Waning of ballet in favor of opera in Italy during the Revolutions of 1848

February 17, 2012 | | Comments Off on Waning of ballet in favor of opera in Italy during the Revolutions of 1848

There appears to be a lack of musical materials for ballets in the 1830s and 1840s, which is in part due to the dearth of publishing of keyboard reductions of ballets. Contributing to decline in materials may have been the prohibition of gambling in the 1820s, cited by Hansell, which had provided much of the main theatres’ budgets. Certainly also, the upheaval of the Risorgimento effected theatre, especially economically. The revolutions of 1848 caused theatre closures, and the Teatro alla Scala, which normally featured several ballets per season, saw only three ballets performed in carnevale seasons of both 1848 and 1849, and two in 1850. Even Risorgimento events were made into ballets (for example, the ballet Un episodio della Guerra d’ltalia nel 1859: ballo in un prologo e cinque atti, choreographed by Fissi, music by Giaquinto, appeared at San Carlo in 1860). Yet generally, ballets were still being performed at the major theatres at similar rates as in previous years, though Torino, for example, which had seen a growth in the number of operas performed each year, saw a general decrease in the proportion of ballets to operas in the late 1840s. The two ballets per opera decreased to one ballet, and this became the norm after 1850. The same shift in proportions can be observed at La Fenice where by 1850 sometimes there was only one ballet performed per opera. At the same time the number of operas per year increased. Roughly four to five operas were mounted each year, with three to six ballets. This proportional change meant that ballets played for longer, from thirty to over sixty performances, than the operas. Yet opera repertory was already forming, so not all of the operas were new.


Exerpt from Nineteenth Century Italian Ballet Music Before National Unification: Sources, Style, and Context by Matilda Ann Butkas Ertz



Una Furtiva Lagrima was composed by Gaetano Donizetti for the opera L’elisir d’Amore, which premiered on May 12, 1832.




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