Opera and Monuments: Verdi’s Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory

Author: Vellutini, Claudio

Publication details: "Opera and Monuments: Verdi’s Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory." Cambridge Opera Journal 29, no. 2 (2017): 215-39.

Weblink: https://www.cambridge.org

Abstract: This article examines the first production and early reception of Verdi’s Ernani in Vienna in relation to cultural processes supporting strategies of imperial representation promoted by the Habsburg Court. By discussing newspaper reviews, archival documents, sketches of the sets for the first Viennese production, I show how the opera responded to official narratives of the Habsburg Empire and to specific facets of the local culture of monumentality. I argue that particularly the Act III Finale functioned along the lines of memorial practices that projected the Habsburg dynasty as the source of unity of the empire and its peoples. Finally, I consider the Viennese reception of Ernani in the broader context of its Italian dissemination, suggesting how fluctuating political readings of the opera depended upon (rather than undermining) multidirectional cultural exchanges.