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Entries / Italian Opera

Italian Opera

Categories / Art/Music, Theatre/Theaters, Concert Organizations

ITALIAN OPERA existed in St. Petersburg in 1733-1914 (intermittently) in two guises: as Italian musical theatre with performances in Italian and as proper Italian operas performed by Russian companies in Russian (from 1781 up to the present moment). In the first half of the 18th century, Italian opera was a part of the enlightened demonstrations of the Cult of the Monarch. The Russian Imperial court followed the general custom: in 1735 an Italian company was summoned to come to the capital in order to produce ceremonial opera-serial, which lasted for many hours, so as to celebrate name-days and birthdays of Empress Anna Ioannovna and Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. The performances were attended by those who took part in court ceremonies that is diplomats and generals. The effect produced by allegorical spectacles together with the singing in an unfamiliar language, unusual to the Russian ear, possessed more of a magical character than of artistic one. At the same time the need for entertainment brought about the summoning of Italian comedians who performed comedies dell'arte, danced ballets and sang comic intermezzos. The latter, though little different from proper comedies, gave birth to their imitations in all European countries. Owing to them, the second half of the 18th century witnessed the forming of the genres of German, French, English, Spanish and Russian comic opera. All the same, Italian musical comedy continued to develop and remained popular among some classes of citizens who had grown accustomed to the Italian language and Italian style. St. Petersburg, as well as some other cities, animated private Italian theatrical concerns, with the repertoire including mostly commercial comic hits. In the late 1790s they gradually ousted the Italian opera performed at the court. Opera-serials were composed only as a matter of exception, while the genre of comic opera prevailed in the repertoire of both Russian and Italian musical theatre, with a considerable number of pieces being the same. In the 18th century the court Italian opera employed some prominent composers and poets, like B. Galuppi, T. Traetta, G. Paisiello, D. Cimarosa, M. Coltellini, G. B. Casti. The company of the theatre comprised several well-paid opera stars: castrati G. Carestini, Comasquino and L. Marchesi, prima donnas C. Gabrielli and R.L. Todi. The dismissal of the court company together with the switch of Italian opera to a commission and contractual basis resulted in the growth of the popularity of the latter, which determined the urge to attract the audience with the best performers. In 1796-1806 the company of G. Astaritta and А. Casassi, which included some celebrities from Vienna and Paris arrived in St. Petersburg. In 1826, the success of the tour of Granari's company served as evidence for the necessity of revival of Italian opera. In pursuance of this aim, Matvey Y. Vielgorsky (see the Vielgorsky Family) and Casassi recruited a company in Italy. It performed in St. Petersburg in 1828-31, offering the audience a new repertoire, which consisted of operas by G. Rossini, G. Spontini, W.A. Mozart, and S. Mercadante. The success of G.B. Rubini induced the Board of Directors of the Imperial Theatres to resume the management of a permanent theatre subsidised by the state. In 1843-85, St. Petersburg hosted the State Italian Opera (performed in the Bolshoy Theatre, sometimes in the Mariinsky Theatre), which comprised the greatest stars in the history of belcanto: A. Bosio, P. Viardot, A. Catalani, А. Patti, А. Tamburini et al. Operas performed by the theatre haven't left the stage, performing up to the present moment. The theatre made use of sumptuous stage designs. In the 1880s-1910s private non-repertory theatres came to prevail. The most long-lived of them was the company of Italian opera run by Prince A.A. Tsereteli (1905-14). Altogether, the epoch witnessed an intense intermingling of Russian and Italian repertoire. Thus, the Italians staged operas of Russian composers, popular in St. Petersburg: The Demon and Nero by A.G. Rubinstein, The Mermaid by A.S. Dargomyzhsky, Eugene Onegin, Iolanta, The Queen of Spades by P.I. Tchaikovsky and even Ruslan and Lyudmila and A Life for the Tsar by M.I. Glinka (all of them were produced in Italian). In the 20th century, Italian opera was performed in the halls of the Bolshoy Conservatory Hall, the Mariinsky Theatre, Aquarium, the Alexandrinsky Theatre and the People's House. Such a geographic spread of performances is evidence of the fact that Italian opera was popular among diverse strata of society.

References: Музыкальный Петербург: Энцикл. слов. Т. 1: XVIII в. СПб., 1996-2001. Кн. 1-4.

L. M. Zolotnitskaya, A.L. Porfiryeva.

Anna Ioannovna, Empress
Astaritta (Astarita) Gennaro
Bosio Angela
Casassi Antonio
Casti Giovanni Battista (Giambattista)
Catalani Angelica
Cimarosa Domenico
Coltellini Marco
Comasquino (C. Arnaboldi)
Dargomyzhsky Alexander Sergeevich
Elizaveta Petrovna, Empress
Gabrielli Caterina
Galuppi Baldassare
Glinka Mikhail Ivanovich
Marchesi Luigi
Mercadante Saverio
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus
Paisiello Giovanni
Patti Adelina
Rossini Gioacchino
Rubini Giovanni Battista
Rubinstein Anton Grigorievich
Spontini Gaspare
Tamburini Antonio
Tchaikovsky Peter Ilyich
Todi Luisa-Rosa
Traetta Tommaso
Tsereteli A.A.
Viardot-Garcia Michele Pauline Fernanda
Vielgorsky Matvei Yurievich

Музыкальный Петербург: Энцикл. слов.: Т.1: XVIII в.: В 5 кн. СПб., 1996-2002

The subject Index
Imperial Theatres Board
Mariinsky Theatre
Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory
Alexandrinsky Theatre

Cavos C.А., (1775-1840), composer

CAVOS Catarino Albertovich (1775-1840, St. Petersburg), composer, bandmaster, and teacher. He studied under F. Bianchi in Incurabile Conservatory, Venice. Living in St. Petersburg from 1798, he served in the Board of Imperial Theatres

Davydov K.Y., (1838-1889), musician

DAVYDOV Karl Yulievich (1838-1889), violoncellist, pedagogue, conductor, composer. Graduated from Moscow University with the rank of Candidate of Mathematical Sciences (1858). Learned to play the violoncello under K.Y. Schubert and others

Patti А. (1845-1919), singer

PATTI Adelina (1845-1919), Italian singer (soprano). In 1859, she made her debut on the opera stage. She had a unique voice, equally strong in all registers, with a metallic timber and perfect technique. In 1869-77, she performed in St

Rinaldi A. (?-after 1758), dancer

RINALDI Antonio (aka Fusano, Italian "fidget") (? - after 1758), Italian performer, choreographer, pedagogue. In 1735-38, he performed in St. Petersburg with an Italian troupe under the guidance of F. Araya

Rubini G. (1794-1854), singer

RUBINI Giovanni Battista (1794-1854), Italian singer (tenor). Made his first appearance in 1814 subsequently, excelling as a vocal performer in G. Rossini's, V. Bellini's and G. Donizetti's operas

Sarti G. (1729-1802), composer

SARTI Giuseppe (1729-1802), Italian composer, bandmaster, teacher. Managed the Court Capella in Copenhagen from 1768 to 1775, then, from 1779 to 1784 held the office of bandmaster at the San Marco Cathedral in Venice