Madness in Romantic Opera

A lecture by Matteo Sansone

Music melded to words can convey a powerful sense of mental derangement. Composers like Vivaldi and Handel wrote impressive "mad scenes" featuring Orlando, the here of Ariosto's poem Orlando Furioso. In nineteenth-century Romantic opera, when composers relied on the virtuosity and florid coloratura of the soprano voice, and charismatic prima donnas triumphed all over Europe, a link came to be established between madness and femininity. In this regard, Bellini's I Puritani and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor contain two of the most significant "mad scenes" in the opera repertory.



Matteo Sansone is an Italian musicologist who specializes in the study of 19th-century Italian opera. He received his PhD in Italian Literature from the University of Edinburgh and teaches the subject of Italian Opera at New York University in Florence and at the British Institute of Florence. He is the author of several publications on the topic of opera and has written several entries in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


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