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Diagnosing Lucia: The representation of female madness in nineteenth-century Italian opera

Bennett, Emily 2022. Diagnosing Lucia: The representation of female madness in nineteenth-century Italian opera. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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By the early nineteenth century, the ‘madwoman’ had become a prominent cultural figure, featuring in fine art, literature, and stage works, and became a particular fascination for Italian operatic composers, librettists and audiences alike. Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), and its successive Italian operatic adaptations (1829-1835), thus fanned the flames of this obsession. While interest in the archetypal madwoman continued to grow culturally, so too did proliferation of, and the reading publics’ interest in descriptions and images of madness in medical literature and its popular dissemination. This interdisciplinary thesis compares the cultural and operatic representation of female madness to pertinent, popular nineteenth-century medical literature. It will comparatively analyse the representation of female madness in historical descriptions (mostly of hysteria, insanity and monomania) with Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) and its Italian operatic adaptations: Le nozze di Lammermoor (Paris, 1829) by composer Michele Carafa and librettist Giuseppe Luigi Balocchi; La fidanzata di Lammermoor (Trieste, 1831) by Luigi Rieschi and Calisto Bassi; La fidanzata di Lammermoor (Padua, 1834) by Alberto Mazzucato and Pietro Beltrame, and Lucia di Lammermoor (Naples, 1835) by Gaetano Donizetti and Salvadore Cammarano. Most previous studies on nineteenth-century Italian opera, and Lucia di Lammermoor specifically, have focussed on the musical representation of madness, and do not consider medical literature of the period. This project thus aims to remedy this position by combining the study of literature, theatre and opera, of detailed libretto and score study, with the analysis of medical texts and photographic iconographies on madness. In doing so, it aims to determine to what extent Italian operatic mad scenes – in embodying social and cultural ideas on madness – reflected and propagated popular medical ideas in the nineteenth century; and how far the visual representation of madness within opera and popular culture reciprocally influenced that in popular medical literature and photography. In short, I aim to use these cultural products and medical literature to sensitively elucidate the popular notions surrounding female madness in the early modern period and nineteenth century

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 19 April 2023
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2023 11:43

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