Professor Alexandra Wilson and former Oberto research student, Dr Andrew Holden, have published articles in a special issue of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. The special issue, co-edited by Andrew Holden, brings together six different perspectives on the rich history of ‘Italin Musical Migration to London’. The contributors were participants in a conference on the same theme at Birmingham, organised by co-editor Nicolò Palazzetti at the University of Birmingham in 2019.
Alexandra Wilson’s article, ‘Opera for the country lout: Italian opera, national identity and the middlebrow in interwar Britain‘, relates the reception of Italian opera and musicians to wider debates about taste-formation and the ‘battle of the brows’ during this crucial period of cultural self-definition.
Andrew Holden’s article, ‘A slice of operatic life in London’s East End 1880-1940‘ (currently available on open access) developed from research on the musical life of the philanthropic institutions of East London which was the subject of a conference co-hosted by Oberto at Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, ‘Opera in the East End’. The article takes as a point of departure a remarkable photograph of Queen Mary emerging from a performance of Pagliacci in Bethnal Green through a guard of honour formed by local choristers dressed as Calabrian peasants.
With the continuing shuttering of theatres almost everywhere and performers unable to travel, Italian Musical Migrations reminds us of the fragile regard in which opera has long been held and how dependent it has always been on the mobility of artists and cultural exchange at all levels of society.