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Gabussi C705 Cover

When in 1826 Vincenzo Gabussi (1800–1846) published his Dodici Ariette con accompagnamento di pianoforte with Ricordi, he was about to move to London. On 3 May 1827, Rossini wrote from Paris to Giuditta Pasta, who was at that time living in the English capital, a letter of introduction on behalf of “this admirable young man whose talent and personality will do credit to you and to all those willing to take an interest in him. […]

The tradition — not without its mythological dimension — of masters of Italian “bel canto” in London dates back to the great success that Porpora had in this role in the 1730s. A continuous thread may be traced linking a number of his compatriot musicians, in particular his pupil Domenico Corri, who had been in England and in London from the 1780s onwards, which corresponds to what is an ongoing story – that of the fascination (of not only the English) with Italian singing. […]

But predominant among those who especially prepared the ground for Gabussi was the legendary Rossinian singer Manuel García. In The Times of 30 January 1824 we read that García had opened a singing academy in his home (21 Dover Street, Piccadilly), “for the express purpose of giving lessons in the ART of ITALIAN SINGING” (the capitalisation is in the original). It is no coincidence that in the same year he also published his Exercises and Method for Singing. His teaching method was directed at both amateurs and those who intended to pursue a career as a professional singer. […]

Gabussi arrived in the English capital shortly afterwards, as we have seen, in 1827. He immediately became very popular. In Lady Morgan’s Memoirs Gabussi is mentioned more than once. In the entry dated 4 August 1833, Lady Sidney Morgan writes: “Yesterday Bellini and Gabussi came, and sang and played like angels.” Bellini may have sung his “romanzetta” Vaga luna, which was in fact, as indicated on the frontispiece of the Ricordi edition, “composed in London”. Moreover, Bellini and Gabussi belonged to the same generation and Bellinian echoes shine through in some of the latter’s ariette. In arietta No 4 of the Dodici Ariette (entitled L’inesperienza), to which I refer the reader, it is also possible to detect a Gabussian infl uence on Bellini. […]

But as regards interquotation between Gabussi and Bellini, it is impossible not to mention one instance of an ‘unintentional’ type of interquotation, which Anna Bonitatibus (publisher and patron of this invaluable series) recognized at once. One of Gabussi’s Dodici Ariette (No 7, a setting of the famous text Guarda che bianca luna) is identical to that of Bellini’s setting of the very same words. How is that possible? […]

Emilio Sala
Extract from the presentation essay written for Dodici Ariette by Vincenzo Gabussi
1 July 2017 © Consonarte


Posted in Close Up By Consonarte

A Hit for Prime Donne

20 Oct 2017 22:03:34

Jean-François Lesueur described La molinara, the title that under popular pressure replaced the original L’amor contrastato first performed in the autumn of 1788 at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples, as “this masterpiece among the many masterpieces of Paisiello. Even today the score stands out in the repertoire of this composer from Taranto for its inventive joyfulness and Neapolitan wit, more brilliant and sceptical than usual, characterizing the much-ado-about-nothing of Rachelina’s entanglements.“ […]

This opera without a finale delighted not only Lesueur but also Haydn, who in 1790 chose to direct it at Esterhaza, and it also found favour with Beethoven, who took the theme of the extraordinary quartet “Quanto è bello l’amor contadino” to compose a series of nine variations for pianoforte, which was to be followed not long after by the series of six variations on the theme of the duet “Nel cor più non mi sento”. […] Paisiello hit the mark and his apparently simple little tune, to be sung sotto voce assai, was destined to become famous, proliferating in a truly endless series of “themes and variations.

Although this is not the place for a complete list of the authors of instrumental variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento”, it is not easy to resist the temptation to cite at least the violinists Niccolò Paganini, Alessandro Rolla, Camillo Sivori; the double bass player Giovanni Bottesini; the guitarists Mauro Giuliani and Ferdinando Sor, leaving aside the many other musicians, far from unknown, who took advantage of Paisiello’s captivating tune to write their own more or less brilliant compositions.

Similarly, it would be difficult to give an exhaustive list of the singers who, starting with Giuseppe Palomba’s lines of verse were able to display throughout the 19th century their own individual and inventive ornamentation. However, among those that come to mind are Velluti (of whose Variations Meyerbeer has left a record), Giuditta Grisi, Henriette Sontag, Marietta Alboni, Barbara Marchisio. And above all, the three glorious prime donne whose names were associated especially closely with “Nel cor più mi non sento”: Angelica Catalani (1780-1849), who performed several versions, making it one of the guaranteed highlights of her recitals; Isabella Colbran (1784-1845), whose name appears on the manuscript of six Variations composed by the Perugian Francesco Morlacchi (these, in turn, being the source of numerous copies and reworkings); and Maria Malibran (1808-1836), author of a particularly acrobatic series of five Variations, which were not only taken up, after her premature death, by her celebrated fellow singers (as well as her sister Pauline Viardot) but was unexpectedly destined to be often performed in the “music lesson scene” in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. […]

The Publisher in collaboration with Sergio Ragni and Davide Verga
Extract from the presentation essay written for Nel cor più non mi sento – Collection of Variations on the original theme by Paisiello
26 May 2016 © Consonarte


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The Surprises of Semiramide

18 Oct 2017 12:26:12

We are in the mid 1600s when the curtain of melodrama rises on the story of Semiramis; and her role from the outset is that of an exceptional protagonist. […]

