International Congress of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Music History Department of the German Historical Institute in Rome from the 2nd to the 6th November 2010

—>  Program / Free Papers / Section IV

Section IV: Music Theatre

Part 1


Friday, 5th November 2010

09.00 am - 1.00 pm

DHI, Musikgeschichtliche Abteilung, Sala d'Ascolto





09.00      Kastraten in Frauenrollen an römischen Theatern: Konventionen und


Kordula Knaus



09.30      Neapel – Wien – Dresden: Die Commedia per musica als höfische Oper

Philipp Kreisig



10.00      Die Entwicklung der Ballettoper am Dresdner Hof und deren Einordnung in

den europäischen Raum

Uta Dorothea Sauer



10.30      »An Beobachtung der Charaktere ist da gar nicht zu denken« –

Figurenzeichnung im deutschsprachigen Musiktheater des späteren 18. Jahrhunderts

Adrian Kuhl



11.00      Coffee break


11.30      Verkörperungen und Rollenspiele: Die Opern- und Ariensammlung der

Erzherzogin Elisabeth von Österreich (1743–1808)

Martin Eybl



12.00      Dramaturgische Aspekte des Metamelodrammas

Linus Bickmann



12.30      »Demetrio« – Giovanni Simone Mayrs letzte Oper auf einen Text von


Iris Winkler




Part 2


Friday, 5th November 2010

3.00 - 6.30 pm

DHI, Musikgeschichtliche Abteilung, Sala d'Ascolto





15.00      »Quanto succede qualche zuffa spaventosa qui si fa gran fracasso«.

Bühnentechnische Unterschiede von Opernaufführungen in Rom und Venedig (1726-1730)

Diana Blichmann



15.30      Italienische Opera buffa auf der Wiener Bühne (1763–1773): Präsentation

des Forschungsprojekts

Ingrid Schraffl



16.00      Italienische Opera buffa auf der Wiener Bühne (1763–1773): Zur Praxis

der Finalbearbeitungen

Martina Grempler



16.30      Coffee break


17.00      Nymphen, Nixen, Elementargeister. Rheinromantik in der italienischen

Oper des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts am Beispiel der »Loreley« von Alfredo Catalani

Sonja-Maria Welsch



17.30      »Leben mit einem Idioten«: Eine multiperspektivische Analyse als Versuch

einer kulturgeschichtlichen Einordnung

Amrei Flechsig




Kordula Knaus (Graz): Castrati in female role at Roman opera houses: Conventions and perception paradigms


The opera houses and theatres in Rome as well as in other cities of the Papal States had a specific position within the tradition of Italian opera spread throughout Europe. Female singers were not allowed to appear on public stages throughout the century and castrati interpreted all female roles. The presentation wants to investigate this phenomenon less from the perspective of emphasizing the curiosity of that phenomenon (as was already common in the 18th century, particularly by visitors from outside), but rather from a perspective dealing with aesthetic paradigms, social parameters and contemporary perception perspectives.

First, the casting conventions should give an idea of who sang these female parts and for how long. A systematic analysis provides insights into the degree of specialization, hierarchies of singers and aesthetic criteria (e.g. the youth of the singer). A second part of the presentation will compare selected performances of operas in Rome with performances of the same operas somewhere else to answer the question if the fact that castrati appeared in the female roles influenced the text and music of the particular pieces. A last part will discuss some 18th century sources that discuss the visual and acting standards and demands for castrati in female roles.


to top


Philipp Kreisig (Dresden): Naples - Vienna - Dresden: The Commedia per musica as a court opera


During the first decade of the eighteenth century the Commedia per musica was developed in Naples as a first type of Italian comic opera with several acts. Particularly during the 1730s and 1740s the Commedia per musica was received intensely in commercial theatres in Venice and Rome. So far it has been largely disregarded in research that this type of Italian opera had also been cultivated outside Italy from 1716 on – at the courts of Vienna and Dresden.

