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We are delighted to welcome Marco Ladd for this week’s colloquium, which outlines his current research — as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Music, King's College London — on Italian operetta after the advent of fascism. Marco is also completing a book on Italian silent cinema (c. 1900–1930) through the lens of synchronization, an important concept in film history and aesthetics, and which he discusses in his recent article “Synchronization as Musical Labor in Italian Silent Cinema” recently published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society.
This talk springs from a curious juxtaposition in Italian political and musical history. Over the course of the 1920s, the preeminent political force of the era—fascism—was in rapid ascent, growing from a violent revolutionary movement to the world’s first totalitarian state by decade’s end. In the same period, Italy’s native operetta tradition was in terminal decline, as a once flourishing genre was gradually eclipsed by new forms of popular entertainment (e.g. cinema).
These trajectories may appear to have little to do with one another, and operetta might seem an especially marginal perspective onto momentous political developments. But as I’ll argue, the travails of the operetta industry and its workforce are highly revealing of Italian fascism’s priorities and blind spots; while fierce contemporary debates around operetta’s ambivalent identity, sited somewhere between art and entertainment, have lots to tell us about the many ways music could be political under Mussolini’s regime. In outlining possibilities for a broader study, I suggest that examining operetta through the lens of Italian fascism (and vice versa) stands to illuminate the growing authority of an increasingly global mass public.
Speaker: Dr Marco Ladd