Tatiana Korneeva

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Comparative Studies
Research Associate in Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin

Research project

Staging the Empire: Italian Opera Seria at the Russian Imperial Court of Empress Elisabeth (1741–1762)


The aim of this project is twofold: first, it will explore the role of Italian opera seria at the court of Empress Elisabeth (1741–62) in the complex semiotic exchange between absolutist politics and the arts that took place during this formative period of Russian society, literature, and theatre. Second, it will investigate the activities of Italian composers, librettists, and actors in Russia, asking how they contributed to the creation of an official Russian operatic repertoire.


Elisabeth championed opera and theatre as a patron, critic, actress, and spectator. Her desire for theatrical pleasures, however, was never divorced from her political agenda; her ardent commitment to theatre was interwoven with the acquisition and display of supreme power. Imported, assimilated, and adjusted to fit local tastes, Italian opera came to serve as the Russian imperial genre and became part of Elisabeth’s political narrative.


Analysis will begin with Metastasio’s Clemenza di Tito, written to celebrate the Habsburg emperor and performed in Russia during Elisabeth’s coronation festivities (1742). This project will also bring to light a multilingual series of Francesco Araja and Giuseppe Bonecchi’s librettos: Seleuco (1744), Scipione (1745), Mitridate (1747), Bellerofonte (1750), and Eudossa incoronata (1751). These librettos have never been treated as a corpus although they occupied a crucial position within the tsarina’s dynamic spectacle of absolutism due to their unique status at court.


A theoretically informed analysis of the librettos will therefore highlight the complex cultural mechanisms that informed the fundamentally bilateral interaction between opera and absolutist politics, an interaction that was both a consequence of and a driving force behind the institutionalization of court theatre. In addition, the librettos were printed and thus came to be inscribed into the gradually institutionalizing tradition of Russian opera and theatre. Since performances of Italian opera seria on the Russian stage encouraged the birth of Russian opera, I will show the extent to which they paved the way to innovative dramaturgical and theatrical practices. Taking into consideration the spaces of cross-cultural contact in which these opere serie were produced, this project demonstrates how the Russian court can be regarded as a laboratory for changing conceptions of dramatic genres, theatre design, and styles of acting.




Tatiana Korneeva is Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin in Comparative Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin, Peter Szondi Institut for Comparative Literature, for the European Research Council-funded project "Early Modern Drama and the Cultural Net". She holds a Ph.D in Classical Languages, Linguistics and History from the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Her research interests include gender and cultural studies, childrens’ literature, folklore studies, 17th- and late 18th-century English and French literature, 20th-century Russian literature, and psychoanalysis.


Selected publications


Dramatic Experience: Poetics of Drama and the Public Sphere(s) in Early Modern Europe and Beyond, with K. Ospovat & K. Gvozdeva (eds), Brill, Leiden, 2016.


'The Theatrical Politics and Political Theatre of Andrea Giacinto Cicognini', in J. Bloemendal & N. Smith (eds), Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque Tragedy, Brill, Leiden, 2016, pp. 260-293.


'Il pubblico teatrale nel Genio buono e il genio cattivo di Carlo Goldoni', Italian Studies, vol. 70, no. 1, 2015, pp. 92-116.


'Law and Women’s Rights in Boccaccio’s Decameron: Madonna Filippa vs. Antigone', Comparatio: Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, vol. 4, no. 2, 2012, pp. 225-238.


Alter et ipse: Identità e duplicità nel sistema dei personaggi della Tebaide di Stazio, ETS, Pisa, 2011.



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