cover of book

Feasting and Fasting in Opera: From Renaissance Banquets to the Callas Diet
by Pierpaolo Polzonetti
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-226-80495-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-80500-9
Library of Congress Classification ML1700.P66 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 782.1

Feasting and Fasting in Opera shows that the consumption of food and drink is an essential component of opera, both on and off stage.

In this book, opera scholar Pierpaolo Polzonetti explores how convivial culture shaped the birth of opera and opera-going rituals until the mid-nineteenth century, when eating and drinking at the opera house were still common. Through analyses of convivial scenes in operas, the book also shows how the consumption of food and drink, and sharing or the refusal to do so, define characters’ identity and relationships.
Feasting and Fasting in Opera moves chronologically from around 1480 to the middle of the nineteenth century, when Wagner’s operatic reforms banished refreshments during the performance and mandated a darkened auditorium and absorbed listening. The book focuses on questions of comedy, pleasure, embodiment, and indulgence—looking at fasting, poisoning, food disorders, body types, diet, and social, ethnic, and gender identities—in both tragic and comic operas from Monteverdi to Puccini. Polzonetti also sheds new light on the diet Maria Callas underwent in preparation for her famous performance as Violetta, the consumptive heroine of Verdi’s La traviata. Neither food lovers nor opera scholars will want to miss Polzonetti’s page-turning and imaginative book.

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