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Giuseppe Verdi's first French opera, Jérusalem (1847), has often been described as a French version of his fourth opera, I lombardi alla prima crociata (1843). It is hardly a straightforward translation, however; the process of adapting the source to the French stage involved substantial rewriting of the libretto, thoroughly recasting the storyline and therefore requiring numerous changes in the music. Thus, Verdi not only provided several entirely new sections for the score of Jérusalem, but also reused material from I lombardi in radically different dramatic settings.
The purpose of this article is to review changing attitudes toward Jérusalem through the twentieth century, and to assert that it may be perceived both as a reworking of the earlier opera and as a new work in which Verdi, under unique circumstances, deployed strategies of self-borrowing. The first part addresses the historiography of Jérusalem, tracing changing attitudes of commentators gradually recognizing the importance and worth of the French work, and the second part examines in detail the transfer of selected passages that Verdi borrowed from I lombardi and adapted to vastly changed contexts.
[I have to make a comic drama, and I cannot find the subject! This one is too sentimental, that one seems insipid to me.]
—Felice Romani, Il turco in Italia (1814)
Adapting Earlier Librettos
The subject matter of Italian opera librettos is rarely original. Since the inception of the genre, librettists drew on all kinds of fictional, historical, dramatic, and narrative materials, modifying them to varying degrees in order to suit the different medium, specific musical and dramatic conventions, the expectations of specific patrons, the needs and demands of the cast, or the requirements of authorities and censors. Quite early in the history of opera, it became clear that one of the most straightforward ways to produce a libretto was to adapt an existing one. This practice solidified in the eighteenth century, and its pervasiveness is exemplified perfectly in countless remakes of the librettos of Pietro Metastasio. In early-nineteenth-century Italy, however, classical and neoclassical opera seria plots were in decline. Although they never completely disappeared, the most important librettists and composers did away with those subjects, seeking new dramatic themes instead. It is emblematic that in 1828 Vincenzo Bellini refused to compose a Cesare in Egitto, because, as he explained in a letter to his friend Francesco Florimo, “the subject is as old as Noah” (il soggetto è vecchio come Noè).
Luigi Ricci's Il nuovo Figaro and Gaetano Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore were both premiered with great success in the spring of 1832, in Parma and Milan, respectively. The former circulated widely to considerable acclaim during the 1830s and 1840s and then declined, fading into oblivion well before the end of the nineteenth century, whereas the latter went on to become a perennial favorite of opera audiences. The two operas occupy a privileged position in the output of their composers. Il nuovo Figaro followed the great success of Luigi Ricci's opera semiseria, Chiara di Rosenbergh, at La Scala the year before and was pivotal in establishing the composer as the undisputed champion of opera buffa in his time. As for L'elisir d'amore, it sits at the midpoint of Gaetano Donizetti's career, thirteen and a half years after his official debut with Enrico di Borgogna in 1818, and eleven and a half years before his final opera, Dom Sébastien, roi du Portugal, saw the light of day in 1843 at the Paris Opéra. Il nuovo Figaro and L'elisir d'amore have much in common besides the year of their premiere. A comparative discussion of the two pieces affords a vantage point from which to observe some of the questions surrounding opera buffa in the early 1830s.
This study represents the first substantial assessment of Italian comic operas composed during the central years of the Risorgimento -- the period during which upheavals, revolutions, and wars ultimately led to the liberation andunification of Italy. Music historians often view the period as one during which serious Romantic opera flourished in Italy while opera buffa inexorably declined. Laughter between Two Revolutions revises this widespread notion by viewing well-known masterpieces -- such as Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843) -- as part of a still-thriving tradition. Also examined are opere buffe by Luigi Ricci,Lauro Rossi, Verdi (Un giorno di regno), and others, many of which circulated widely at the time. Francesco Izzo's pathbreaking study argues that in the "realm of seriousness" of mid-nineteenth-century Italy, comedy was not an anachronistic intruder, but a significant and vital cultural presence. Laughter between Revolutions: Opera Buffa in Italy, 1831-1848 offers new insights into opera history and theories of humor in the arts.It will be of interest to opera lovers everywhere and to students in such fields as music, philosophy, comparative literature, and Italian cultural studies. Francesco Izzo is Senior Lecturer in Music at the Universityof Southampton, and has also taught at New York University, East Carolina University, and the University of Chicago. He is the editor of Un giorno di regno for the Works of Giuseppe Verdi (forthcoming).
