Jan and Beta Popper
Professor of Music
Pierpaolo Polzonetti specializes in opera and eighteenth-century music and culture. His research work has been funded by the Earhart Foundation, the American Council for Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
His book, Italian Opera in the Age of the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2011), is a study of representations of America in eighteenth-century comic opera, showing how new ideas coming from Revolutionary America inspired leading composers of the time, including Piccinni, Paisiello, Haydn, and Mozart, to introduce far-reaching innovations in the musical and dramatic fabric of Italian opera. The book received the Lockwood Book Award, conferred by the American Musicological Society.
His article “Mesmerizing Adultery: Così fan tutte and the Kornman Scandal” (Cambridge Opera Journal) tracked down the real-life scandal involving a banker, his wife, and her lover that inspired Mozart’s opera, and discusses the implications of this previously unknown source for the opera plot, in terms of representations of medicalization of sexuality as a way to exert a new technology of power engineered by the emerging bourgeoisie. The article won the 2004 Einstein Award, conferred by the American Musicological Society.
Polzonetti’s research on opera started in 1999, when he published the first essay on “gastromusicology”: the study of representations of food in opera and its meaning (“Feasting and Fasting in Verdi’s Operas,” Studi Verdiani). He is still presently working on this topic, having almost completed a book manuscript titled Opera & Food.
His other long-term research work is on eighteenth-century composer, theorist, proto-ethnomusicologist, and virtuoso violinist Giuseppe Tartini. His article “Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony” (Journal of the American Musicological Society) won the 2015 Slim Award, and his first book on this topic, Tartini e la musica secondo natura (LIM, 2001), received the Latina International Prize in Music Studies. He is presently collaborating on a project for the publication of the critical edition of Tartini’s works led by the Università di Padova.
Polzonetti’s other research interest is in music education and music pedagogy, especially directed toward marginalized and imprisoned student populations. His article “Don Giovanni Goes to Prison: Teaching Opera Behind Bars” appeared in Musica docta.