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Faculty of Music

 Francesca  Vella


Affiliated Lecturer
College Research Associate, St John's College


I was born and grew up in Florence, where I studied Art, Music & Performing Arts at the university and piano at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, before moving to the UK to complete an MMus and a PhD at King’s College London. After a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Cambridge, I took up a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Faculty of Music, where I’m currently an Affiliated Lecturer. 


My research considers histories and technologies of operatic performance across the 19th and early 20th centuries. I’ve published articles on Verdi and Italian nation-building, operatic mobility, vocal celebrity culture, and early radio. My first monograph, Networking Operatic Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2021) explores how networks of opera production and critical discourse enabled by transport and communications technologies both old and new shaped Italian cultural identities during the years immediately preceding and following the country’s unification (1861). I'm currently starting a new project on operatic staging and the visual arts at the 1930s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

My growing interest in sonic and auditory cultures has led me to establish the ‘Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy’ research network (2019-20), funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. I’m also a founding member of the Leverhulme Trust project ‘Re-imagining italianità: Opera and Musical Culture in Transnational Perspective’ (2016-19), based at UCL and with collaborators at Cambridge, Brown University and Universidade Estadual de Campinas.

Research interests

• 19th-century opera and musical cultures

• voice

• staging techniques

• histories of listening

• global/transnational history

• Italian cultural studies


Key publications: 



Networking Operatic Italy (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2021).

Journal articles:

‘Broadcasting the Italian Voice's Broadcasting: Opera and Italy on the Air, 1920s-1930s', Journal of Modern Italian Studies (forthcoming 2022).

‘Not in Their Minds', Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 145/1 (2020), 251-57.

‘De(Railing) Mobility: Opera, Stasis, and Locomotion on Late-Nineteenth-Century Italian Tracks’, Opera Quarterly, 34/1 (2018), 3-28.

‘Jenny Lind, Voice, Celebrity’, Music & Letters, 98/2 (2017), 232-54.

‘Tamagno Otherwise’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 28/2 (2016), 235-7.

‘Milan, Simon Boccanegra and the Late-Nineteenth-Century Operatic Museum’, Verdi Perspektiven, 1 (2016), 93–121.

‘Bridging Divides: Verdi’s Requiem in Post-Unification Italy’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 140/2 (2015), 313–42.

‘Verdi and Politics (c. 1859-1861)’, Studi verdiani, 24 (2014), 79–121.

‘Verdi’s Don Carlo as Monument’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 25/1 (2013), 75–103.

‘A Passion for Italy’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 23/3 (2011), 191–200. 


Other publications: 


London Voices, 1820–1840: Vocal Performers, Practices, Histories (review). Ed. Roger Parker and Susan Rutherford, Music & Letters, 101/3 (2020), 588-91.

Opera and Modern Spectatorship in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy (review)By Alessandra Campana, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 15/1 (2018), 81-5.

Verdi, Opera, Women (review). By Susan Rutherford, Opera Quarterly, 33/2 (2017), 184-7. 

Experiencing Verdi: A Listener’s Companion (review). By Donald Sanders, Music & Letters, 95/3 (2014), 462–4.

Laughter between Two Revolutions: Opera Buffa in Italy, 1831-1848 (review). By Francesco Izzo, Music & Letters, 95/4 (2014), 662–4.

Teaching and Supervisions



Undergraduate modules:

  • From Silent Films to YouTube: Opera on Screen
  • Sounding the 19th Century
  • Music and Society
  • Historical Approaches to Music
  • Opera in 18th- and 19th-Century London
  • Musicology Dissertation

Postgraduate modules:

  • Introduction to Musicology and Its Debates
  • Italian Soundscapes
  • Readings in Musicology
  • Research Skills

I enjoy supervising on a variety of music history topics. Current and former students have worked on opera and madness; Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique; Pauline Viardot; Verdi’s Falstaff; Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; Britten’s Gloriana; Stephen Sondheim; The Phantom of the Opera (musical); The Lord of the Rings (film series); 21st-century British opera; and US ‘indie’ opera companies.

Other Professional Activities

I’ve written programme notes for Glyndebourne and Royal Opera House; articles for Opera magazine; and reviews for

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