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Thomas Bauman

(‘The Miners’)

Original-Singspiel in one act by Ignaz Umlauf to a libretto by Paul Weidmann; Vienna, Burgtheater, 17 February 1778.

Old Walcher (bass) opposes the suit of the young miner Fritz (tenor) for the hand of his ward Sophie (soprano), whom he secretly wishes to marry himself. After thwarting one rendezvous he ties Sophie to a tree. The gypsy Zelda (soprano) frees her and takes her place. When discovered, she reveals to Walcher that Sophie is his own daughter, stolen by gypsies. An attempt by Fritz to gain Walcher’s consent miscarries but when a mine shaft caves in on Walcher, Fritz rescues him and earns his blessing.

Umlauf composed Die Bergknappen as a trial piece for the National Singspiel, the German opera company Joseph II hoped to create alongside the theatrical company (Nationaltheater) he had established in 1776. The opera enjoyed immediate success, ensuring a fair start for the enterprise with Umlauf as its music director. The work is notable for its musical portrayal of Walcher, for the brilliance of Sophie’s part (written for Caterina Cavalieri, Mozart’s original Konstanze in ...

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Brian Trowell

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Brian Trowell

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Brian Trowell

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Article

(‘The Impresario from the Canary Islands’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Domenico Sarro (1724, Naples). Versions of the libretto also appear under the titles Dorina e Nibbio, L’impresario, L’impresario dell’isole Canarie and L’impresario e la cantante.

Part 1 Dorina, a prima donna, is impatient with her attendants because she cannot find a ‘modern’ piece, with embellishments on every word, to sing at an embassy function. Nibbio, the impresario from the Canary Islands, calls on Dorina, reassures her that texts are unimportant in opera, and coaxes her to sing for him. Enraptured, he presents her with a cantata of his own, the airing of which occupies the remainder of the interview until Dorina contrives an escape.

Part 2 Dorina is upbraiding the wardrobe assistants when she is again visited by Nibbio to whom she explains the miseries of pleasing an audience; she is also concerned that, in having to show extreme emotion on stage, she may damage her voice. She obliges Nibbio with an excerpt from ...

Article

Brian Trowell

The verbal text of an opera. For discussion of the printed wordbook, see Libretto.

The term ‘libretto’ has been extended from its literal meaning of ‘small book’ to denote the literary content of an opera, not merely its separate physical existence. The sung text will also appear in the musical score, though the visual layout of verse forms and poetic lineation will there vanish, and scene descriptions and stage directions will often be omitted or shortened. Score and wordbook together form a blueprint for theatrical performance, where the words will (one hopes) be heard, as song, as recitative, or in some forms of opera as speech, and the other arts prescribed or implicit in the libretto will be realized as acting, movement in space, dance, decor (including machines), lighting and costume. It is evident that ‘literary content’ is an insufficient description, for the libretto, unlike the play text, is only part of the blueprint. With these cautions in mind the libretto, like the play text, may be discussed as literature....