Toleration Conference 2021 Banner Image

Francesco Spagnolo


Panel: Sacred Space and Tolerance – Thursday, January 21 (11am – 1pm PST // 2pm – 4pm EST)
Francesco Spagnolo photo

Francesco Spagnolo works at UC Berkeley as the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music. His research focuses on ritual performance and synagogue life. His recent work focuses on Jewish-Christian interactions and cultural production in the Italian synagogue, particularly in the age of the ghettos. Among his publications are Italian Jewish Musical Traditions (Hebrew University, 2001), The Jewish World (Rizzoli, 2014), and numerous journal articles and book chapters. 

In his article, “Sounds of Emancipation: Politics, Identity and Music in 19th-Century Italian Synagogues,” Spagnolo analyzes all of these together to illustrate how the emergent genre of Jewish musica sacra connected Jews together in synagogues, and laid a bridge for non-Jewish audiences as well. Spagnolo shows how the emancipation of Italian Jews in 1848 and the gradual unification of Italy up to 1870 brought Jewish communities out of ghettos, rendering the synagogue a particularly important gathering space. This process accompanied the development of a broad genre of musica sacra, which combined Hebrew liturgical works with Italian popular songs and patriotic tunes. The proliferation of this music represents a shared commitment to the nationalist project, and the shared spaces between Jews and non-Jews it encouraged.