Nicolò Palazzetti (La Sapienza University of Rome)
Chair: Dr Antonio Cascelli
Title: Opera Lovers in the Digital Age: From Music Sociology to Fan Studies
Opera lovers are often portrayed as “obsessive” and “maniacal”. Despite such clichés, musicologists have largely overlooked fans. While a history of opera fandom is missing, fan practices are constantly evolving. Recent scholarship has addressed the digital diffusion of opera; moreover, digital fan communities are now well known in popular music studies, sound studies and theatre studies. Opera (cyber-) fandom, however, is largely under-researched.
In this talk, I analyse contemporary opera fandom through a qualitative and comparative methodology combining digital ethnography on social media with on-site participant observation at opera houses. My main case study is the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, but in my research I also consider other venues and contexts, including Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Royal Opera House in London.
Concepts and methods developed within the field of fan studies may significantly enrich the sociological analysis, as proved by Daniel Cavicchi’s research on nineteenth-century music lovers and Claudio Benzecry’s ethnography on Teatro Colón’s aficionados. Fans develop distinctive patterns of social interaction and new cultural products emerge from the community’s shared passion. Internet has reinforced fan communities, helping networked fandom in promoting certain sub-cultures through discussions on social media groups and the circulation of memes.
The study of opera fandom is pivotal to reconsider the legacy of a centuries-old practice and look at its possible futures in a period of critical change for live performing arts.
Nicolò Palazzetti is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in musicology and theatre studies at La Sapienza University of Rome, where he is also lecturing on music sociology. He specializes in twentieth-century music, music and politics, and in opera, audience and digital cultures. His publications include the monograph Béla Bartók in Italy: The Politics of Myth-Making (The Boydell Press, 2021). Nicolò obtained a PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris in 2017. Prior to join La Sapienza in 2021, he worked as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham (2017-18) and as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Strasbourg (2019-21). As part of his current Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action on opera fandom, Nicolò has been a visiting researcher at Yale University in August and September 2023. He will be a visiting research fellow at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in February and March 2024.