Performed throughout Europe during the eighteenth century, Italian heroic opera, or opera seria, was the century's most significant and popular musical art form, engaging such figures as Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. In Opera and Sovereignty , Martha Feldman takes a groundbreaking anthropological approach to the study of the genre. Opera and Sovereignty traces Italian opera's shift from asserting sovereignty to fomenting questions about absolute ideals. Against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Italian culture, Feldman shows how opera seria both reflected and affected the struggles of rulers to maintain sovereignty in an increasingly democratic world. Employing a widely interdisciplinary argument that opera seria must be understood in light of the period's social and political upheavals, Opera and Sovereignty will continue to interest a broad range of scholars, from musicologists to historians of the Enlightenment.