Busseto, March 16, 1850. Giuseppe Verdi writes to his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, about future plans for La Fenice. The letter includes the following aside: “I have not been able to read your Crispino: I will read it. In the meantime, I congratulate you on the outcome.” The libretto mentioned in passing by Verdi is Crispino e la comare, a melodramma fantasticogiocoso in four acts based on an 1825 play by Salvatore Fabbrichesi, Il medico e la morte, ossia Le cinque giornate di maestro Crespino ciabattino. It was set to music by Luigi and Federico Ricci and premiered at the Teatro San Benedetto on February 28 of that year. The opera had been a great success, and Piave must have enthusiastically rushed to inform Verdi, enclosing a copy of the libretto. Critics had not been unanimous in praising Crispino e la comare after the world premiere, but the audience had given it an enthusiastic reception.
It is with this opera that Luigi and Federico Ricci, who had previously collaborated on Il colonnello, Il disertore per amore (1836), and L'amante di richiamo (1846), achieved their greatest success. And it is with this opera, more important, that they earned a place in posterity. While even the most fortunate of Luigi's operas from the 1830s faded after midcentury, the success of Crispino e la comare was long-lived. Within a couple of years of its premiere, most Italian cities had produced it, typically to great public acclaim.
When Donizetti's Don Pasquale and Rossi's Il borgomastro di Schiedam appeared in the mid-1840s, another recent comic opera had been circulating widely in the Italian peninsula—Gaetano Donizetti's La figlia del reggimento. Composed for the Paris Opéra-Comique to a French libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard, La Fille du régiment received its world premiere at the Salle de la Bourse on February 11, 1840. A few months later, Donizetti revised the opera for the Italian premiere, which took place at Milan's La Scala on October 2 of that year under the title of La figlia del reggimento, to a translation by Callisto Bassi. La figlia del reggimento appeared a scant four weeks after the disastrous debut of Giuseppe Verdi's Un giorno di regno at the same opera house and enjoyed much greater fortune. Its popularity continues to the present day. Although the French original seems to have prevailed in recent times, the Italian version has never disappeared and is appropriately included in the forthcoming critical edition prepared by Claudio Toscani. As the opera entered the Italian peninsula, its poetry was subjected to substantial alterations. Some of them, of course, respond to the practical needs of translation and the challenge of adapting a new verbal text to previously composed music.
—Felice Romani, Un'avventura di Scaramuccia (1834)
Celebrating Italian Identity
More than a decade separates L'elisir d'amore from Donizetti's final opera buffa, Don Pasquale. During that time, Donizetti himself composed only a small handful of other comic works—two one-act works for the Teatro Nuovo in Naples (Il campanello and Betly, both 1836) and La Fille du régiment for the Opéra Comique in Paris (1840). Thus it was Luigi Ricci who by the mid-1830s stood as the leading champion of opera buffa in Italy. For the remainder of his career, his operas were either comic or semiserious, with the sole exception of the 1845 opera seria, La solitaria delle Asturie, composed for Odessa. The success of Il nuovo Figaro soon led to new commissions to create comic operas for several Italian cities, including Rome, Turin, and Milan. Pivotal in establishing Ricci's supremacy was Un'avventura di Scaramuccia, to a new libretto by Felice Romani, premiered at La Scala on March 8, 1834.
