Libretto(i) (It.: ‘small book’; Fr. livret; Ger. Textbuch)
- Richard Macnutt
A printed or manuscript book giving the literary text, both sung and spoken, of an opera (or other musical work). The word has also come to mean the text itself (for discussion of the literary text see GroveO, ‘Libretto (ii)’).
For three centuries the principal purpose of the published libretto was to provide for those attending a performance of an opera the text and a list of the characters. In most operatic centres until late in the 19th century, and in many until early in the 20th, a new libretto was customarily printed for each production and was available before the first performance. From simple beginnings the libretto gradually developed in extent and scope to become a detailed and reliable source of information on many aspects of the performance of individual operas, and it sometimes provides the sole surviving record of the very existence of an opera....