At the beginning of the eighteenth century starts to develop a type of opera uniquely based on comic characters. It was a consequence of Zeno’s reform which separated the comic scenes within an opera, from all the rest. Two types of performances started then to take shape, marking a turning point in the history of opera. They were the interludes or intermezzi and a music comedy in Neapolitan dialect, called Commedeja pee Mmuseca.
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.
The libretto for Monteverdi’s Opera L’Incoronazione di Poppea was mainly drawn from the roman historians Tacitus. Its leading character is Poppea, the beautiful mistress who became wife to the Roman Emperor Nero, one of the most loved and, at the same time, hated emperor of the ancient Rome. Nero after the great fire of Rome, built on the Colle Oppio, the most lavish and vast villa of the ancient Rome, the Domus Aurea.
Pleasant Verona! With its Roman gates, still spanning the fair street, and casting, on the sunlight of to-day, the shade of fifteen hundred years ago. With its marble-fitted churches, lofty towers, rich architecture, and quaint old quiet thoroughfares, where shouts of Montagues and Capulets once resounded, and made Verona’s ancient citizens Cast by their grave, beseeming ornaments, To wield old partizans. With its fast-rushing river, picturesque old bridge, great castle, waving cypresses, and prospect so delightful, and so cheerful!