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A Review of 'Verdi's Exceptional Women: Giuseppina Strepponi and Teresa Stolz':

"Verdi’s Pride

A new book shines a scholarly light on the women who shaped—and were shaped by—the lion of Busseto ... As a singer as well as a scholar, Ellsmore capably compares the vocal demands of Abigaille and Aida ... She considers “the differing operatic ‘handmaiden/servitude’ scenarios in Nabucco and Aida” in the context of the composer’s relationships with Strepponi and Stolz ... Ellsmore’s book offers a new and very focused perspective on Verdi as seen through the women who surrounded him"

 Judith Malafronte - Opera News, July 2018

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Caroline completed her PhD in Musicology at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Professor Kerry Murphy and also of Professor Elizabeth Hudson (New Zealand School of Music). Her research in Parma and New York was assisted by an Australian Postgraduate Award, a Norman Macgeorge Travelling Scholarship (2012), and other generous Melbourne University grants and scholarships (2013). A singer and teacher of voice, who has performed lieder, oratorio, opera and liturgical repertoire, Caroline has also been a classroom music teacher, choral director and head of secondary school Music departments in New South Wales and Victoria. Holding a B.A., Dip. Ed., she is a Fellow of Trinity College, London, and Master of Music (Hons) in operatic performance (University of New England, Armidale). Caroline has presented conference papers in Australia and Canada. She is married and lives in Altona Meadows, Victoria.

Her chapter on the magnificent Simonsen family, for a new two-volume book, Opera and Emotions in The Antipodes has now been published in 2021.

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Presented at 'Il Gattopardo: Sicily, Italy and the Supranational Cultural Imaginary, 13-14 November 2018, an international symposium organised by The University of Melbourne,

      La Trobe University and Monash University,

at the University of Melbourne.

Giuseppe Verdi, and Tomasi di Lampedusa’s great-grandfather, Giulio Fabrizio, Prince of Lampedusa, (memorialized as ‘Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina’, with his ‘Leopard’ family crest) were connected as contemporaries during the Italian Risorgimento and Unification, and by allusions to Verdi’s La traviata, in Lampedusa’s book. Giuseppe Verdi, like Nino Rota, not born to great wealth, spent his life as a dedicated artist. While also known for his generosity, he lacked social grace and was nick-named ‘The Bear of Busseto’. Rota’s art and the aristocratic Luchino Visconti’s direction, in their re-creation of the era, brought back to life a long-lost sheet of paper, Verdi’s Waltz in F Major. Verdi and ‘Don Fabrizio’, both autocrats temperamentally bemused by their times, were separated by the ineffable artistry of Verdi’s music, exemplified in that one mysteriously resurrected piece of paper, so reminiscent of La traviata. Artists and aristocrats, revolutionaries and reactionaries, however, were ultimately brought together in the film, Il gattopardo, through the dance’s musical evocation of a doomed campaign to salvage the old by subverting the new. 

An expanded version of this paper has been submitted for inclusion in the journal, Spunti e Ricerche 34 (2019). This edition of the journal has now been published in 2021.

Several Open Books


A Chapter for Opera and Emotions in the Antipodes for publication under the auspices of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. This book has now been published in two volumes, by Routledge and CRC Press as Opera, Emotion, and the Antipodes.

No memorial marks 588 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne where, in 1899, Martin Simonsen committed suicide, having exhausted life, family and money in producing opera. In order to succeed, opera must bring together complex, creative individuals, negotiating the obstacles of anxiety, mishap and dissension, as well as technical, physical and financial failure. To lead an audience into this world of sight and sound, risking public rejection, requires a powerful emotional compulsion. Committing one’s family to such an enterprise in the colonial Antipodes, required the seemingly irresistible resolution of both Fanny and Martin Simonsen. This discussion focusses on the risks and sacrifices made, as a measure of how greatly the emotional rewards were valued, by Simonsen, his wife, and their family.

Chapter 4, which tells their story, is included in the two-volume book, Opera, Emotion, and the Antipodes, which has now published by Routledge & CRC Press, in December 2020.


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17 December 2017

Many years, both as a singer and researcher, have allowed me to get 'up close and personal' with the great Italian composer, his music and the women in his life, The subject of my doctoral dissertation has evolved and been published by Routledge, to whose editors and staff I am very grateful for their energy and dedication. Although primarily an academic work, this book will also draw you into the complex world of personal drama, Italian opera and politics, which one reader has already compared with a 'nineteenth-century melodrama'. I hope you enjoy it.

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Historical fiction

This book explores the possibility that Verdi and Strepponi had a child of their own, born in 1851. It speculates on what the fate of such a child might have been. Alongside the possibilities raised , it also looks into the very personal reasons which might have inspired Verdi to write 'La traviata' as the radical musical departure from the past that he chose.

It sees Violetta's opera as a watershed between the florid music of women like Giuseppina Strepponi, who were once regarded as transgressive, and the lyrical melodies and silences of women who bowed to the status quo for reasons of their own.

Whether Giuseppina's final legacy made up for her sacrifices, or whether Verdi had his last Falstaffian laugh because of Theresa Stolz, are questions for which we must await answers.


Meanwhile, in Draft Chapter 40 we see how Giuseppina attempts to build a new family of her own and reconcile with her past.

We have now moved on to Draft Chapter 45. Verdi has fallen out with his formerly devoted friend, the conductor, Angelo Mariani. Is this at least partly because Mariani is engaged to prima donna,Teresa Stolz? Verdi induces La Stolz to visit his home, Sant'Agata, to prepare for the first La Scala performance of Aida. Matters become more complicated for his wife,  Giuseppina ...

The servants at Sant'Agata, including the young woman, Santa, observe the slowly developing crisis as Giuseppina attempts to humour her husband's affection for Stolz as well as his anger at Mariani. We are arriving at Draft Chapter 47 and the uncomfortable caravan is moving on.




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