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Pagodas in Play: China on the Eighteenth-Century Italian Opera Stage
     

Pagodas in Play: China on the Eighteenth-Century Italian Opera Stage

by Adrienne Ward
 

Pagodas in Play examines the representation of China in nine Italian operas of the eighteenth century. It focuses specifically on libretti, analyzing them as texts produced in a variety of interpenetrating cultural contexts: the general European fascination with the Middle Kingdom; developments in Italian literary, theatrical, and operatic realms; Enlightenment

Overview

Pagodas in Play examines the representation of China in nine Italian operas of the eighteenth century. It focuses specifically on libretti, analyzing them as texts produced in a variety of interpenetrating cultural contexts: the general European fascination with the Middle Kingdom; developments in Italian literary, theatrical, and operatic realms; Enlightenment ideologies; and the heterogeneity of the Italian states. With exemplary scholarship Adrienne Ward explores how Italians appropriated prevailing notions about the Celestial Empire and used them productively in a form of entertainment widely comprehensible in eighteenth-century Europe. The Chinese characters, places, objects, and ideas staged in Italian heroic operas (opera serie) and comic operas (opera buffe) provide a rich picture of how such authors as Pietro Metastasio, Apostolo Zeno, Carlo Goldoni, Giambattista Lorenzi, and Domenico Lalli conceived of the Celestial Empire. Furthermore, the texts and performance practices tell a detailed story about China's versatile role in how Italians addressed local and transnational developments. Ward demonstrates how the fertile exploitation of perceptions of China in Settecento Italian opera challenges the idea that only in the twentieth century has Orientalism shifted from a geographical paradigm to one in which essentialist characteristics are deterritorialized and manipulated in the interests of competing new world elites. Indeed, discrete conceptualizations of Chineseness were mobilized for local purposes, far removed from questions of actual East vs. West, and from nationalist and/or colonialist projects. Pagodas in Play will appeal to students and scholars of the Enlightenment, Orientalism, Italian Studies, and Opera Studies, as well as to historians of European sinology, who will be afforded a fascinating view onto a "stage" until now unrevealed.

Editorial Reviews

Inc. Book News
China exploded onto stages all across Europe during the 18th century, but Ward (Italian, U. of Virginia) contends that Italy theatricalized China not only uniquely all the countries did that but more substantively than did any other country. She describes 18th-century exoticism and China, China's journey from page to stage, China in early opera serie 1700-25, the enlightened imperial subject in Pietro Metastasio's (1752), islands of opportunity in Carlo Goldoni's (1757), rejecting false idols in Giambattista Lorenzi's (1767), and women traveling in new lands in Giovanni Bertati's (1771).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611482966
Publisher:
Bucknell University Press
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Series:
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture Series
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
8.80(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Adrienne Ward is associate professor of Italian at the University of Virginia.

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