Among a community of Italian political leaders and artists who settled in Paris after the failed Italian revolutions of 1831 was Count Carlo Pepoli, author of the libretto for Bellini's I puritani. During his years in Paris, Pepoli also wrote the poetry for two song collections: Rossini's Soiréées musicales and Mercadante's Soiréées italiennes. Both collections are conceived as a series of picturesque images of Italian locales interspersed with pastoral scenes; they are also linked by allusions to a character named Elvira, perhaps a projection of the heroine of I puritani. This article explores the connections between the Rossini and Mercadante songs and their possible link to Bellini's opera, in relation to two distinct audiences: the Parisian salons of the 1830s, with their strong Italian expatriate presence, and the market of amateurs who purchased sheet music. In both contexts, the poetic content and musical style of the songs may have fostered favorable attitudes to Italy and to Unification, showing that even music composed for private and domestic uses could be politically influential.
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