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The Autumn of Italian Opera Mallach People found it difficult to define 'Italian identity' because it was a newly formed

ed nation (1860) 'The Italian nation was more of an idea than a reality' Didn't really bring much change to their lives Was a rubbish nation 'all but bankrupt' People were leaving the country more than 100'000 Italians per years by the end of the 1860s and then more than 300'000 in the 1890s 'Painful wound to the nation's pride' BUT helped to build the overseas audience for Italian Opera Great majority of Italians were illiterate 'Opera was an art form shared by the entire peninsula' Regional styles: Venetian operas Commedia per musica of Naples During the 18th century became well established, international following important export industry Golden age in the first half of the C19th with Rossini Bellini Donizetti and Verdi 'seemingly inexhaustible series of operatic masterworks' Explosion of new operas and increasing popularity of composers coincided with the restoration of the aristocracy (opera is a elite art?) 120 theatres with regular opera seasons (THAT'S A LOT) Livorno 'One could breathe freely, where one need no longer feel mortified before the monuments of the great nor belittled by family names crowned by five centuries of admiration' Opera houses before unification were 'the playground of the aristocracy' Stalls/Gallery were for 'middle classstudents, travellers, officers The gallery was for shopkeepers, artisans, soldiers, servants' None of the 'lowest strata of the urban populationwere likely ever to set foot in an opera house' But they knew what it was Between 1860 and 1890 country changed significantly with the arrival of a rail network, resulting in a growth in the industrial economy - major cities e.g. Milan, Rome and Turin all grew rapidly ALONGSIDE this change there was also a social change taking place Traditional social hierarchies were breaking down Values of the 'new class' redefined the practice of the arts in Italy - the new world of opera that emerged near the end of the century PROGRESS Moral Order important - Verdi La Traviata (do the right thing) Naturalism and Verismo and the naturalism of the French composers Bizet and Massenet Italian opera changed dramatically - moral order with strong Catholic connections DISAPPEARS in Puccini's operas: 'Life is what it is reflects a world from which deeper moral or ethical principles are absent. Life is sad, life is uncertain, nothing more' Italian Opera in crisis 1860-90 Major beneficiary of the aristocratic system that dominated Italian life before unification Municipal governments (comuni) given responsibility for the opera houses but being strained already the opera houses found themselves in increasingly difficult financial straits, houses closed their doors (1870s and 1880s) As the economic foundations began to crumble so did the creative underpinnings over the next two decades - Verdi slowed down with his writing Insularity coming to an end CARMEN massive influence to the younger generation of Italian composers, Strauss' Salome also thought to have influenced Puccini Sentimental romanticism French permeated Italian cultural and intellectual life - Italians liked the products of French artistic and intellectual life

WAGNER 1871 liked in Bologna (which became the centre of Wagnerism in Italy) upstage Milan (who didn't like it!) Wagner became a major intellectual and cultural bone of contention in Italy 'for Puccini's entire generation from Catalani to Mascagni his operas possessed a deep and abiding fascination' 1880s works by Italian composers made up the majority of repertory. Problem was not one of quantity but quality

Pietro Mascagni - very important Met Puccini in Milan and made a friendship that although often strained in later years was not broken. Shared a room together at the conservatory, Mascagni stood next to Puccini through Le Villi's first performance (which had influence on Mascagni's musical vocabulary in Cavalleria) its immediate effect was frustration Milan - Scapigliatura bohemian subculture (similarly self-destructive behaviour in imitation of the French potes maudits) Cavalleria Rusticana a Transformative Opera Iconic work of Italian literary naturalism or verismo Interesting that Puccini was not the first to do this verismo malarkey Italian opera was a business as much as an artistic pursuit Verismo Opera: Fact or Fancy? 'Absolutely [a return to romanticism]; and imagine I began with verismo! But verismo kills music. It is in poetry, in romanticism, that inspiration finds it wings' Mascagni did not like being characterised as a verismo composer 'plebeian genre' Puccini extracted 'one last drop of life from the genre' Il tabarro 'the self-limiting musical and dramatic vocabulary that characterised the operatic exploration of society's lower depths quickly condemned it to the margins of Italian operatic life.' Still the term was used in a far broader sense than as a reference point for a small collection of violent operas 'Is there in fact enough common ground between these composers to justify their being categorised by a single term? And is 'verismo' an appropriate term? Plots aren't uniform ranging from Japan to Parisian music halls New and different Puccini searched hard for distinguishable, new and different things (Japan, Paris, Wild West) Some parallel between musical frame (less formalised) Commercial venture as an art form - enthusiasm with which it was greeted by the public If it didn't engage its audience it wouldn't survive In verismo opera: the traditional moral order has been replaced with a positivist view of human behaviour SOME comparison Verdi and Puccini La traviata and LA bohme respectively where they both depict a young woman dying from tuberculosis Difference Mim dies (classic verismo - desperate cry of 'Mim!') whereas Violetta's death is occurs within a much 'larger moral universe' 'For all the many variations in style and quality between operasthere is more than enough common ground to consider them a single movement, or school' Giovane scuola of Italian Composers (distinguish them from their older colleagues) 'Verismo operas' unsatisfactory because 'verismo' has already been applied to a literary movement where there is little in common WILL survive though because it is a straightforward and concise way of referring to a group of composers and operas that share substantial ground - should it be called giovane scuola instead?