Taking its early dissemination in Vienna and Dresden as an example the Commedia per musica has to be located within musical court culture in general. Therefore it is important to find out to what extent the Neapolitan Commedia per musica was modified in Vienna and Dresden in order to fit into the court ceremonial. In the centre of interest are compositions by Antonio Caldara, Francesco Bartolomeo Conti and Giovanni Alberto Ristori.

The following criteria will be considered in this analysis: occasion and venue of performance, audience, literary subjects, structure of the libretti and the compositions (e.g. use of court orchestra, singers, integration of ensembles and choruses) and realisation on stage (e.g. architect, changing of scenes, costumes). On this basis it has to be discussed if the Commedia per musica became a »seria« with a buffo content through being included in the court contexts of Vienna and Dresden.


to top



Uta Dorothea Sauer (Dresden): Genesis of the »Ballettoper« at the Court of Dresden: characteristics and classification


This paper focuses on the genesis of the Ballettoper  at the Dresden court, the genre of the stage entertainment, which originated from the Ballet de cour and included elements of the opera. With the help of some descriptions the development from the court ballet to the Ballettoper will be explained. In this connection important aspects are the prehistory, terminology, features or the ruler-acclamation.
The Dresden court had a long tradition of dancing entertainments staged to celebrate specific festive occasions such as weddings, baptisms, birthdays, visits of honor and during the carnival season. A multi-art culture was developed by the team work of different artists since 1550. In common with most of the courts throughout Europe, by the middle of the seventeenth century, Dresden had developed a distinct liking for everything French, as shown by the numerous dance masters employed, the instrumental music and the ballets. With the works of David Schirmer (court poet in Dresden since 1650) the Ballet à entrées became firmly established.  As Elector Johann Georg II had favoured opera and ballet, both styles were mixed. The evolution resulting from this is shown in a series of various multi-art spectacles like the Ballettoper.

to top



Adrian Kuhl (Heidelberg): »An Beobachtung der Charaktere ist da gar nicht zu denken« - Characterisation in eighteenth century German Singspiel


Works belonging to the so-called Singspiel of the second half of the eighteenth century are today most commonly suspected of being aesthetically trivial. Initially, the works seem to be simplistic, and designed to be popular and financially profitable – as such the sources have received little scholarly attention. However, on more detailed inspection, the works present a more intricate picture through the conflicting interests of performance adversity, the demands of establishing a ‘national’ German opera, and natural artistic ideals. As a result the Singspiel developed into a field of experimentation for theatrical composition during the second half of the eighteenth century. Additionally, the theoretical texts which were written parallel to the development of the Singspiel reveal the high contemporary expectations of artistic design. One area that continually attracted criticism, from J. Fr. Reichardt, for example, was the wanting musical representation of characters.
Yet how is it possible, despite the performance practice problems and the desired artistic ideals of aesthetic simplicity, to develop diverse musical characterisation? Which artistic resources were available to Singspiel composers? Using the example of E. W. Wolf’s Das Gärtnermädchen (1769), in which, amongst other things, a count disguised as a gardener and a country girl who really belongs to the aristocracy have to be characterised, these questions will be answered through musical analysis, demonstrating how closely music, text and staging were integrated to create rich characterisation in early German Singspiel.

to top



Martin Eybl (Wien): Embodiment and playing roles: Archduchess Elisabeth's (1743-1808) collection of opera scores and arias


Among the daughters of Austria’s Empress Maria Theresia Archduchess Elisabeth was considered the most talented in music. G. Chr. Wagenseil and L. Hofmann trained her in playing the keyboard. The famous castrato G. B. Mancini was her singing teacher. In court festivities the young lady took over challenging opera roles. After a long journey her collection of scores finally ended up in the Austrian National Library, now dispersed over many different call numbers. Some pieces are known to the scientific community. A reconstruction and examination of the whole collection, however, was not done before. Beside two comprehensive volumes of keyboard music the collection includes 25 operas (in score or piano score) being performed in Vienna between 1758 and 1776. The selection clearly shows the decline of opera seria in the 1760ies. The latest piece of this kind was performed in 1765. After this all Italian operas included are opere buffe. Five Opéras-comiques represent the earliest and latest pieces of the collection. This is completed by more than a dozen of duets and arias for soprano in score sometimes with additional parts for the singers, presumably used for practice and performance.
The study of the sources leads to a discussion of a wider range. Where are the social and regional limits in the distribution of opera scores in Vienna? Are there any traces of middle class people showing a similar passion for singing and collecting? What tells the fact that the practice material is restricted to opera seria about the kind of identification of a princess with her roles? What was the reason for Elisabeth who continued collecting new operas to refrain from singing buffo roles even just for her own pleasure?

