1st Edition

Valuing Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera Fantasias for Woodwind Instruments Trash Music

By Rachel N. Becker Copyright 2024
    244 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book approaches opera fantasias – instrumental works that use themes from a single opera as the body of their virtuosic and flamboyant material – both historically and theoretically, concentrating on compositions for and by woodwind-instrument performers in Italy in the nineteenth century.

    Important overlapping strands include the concept of virtuosity and its gradual demonization, the strong gendered overtones of individual woodwind instruments and of virtuosity, the distinct Italian context of these fantasias, the presentation and alteration of opera narratives in opera fantasias, and the technical and social development of woodwind instruments. Like opera itself, the opera fantasia is a popular art form, stylistically predictable yet formally flexible, based heavily on past operatic tradition and prefabricated materials. Through archival research in Italy, theoretical analysis, and exploration of European cultural contexts, this book clarifies a genre that has been consciously stifled and societal resonances that still impact music reception and performance today.


    Chapter 1: The opera fantasia in musicological context 

    Chapter 2: The Italian context 

    Chapter 3: Genre theory and the opera fantasia 

    Chapter 4: Gender implications of the opera fantasia 

    Chapter 5: A return to musical narrative through the opera fantasia 

    Chapter 6: Opera fantasias on Verdi’s Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and Un ballo in maschera 



    Rachel N. Becker is Assistant Professor of Musicology and Oboe at Boise State University, USA. She previously taught at the University of Cambridge, UK. Rachel’s research focuses on issues of genre, virtuosity, and gender. She has published on musical ecphrasis and on gendering of woodwind instruments, and she remains active internationally as an oboist.