Laura Vasilyeva (formerly Laura Protano-Biggs) is a musicologist currently completing her first book Opera and the Built Environment. This book examines the teatro all’italiana—the horseshoe structure that was the architectural model for thousands of theaters across the world in the nineteenth century. With a focus on four main themes – “Surfaces” – “Atmosphere” – “Acoustics” – “Thresholds” – the book makes a case for the teatro all’italiana as a medium, an environment, that determined what it meant to compose, to feel, to listen. In turn, it demonstrates that however much the auditoria of these theaters feel like self-enclosed worlds, the teatro all’italiana, like all architectural structures, irrepressibly impacted locations far removed in time and space. From the subterranean quest for colors with which to adorn their interiors to the environmental consequences of their mass construction, these theaters serve as a reminder that even in the auditorium of the teatro all’italiana—its ‘inner sanctum’—the outside world and its geopolitics was ever on show.

Vasilyeva was the recipient of a 2018 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award to enable work on her first book. In 2019 Vasilyeva was Visiting Assistant Professor in Musicology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2022 she is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (St. John’s College), working on her second book Skin: Musical Encounters at the Surface

Vasilyeva is committed to the crafting of scholarship that is accessible to a broad public, and is always pleased to hear from arts organizations looking to further outreach. Recent collaborations include talks for the Washington National Opera,  Opera Philadelphia / FringeArts and the Shriver Hall concert series.

Vasilyeva also has broad teaching interests and encourages students who would like to work with her to be in touch. Students are also encouraged to work with her in one of the several courses she offers. Recent seminars have included Sound Studies, Current Trends in Musicology, Buildings for Music: Theorizing Musical InfrastructuresTechnologies in the Concert Hall and Opera House and Vocal Contests


PhD in Music History and Literature, University of California, Berkeley

MPhil in Musicology and BA Hons in Music, University of Cambridge 

Vasilyeva initially trained as a flautist under the tutelage of Raffaele Trevisani in Milan.

Selected Publications


Vasilyeva, Laura. Opera and the Built Environment, in preparation

Edited Volumes

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “Nineteenth-Century Grand Opera on the Move,” special issue guest-edited for Cambridge Opera Journal 29/1 (2017).

Journal Articles and Reviews

Vasilyeva, Laura. “Opera and the Built Environment.” Cambridge Opera Journal 33/1-2 (2021): 180-189.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. Review: Opera Acts: Singers and Performance in the Late Nineteenth Century by Karen Henson, Music & Letters 99/3 (2018): 490-493.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. Review: Opera and Modern Spectatorship in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy by Alessandra Campana, Music & Letters 98/2 (2017): 300-303.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “An Earnest Meyerbeer: Le Prophète at London’s Royal Italian Opera, 1849,” Cambridge Opera Journal 29/1 (2017): 53-73.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “Bellini’s Gothic Voices,” Cambridge Opera Journal  28/2 (2016): 149-154.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “‘Mille e mille calme fiammelle: Illuminating Milan’s Teatro alla Scala at the fine secolo,” Studi verdiani 23 (2013): 145-167.

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “Garibaldi,” “Cavour,” “Mazzini,” “Maria Luigia” and “VIVA V.E.R.D.I,” in Montemorra Marvin ed., The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Protano-Biggs, Laura. “Manon’s Choice,” The Opera Quarterly 24/1 (2008), 27-35.