Laura Protano-Biggs joined the musicology faculty of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Fall 2015. Prior to her arrival she was awarded a PhD in historical musicology from the University of California, Berkeley (2014) and held an appointment as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham (2014-15).
Laura is currently at work on a book about the material dimensions of operatic experience, entitled Operatic Technologies in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy. Rather than focus on mechanisms which enchanted their audience, such as those used in works written for institutions like the Paris Opéra or the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, her book considers technologies in a more basic sense—as devices used to achieve an end—and in relation to musical works that do not summon to mind sublime moments reliant on mechanical feats. The book demonstrates that when we examine common material mechanisms as a cluster in late 1800s Italian theater, we start to grasp the fundamental conventions that influenced performance culture and even to understand the hold those conventions have over us today. Accordingly, individual chapters in Operatic Technologies deal with such matters as the baton, theater illumination and new treatment of voice as mechanism. The book focuses in particular on the case of the preeminent Teatro alla Scala in Milan, whose performance traditions would assume increasing international importance across the early decades of the twentieth century.
Recent seminars have included: Sound Studies, Technologies in the Concert Hall and Opera House, and Current Trends in Musicology (DMA Colloquium).
Laura initially trained as a flautist under the tutelage of Raffaele Trevisani in Milan.
Journal Articles and Reviews
Review: Opera Acts: Singers and Performance in the Late Nineteenth Century by Karen Henson, Music & Letters, forthcoming
“Garibaldi,” “Cavour,” “Mazzini,” “Maria Luigia” and “VIVA V.E.R.D.I,” in Montemorra Marvin ed., The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia (Cambridge University Press, 2013).