Opera played an important part in the lives of urban Italians during the decades that followed the fall of Napoleon's European empire and the restoration of the Italian legitimist rulers by the Congress of Vienna. To argue, however, that opera mattered because of its association with nationalism is to get the formula the wrong way around. Nationalists, as well as political authorities, wanted to harness opera to their cause because of its inherent social significance. The theater offered urban, educated Italians the opportunity to be entertained and to congregate lawfully in a public place. The fact that the theaters continued to draw regular audiences, regardless of censorship, would seem a sure indication that politics—at least not in the narrow, nationalist sense—was not the primary reason why opera mattered.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.