That's Opera: 200 Years of Italian Music

Opera Canada, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

That's Opera: 200 Years of Italian Music


THAT'S OPERA: 200 YEARS OF ITALIAN MUSIC

Gabriele Dotto (editor)

Prestel

The main title and cover of this book might suggest that it contains an upbeat potted history of Italian opera, which I suppose it does in one way. But the real indicator of what's inside, also part of the cover title, is an unobtrusive logo of three interlocked rings and the wordmark "Ricordi a Bertelsmann company." In 2008, Ricordi, the venerable Italian music publisher, celebrated its 200th anniversary, and this book is actually the catalogue of a two-year travelling exhibition to mark the anniversary. New York is about as close as it's going to get to Canada, unfortunately, which is a pity since the exhibition's curator is Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Professor of Musicology at L'Universite de Montreal.

The Milan-based publishing house founded in 1808 by violinist Giovanni Ricordi is an integral player in the history of Italian opera. Ricordi's enterprise started out as a sideline, copying music parts to supplement his income as a musician. The sideline grew quickly, and the seeds of the future business were set when he worked out a deal with one theatre to retain ownership of the parts he copied, and thus the right to rent them out to other musicians and theatres. After he founded Casa Ricordi, opera became the cash cow of his business, which at the same time grew powerfully influential in the development of opera as the publisher of Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini. …

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