Author: Vellutini, Claudio
Publication details: “Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani, Carlo Balocchino, and Italian Opera Business in Vienna, Paris, and London (1837-1845).” Cambridge Opera Journal 30, no. 1 (forthcoming, 2018).
Abstract: In this paper I discuss the correspondence between the prima donna, her husband (the opera composer Giuseppe Persiani), and the impresario of the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, Carlo Balocchino, to shed light on the economic, social, and cultural dynamics of the operatic networks between the Italian States, Vienna, Paris, and London. The correspondence, housed in the Vienna City Library, comprises some forty letters written between 1836 and 1845. Tacchinardi-Persiani appeared as the leading prima donna during the 1837 Italian opera season at the Kärntnertortheater. Such was her success that Balocchino and his business partner Bartolomeo Merelli tried to hire her for the following seasons. At the end of 1837, however, the Persianis moved to Paris, where Fanny was hired at the Théâtre-Italien and at the Her Majesty’s Theater in London, following the business agreement between the two institutions. She was not to return to Vienna until 1845. The correspondence between the soprano and the impresario of the Kärntnertortheater provides important insights on the economic and artistic landscapes of the three cities. In addition, in these letters Tacchinardi-Persiani strategically constructs her image as a self-made woman vis-à-vis her alleged rivalry with soprano Giulia Grisi, her repertory choices, her need to provide an income to her family, and her responsibilities as a mother. By revealing shifting power dynamics between opera impresarios, performers, and composers during the 1830s and 1840s, reading these letters in parallel with reviews and other writings of the time offers a fresh look at the role of prima donnas’ agency in the dissemination and establishment of an international canon of Italian operas.