Giacomo Leopardi was convinced that the willingness of Italians to wallow passively in operatic spectacle was an important reason for Italy's lack of a civil society based on debate and the exchange of opinions. Despite recent proposals that opera and opera going constituted signiªcant means of social engagement and contributed to regional and/or national identity, the preoccupations of early nineteenth-century music journalism suggest that opera existed outside the mainstream of both political and aesthetic debate, and was not yet the subject of a truly vibrant national discourse.

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