Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua attended the successful performance of Peri’s Euridice in Florence, which was probabily witnessed also by Monteverdi himself. The Duke realized immediately the originality of this new entertainment and the prestige that would reflect on the lord that sponsored it.
Domenico Cimarosa’s most successful opera, The Secret Marriage, was composed on a libretto written by Giovanni Bertati, a Venetian employed as court poet in Vienna, on a subject very popular at the time. The story was in fact at the centre of a series of 6 paintings by William Hogarth, the Marriage in Fashion, le Mariage à la Mode, published in London between 1743 and 1745, depicting the bad consequences of a wedding between a penniless aristocrat and a rich bourgeois. Bertati the librettist turns the social satire into a mockery of bourgeois, eager to ennoble but happy to save half of the dowry when the opportunity arises.
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 […]
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 […]