The Alpine virgin in Italian opera

 

Uliana Alexyuk - La sonnambula

Nineteenth-century Italian operas portraying an emphatically virginal heroine—a woman defined by her virginity—were often set in the mountains, most frequently the Alps.

This convention presents an unusual point of view—a theme rather than a composer, a librettist, a singer or a genre—from which to observe Italian opera over a century. The clarity of the sky, the whiteness of the snow and the purity of the air were associated with the innocence of the female protagonist.

This according to Landscape and gender in Italian opera: The Alpine virgin from Bellini to Puccini by Emanuele Senici (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Above, Uliana Alexyuk in Bellini’s La sonnambula, one of the operas discussed by Senici; below, an excerpt from another of the book’s case studies, Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

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