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Mosaic Perspectives: Lenten Sacred Drama in Naples, 1818–1830

Shold, Jonathan (2017) Mosaic Perspectives: Lenten Sacred Drama in Naples, 1818–1830. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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What does it mean to take nineteenth-century sacred music seriously while working from a modern humanities framework? This dissertation explores the tenuous relationship between the Western Christian conceptual tradition of “sacred music” and two Neapolitan Lenten tragic-sacred dramas: Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto (1818), and Donizetti’s Il diluvio universale (1830). Typological models of sacred music have continued to revolve around a binary sacred/secular opposition that privileges the liturgical repertories of institutionalized religion. Secondary literature has implicitly placed Mosè and Il diluvio at the margins of sacred music by describing them as “between the sacred and secular,” a description that silently re-inscribes the binary it seems to deconstruct. This dissertation offers a synchronic genre history of Neapolitan sacred drama and its sympathetic resonance with Lenten rituals such as fasting, prayer, and penitence. In so doing it acknowledges the historical sacred/secular dichotomy while offering new alternatives for viewing Neapolitan theatrical life during the “sacred” Lenten season.

Archival evidence gathered in Naples reveals Neapolitan theaters not as “secular” venues, but rather civic institutions that typologically prefigured experiences of Lenten fasting. Some of the same Old Testament characters that the Church used as typological justifications for fasting also appeared onstage, where audiences perceived them not as “sacred” characters, but rather as “tragic-sublime” characters. This discovery enables a “mosaic” of new perspectives on tragic-sacred drama’s cultural underpinnings as a musical genre. These include ecocritical discourse on the tragic “catastrophes” of floods in the region surrounding Mount Vesuvius, as well as the musical and allegorical similarities between Mosè and the penitential Catholic Requiem Mass.

Sacred drama’s typological resonances were not aesthetically neutral: the “tragic-sublime” Old Testament aesthetic was contingent upon broader historical discourse on Jewish musicality, while the underlying ideologies of catastrophe in Il diluvio and repentance in Mosè reinforced patriarchal gendered tropes of women’s moral culpability. These observations arise from a combination of score analysis and archival research that situates sacred drama at the intersection of historical musicology, religious studies, and Italian cultural studies.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Shold, Jonathanjms421@pitt.edujms421
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairCassaro, James P.cassaro@pitt.educassaro
Committee CoChairMundy,
Committee MemberRoot, Deane L.dlr@pitt.edudlr
Committee MemberSavoia, Francescasavoia@pitt.edusavoia
Date: 28 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 April 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2017
Submission Date: 24 July 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 167
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: sacred music; 19th-century opera; Rossini's Mosè in Egitto; Donizetti's Il diluvio universale; Neapolitan Lenten sacred drama; sublime
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 00:43
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2017 00:43


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