Exile and Identity: Findings of Fact and Opinions of Law, in Bellini’s La Straniera

  • Louis BertoneEmail author


La Straniera may not be Bellini’s most popular opera, yet it provides a perfect artificial universe, populated by virtual persons [Not unlike the mathematical models populated with computer-simulated consumers and firms. Kydland (2004, Nobel Prize Lecture) employed in Law & Economics.], to explore the condition of exiles, displaced foreigners and undocumented migrants. In this universe, fact and rules on citizenship, immigration and sanctuary leading to a socially preferred equilibrium can be tested—without the unbearable cost to society that enactment without testing would have (We would not want the “confusion, violence and tragic ending” mentioned in the cover of a 2007 recording of La Straniera spilling out into real life.).

Bellini does a lot more than rescue from oblivion a deservedly forgotten novel (The librettist’s Avvertimento acknowledges “L’Etrangère”, by Charles Prévost d’Arlincourt as source. Apparently the book was still selling well by the time of the opera’s premiere in 1829. It is now understandably forgotten.), thus unavailable for Law & Literature analysis [This discipline cannot live up to its promise of exposing the inequities of Law as it stands, using examples of alternative justice drawn from fiction (Olson, Future(s) of law and literature, 2014), absent a minimum mind-space for the literary work employed (Williams, The utility of law & literature in legal education, 2014).]; and offering little hope to methods of Game Theory (Bellini’s opera spans over barely more than two hours and a half. By contrast, the information in the 372 pages of the novel is excessively diluted. Even a small amount of information imperfection is known to have a major impact on the predictable outcome (Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Lecture, 2001).). An ominous addition in the opera, non-negligible fractions of public opinion find that an ‘unknown stranger’ should not expect the same compassion as would be ‘justified’ towards a destitute Queen.

Even those who agree to the ‘tenuous historical grounds’ of the plot may find that fact-finding on fictional material as conducted in this paper is counter-intuitive. Yet one such ‘fact’, the unexpected death of Ingeborg comes to untie the intrigue and ultimately reveal the identity of Agnes (the Stranger of the title), concealed until then.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Law, CRECEDIParisFrance

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