—Giovanni Peruzzini, Il borgomastro di Schiedam (1844)
A View from a Critic
Lauro Rossi's Il borgomastro di Schiedam, a melodramma in three acts to a libretto by Giovanni Peruzzini, received its premiere at Milan's Teatro Re on June 1, 1844. Although its success was short-lived, the opera circulated widely in the mid 1840s, with about a dozen revivals around the peninsula during the two years following the premiere, several of which were well received and went on for numerous performances. A few days after the premiere, composer and critic Alberto Mazzucato published an extensive review in the Gazzetta musicale di Milano, providing the readers with unusually detailed insights into the libretto and the music of the new opera. To a greater extent than most other published criticism of the time. Mazzucato's review gives us the rare opportunity to read a comic work of this period through the lenses of someone who had tried his own hand at opera buffa. In addition to being a respected music critic, Mazzucato was also a teacher and an accomplished opera composer. Born in 1813, he studied at the Padua conservatory and made his debut in that city in 1834, with La fidanzata di Lammermoor, one of several operatic mutations of Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor that precede Donizetti's Lucia (1835). Two years later, he composed an opera buffa, Don Chisciotte, for Milan's Canobbiana (1836).
Rome, December 1845. On the eve of the new carnival season, there is great anticipation for the arrival of the celebrated basso buffo, Carlo Cambiaggio. Having earned a tremendous success at the Teatro Argentina the year before, Cambiaggio has taken over the management of the Teatro Valle, where he prepares to run a season consisting entirely of comic works: his own pastiche Don Procopio (1844), Luigi Ricci's Chi dura vince (1834), Gaetano Donizetti's La figlia del reggimento (1840), and Giuseppe Verdi's Un giorno di regno (1840). Local poet Jacopo Ferretti, one of the leading librettists of his generation, author of the poetry for one of Gioachino Rossini's great masterpieces, La Cenerentola (1817) and for Gaetano Donizetti's early comic success, L'ajo nell'imbarazzo (1824), dedicates the following poem to the renowned singer:
Don Pasquale solo. Guarda con impazienza all'orologio.
Son nov'ore … di ritorno
Il Dottore esser dovria.
[Don Pasquale alone. Looks impatiently at his watch.
It is nine o'clock … The doctor should have returned.]
—Gaetano Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffini, Don Pasquale (1842–43)
The Problem of the Introduzione
Don Pasquale, act 1. As the curtain rises, Don Pasquale, alone onstage, stares impatiently at his pocket watch, awaiting the arrival of his physician and confidant, Doctor Malatesta (scene 1). Malatesta soon enters and tells the elderly man that he has found a suitable bride for him (scene 2). Beside himself with excitement, Don Pasquale rushes his friend to fetch the young woman; alone again, he anticipates the bliss of married life and fatherhood.
This opening scene is perhaps the most individual in the entire opera. It is a masterful study in character, and it goes a long way toward establishing the characteristic intimate tone of this delightful bourgeois comedy. For us, it provides an excellent entry point into the conventions that informed the composition of opera buffa and contributed to defining it as a distinctive genre on musical grounds. More important, it allows us to explore how composers engaged with those conventions critically—using them, negotiating their boundaries, and subverting them for the purpose of conveying humor and distancing themselves from some widespread approaches and practices observed in serious works. To be sure, Don Pasquale appeared at an important juncture.
It is well known that melatonin provokes reproductive alterations in response to changes in hours of daylight in seasonally breeding mammals, exerting a regulatory role at different levels of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis. Although it has also been demonstrated that melatonin may affect testicular activity in vertebrates, until now, very few data support the hypothesis of a local action of melatonin in the male gonads. The aim of this study was to investigate whether MT1, MT2 melatonin receptors and the H9 melatonin-related receptor, are expressed in the adult rat testes and during development. A semi-quantitative RT-PCR method was used to analyse the expression of MT1, MT2 and H9 receptors mRNAs in several rat tissues, mainly focusing on testes during development and adult life. Our results provide molecular evidences of the presence of both MT1 and, for the first time, MT2 melatonin receptors as well as of the H9 melatonin-related receptor in the examined tissues, including adult testes. During development MT1 and MT2 transcripts are expressed at lower levels in testes of rats from 1 day to 1 week of age, lightly increased at 2 weeks of age and remained permanently expressed throughout development until 6 months. These data strongly support the hypothesis that melatonin acts directly in male vertebrate gonads suggesting that rat testes may be a suitable model to verify the role of indolamine in vertebrate testicular activity.