Defining Italian Cultural Identity in American Urban Centers
Through Opera from Mass Migration to World War II (1881-1941)
This research focuses on the role that Italian opera had in forming an Italian-American ethnic identity in American urban centers between the early mass migration period (1881) and Italy’s declaration of war against the United States (1941). Special emphasis is on the Northeast area, particularly on New York City and the Metropolitan Opera House under the management of Giulio Gatti-Casazza (1908-1935).
Italians who immigrated to America adopted various methods to both elevate themselves in society and challenge the cultural hegemony around them; associating the “Little Italies” with Italian opera proved to be a very powerful, successful strategy to reach those goals because such repertory was both an emblem of Italian culture and one of the most important forms of entertainment for Americans.
This interdisciplinary, multi-lingual research aims to fill a significant gap in immigration history, which at least in the case of Italian-Americans has focused primarily on socioeconomic improvement and only occasionally on the arts; with few exceptions, opera in particular has been ignored.