- John Rosselli
In 18th-century opera seria the seconda donna sang (as a rule) one of two female parts, less prominent than the Prima donna but still substantial; examples are Celia in Mozart’s Lucio Silla and Servilia in his La clemenza di Tito. With the late 18th-century inflation of titles denoting status she came to be known by the euphemism altra [‘other’] prima donna; perhaps because the Rome courts in 1835 chose to interpret this term literally, at the impresario’s expense, a secondary but substantial woman’s part (such as Fenena in Verdi’s Nabucco, 1842) was later known as comprimaria. The term seconda donna was now applied to small parts, typically those of confidantes or nurses. A Genoa court confirmed in 1866 that seconda parts were inferior in status to comprimarie.G. Valle: Cenni teorico-pratici sulle aziende teatrali (Milan, 1823), 35–45 P. Ascoli: Della giurisprudenza teatrale (Florence, 1871), 101–2 E. Rosmini: La legislazione e la giurisprudenza dei teatri...