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.
What is Rigoletto it about? This sounds like a simple question, which could be answered by telling the story of the Duke of Mantua, the city of Mantua, his hunchback jester and the jester’s daughter, Gilda. A story of love, deception, revenge, and death. The story, of course, is so close to the one told by playwright and poet Victor Hugo in his play Le Roi s’amuse (The King has fun), that they could appear the same thing. But anyone who loves opera will not be satisfied by this explanation. In the best operas, music is much more than an accompaniment to the story: it is through the power of music that the story unfolds into the drama. Verdi fell literally in love with Hugo’s play and was determined to translate it into music; despite his librettist Francesco Maria Piave‘s concerns, particularly over the fourth act culminating in the deposition of a dying Gilda in a bag. In a letter dated June 1850, Verdi explains the reasons he suggested as a title for the opera Monterone’s curse or, by the short, The Curse. “The subject is the curse as a moral element: A distraught father who mourns the honor taken away from his daughter, a […]
Everywhere in the world, Italian language is popular thanks to music; not just Opera but also pop hits such as Volare or Mamma. Common Italian words are increasingly used in other languages while notation on music scores is traditionally in Italian (piano, forte, crescendo, rallentando etc…). So much so that many Italian terms used for music are now truly international, representing a substantial part of the international Italian vocabulary.
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 […]