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Francesca Vella

Francesca Vella

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Music

College Research Associate, St John's College


I was born and grew up in Florence, where I studied Art, Music and Performing Arts at the University of Florence and piano at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, before moving to the UK to pursue my MMus and PhD at King’s College London. Between 2014 and 2018 I was a junior research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge, and in January 2018 I took up a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Music.

My research focuses on nineteenth-century operatic cultures: particularly opera’s relationship with political and technological developments in Italy; transnational operatic networks; and operatic voices. My doctoral work explored Verdi reception in Milan between 1859 and 1881, as part of a larger cultural history of the city. More recently, I’ve pursued a case study of the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind in mid nineteenth-century London, examining how her voice was ‘shaped' (or mediated) by the contemporary celebrity craze.

My current book project, entitled 'Networking Operatic Italy', looks at how trans-municipal and transnational networks of opera production and critical discourse shaped Italian cultural identity in the decades after 1850. Through five complementary case studies focused on musical criticism, works, singers, and stagings, I argue that—contrary to persistent images of Italian self-absorption, cultural stasis, and localism—multiple forms of movement and mediation made opera on the peninsula a key locus of a burgeoning global and technological consciousness.

As a recipient in 2016 of the Parma Rotary Club ‘Giuseppe Verdi’ International Prize, I also enjoy continuing my Verdi research, yet now engaging with approaches from sound and media studies. My new Verdi project retraces ways of hearing and listening to Verdi c. 1840-1930 through a number of case studies, including Verdi and/as ‘noise’ in the 1840s, the political reverberations of Francesco Tamagno’s stentorian voice at the turn of the twentieth century, and early radiophonic listening experiences.

My interest in Italian sonic cultures has recently led to the establishment of the Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy research project ( I’m also a member of the Leverhulme-funded research network ‘Re-imagining italianità: opera and musical culture in transnational perspective’, based at UCL and with collaborators at Cambridge, Brown University and Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Please get in touch or visit to find out more!

Subject groups/Research projects

Nineteenth-Century Studies:

(Italian Opera Studies)

Colleges, Departments and Institutes

St John's College:

Key Publications

‘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.

Other Publications

Book reviews and Review articles

‘Review Article: Not in Their Minds', Journal of the Royal Musical Association (forthcoming 2020).

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

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

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

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

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