Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 18.COM 8.B.37

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Italy has nominated The practice of opera singing in Italy (No. 01980) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The practice of opera singing in Italy is a physiologically controlled way of singing that enhances the carrying power of the voice in acoustic spaces such as auditoriums, amphitheatres, arenas and churches. Performed by people of all genders, it is associated with specific facial expressions and body gestures and involves a combination of music, drama, acting and staging. Singers are identified by vocal range and colour and divided into several registers (tenor, baritone, bass, soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto). The knowledge and skills related to the practice of opera singing are transmitted orally between a maestro and pupil, through vocal exercises and the gradual introduction of different musical repertoires and styles. Performances in recitals, singing schools and workshops also contribute to the transmission of the practice, as well as formal education in conservatories and academies. Furthermore, the beginning of an opera season often coincides with local festivities and ceremonies. The practice promotes collective cohesion and sociocultural memory, and is closely linked with other cultural elements, such as acoustic places and poetry. It is also dependent on other professions such as stage and light design, costume tailoring, scenography and makeup. A means of free expression and intergenerational dialogue, its cultural value is recognized at national and international levels.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would increase visibility and awareness among communities and across generations. The element is connected to a myriad of performative genres and thus contributes to the visibility and importance of living heritage. Inscription would give visibility and importance to intangible cultural heritage in general, enhancing the relationship among intangible and tangible components, favouring integrated cultural policies in Italy, and strengthening existing national networks. At the international level, it would contribute to maintaining a relationship between migrant communities and their cultural identity, promoting dialogue, and enhancing creativity among associated arts.

R.4:   The file describes a long and gradual process leading to the preparation of the nomination file. In 2014, the practicing community requested having opera nominated to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A working group was established, consisting of several community members and supported and coordinated by the Service II, UNESCO Office of the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Culture. In 2018, additional groups and individuals joined the nomination effort, with a focus on interdisciplinary insights and multi-stakeholder partnership. Transversal and participatory planning methodologies gave everyone the ability to provide information and consent. The ‘Committee for the Safeguarding of the Art of Italian Opera Singing’ was established, ensuring inclusive decision-making and fostering active community participation.

R.5:   The element was formally registered in the ‘Module for the inventory of the elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’ (MEPI) in Italy in 2022, which is a form available on the website of the National Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation. It is administered by the Ministry of Culture, UNESCO Office of the General Secretariat. The element is identified and defined via the MEPI system, with the participation of the communities concerned. The inventory is updated in alignment with periodic reporting requirements or upon their request. The updates are made via the MEPI system and with the involvement of the communities concerned.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The practice of opera singing in Italy refers to the knowledge and skills related to specific ways of singing. It is also a combination of music, singing, drama, acting and staging, for which facial expressions, body gestures and spacing are important. It is practiced in secular and festive contexts as well as during spiritual commemorations. Its practitioners, which include people of all genders, have varying tasks and responsibilities as teachers, students and musicians, among others. The knowledge and skills related to singing are transmitted orally, through different teaching methods, in formal and informal contexts. Opera encourages intergenerational dialogue, continuity of sociocultural memory and collective cohesion within groups of practitioners. The practice can be therapeutic and rehabilitative.

R.3:   The element has been safeguarded through conferences and seminars, school-based projects, the production of manuals and guides and the restoration of physical spaces where the element is performed. State support includes administrative and regulatory actions, supporting networking and formal transmission. A three-year safeguarding plan was developed by the communities concerned, and activities include pilot education projects, training of trainers, interdisciplinary research programmes, digitization and documentation, data collection, communication, preservation, awareness-raising and promotion. The proposed measures were developed through a community-based process via group discussions, participatory approaches and methodologies, and the creation of a committee dedicated to safeguarding the element. 

  1. Decides to inscribe The practice of opera singing in Italy on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party to pay close attention to the linguistic quality of files submitted in the future.