to top



Linus Bickmann (Berlin): The dramaturgy of the Metamelodramma


By turning – with satirical intent – the opera and its protagonists themselves into the object of stage events, the phenomenon of metamelodramma marked the emergence of a self-reflective recourse to the art form of opera that was to continue from the beginning of the 18th century into the middle of  the 19th century.

Despite the heterogeneity of the genres consolidated in the works of early meta-opera (intermezzi, drammi giocosi, farse), common dramaturgical aspects may be identified in the numerous works of comic self-representation. Thus, the caricaturing portrayal of the emergence and rehearsal of operas led to an in many respects unconventional kind of intreccio, as in the manner in which the glimpse behind the scenes succeeded in conveying the idea of participation to the audience in a plot development in its statu nascendi.

The methods of constructing the structures of the finale merit particular attention here, since they reveal a difficulty that is inherent in the dramaturgy of the metamelodramma per se: With the intended representation of a still-to-be-composed or rehearsed opera, they are dominated by a plot whose objective in most cases is to be found outside of the presented drama.

Further paradoxical constellations are decisive for the dramaturgy of the metamelodramma. The very tension – implicit in the self-parody of opera – between the portrayal of fictional rehearsal events and the performance actually experienced by the audience in the opera house consistently opened to the librettists and to the composers a free space, open to the design of innovative forms of crossings of action and performance space.

With regard to the development of the genre, in this case rather the constant variation of the meta-theatrical strategies, than their increasing complexity is evident. By means of the musical strategies of the parody, an innovative dramaturgical potential is unlocked,  as some individual works and scenes do approach absurd music theatre.


to top



Iris Winkler (Ingolstadt): »Demetrio« - Giovanni Simone Mayrs letzte Oper auf einen Text von Metastasio


The 19th century reception of Metastasio in Italy is described in an exemplary way; Demetrio performances and, based on source research, also Mayr's opera and its reception in Torino are examined as well as the literary and musical conception of this opera. This opera is an important work of his late operatic creations, first performed in Torino on December 27th, 1823. "DEMETRIO / DRAMMA PER MUSICA / DA RAPPRESENTARSI / NEL REGIO TEATRO 01 TORINO / NEL CARNOVALE DELL'ANNO /1824/ ALLA PRESENZA / DELLE / LL. SS. RR. MM. / TORINO / Presso ONORATO DEROSSI Stamp. e Lib. del R. Teatro".
After 1825 the composer mainly devotes himself to church music. It is especially this opera that falls back to a subject of the musically out-dated opera seria.ln this context it is discussed from a historico-cultural point of view what intentions might be behind Mayr's conception and how he deals with this subject matter and its operatic realization.

to top



Diana Blichmann (Rom): »Quando succede qualche zuffa spaventosa qui si fa gran fracasso«. Differences of Metastasian opera performances in Rome and Venice (1726-1730)


From April 1727 to February 1730 Pietro Metastasio was active as librettist at the most distinguished opera house in the Mediterranean area, the Roman Teatro delle Dame, for which he wrote the drammi per musica »Catone in Utica« (1728), »Ezio« (1729) and »Semiramide riconosciuta« (1729). These three librettos were a priori written to be staged also in the venetian Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo. It is important to note that these performances differ not only in text and music, but also in the scenic effects.
At the beginning of the 18th century the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo was famous for his marvellous and amazing scenes. Notwithstanding in the late 1720s the impresario Domenico Lalli favoured performances which had special qualities in poetry and music and in particular in the art of virtuoso singing: in 1728 Antonio Conti wrote to have assisted at a »concert a voix seule«.
The roman opera house built in Via Margutta from Antonio Alibert seems to be not inferior in respect of this extravagant venetian power of singing. In addition to that, thanks to the surviving account books from 1726 until 1729, we can say that the owner company of the Teatro delle Dame was willing to spend considerable amounts not only in singers, librettists and composers, but also in striking events on stage: musicians on stage, triumph marches, horror scenes and scenes with battles were regular components of the drammi per musica.
The financial crisis of the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo and the immense expenses due to the engagement of Carlo Broschi (Farinelli) are ― in comparison with the Metastasian operas at the Teatro delle Dame ― only two reasons for the limited scenic effects at the Grimani-theatre. The regional aesthetic of opera, historical backgrounds and political motivations could also have contributed to these differences between the two Italian opera houses.


