- Zwischen drei Kulturen: Musik und Nationalitätsbildung in Triestby Matej Santi
This unique book covering the flourishing life of musical performance and its key nationalistic implications in Trieste throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and into the first two decades of the twentieth is singularly enriched by the author's fluency in the three languages—Italian, Slovene, and German—of this, the largest sea harbor of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. It also benefits from Santi's deep musicological knowledge, which allows [End Page 190]him to appraise the musical scores and the many journalistic sources under discussion. Santi's graceful translations from the Italian and the Slovene into German make the book all the more seamlessly accessible for the German-language reader. Upon opening and closing the tome, one is greeted by a vibrantly colored two-page map of 1850 focusing on the proximity of the three cultural venues featured in the study: the Teatro Verdi, standing across from the German-language Schiller Verein on the Piazza Grande, and just three avenues away, the site where the Narodni dom (the Slovene National Hall) was built between 1901 and 1904. The clear structure of the book begins with Santi's lucidly written forty-page introduction covering his critical methodology of analyzing contemporary nineteenth-and early twentieth-century journalistic articles that trace the simultaneous growth of the performing musical arts in the most prosperous Austrian-Hungarian seaport.
The three major chapter blocks that follow, each between 40 and 60 pages, trace respectively the significant role of Italian opera in the city's cultural life, the growing Slovene cultural presence in Trieste's city center, and the German-language musical dominance through the relatively long-lasting Schiller Verein. Early on, Santi convincingly claims that the contemporary journalistic articles found in Trieste's magazines and newspapers that reside at the heart of his research served a double function: On the one hand, they were centripetal in manifesting a growing confidence in music as innately nationalistic, if not chauvinistic, and on the other hand, they were centrifugal in convincing the entire community of Trieste of the intrinsic value of the given musical pieces and their performances.
The first chapter traces the dominance of Italian opera in Trieste from the late eighteenth century to the outbreak of World War I. Although Santi discusses the first decades of the nineteenth-century operatic life and the myriad performances of the belcanto opera, it is his thirty-page discussion of Giuseppe Verdi's operas in Trieste that gives a sense of Verdi's artistic and political importance to the growing tide of Risorgimento sentiment among the most populous segment of Trieste—the Italian-language community, numbering 65 percent of the city's population in 1910. In particular, there are three areas of Santi's Verdi discussion that are most convincing: the continually central Verdi operatic productions that served as a successful repertory lynchpin; the changing of the name of the Teatro Communale to the Teatro Verdi in 1901, Verdi's death year; and the erection of the Giuseppe Verdi statue in 1906. One major plus of this edition is the manifold visuals contained amidst the pages [End Page 191]of verbal narrative: they include a page-long program cast listing of the star-studded memorial concert for Verdi, the vocal portion of which began with his stirring nationalistic chorus of "Va pensiero" from Nabucco. Although Verdi enjoyed two premieres of earlier operas in Trieste, it was the major commitment of the opera house to his later mature operas that made him the most important of the three Risorgimento Giuseppes: unlike Garibaldi and Mazzini, the regular performances of his works themselves, with their social and psychological immediacy, manifested the composer's undying commitment to a united Italy.
Santi's focus on the Narodni dom (the Slovene Town Hall) as the cultural central gathering place...