Global Humanities Junior Fellow at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
October 2015 - February 2016
The Rise and Fall of 'la vieille garde'
Building on a previous research project entitled Sex, Scandals, Scuffles, and Subscribers: La vieille garde, the Tamburini Riot, and the Italian Opera in London 1816-1846 (2013), this project will examine the relationship between the rise of the opera singer as 'celebrity' in Europe in the early 19th century and their changing significance within the world of opera itself by. Why, by the mid 19th century, were singers denied the great power they once held in directing performances and improvising arias? What role, if any, did their celebrity play in the development of 'set works'? Of the rise of the composer as 'king'? How did the rise of the globally recognised celebrity singer shape the development of Western Art Music? As a case study, this project will focus on the singers of ‘la vieille garde’, a collective of singers comprising of Gulia Grisi, Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani, Giovanni Matteo de Candia (a.k.a. ‘Mario’), Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini, and Luigi Lablache, who, it will be argued, embodied this phenomenon of rising to dizzying heights before fading into obscurity. This work will also function as the first ever complete biography of this hugely influential cabal of singers.
Alexandra Leonzini has a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Bachelor of Arts in German and History from the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. In 2013 she achieved honours in history from the University of Western Australia with a thesis entitled, ‘Sex, Scandals, Scuffles, and Subscribers: La vieille garde, The Tamburini Riot, and the Italian Opera in London 1816-1846’. Ms Leonzini is currently undertaking a Masters in Global History at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and will be participating in the 36th International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando in March 2015, presenting a paper entitled, ‘From Gentleman-Scientist to Ape-like Primitive: Doctor Jekyll, degeneration, and 'the civilising mission’.