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(‘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 ...

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Julian Budden

(It.: ‘introduction’)

A title often given to the opening number of an opera when it involves more than two characters. An early example is ‘Che lieto giorno’ (La finta giardiniera, Mozart, 1775), which parades the whole cast. Sometimes it may consist merely of a chorus with or without the intervention of a minor character, as in Tancredi (Rossini, 1813), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini, 1830) and Maria Padilla (Donizetti, 1841); but already in Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) Rossini had evolved a more complex structure incorporating a tenor cavatina and ending with a stretta. A still more elaborate scheme is found in Semiramide (1823), proceeding from an initial recitative through a trio and quartet interspersed with brief choral movements to a headlong ‘stretta dell’introduzione’. The commonest formula during the first half of the 19th century, however, is that of the ‘Introduzione e cavatina’, consisting of an opening chorus, a recitative and ‘cantabile’ for the soloist, a ...

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Italien  

[Théâtre Italien]

Companies active in Paris; the term stood equally for the theatres in which they performed. Théâtre Italien was the name often used for the Comédie-Italienne (or Opéra-Comique), based at the Hôtel de Bourgogne during the 18th century; see Paris, §2, (iii) . In the period 1801–78 it was a company specializing in Italian opera and performing at various theatres including the first Salle Favart, the Théâtre de l’Odéon and the Théâtre Louvois; ...

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M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet and Thomas Bauman

Both universalist and emphatically humanist in outlook since its founding in 1540, the Society of Jesus has always functioned as one of the principal educational arms of the Catholic Church and the papacy. This role developed most fully in the colleges and seminaries established by the Jesuits in Catholic lands. Here instruction stressed not only theology and philosophy but also literature. As early as the 16th century, dramatic representations were staged at these institutions, drawing together elements from the humanist theatre, medieval mystery plays and Shrovetide entertainments. The Bible served as the basic source material, but secular and often local subjects were used too, invariably with a strong emphasis on the allegorical and symbolic, and music often had an important role.

Early examples of Jesuit drama with music are recorded from the Low Countries (Josephus by Georg Maropedius, given in 1544 in Antwerp and published in Utrecht, 1552–3), Spain (...

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(Ger.: ‘comic opera’)

A term for either a comic work (opera or Singspiel) or one of two opera companies in Berlin: the first existed from 1905 to 1911, the second (unconnected with it) was founded in 1947 under Walter Felsenstein and is noted for its advanced, politically committed style of production. See Berlin, §2, (ii)...

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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....

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Edward A. Langhans and Robert E. Benson

Edward A. Langhans and Robert E. Benson

Modern assumptions – that an audience usually sits in a darkened auditorium watching a brightly lit stage – apply only since the late 19th century. Before then, the audience normally sat in a house that was dimly lit, peering at a dimly lit stage, and earlier still spectators needed individual candles in the light of which they could read their librettos (or other literature). Period prints showing brilliantly illuminated stages and auditoriums are misleading. It has been estimated that at Drury Lane Theatre in London during the 17th and 18th centuries there may have been about 88 candles in the auditorium, giving a total illumination approximately equivalent to one 75-watt lamp.

When Renaissance theatrical performances began to take place indoors, in academies and palace banquet halls in late 15th-century Italy, the illumination came from oil lamps and candles in chandeliers and sconces (and, if it was daylight outside, windows). Revived classical plays made use of the new Renaissance toy, perspective scenery. In his ...

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