Prof. Castronuovo grew up in an Italian American family in northern New Jersey. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music history from Yale University, and a master’s degree in operatic studies from the School of Music of Indiana University. After working for several years in the field of concert and operatic production (New Jersey Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago), he returned to academic pursuits at Columbia University, where he received his doctoral degree in Italian Literature. In the early 90s, he taught Columbia’s Italian language summer course in Florence. He then moved to Middlebury College in Vermont, where he taught for a decade in the Italian department and directed student performance pieces. He worked next at Skidmore College in Saratoga NY for some six years. Prof. Castronuovo is married to Claudio Serantoni, a biomedical technician and native of Rome.
Prof. Castronuovo’s research interests run from literature to art to the lyric theater. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the poetry of Giacomo Leopardi. Fascinated by the fact that Leopardi morphed from a zealously religious child into an atheistic philosopher-poet, Castronuovo has analyzed the survival of purely linguistic structures of religious prayer in the secular poems of Leopardi’s maturity. In 2000, Prof. Castronuovo published a collaborative study that suggests textual and visual links between Leopardi’s most iconic poem, “L’infinito,” and Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto’s Transfiguration of Christ, painted for a church that Leopardi frequented as a child. Prof. Castronuovo has written and spoken often on operatic music and libretti. In 1999, he was a jury member at the “Pietro Mascagni International Competition for Young Opera Singers” in Cerignola (Puglia). He has a special interest in the collaborations between Arrigo Boito and Giuseppe Verdi, and in the cinematic uses of opera. He is a contributor to the “Opera Meets Film” section of the online journal Opera Wire.
Prof. Castronuovo has taught numerous courses that focus on the reciprocal influences that run between texts and images, and between words and sounds. At John Cabot, he teaches Advanced Composition, and subscribes to the philosophy that no matter the field in which one works, the process of writing, editing, and rewriting offers the best possible way to achieve precision of thought. His course readings normally include a study of Michelangelo’s Risen Christ (with a field visit to see the statue at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva), and an examination of the Italian church’s role during the Holocaust (with a field visit to Rome’s Jewish “ghetto”). At Cabot, Castronuovo has also taught the History of Italian Opera. The course (which requires no formal musical training on the part of participants) treats opera primarily as theater, and encourages students to investigate innovative modes of stage direction and performance. The syllabus also includes study of the processes by which composers and librettists adapt literary works for the lyric stage.
“Sacred Text and Operatic Context: The ‘Ave Maria’ in the ‘Otello’ of Arrigo Boito and Giuseppe Verdi.” Romance Languages Annual, Purdue University, 1997.
“’L’ignoranza dell’intiero’: affinità iconografiche tra la ‘Trasfigurazione’ di Lorenzo Lotto e ‘L’infinito’ di Giacomo Leopardi.” Guerrino Lovato, co-author, Rivista internazionale di studi leopardiani, vol. 2, 2000.
The Edge of Europe, a translation of Capo d’Europa by Angela Bianchini. Angela Jeannet, co-translator, University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
“The Apostrophic Prayer: A Guiding Figure in Leopardi’s Earliest Poetry.” Poetry Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of the Most Significant and Widely Studied Poets of World Literature,” v. 37, The Gale Group, 2002.
“The Black Bishop,” a translation of “L’alfier nero” by Arrigo Boito. New England Review, vol. 25, nos. 1-2, 2004.
“The Old God,” a translation of “Il vecchio dio” by Luigi Pirandello. New England Review, vol. 32, no. 1, 2011.
"Opera Meets Film: How a Bellini Aria Foreshadows Tragedy in Luchino Visconti's La Terra Trema." Opera Wire (online), 2020.
"Opera Meets Film: How Music by Bizet and Verdi Adds Irony to Visconti's Ossessione." Opera Wire (online), 2020.