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.
Elisir d’amore is Donizetti’s first opera to show his full mastery of the comic style. Arias like “Adina believe me” and the most famous “A furtive tear” are pieces in which Donizetti not simply suggests emotions but gives body to their very essence thanks to a music of universal, immortal power. The story is set at the end of eighteenth century, in a country village.
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.
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