The distinction of writing the first lyric opera dedicated to this queen of antiquity goes to Francesco Sacrati with his (and the poet Bisaccioni’s) Semiramide in India (Venice, 1648); he is followed by Legrenzi (Nino il Giusto, Ferrara, 1662), Cesti (Vienna, 1667), Ziani (Venice, 1670), Draghi (Vienna 1673). Then in 1714 comes the libretto that Francesco Silvani, taking great liberties with the ancient sources, writes for Pollarolo: a libretto that for some years will enjoy considerable success (it will be scored by Leo, Vivaldi, Jommelli…). […]

Metastasio, in writing his Semiramide riconosciuta for Leonardo Vinci (Rome, 1729), chooses the subsequent phase of the queen’s life, and does so by reworking the narratives of Pompeius Trogus and Justin: Nino is dead; their son Ninia is weak and unfit to rule. Donning male clothing in order to pass herself off as her son in the role of the new king of the Assyrians, S. has audaciously assumed power. She is a stateswoman, acting to safeguard her own kingdom, for the security of her own people. […]
The thrilling intensity of Metastasio’s verses and the depth of character of S., never before so sublime in her dual nature, as a woman of touching fragility and as a wise ruler, will make this one of the “best-sellers” of eighteenth-century melodramas. Many composers will set it to music (among others, Porpora, Giacomelli, Handel — pillaging Vinci in particular, for his pasticcio of 1733 — Lanpugnani, Jommelli — in two different versions — Hasse, Gluck, Manfredini, Sarti, Sacchini, Bernasconi, Myslivecˇek, Traetta, Bertoni, Salieri), continuing right up until 1819, with the young Giacomo Meyerbeer, at that time resident in Italy. […]

The thrilling intensity of Metastasio’s verses and the depth of character of S., never before so sublime in her dual nature, as a woman of touching fragility and as a wise ruler, will make this one of the “best-sellers” of eighteenth-century melodramas. Many composers will set it to music (among others, Porpora, Giacomelli, Handel — pillaging Vinci in particular, for his pasticcio of 1733 — Lanpugnani, Jommelli — in two different versions — Hasse, Gluck, Manfredini, Sarti, Sacchini, Bernasconi, Myslivecˇek, Traetta, Bertoni, Salieri), continuing right up until 1819, with the young Giacomo Meyerbeer, at that time resident in Italy. […]

But it is Nasolini’s opera, above all, that brings the queen superbly into the new century: the effectiveness of his dramatic setting make it one of the favourite works of the leading singers of the age, who, although at the cost of some conspicuous reworkings and interpolations, ensure its survival well beyond the death of its composer. When Nasolini’s opera is staged in Naples in August 1815 the singer Isabella Colbran does not hesitate to interpolate the intense cavatina “Son infelice, son sventurata”, composed by her celebrated teacher Girolamo Crescentini, and she becomes a promotor of unexpected pastiche: the great scene at the end of act one (culminating with the aria “Qual pallor? Qual tema? Ardire!”), combines Nasolini’s original music with large extracts from Marcos António Portugal’s La morte di Semiramide (a work, for which Sografi’s libretto was adapted by Giuseppe Caravita, that from its first performance in Lisbon in 1801 became something of an international signature piece for Angelica Catalani), as well as a cabaletta penned for the occasion by Giacomo Rossini, no less (as attested by the presence of an extended quotation from La Cambiale di Matrimonio, composed by him five years earlier). Rossini was in fact in Naples at that time, where he was to have had his debut at the San Carlo theatre with his Elisabetta (and with Colbran as leading lady): this incognito collaboration in La Morte de Semiramide must have been for a way for Rossini to sound out the Neapolitan public’s taste and, at the same time. […]

Begun under the aegis of S., Rossini’s artistic collaboration with Isabella Colbran (who in 1822 was to become his wife) is also sealed by S.: Semiramide (Venice, 1823) is the last opera that Rossini composes for Isabella; and it is actually while working with the librettist Gaetano Rossi on his own musical portrait of the Assyrian queen that Rossini takes his leave of Italy, almost as if entrusting to this work a first aesthetic testament. The cavatina “Bel raggio lusinghier” occurs in the first act: S. is rejoicing in the return of Arsace, in whom is placed her hope of dispelling the clouds that have for some time been overshadowing her kingdom and her mind. And it is this aria, in Rossini’s opera, that is S.’s first true “solo”, her true introduction. Preserved in the autograph manuscript, alongside the definitive text, is a previous version, where the vocal line is complete, but which in the final part is almost entirely lacking in orchestration. The cavatina, which in this earlier form is not followed by the famous cabaletta “Dolce pensiero”, is envisioned as an independent piece punctuated with elaborate cadential phrases: and it is this very version, a perfectly judged portrait, that we have decided to publish here. […]

To Manuel García, who sang Idreno in the 1824 London production of Rossini’s Semiramide, we owe S.’s first visit to the New World: it was he who, as producer, staged Rossini’s opera at New York’s Park Theatre during the 1825-6 season, entrusting the lead role to his daughter Maria (the future Maria Malibran). Then in May 1828 his own Semiramis premiered at the Teatro de los Gallos in Mexico City. Although composed in Italian, based on Gaetano Rossi’s libretto, García took the trouble to translate it and have it sung in Spanish, the better to win the public’s approval. […]

Davide Verga
Extract taken from the presentation essay written of The Music of | La Musica di Semiramide
23 December 2015 © Consonarte

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