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This paper explores the crucial contribution of Naples and the Neapolitan song tradition to the development of Italian operetta, focusing particularly on composer Mario Costa. Naples suffered a significant loss of political and economic power following Italian unification in 1861, a decline seemingly echoed by the collapse of its opera buffa tradition. Yet the city played a central role in generating an Italian operetta tradition across entertainment venues both old and new, with canzone napoletana becoming a key feature of operettas composed (and performed) across Italy and abroad. Neapolitan operetta, I argue, reveals the complex interplay between regional, national and international practices and discourses in the fraught constructions of ‘native’ Italian operetta, while exposing the generic and aesthetic ambiguity of Italian operetta within shifting hierarchies and changing repertoires c1900. At the same time, the study of key figures such as Costa can revise musical histories that have typically focused on opera, the Giovane Scuola and the North, uncovering a largely forgotten counternarrative rooted in the Italian South.

At this event

Ditlev Rindom

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Gavin Williams

Lecturer in Music

Sophie Redfern

Lecturer in Music

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South West Block
South West Block, King's College London, Strand Campus, London, WC2R 2NE

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