Cosmopolitan provincialities : music and exposition culture in liberal Italy
At the end of the 19th century, Italy was a young nation-state struggling with imperial aspirations and internal social and economic divides. This political and identity crisis was reflected also in the Italian music production, losing its prevalence in theaters all over the peninsula in favor of foreign, more modern works. Nonetheless, many towns even outside the major cities of Milan and Turin strived to contribute to the glory of the newly born nation-state, both with their industrial production and with culture. In the musical realm, impresarios, patrons, and critics looked at young composers and old repertoires to restore Italyâ€™s renown as a land rich in music. Great expositions of arts and industry represent an excellent viewpoint to observe the interaction between music practices and the quest for a new Italian identity. A global phenomenon appearing in all imperial capitals over the course of the 19th century, expositions became very popular also in Italy, where they took place several times on different scales, following the initiative of local authorities. This study analyses the music pavilions and music activities organized in three such events: the Mostra Internazionale di Musica in Bolgona (1888), the Esposizione Nazionale Italiana in Palermo (1891â€“92), and the Esposizione Italo-Americana in Genoa (1892). Reconstructing the origin of these events, analyzing the practices they proposed, and questioning their effectiveness with regard to their success with the public, it is clear that expositions became normative models raising preoccupation and anxiety for the hosting communities, but constituted also opportunities for the exploitation and reevaluation of opera, symphonic music, chamber music, military music, and folkloric traditions. From the comparison between all these practices, a lively portrait emerges where music professionals and amateurs equally contributed to shaping the musical image of fin-de-siÃ¨cle Italy.