Francesca Vella


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Opera; musical networks/mobilities; theatre staging practices; voice and singers/singing; listening and auditory cultures; 19th- and early 20h-century century musical and theatrical cultures; modern cultural histories of music; modern Italian studies

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Personal profile


I was born and raised in Italy, where I studied Art, Music and Performing Arts at the University of Florence and piano at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, before moving to the UK to complete my postgraduate studies at King’s College London. Before joining Northumbria, I was a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Music of the University of Cambridge. I’ve also taught at Oxford Brookes, Goldsmiths and Bristol.

Research interests

  • 19th- and 20th-century operatic cultures
  • theatre staging
  • voice and singers/singing
  • global and transnational histories of music
  • sound studies
  • Italian cultural studies

My research considers histories and technologies of operatic performance across the 19th and early 20th centuries. I’ve published articles on Verdi and Italian nation-building, operatic mobility, vocal celebrity culture, and early radio. My first monograph, Networking Operatic Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2021) explores how networks of opera production and critical discourse enabled by new transport and communication technologies shaped Italian cultural identities during the years immediately preceding and following the country’s unification in 1861.

I’ve recently started a new book project about ideas and practices of operatic staging in early 20th-century Italy, at the intersection with developments in painting, cinema, spoken theatre and other arts. So far, I've researched cases studies focused on the 1930s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and the shifting role of the opera prompter. With Ian Schofield, I'm also preparing a critical edition of Donizetti's Otto mesi in due ore for Ricordi. 

My interest in sonic and auditory cultures led to the establishment of the ‘Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy’ research network (2019-20), funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. I was also a founding member of the Leverhulme network ‘Re-imagining italianità: Opera and Musical Culture in Transnational Perspective’ (2016-19), based at UCL and with collaborators at Cambridge, Brown (USA) and Campinas (Brazil). 

I serve on the Advisory Board of Durham's Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, and I lead Northumbria's cross-university Music Research Group.


Further Information


I teach a range of modules on music from 1750 to the present, from historical, critical and analytical perspectives. Recent undergraduate options I have designed and delivered include 'Musicals: Politics, Performance and Popular Culture', 'Opera on Screen: From Silent Film to YouTube', and 'Opera in 18th- and 19th-century London'. At postgraduate level, I've taught a module on my research into Italian listening and auditory cultures, as well as seminars on research methodolodies, voice studies, music and the middlebrow, digital musicology, and music and the environment.  

I'm always happy to discuss dissertation ideas with UG, MA and PhD students, so please feel free to get in touch.


Public engagement

I regularly write programme notes for UK and foreign opera companies (Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Tour, Scottish Opera, Liceu Opera Barcelona), general readersip articles (Opera magazine), CD liner notes (Opera Rara) and performance reviews (

Education/Academic qualification

Music, PhD

10 Jan 20111 Jul 2014

Award Date: 1 Jul 2014

MPhil, Musicology, King's College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2011

BA (Hons), Disciplines of the Arts, Music and Performing Arts, University of Florence

Award Date: 3 Jul 2009


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