Laura Vasilyeva (formerly Laura Protano-Biggs) is a musicologist and Assistant Professor since 2019. Her first book, Opera and the Built Environment, centers on an architectural form realized hundreds of times over within the Italian peninsula alone—and thousands of times across the globe—since the 1800s. The teatro all’italiana is now known for its characteristic tiers of stacked boxes and dominant red hue. 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 listen, to watch, to feel. It focuses on the 1800s, when teatri all’italiana were standardized to a remarkable extent, and devotes particular attention to the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, which served as a direct model for the construction of teatri all’italiana at the time. In turn, it demonstrates that however much the auditoria of these opera houses feel like self-enclosed worlds, teatri all’italiana, like all architectural structures, have irrepressibly impacted locations outside them, from the subterranean quest for colors with which to adorn their interiors to the environmental consequences of their mass construction. Ultimately, the book demonstrates, even in the rarified auditorium of the teatro all’italiana—its ‘inner sanctum’—the outside world and its geopolitics are 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 and in 2022 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 Opera Fever in the 1800s, Sound Studies, Current Trends in Musicology 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.
Protano-Biggs, Laura. “Nineteenth-Century Grand Opera on the Move,” special issue guest-edited for Cambridge Opera Journal 29/1 (2017).
Journal Articles, Chapters and Reviews
Vasilyeva, Laura. “Theatres,” in The Cambridge History of Opera since 1800 (Cambridge University Press; forthcoming 2024).
Vasilyeva, Laura. “Verdi’s Falstaff and the Resonant Soundscape,” Verdi Perspektiven (forthcoming 2023).
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.