Wagner in Context
The year 2013 is the bicentennial of the birth of Richard Wagner, one of the most important and controversial European figures of the nineteenth century—his music, tainted by association with the Third Reich, is still banned in Israel. Wagner’s work transcends any one discipline and his influence extends far beyond his musical creations to the realms of politics, philosophy, literature, and the status of the artist. An exploration of Wagner’s legacy should then be interdisciplinary by nature. Marking this anniversary, a series of broad-appeal events at BU collectively entitled “Wagner in Context” will be held in Fall 2013, examining not only Wagner’s music, but his poetry, ideas, philosophy and politics. Planned events include a multimedia presentation by Wagner's great-grandson, author and anti-Nazi activist, Gottfried Wagner, a conversation with Dr. Wagner, Ron Della Chiesa and Saul Lilienstein; a showing of the new documentary Wagner’s Jews; a round-table of BU professors from the departments of musicology, philosophy, the Center for the Study of Europe and others; a presentation by opera professionals from the Metropolitan Opera regarding staging Wagner operas; the inclusion of a Wagner instrumental selection on a Boston University Chamber Orchestra concert; and the creation of a facebook page dedicated to the events and linked to cultural sites in many fields. Support for these events have come from the BU Arts Initiative, the BU Center for the Humanities, the BU Center for the Study of Europe, the BU Jewish Cultural Endowment, the Boston Wagner Society and others.

conference flyer
program 1
program 3
Gottfried Wagner’s lecture broadcast on WBUR’s World of Ideas, 3 November 2013
video of Interdisciplinary Round Table of BU Professors on BUniverse, with James Petosa, William Waters, Deborah Burton, Thomas Peattie and Paul Katsafanas, with introduction by CFA Dean Benjamin Juarez.
interview with Deborah Burton on WTBU

Fanciulla 100

(e-conference website, conference at Italian Cultural Institute, New York, December 3, 2010; symposium/exhibition at Mugar Library, Boston University, December 5, 2010); centennial performance and celebration, Metropolitan Opera, New York, December 10, 2010)
Deemed the most spectacular event in the history of the Metropolitan Opera at the time, the world premiere Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) on December 10, 1910 was conducted by Arturo Toscanini with Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, and Pasquale Amato in leading roles. The opera takes place during the California Gold Rush and was based on the Broadway play by American dramatist David Belasco, The Girl of the Golden West. The event established New York and by extension, the United States, as a cultural center.

Deborah Burton’s project,
Fanciulla 100, sponsored in part by the Boston University Humanities Foundation, had several components, the first of which was the creation of an interactive interdisciplinary website focusing on Giacomo Puccini’s “American” opera: The site features historical information in the form of video interviews with celebrated performers (such as Sherrill Milnes and Barbara Daniels), archival images and films (it includes photos from the archives of the Metropolitan opera as well as a video interview with its curator, unpublished musical sketches, a rare silent movie by Cecil B. DeMille, and much more), and scholarly essays about the opera and its creation.

The site was officially launched at a conference at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City, which included a panel with Simonetta Puccini (the composer’s granddaughter), Walfredo Toscanini (the conductor’s grandson), Metropolitan Opera tenor Marcello Giordani, Metropolitan Opera conductor Nicola Luisotti, Deborah Burton (Boston University), Harvey Sachs (Curtis Institute of Music), Allan Atlas (CUNY), Francesco Maria Talò (Consul General of Italy), Riccardo Viale (Director, Italian Cultural Institute and Sarah Billinghurst (Assistant Manager, Metropolitan Opera).

Second, with Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, an exhibition of original archival material was held entitled
The Girl of the Golden West: Chronicling Puccini’s Fanciulla, showcasing material from the Toscanini family, and from collections archived at at BU, including the papers of Sarah Caldwell, Tito Gobbi, Dorothy Kirsten, Rise Stevens, Deborah Voigt and others. The opening of the exhibition was marked by a symposium of invited participants at the Roosevelt Room at Mugar Library, entitled Fanciulla 100: celebrating Puccini. Presenters included: Carolyn Guzski (SUNY-Buffalo), David Rosen (Cornell University), John Conklin (Boston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera), Deborah Burton, Harvey Sachs, Walfredo Toscanini and Cheryl Green (a descendant of David Belasco.) It was sponsored in part by the Boston University Humanities Foundation, and the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation. This symposium was videotaped and is currently viewable on BUniverse. Lastly, a post-performance reception was held at the Metropolitan Opera, with the assistance of Boston University, attended by the stars of the performance (Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, Lucio Gallo, and Nicola Luisotti), and other well-known guests.

Many articles were published relating to the
Fanciulla events. The following is a list of print and online articles that mention Fanciulla 100 directly:

America Oggi, 5 December 2010).

Consulato Generale d’Italia, New York:


Kellow, Brian. “On the Beat,” Opera News, 75/6 (December 2010) (also in the print edition)

Metropolitan Opera:

New York Times, 5 December, 2010. (also in the print edition)

Ross, Alex. “The Rest is Noise” Blog:

6d41. Sachs, Harvey. “In festa per i cento anni della Fanciulla del West,” Corriere del Ticino (Switzerland), 29 January 2011.

The following sites mention the centennial event, but do not refer specifically to the Fanciulla 100 project:

Additional documents:

6g3. Italian Consulate Acknowledgment

6g3.Celebrating Puccini flyer

Opera and Society

(interdisciplinary conference, April 18-19, 2008, Boston University),
Deborah Burton was the organizer of this conference, which included specialists in music, theater, history and performance. (More information, including podcasts of the presentations, can be found at the conference website: In addition to bringing to Boston University eminent scholars from the University of Chicago, Harvard, Princeton and elsewhere, the conference fostered collaboration among different areas of speciality at Boston University: members of the School of Theater, the BU Opera Institute and performers working with Boston Baroque all played important parts. A special guest was Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of the composer. Positive feedback has been received from scholars all over the US who have seen the podcasts, which are also viewable at the Boston University Digital Common (

The presenters included (in alphabetical order): Patricia Brauner (University of Chicago), Deborah Burton (Boston University, School of Music), John A. Davis ((Emiliana Pasca Noether Chair in Modern Italian History, University of Connecticut-Storrs), Sidney Friedman (Boston University, School of Theater), Helen Greenwald (New England Conservatory/University of Chicago), Samuel Headrick (Boston University, School of Music), John Musto (New York City), Martin Pearlman (Boston University, School of Music, Boston Baroque), John Platoff (Trinity College), Hilary Poriss (Northeastern University), Cynthia Verba (Harvard University), Gottfried Wagner (Milan, Italy), Peter Westergaard (Princeton University) and Scott Wheeler (Emerson College). The audience included members of the
Boston academic and opera community.

Tosca 2000

(international interdisciplinary conference, June 16-18, 2000, Teatro dell’Opera, Rome, Italy)

Deborah Burton was the originator and co-organizer with Professors Agostino Ziino (University of Rome-Tor Vergata) and Susan Vandiver Nicassio (University of Louisiana- Lafayette) of this conference commemorating the centennial of Puccini’s opera
Tosca, which had its premiere on January 14, 1900 at what is now Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera, and the bicentennial of the central historical of event in the opera. The conference and related performances were sponsored jointly by The American Academy in Rome, the Teatro dell’Opera, the Società Italiana di Musicologia, the Università di Roma “Tor Vergata,” The Friends of the Humanities of the University of Louisiana - Lafayette, and the City of Rome.

The presenters included (in alphabetical order): Julian Budden (President, Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini, Lucca), Deborah Burton (Lecturer in Music, Harvard University), Marcello Conati (Verdi Institute, Parma), John A. Davis (Emiliana Pasca Noether Chair in Modern Italian History, University of Connecticut-Storrs), the internationally renowned tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, Conrad Donakowski (Interdisciplinary Professor of Music and Humanities, Michigan State University), Marina Formica (Professore straordinario di Storia, University of Rome - Tor Vergata), Pier Giuseppe Gillio (Professor of Letteratura poetica e drammatica, Conservatorio di Novara), Alexander Grab (Professor of History, University of Maine), Herbert Handt (Artistic director, Lucca Music Association), W. Laird Kleine-Ahlbrandt (Professor of History, Purdue University), Jürgen Maehder (Professor of Musicology, Freie Universität of Berlin), Alfredo Mandelli (music critic and professor at the Conservatorio di Musica “Pollini” of Padua), Susan Vandiver Nicassio (Professor of History, University of Louisiana- Lafayette), Magda Olivero (world renowned soprano), Simonetta Puccini (composer’s grand-daughter and president, Istituto di Studi Pucciniani and curator, Museo Puccini), Guido Salvetti (Director, Conservatorio di Musica "G.Verdi" of Milan), Giorgio Sanguinetti (Professor, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata), Suzanne Scherr (Director of Education, Lyric Opera of Chicago), Dieter Schickling (Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini, Lucca), Tito Schipa, Jr (Composer, film director), Luigi Squarzina (profesor, Universities of Rome and Bologna), Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi (critic, opera director, and professor at the University of Salerno), William Weaver (Professor, Bard College), and Eugen Weber (Professor of History, UCLA).

As part of the conference, we gave the first modern performance of a Te Deum written by Giacomo Puccini’s grandfather (Domenico Puccini) for the historical event depicted in the later opera, and had a reception sponsored by the United States Embassy to Italy. Both the concert and the conference were well-attended.


Weaver. William. “In Tosca, a Touch of Family History.” The New York Times, July 16, 2000.

Rowan, Mia. “Opera News: Scholars, and Fans Plan a Fête for Tosca.” Italy, Italy XVIII/2 (2000): 48. [no longer active]

Opera News (June 2000): 9.

. Tosca: il Te Deum di nonno Puccini a Roma.” La Nazione [Florence], 27 June 2000.

Tosca 2000 convegno Italia-USA a Roma.” L’Opera, July-August 2000: n.p.

“Si conclude oggi all’Opera il convegno Tosca 2000.” Il Messaggero 18 June 2000.

“Mandelli dice la Sua.” L’Opera, September 2000: 120.

. “Un Convegno sulla Tosca con film rari.” La Padania 18 June 2000: 13.

. “Successo a Roma del Te Deum.” Il Terreno [Lucca]: 4 July 2000: n.p.

Other Documents