Academic journal article Notes

The Skeleton Score of Verdi's Una Vendetta in Domino: Two Surviving Fragments

Academic journal article Notes

The Skeleton Score of Verdi's Una Vendetta in Domino: Two Surviving Fragments

Article excerpt

For many years I have been fascinated by the kind of information to be found in auction and dealer catalogs. Unfortunately, we do not always have direct access to the manuscripts described in these catalogs. Nonetheless, even the descriptions (often with partial reproductions) can prove of great interest. A four-page sketch of a duet from Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco, for example, is known only from two auction catalogs, each of which reproduces a different page from the manuscript. (1) This material was enormously valuable as Alberto Rizzuti prepared the critical edition of the opera, which will appear early in 2008 in The Works of Giuseppe Verdi.

When I received a grant in support of my research on Italian opera from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2004, I decided to gather as much of this information as possible and to make it more generally available through an online database. A young Italian scholar, Daniela Macchione, has assumed primary responsibility for conducting the necessary research. She has described her work in the following terms:

    The status of sale catalogs still hovers uncomfortably between that
  of ephemera and that of significant bibliographical tool. (2) The
  importance, variety, and sometimes uniqueness of the information they
  contain, however, even if this information is directed primarily to
  those who aspire to acquire the items, make these catalogs precious
  resources for scholars, perhaps more precious for the difficulty
  scholars face in gaining access to them.
    With the support of the Mellon Foundation and in collaboration with
  the University of Chicago, I am currently responsible for realizing
  OperaCat, a database in which are gathered catalog descriptions of
  thousands of autograph manuscripts sold at auction or in the
  antiquarian book market over the past 150 years pertaining to the most
  important Italian opera composers of the nineteenth and early
  twentieth centuries: Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano
  Donizetti, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. It is our intention
  that OperaCat will be freely available to scholars by the end of 2009.
    The material included in OperaCat is heterogeneous. Most is
  reproduced from descriptions (often with quotations and images) of
  letters, musical manuscripts, and documents. In some cases the
  material has been published or has ended up in accessible library
  collections. In many cases, however, these items-the only hint of
  whose existence is found precisely in these catalogs--have never been
  described in any other form. (3)

This study was made possible thanks to information first gathered in OperaCat.

In its catalog of spring 2007, the English antiquarian dealer Otto Haas included as item 118: "A new source for Verdi scholarship: A hitherto unknown Sketch for 'Un Ballo in Maschera,'" referring to it as an "Autograph music manuscript, 2 pp. on a large 2/3 folio leaf (34 x 15.4 cm; 1/3 of the leaf is cut off) written on recto and verso with intense corrections." The catalog description of the single leaf is inaccurate in many respects, but fortunately the dealer provided reproductions of both the recto and the verso of the leaf (although, as we shall see, their descriptions were reversed), so it is possible to analyze the source. (4)

To clarify the nature of this leaf, however, it is necessary to recount some recent history. For the Verdi Festival in Parma marking the 100th anniversary of the composer's death, Ilaria Narici prepared under my direction a preliminary version of the critical edition of Un ballo in maschera for The Works of Giuseppe Verdi, in which the definitive version of Narici's edition will ultimately appear. Her preliminary version was first performed on 31 January 2001 at the Teatro Regio of Parma, under the baton of Valery Gergiyev. In the program accompanying that performance, I published an article in which I attempted to clarify the compositional history of the opera. …

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