A more fashionable Indiana Jones, who’s a lady?


Indiana Jones

Throughout this blog, I have decided to ask questions that maybe you opera lovers want to ask but are afraid to.  Since a large part of my life is devoted to opera history, why not talk about opera history!?  And NO!!!…just because something has the word “history” attached to it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s boring, dry, lame, and not exciting.  Frankly, I find history one of the most fascinating and stimulating areas of study; if someone knows how to approach it in a welcoming and user-friendly way, that is.  Over the past several years, books like The DaVinci Code have brought historical novels back into fashion.  And so, I’m really excited since the text I’m working on reads like a treasure trove.  The only difference is, it’s not fiction…it’s the truth, which makes it all the more exciting.

Now that I’m on it….several years ago I really developed a fascination with opera.  I loved languages and literature and was studying piano almost obsessively, so I had no interest in singing (although I was a closet singer…I would sing when I was by myself).  My high school music teacher had organized a trip to the Canadian Opera Company to see Rigoletto.  So, like everyone else in the department, I put my little self on the bus and had no idea what I was going to see.  I had heard operas on recording and owned several but had never seen a live one.  To make a long story short…I couldn’t get out of my seat that night and the tears didn’t stop even into the night.  Afterwards, it suffices to say I had found my life’s obsession.

Fast forward….after years of studying voice, singing in Europe and North America, and completing a Masters that specialized in Puccini’s Turandot, I’m on a plane to Milan to scrounge through three libraries in search of some documents that I know are there, but I have no idea where.  Imagine, risking a research grant for which you wrote, “I know these documents exist and are located in one of three libraries.”  The grant committees must have realized my passion and since the background is absolutely compelling, they put their faith in me.  But where?  Where in the heck would I find these documents from the 1860s?  After completing my PhD coursework, I began to focus on my dissertation, focusing on a period of opera between Verdi and Verismo called, “Scapigliatura,” which loosely translates to “dishevelledness.”  Not only did I immerse in this period of art and music, I too had become “dishevelled” like these artists. So, like a more fashionable Indiana Jones, I arrived at the libraries where I was greeted by a number of respectful people who thought it very strange that a Canadian girl had come all this way to look for Italian historical documents.

And you think history is boring?  I will never forget how it felt when the librarian gave me a pair of white gloves and wheeled out a cart that was piled high with chronicles that I had seemingly been looking for in every major library database in the world and come up with, “search not found,” or “no items were found.”  I knew that these documents existed, but I just didn’t know where.  The journey was long, difficult, sometimes draining, and I am so glad that I went with my gut and kept going.  Result:  the grant paid for over 1800 Euros worth of micro filming because I wanted these documents back with me in Canada.  What I have compiled out of these and my own very long 8 years of research, is a story of music, opera, politics, two major composers and a publisher, and what I consider A SCANDAL!  A great historical novel wouldn’t be complete without scandal now, would it?

So, how will the academic populace take my information?…Stay tuned!

Not sure, but then…who ever believed Indiana Jones, and he was always right!


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Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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