiography, performance practice, and staging. He was awarded an Ernst-Mach Fellowship from the Österreichischer Austauschdienst, the exchange agency funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research (2012-13), and an Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowship from the American Musicological Society (2014-15). His publications have appeared in 19th-Century Music and Cambridge Opera Journal.