La Serva Padrona, composed on a libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico in 1733, is an intermezzo divided into two interludes. It was originally designed to be performed between the acts of the opera seria Il prigioniero superbo by Pergolesi himself, staged at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples on the occasion of the birthday of the empress Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick, wife of the emperor Charles VI and mother of the empress Marie Therese of Augsburg. That very same libretto had been used by almost every composer in Naples and therefore was already popular in a number of successful versions. The definition of believable characters and the solid realism of the short story, revolving almost entirely around the characters’ psychology made of the libretto a success. Pergolesi’s genius turned it into a masterpiece.
Verismo composers were mainly opera composers; the new generation of composers was different, more eclectic. Franco Alfano’s two symphonies, among the most relevant Italian compositions of the first half of the 20th century as well as Zandonai’s remarkable collection of orchestral and chamber works show that their non-operatic compositions weren’t certainly occasional. Franco Alfano, as most knows, composed the music for the last 2 scenes of Turandot, Puccini’s last opera left unfinished after the composer’s death in 1924. Puccini had left sketches for the end of the opera, along with instructions to Riccardo Zandonai to finish it, yet, following Puccini’s son objections, to work on the draft and finish the opera, was instead chosen Franco Alfano. Both Alfano and Zandonai can be defined as “operatic symphonists” : they embodied a new way to define the relationship between music and drama. The drama was no longer described by the music; it was precisely the opposite: the drama provided the frame to the music. This process can be seen at its most in Zandonai’s Francesca where entire acts can be defined as symphonic poems. Since 1890 Wagner’s scores had spread widely in Italy. The scale and magnificence of the composer’s major works led […]