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Prima La Musica o Prima La Parola? Textual and Musical Intermedialities in Italian Literature and Film


This dissertation is a comparative study of Italian opera, literature, and film, and traces the textual and musical intermedialities among the art forms. Using the analytical prisms of Elio Vittorini’s linguaggio unitario del musicista and Giuseppe Verdi’s notion of verit�, I examine the myriad ways that literature, film, and music interact and the effects on the respective arts.

Chapter 1 focuses on literature that is written in such a way as to evoke music. I analyze three texts and their musical components: Vittorini’s Italian Resistance novel, Uomini e no; the postmodern novel Passavamo sulla terra leggeri by Sergio Atzeni—a soundscape of text that mimics contemporary opera structure; and Manzoni’s I promessi sposi, which was the inspiration for Giuseppe Verdi’s notion of verit� in art. Chapter 2 focuses on literature that becomes the text for opera. I examine Verga’s metamorphosis of Cavalleria rusticana from novella and play, and then subsequent libretto for Pietro Mascagni’s opera. I contrast this with Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which is the text for the 21st-century eponymous opera composed by Christopher Cerrone. Chapter 3 analyses four Italian films that use the same opera—Verdi’s La traviata (1853)—in varying degrees for effects ranging from the tragic to the ludic.

As traditional structures of text, film, and opera change and evolve, there is more opportunity for the art forms to coalesce, thus forming a deeper and richer experience. The study of the symbiosis of word and music has only recently received scholarly attention. This dissertation focuses on the literary and filmic aspects of the musical and textual intermedialities and researches the commingling of the arts to address and examine how texts and films are affected by their musical components.

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