DON CHISCIOTTE - Fulmini e Saette

DON CHISCIOTTE - Fulmini e Saette



n the context of the lively music panorama generated

by Italian eighteenth-century opera, and particularly

by the genre that developed from the

light, comic intermezzos set between acts in serious

opera and went on to become one of the most popular

genres in Europe, many Italian opera composers

found fame and fortune in Italy and beyond. Among

their number we find Giovanni Paisiello, born in

Taranto in 1740 but adopted by Naples, where he

died in 1816. Paisiello was one of the most brilliant

exponents of the musical and more specifically operatic

tradition of the city, and was appreciated both by

contemporaries and posterity. His work, about a hundred

operas – serious and buffo – denotes a musical

taste that found its most successful expression in the

comic repertoire, though he did produce a number of

well-regarded serious titles. The composer’s life presents

a first phase of typically Neapolitan production

which concluded about 1776 when he moved to St

Petersburg where he substituted Tommaso Traetta as

maestro di cappella and supervisor of Italian opera.

He stayed at the Russian court until 1784 and there

composed, among other titles, an opera based on

Beaumarchais’s comedy Le Barbier de Séville, which

survived in repertoire until the appearance of

Rossini’s brilliant reading of the same subject.

Indeed, the tradition marked out by Paisiello’s

Barbiere di Siviglia caused the Rome debut of

Rossini’s opera of the same name to flounder. After

his years in St Petersburg, Paisiello returned to

Naples, stopping off in Vienna and also visiting Paris


in the early years of the nineteenth century. These

years, marked by a richly creative vein, brought

operas which stand as the finest in Paisiello’s production,

including Nina, ossia La pazza per amore (1789),

perhaps the composer’s most famous opera and –

considering the fact that it is still regularly staged

today – unquestionably his greatest success.

These journeys enriched the musical background of

a composer who was more receptive than other musicians

of the Naples school to the instrumental influence

first of the refined Vienna school and then of

Paris. One of the distinguishing features of Paisiello’s

music is in fact his particular penchant for instrumental

patterns, nourished by a creative ease that brings

out its dialectic naturalness most markedly in those

comic characterisations which find ideal dramatic settings

in his operas. It is worth remembering that in

choosing the works to set and, more importantly, in

his choice of librettists, Paisiello managed to avoid

the coarser traits of comedy of the time. Setting first

texts by Goldoni and then entering into a fruitful partnership

with Giovanni Battista Lorenzi, a Neapolitan

man of letters and member of a group of intellectuals

who sought to renew Neapolitan comic opera, which

had been based on farcical, popular themes, Paisiello

achieved that stylistic balance which is the basis of

his operatic production.

Lorenzi was also the author of the libretto for Don

Chisciotte della Mancia, a three-act comedy first performed

at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples in summer

1769. Again in this opera, less fortunate than others

and perhaps for this reason generally considered

a minor work, we find traces of the delightful stylistic

peculiarities of a composer who was only twenty-nine

years old but was already a rising star. Lorenzi han-

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines