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Dr Barbara Gentili

Dr Barbara Gentili

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow


I am a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. My research interests focus on the cultural history of Italian opera and operatic singing in the period 1860 - 1930; the cultural, technological and commercial impacts of early recordings; music autoethnography. My academic work is informed by my own performance practice as a stage and concert soprano.

I have written on the topics of newly-emerging aesthetics of singing, recorded vocal performance in the pre-electrical era, turn-of-the-twentieth-century singers of the Italian tradition, and a/r/tography in a number of collected volumes and first-rank academic journals, including Music & Letters and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Non-academic writing includes performance reviews and opinion-articles for leading British and Italian music periodicals such as The Spectator, Opera Magazine, Il giornale della musica and OperaClick.

Before joining Cardiff University I co-ordinated a research project on the interconnections between Humanities and Creative Arts Practice for the Humanities Research Institute at Newcastle University,  I also taught History of Western classical music in Undergraduate courses and supervised Master students in performance projects at the Royal College of Music (London).

My performance activity has become research-led since my PhD and currently includes a multi-media project based on the life and career of the Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti.


I studied Law at the University of Perugia (BA Hons 2004) and Music at the Conservatoire of Terni (BMus 2005) and the Milan Conservatoire (MA 2012) before completing a PhD in Music (2019) at the Royal College of Music in London.

Between 2005 and 2013 I sang main operatic roles for a number of Italian opera companies in major North-Italian opera houses. A selection of my roles includes Fiordiligi from Così fan tutte and The Second Lady from The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart, Santuzza from Cavalleria Rusticana by P. Mascagni, Violetta from La traviata by G. Verdi, Suor Angelica and Tosca in the operas of the same title by G. Puccini, Micaela from Carmen by Bizet, Nedda from I Paglicci by Leoncavallo, Mimì from La Bohème and Cio Cio San from Madama Butterfly by Puccini.

I review opera performances and write opinion pieces for British and Italian music periodicals such as Opera Magazine, The Spectator, Il giornale dell musica and OperaClick.

Honours and awards

2020-23 Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Cardiff University

2022 Richard and Edith French Award, Binecke Library - Yale University

2020 Rome Award, British School at Rome

2020 Music & Letters Conference support and Royal Musical Association Conference Affiliation to organise a Conference

2019 Pioneer Award, Newcastle University

2019 Institute of Musical Research Early Career Research Grants and Fellowships 2019-20

2015 Travel Award, Royal Holloway

2012 Lugano Lirica Prize, Lugano (Switzerland)

2004 Voci Verdiane Young Artist Programme, Fondazione Toscanini, Parma (Italy)

Professional memberships

International Musicologial Society

Royal Musical Association

Association for Recorded Sound Collections

Associate Fellow of the Higher Edication Academy

Academic positions

2020- 2023 Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Cardiff University

2019-2020 Research Associate Humanities Research Institute, Newcastle University

2017-2019 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Royal College of Music, London

Speaking engagements

Portraying a New Womanhood in the Early Recordings of Verismo Sopranos, Interpreting Early Recordings: Critical and Contextual Perpsecitve, Symposium of the AHRC-funded Network 'Redefining Early Recordings as Sources for Performance Practice and History', Glasgow University, January 2022

Re-crafting the Art of Singing in the Age of Verismo: Aural Perspectives through Early Recordings, John Bird Seminar Series, School of Music, Cardiff University, January 2021.

Listening to the Ehrenreich recordings, Roundtable with Will Crutchfield (conductor, director Teatro Nuovo, New York), Barbara Gentili (Cardiff University), and Lola San Martin (EHESS Paris), Bern University of the Arts, September 2020.

The Lost Art of Vocal Registration: an Auto-ethnographic Narrative about the Birth of “Modern” Operatic Singing, ICMuS Research Seminar Series, International Centre for Music Studies, Newcastle University, April 2020.

Reconsidering Current Performance Practices: the Singer as a Creative Artist, Collision Festival, Central School of Speech and Drama, September 2018.

Beautiful Singing: Understanding the Italian Way, Concerts and Colloquia Series, Middlesex University, London, March 2017.

Invited conference papers

‘The Scrapbooks of Soprano Emma Carelli and Other Discoveries: Issues of Agency in the Global Reception of the Singing New Woman in the Early 20th Century’, 21st Quinquennial International Musicological Society Congress, Athens, Greece, 22–26 August 2022. 

‘Voicing the New Womanhood: Sopranos and Actresses in Early Twentieth-Century Italy’, Performance Study Network Biennial Conference, Surrey University, July 2022.

‘Il canto “moderno” di una “donna nova”: Emma Carelli nell’Italia del primo Novecento’, Saggiatore Musicale annual meeting, Bologna, Italy, November 2020.

‘Il canto ‘moderno’ di una ‘donna nova’: Emma Carelli nell’Italia del primo Novecento, “Saggiatore Musicale” annual meeting, Bologna University, November 2020.

‘Emma Carelli nella cultura italiana del primo Novecento: impersonando la ‘donna nova’ sul palcoscenico e oltre’, Italian Society of Musicology's annual conference, Siena, October 2020.

‘Score as a Map: Exemplifications from Early Recordings of Operatic Sopranos’, Correct, but not Beautiful Performance II conference, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Vienna, Sept. 2019.

‘New Takes on the Tenor Voice: Reinterpreting Its History through Early Recordings’, New Takes on Recorded Music conference, University of Surrey, Sept. 2019.

'Emma Carelli: Performing the Donna Nova On the Operatic Stage and Beyond’, paper for The Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music, Bangor University, Sept. 2019.

‘Earthy Singing and Sensuous Voices: the Changing Aesthetics of Vocal Registration in Pre-Electrical Recordings of Verismo Sopranos’, Early Recordings: Past Performing Practices in Contemporary Research conference, University of Huddersfield and University of Glasgow, Pushkin House London, June 2019.

‘The “Modern” Soprano: a Strong Model of Femininity’, 54th Royal Musical Association Annual Conference, University of Bristol, Sept. 2018.

‘How my Research Is Informed by my Own Practice as an Opera Singer’, Autoethnography and Self-Reflexivity in Music Studies conference, IMR London, April 2018.

‘La vocalità italiana diventa moderna’, Italian Society of Musicology's annual conference, Lucca, October 2017.

Committees and reviewing

Events Organisation

'Caruso at 100: the Legacy of an Operatic Icon', Cardiff University in collaboration with CIRO and Welsh National Opera, 23 September 2021.

'Interconnections: Humanities, Creative Arts Practice and the Cultural Sector', Festival of the Humanities, Newcastle University, 19 November 2021.

‘Early Recordings: the Impact of a Transformative Technology’, Study-day at the Royal College of Music, 21 July 2021.





Past projects