Fri, June 23, 2023
18:00 – 19:30
Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italy
“The Shadow of the Empress: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy”
Book presentation by Larry Wolff, with Francesco Izzo and Gaia Varon.
This symposium discussion will focus on co-director Larry Wolff’s new book “The Shadow of the Empress,” written at Villa La Pietra and partly inspired by the prominent portrait of Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa in the Villa La Pietra salone, reflecting the former importance of the Habsburg presence in Florence.
Pursuing one of this Season’s themes of fairy-tale aestheticism from the childhood of Harold Acton, the symposium (and book) address the fairy-tale opera “The Woman without a Shadow” (Die Frau ohne Schatten) created by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal between 1911 and 1919, about a magical empress who seeks to obtain a shadow that will make her fully human and enable her to have children. The opera was thus conceived and composed at the historical moment in the early twentieth century when emperors and empresses actually departed from political life in Europe and became fairy-tale figures in the later twentieth century.
The discussion with co-directors Larry Wolff and Perri Klass, with opera scholar Francesco Izzo and opera commentator Gaia Varon, will consider how an emperor and empress could be conceived as singing roles on stage, how fairy-tale opera in Austria and Germany could be correlated with Italian opera in the age of Puccini, and how the last Habsburg Emperor Karl and Empress Zita (of the Bourbon-Parma family) moved from political life to foreign exile (on Madeira, in Spain, in Belgium, in New York), to fairy-tale mystique, to the path toward beatification and canonization. The symposium will also present some recorded excerpts of the music from this rarely performed masterpiece, last performed in Florence at the Maggio Musicale in 2010.
JULIUS SILVER PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT NYU
CO-DIRECTOR NYU FLORENCE
Larry Wolff is Julius Silver Professor of History at NYU and co-director of NYU Florence. His most recent book is The Shadow of the Empress: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy (2023), and his other books include Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (1994), Paolina’s Innocence: Child Abuse in Casanova’s Venice (2012), and The Singing Turk: Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon (2016). He writes frequently about opera, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
RADIO BROADCASTER FROM LA SCALA, RAI3
LECTURER, NYU FLORENCE AND IULM UNIVERSIY IN MILAN
A musicologist who loves to spread love for music, Gaia Varon is University Lecturer at NYU Florence and IULM University in Milan. She is also author and presenter of music programmes for Rai Radio3 (among which all the live broadcasts from Milan Teatro alla Scala), Swiss Radio Rete 2 and television music channels. She has published articles and book chapters on opera and cinema in Italian cultural history, operatic and symphonic music on screen, classical music recording style and technique, music in avant-garde short films, classical music in the Italian mediascape.
PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM AND PEDIATRICS AT NYU
CO-DIRECTOR, NYU FLORENCE
Perri Klass is Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University and Co-Director of NYU Florence; her most recent books are A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future, a study of the decline in infant and child mortality, and the effects on parenting, pediatrics, culture, and society, and Quirky Kids: Understanding and Supporting Your Child With Developmental Differences, coauthored with Eileen Costello. She is the National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read, which works through pediatric primary care to promote reading aloud to young children.
PROFESSOR OF MUSIC AND POSTGRADUATE ADMISSIONS TUTOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON
GENERAL EDITOR, THE WORKS OF GIUSEPPE VERDI, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS AND CASA RICORDI
DIRETTORE SCIENTIFICO, FESTIVAL VERDI PARMA
Francesco Izzo is a musicologist and pianist specialising in 19th-century opera and vocal music. He has performed widely as a soloist, with orchestra, and in a variety of chamber ensembles. Most importantly, as collaborative pianist and keen researcher of vocal performance practices of the 19th century, he has accompanied performances by Barry Banks, Rockwell Blake, Kevin Short, and Giuseppe Taddei, and has coached and consulted for countless more. He recently accompanied to great acclaim soprano Lisette Oropesa in a recital for the Festival Verdi at Parma’s Teatro Regio, as well as performances by Leo Nucci and Juan Jesús Rodriguez at the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao.
He is Professor of Music at the University of Southampton (United Kingdom), where he teaches courses and supervises research projects in opera, vocal performance practice, and textual criticism. He is the author of the monograph Laughter between Two Revolutions: Opera buffa in Italy, 1831-1848 (University of Rochester Press), and serves as General Editor of the critical edition The Works of Giuseppe Verdi (University of Chicago Press and Casa Ricordi).
Since 2014 Francesco has been scholar-in-residence at Sarasota Opera, and since 2017 he has served as Direttore Scientifico of Festival Verdi Parma, which in the first year of his scholarly leadership achieved the prestigious award for best festival at the International Opera Awards. He collaborates closely with Festival Verdi’s Music Director Roberto Abbado, and has consulted among others for conductors Daniele Callegari, Michele Mariotti, Francesco Pasqualetti, and Sebastiano Rolli, stage directors Hugo de Ana, Leo Muscato, and Graham Vick, as well as Anna Maria Chiuri, Annick Massis, Michele Pertusi, Antonio Poli, Piero Pretti, Ramon Vargas, Franco Vassallo, Riccardo Zanellato, and many other singers. He has lectured and written for some of the world’s leading opera companies and festivals, including the Salzburg Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Donizetti Festival, the Royal Opera House, the Welsh National Opera, and the opera houses of Bilbao, Madrid, Munich, Naples, Palermo, Rome, and Venice.