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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 31, 2005

Image: Guiseppi Verdi, foreground; Arturo Toscanini, background

IP-Obermann Fellow Roberta Marvin To Discuss Verdi's Music Sept. 13

Roberta M. Marvin, director of University of Iowa International Programs Office of Research and Development and an associate professor in international studies, will discuss "Music, Political Propaganda, and National Identity: Verdi's 'Inno delle nazioni,' a 'Weapon of Art'" at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the Gerber Lounge in the English-Philosophy Building (EPB) on the UI campus. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

The event is co-sponsored by UI International Programs and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. Marvin is giving this talk in her role as the second Stanley International Programs-Obermann Center Research Fellowship awardee.

Giuseppe Verdi's "Inno delle nazioni" (Hymn of the Nations), a cantata setting of a patriotic text by the poet Arrigo Boito, was considered "rife with modern Italian patriotism and modern Italian inspiration," when it premiered in 1862. However, it was scandalously rejected by concert organizers in London, and, after only a few performances, it quickly fell into oblivion.

It was nonetheless destined to become a politicized "voice" for Italy at another crucial juncture in Italian history, when Arturo Toscanini revived it toward the end of World War II. In 1943 and 1944 Toscanini musically and textually modified Verdi's cantata and performed it in concerts, on radio broadcasts and on film, both as his personal message to the people of Italy and as official government propaganda for the peace and reparation efforts of the U.S. He thus created, what contemporary commentators labeled, a "weapon of art" with which to deal a "blow to despots and dictators."

Despite the importance of this work to achieving a full understanding of Verdi's musical stature and political activities and of Toscanini's cultural and political profile, its full story has not been told. Marvin presents a narrative that unpacks the history of "Inno delle nazioni" as a politically charged, internationally significant musical emblem. Using this unique case study of a work that was used to resist oppression, combat evil and fight injustice, she tells a story about the phenomenon of a musical composition that served not only as a "weapon of art" but also as a nationalistic voice for Italy in two very different situations across two separate centuries; of two iconic figures, Verdi and Toscanini; and of how the public face of art and its creators can be manipulated to propagandistic purpose by the media.

Marvin's lecture grows out of a larger project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the UI Arts and Humanities Initiative, and the Stanley International Programs-Obermann Center Research Fellowship.

Marvin is a widely published scholar on the music of Verdi and Rossini, the editor of three books, several critical editions of music and the journal Verdi Forum. A sought after lecturer throughout Europe and the U.S. and a frequent contributor to the programs of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Marvin is well-known for her interdisciplinary research on censorship of opera and operatic parodies. She has published widely on other topics as well, including performance practices in Verdi's works, dissemination and reception of operatic works, literature and music, the music publishing business and musical patronage.

The Stanley International Programs-Obermann Center Research Fellowships are semester-long awards given to selected Obermann Center Scholars whose research focuses on international issues. In addition to receiving an award of $3,000 for travel and research support, each fellow presents his or her research as the featured speaker at a public lecture and reception to be co-hosted by International Programs and the Obermann Center.

UI International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is dedicated to scholarship and intellectual exchange. Some Obermann Scholars work independently, stimulated by uninterrupted blocks of time and by informal conversation. Others work in close collaboration. Obermann Scholars have published numerous scholarly books and articles and have been awarded many external research grants and fellowships for projects begun at the center.

For more information or special accommodations to attend this lecture, contact Leslie Aktan at 319-335-3862.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,