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 […]
Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini tells of the tragic love story between Paolo and Francesca, told by Dante Alighieri in the 5th Canto of his Inferno, first part to the XIV century poem The Divine Comedy. Nearly 100 years later Boccaccio retold the story in his commentary on Dante’s Divine Comedy, adding details which are still historically controversial. In his account Malatesta from Verucchio, founder of the powerful Malatesta family, decided the marriage of his crippled son Gianciotto Malatesta to Francesca Da Polenta to put an end to the war between the two families. According to Boccaccio, Malatesta the Old, concerned that the bride could reject the bridegroom on the altar, sent in his place to perform a proxy marriage his handsome brother Paolo, a trick that she’d uncover only upon her arrival in Rimini. Gabriele D’Annunzio based the libretto for Zandonai’s opera on Boccaccio’s tale. His intention was to make of Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, (1902) the first of a series of dramatic works and the foundation to “the new Italian art”. D’Annunzio’s importance as a writer in the early-twentieth-century Italy was matched only by the prominence of his blatant, extravagant personality, his debts and his scandalous lifestyle, which left a trail […]
I Capuleti e i Montecchi is considered by many Bellini’s first masterpiece. It certainly recalls in many ways the great belcanto era, particularly in the way the roles are organized: the mezzo-soprano as male protagonist, the soprano as his lover, the tenor as the hero’s rival, bass and bariton respectively as the noble father and the tyrant. However, Capuleti is not strictly a belcanto opera because of its intimate and at times dramatic atmosphere. So much so that the many embellishments, counterbalanced by a well-defined melodic core, are not ornamentation anymore but start to take an expressive connotation.
Verdi’s last opera Falstaff relates to Verdi’s late years when after the enormous success of Otello no one expected him to create yet another opera. A pleasant routine Verdi and Giuseppina had a pleasant life routine at that stage. They used to spend winters in Genoa; the beginning of spring in Milan attending music events; the end of spring and most part of summer in Sant’Agata, where the composer attended business such as the collection of rent payments, purchase of seeds, repairs, new buildings works. Yet his friend, librettist and composer Arrigo Boito noticed how much Verdi missed composing and for that reason started to insist in working together on something new, an opera that could end his career in an even better way than Otello, a “triumph with a laughter”. Triumph with a laughter The idea came out during a conversation between Boito and Verdi. By May 1889 Boito had already sketched the libretto from Shakespeare’s Henry IV (1597) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602). Verdi, who had considered a comic subject before, at that stage was worried for not being able to complete it: “What would happen if I won’t overcome my weakness…If I won’t be able to finish […]