Verdi’s gastromusicology

In opera, eating and drinking function largely as they do in society—they define social relationships. The antisocial act of refusing to share food or drink with merry people carries a negative connotation and implies an unfortunate result. Further gastromusicological laws may be deduced from Verdi’s operas:

  • A meal is never sad.
  • Hunger is never happy.
  • A shared meal or drink is a socially cohesive event.
  • The presence of food or drink precludes immediate catastrophe (unless poison is involved).
  • The act of feasting is a morally neutral event, but a feasting group or individual is morally negative when contrasted with a positive hungry group or individual.
  • The hero is a sober individual.
  • Music and text may lie, but the gastronomic sign never does.

The interaction between these gastronomic codes and other interweaving codes is often complex.

This according to “Feasting and fasting in Verdi’s operas” by Pierpaolo Polzonetti (Studi verdiani XIV [1999] pp. 69–106). Above, Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas in Act 1 of La Traviata.

Related article: Verdi’s pigs


Filed under Curiosities, Food, Opera, Romantic era