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Paganini (si) ripete: A Performer's Afterlives


                                 paganini movies   exhibit poster   gallery

It is easy to assume that the phrase “Paganini non ripete” (“Paganini does not repeat”), a well-worn retort used when one refuses to repeat what was just said, originates in legend rather than real life; yet the adage has origins in a 1825 performance given by Paganini at the Teatro Falcone, in Genoa. Following the performance Paganini was asked by Carlos Felice, king of Sardinia and duke of Savoy, to once again play one of the pieces that the sovereign particularly liked as an encore. However, Paganini improvised much of the concert and was unable to repeat the performance. The violinist’s response, “Paganini non ripete”, earned the violinist a two-year exile from the Kingdom of Sardinia and an even longer-lasting reputation for haughtiness.

Paganini si ripete inverts this classic slogan. The exhibit focuses on the ways in which Niccolò Paganini did repeat and was himself repeated: the various masks Paganini put on as devoted Catholic and as the subject of a Faustian rumor, as pedagogue and as madman afflicted with mercury poisoning, as musical icon with superhuman technical abilities and as family man. Paganini si ripete: A Performer’s Afterlives is a meditation on the violinist’s reception and the various Paganinis that have emerged from the inventive imaginations of audiences and fellow composers, both during Paganini’s lifetime and in the generations that have followed since then. Often musical, occasionally irreverent, and almost always informed by the aesthetics of Dark Romanticism inherited from early 18th-century poetics, Paganini’s afterlives testify to the survival of the enigmatic musician’s spellbinding power over modern audiences and the musical imagination.

This magnificent exhibition is public and open to everyone at the Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library at Stony Brook University, room E4340, the Center for Italian Studies from April 12, 2023 to May 11, 2023. 

All images on poster board are courtesy of the New York Public Library, Joseph Muller collection.

Curated by Michael Bennett, Department of Music, Stony Brook University, and Dr. Matteo Brera, Exective Director, Center for Italian Studies.