Francesca Vella

Dr Francesca Vella

PhD, MMus, BA

  • BS8 1UU

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Personal profile

Research interests

  • 19th-century opera and musical cultures
  • voice studies
  • staging practices
  • history of listening
  • global/transnational history
  • Italian cultural studies

I was born and raised in Florence, where I studied Art, Music & Performing Arts at the University, as well piano at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, before moving to the UK to complete an MMus and a PhD at King’s College London. Before joining Bristol’s Music Department, I was a junior research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge and then a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge.

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 and vocal celebrity culture. My first monograph, Networking Operatic Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2021) explores how networks of opera production and critical discourse enabled by transport and communications technologies both old and new shaped Italian cultural identities during the years immediately preceding and following the country’s unification (1861). Current research projects include an article on early radio listening as a multisensory experience, and a case study of operatic staging and the visual arts at the 1930s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

My growing interest in sonic and auditory cultures has led to the establishment of the ‘Sounding (Out) 19th-Century Italy’ network (2019-20), funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. As part of this project, a team of researchers and performers have organised a lecture-recital that featured the UK premiere of Italy’s first radio opera: Carmine Guarino’s Il Cuore di Wanda (1931). I’m 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 University and Universidade Estadual de Campinas. 




  • From Silent Films to YouTube: Opera on Screen (current)
  • Music and Society (current)
  • Historical Approaches to Music (current)
  • Musicology Project and Extended Study (current)
  • Sounding the 19th Century (past)
  • Opera in 18th- and 19th-Century London (past)


  • Research Skills (current)
  • Readings in Musicology (current)
  • Italian Soundscapes (past)
  • Introduction to Musicology and Its Debates (past)

I have also delivered lectures and seminars on German Lieder, performing bodies, musical mobilities, music and the middlebrow, the digital, and music and the environment.

I enjoy supervising on a variety of music history topics. Current and former students have worked on Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique; Pauline Viardot; Verdi’s Falstaff; Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; Britten’s Gloriana; Stephen Sondheim; The Phantom of the Opera (musical); 21st-century British opera; and US ‘indie’ opera companies.


Expertise and public engagement

I’ve written programme notes for institutions including Glyndebourne and Royal Opera House; articles for Opera magazine; and reviews for



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