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Francesca Vella

Assistant Professor

Department: Humanities

I was born and raised in Italy, where I studied Art, Music and Performing Arts at the University of Florence and piano at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, before moving to the UK to complete an MMus and a PhD at King’s College London. Before joining Northumbria, I was a Junior Research Fellow (St John’s College) and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (Faculty of Music) at the University of Cambridge. I’ve also taught at Oxford Brookes, Goldsmiths and Bristol.

Francesca Vella

  • opera
  • 19th-century musical cultures
  • voice
  • staging practices
  • history of listening
  • Italian cultural studies

My research considers histories and technologies of operatic performance across the 19th and early 20th centuries. I’ve published articles on Giuseppe Verdi and Italian nation-building, operatic mobility, vocal celebrity culture, and early radio. My first monograph, Networking Operatic Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2021) explores how networks of opera production and critical discourse enabled by new transport and communications technologies shaped Italian cultural identities during the years immediately preceding and following the country’s unification in 1861. I’m currently working on an article on the critical language of operatic staging (at the intersection with cinema) at the 1930s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and on a new book about staging and the visual arts in early twentieth-century Italy.

My growing interest in sonic and auditory cultures has led to the establishment of the ‘Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy’ research network (2019-20), funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. I was also a founding member of the Leverhulme network ‘Re-imagining italianità: Opera and Musical Culture in Transnational Perspective’ (2016-19), based at UCL and with collaborators at Cambridge, Brown University and Universidade Estadual de Campinas. 

Public engagement

I’ve written programme notes for institutions including Glyndebourne, Royal Opera House and Liceu Opera Barcelona; articles for Opera magazine; and reviews for

  • Music PhD July 01 2014
  • MPhil January 01 2011
  • BA (Hons) July 03 2009
  • Fellow (FHEA) Higher Education Academy (HEA) 2019

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