At the end of 19th century it became clear that the style used in opera until 1890s couldn’t be used any more: the great social and cultural changes demanded new ways to express and increase the dramatic tension. The music coming from abroad (oltr’alpe-beyond the Alps) was becoming increasingly important. The new younger generation of composers, such as Puccini and Mascagni, where influenced not only by Wagner but also by younger composers such as Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss. Pelléas et Melisande premiered in 1902, Salome (1905) and Electra (1909), Strauss’s two breaking through operas, had a rapid success. Change demanded from older composers a conscious and radical effort while for those born after 1875 and used to the new music as part of their musical landscape, the transition to new ways of composing operas was more spontaneous, although different in nature and magnitude for each composer. Some composer intended their relationship with nineteenth-century Italian opera as “evolutionary” and continued to work within the traditional framework using at times new techniques and dramatic themes. Others felt that Italian music needed to break free from an opera that had become a stale entertainment for the new middle class and that a […]
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.
When the diva is a mezzo Romantic opera brought at the centre of the stage sopranos, heroines of every love drama composed by Bellini to Donizetti to Puccini passing through Verdi. Mezzo-sopranos in those days played somehow the part of “Cinderella”, before the meeting with the fairy Godmother. Relegated mostly to a secondary role, they were seldom able to share the popularity and admiration granted to the leading sopranos of their time. Ebe Stignani, one of the most beautiful voices of the last century Take for example Ebe Stignani. Not many know her or who she was, yet she was one of the most beautiful voices and of the finest musicians of the last century. Ebe Stignani and Maria Callas Stignani was a main star at the Teatro Alla Scala while Maria Callas was just starting her cooperation with the Milan stage. Those were Callas’ difficult first years at La Scala, where she debuted in 1950 as a replacement to Renata Tebaldi in Aida. There was certainly a pre-established criticism if not hostility and even a lack of interest for Callas’ vocal talents, that kept growing till 1953 when, after a Norma with Stignani, the Greek soprano left Italy to return […]