Opera on the prairie: a biographical and musical analysis of Felix Vinatieri and the American volunteer

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University of Alabama Libraries

Felix Vinatieri (1834-1891), an Italian composer, immigrated to the United States in 1859 and eventually settled in Yankton, South Dakota. His service as bandmaster with the Seventh Cavalry under General George Armstrong Custer has led scholars of his music thus far to remain focused solely on his band music. However, also of great interest are his American comic operas; these compositions, dating from 1877 to 1891, are among the earliest surviving operas composed west of the Mississippi. The composer's favorite, The American Volunteer, was to have been presented at the Columbian World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, but plans were abandoned after his death from pneumonia on December 5, 1891. This document has several purposes. The first is to provide a brief biographical sketch of the life of Felix Vinatieri. Second, it will provide an abbreviated development of opera within the United States, specifically focused upon how American burlesque developed out of proceeding styles and genres. Third, it will provide a closer examination of The American Volunteer, and consider why Vinatieri referred to it as a burlesque opera. Finally, this document will produce a functional performance edition of three selections from The American Volunteer. These selections will be analyzed and comparisons will be made to the music of Vinatieri's contemporaries. Material for this study comes from a variety of sources. Primary sources were drawn largely from two collections, The Vinatieri Archive at the National Music Museum which held musical manuscripts, newspaper articles, military documents, and other resources; and The Dakota Territorial Museum which contained family accounts, and early history for the Dakota Territories and its residents. The study of Vinatieri's music has revealed a competent composer who, though not innovative in his compositional style, was willing to push boundaries with the content and topics contained in his work. Being one of the earliest operas composed west of the Mississippi River The American Volunteer has historical importance and deserves greater consideration.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Music, Performing arts, Theater history