Italian opera and the English press

'Italian Opera and the English Press, 1836-56', Periodica musica 6 (1988), 3-10

Presented at the XIVth Congress of the International Musicological Society, Bologna, Italy, 1987, in a session sponsored by RIPM, Répertoire international de la presse musicale, entitled 'Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera in the Contemporary Press'

Research for this paper was carried out in the old 'digital' way - turning page-by-page through a set of huge bound periodicals in the British Library's Newspaper Library at Colindale, north London (1932-2013). It was crumbly work, time consuming and muscle building. But I saw the stuff with my own eyes and noted 20 years of contiguous national and international news along the way.

Placing the period opera reporter in a living context of cut-and-thrust journalism was part of my intent. So was tracing likely identities for authors of anonymous music columns, besides tracking second and subsequent opinions after a critic had gained greater familiarity with a new opera or composer. In all I examined 16 titles - daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly - and some 15 identifiable writers. Chief among these are Henry Chorley, J.W. Davison, George Hogarth and Edward Holmes.

I contrast peripatetic writing with that by critics known to have held long associations with one or two papers. I show that Verdi was not uniformly dismissed or misunderstood in this period, and that Victorian critics were not always motivated by pedantry, prudery and insularity (all common assumptions in the 20th century). Finally I suggest that Chorley and Davison, though perhaps the most conspicuous writers, were not necessarily the most articulate or respected ones.

The article is free to download from RIPM here.

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