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Francesca Vella

Francesca Vella

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Music

Junior Research Fellow, 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. Since 2014, I’ve been a junior research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge, and in 2018 I took up a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Music.

My research has addressed various aspects of nineteenth-century operatic culture: opera’s relationship with political and urban developments (particularly in Italy); transnational and global networks of production and consumption; and the place of singers and voice in celebrity culture. My doctoral work explored discourses about Verdi 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, focusing on how her voice was ‘mediated’ in and through the contemporary celebrity craze.

My current book project looks at political and cultural dimensions of opera in northern and central Italy between the 1850s and the early 1870s (a period, particularly the 1860s, usually identified with a national operatic ‘crisis’ in the country). I’m particularly interested in understanding how such dimensions were shaped by exchanges and connections between different places, at both a trans-municipal and a transnational level.

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 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.

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

‘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.

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

Other Publications

Book reviews

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

Opera and Modern Spectatorship in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy. By Alessandra Campana, Nineteenth-Century Music Review (2016).

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.