The Italian Romantic Libretto: A Study of Salvadore Cammarano

The Italian Romantic Libretto: A Study of Salvadore Cammarano

The Italian Romantic Libretto: A Study of Salvadore Cammarano

The Italian Romantic Libretto: A Study of Salvadore Cammarano

Excerpt

To spend a number of years studying the life and work of an Italian opera librettist may seem a very strange thing to do. Indeed, in the course of writing this book I have frequently been asked 'VVhat is the point of writing about libretti? The music is the only part of an opera which matters -- the stories are nonsense and no one worries about the words!' Another question has been "What is the point of writing about a lot of long-forgotten operas anyway?' It is true that I have written an account of Salvadore Cammarano's contribution to Italian romantic opera, doing so, deliberately, without discussion of the music for which his work was designed, though without ever forgetting that the purpose of his work was to provide words for a composer to set to music. I began with the assumption that the study of the career of a librettist who worked for a number of composers, from the most famous to the now completely forgotten, would throw a new light -- or, at least, light from a new angle -- on operatic life of the period, and I hope that such an assumption has been shown to be warranted. Operas had to be decided upon, drafted and written, and then seen on to the stage, and at every stage the librettist had an essential role to play.

Nor is it true that all his operas are forgotten. Many of them have been staged in the last couple of decades as interest in the Italian romantic opera has grown, and others have been broadcast. Records are no substitute for a theatrical performance, but they are an invaluable aid to study and familiarization, and half a dozen or so operas based on Cammarano's texts are available on commercial recordings, and at least another dozen on a 'private -- not for sale' basis. I believe that even more will come to the fore as singers and conductors explore some of the lesser- known composers. Certainly some of these operas have sunk without a trace, probably deservedly, but this is, and must be, true of all periods.

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