to top



Ingrid Schraffl (Wien): »The Italian Opera buffa on Vienna’s stages (1763-1773)«: Presentation of the research project


In May 2009 the research project “The Italian Opera buffa on Vienna’s stages (1763-1773)” started under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Michele Calella (first at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien, since spring 2010 at the Institute of Musicology at the Universität Wien). The project, funded by the Austrian FWF, consists of a thorough analysis of the Opere buffe imported from Italy to Vienna with the objective to collect and examine the changes made in Vienna, thus contributing to the study of the topic of treatment practices, which is so important for the opera especially in the 18th century.


Presentation of the research project:

The Opera-buffa repertoire in Vienna during the period from 1763 to 1773 was made up of about 70% of “imported products” from Italy. In Vienna – as it was customary in the 18th century – such operas coming from Italy were edited in order to be adapted to the local performance conditions, especially to the respective singer casts. In the Viennese Opera-buffa repertoire of the aforementioned period quite different treatment types can be found. After a general introduction of the project, selected examples provide an overview of the wide range of adaptation variants used in Vienna.


to top



Martina Grempler (Wien): »The Italian Opera buffa on Vienna’s stages (1763-1773)«: About the practice of finale treatments


In May 2009 the research project “The Italian Opera buffa on Vienna’s stages (1763-1773)” started under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Michele Calella (first at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien, since spring 2010 at the Institute of Musicology at the Universität Wien). The project, funded by the Austrian FWF, consists of a thorough analysis of the Opere buffe imported from Italy to Vienna with the objective to collect and examine the changes made in Vienna, thus contributing to the study of the topic of treatment practices, which is so important for the opera especially in the 18th century.


About the practice of finale treatments:

The lecture focuses on the treatment of finales in Vienna. In numerous cases, end finales were replaced or edited, with opera director Florian Gassmann playing a central role in that part. Sometimes even the traditional final number sequence was dissolved (love duet – action solving recitative – coro finale), and an originally short conclusive chorus could grow into a complex ensemble by adding completely new sections.
In the lecture, the different possibilities of treatment practices will be thoroughly analysed using selected examples taken from the Vienna repertoire, such as Antonio Sacchini’s La contadina in corte, Niccolò Piccinni’s Lo sposo burlato or Giuseppe Scolari’s La cascina.


to top



Amrei Flechsig (Hannover): »Life with an idiot«: An attempt of cultural historical approach by multi-perspective analysis


Cultural-historical approaches to musicology were and are consistently under debate within recent years. Using the example of Alfred Schnittke’s opera »Life with an idiot« (1992) after a short story by Victor Erofeyev, an attempt is made to analyse by cultural historical orientation. Therefore the opera is not only put in its music historical context, but also examined from several different perspectives, each focussing on different aspects of cultural interrelations.
Alfred Schnittke’s opera appears to be an almost ideal example to be analysed by such an approach, as there may be many cultural political and musical references evidenced in this, sort of, retrospection to the Soviet past, partially alienated in grotesque manner. Some of the means of composition may be deduced from the musical tradition, others are comparable with parallel developments in art and literature since the 1970s. Furthermore, by making the »idiot« a topic, Schnittke and Erofeyev draw on a tradition of fools, which is deeply enrooted in Russian folk culture and whose explication contributes considerably to the understanding of the opera.
In addition there are two levels of interpretation: First, a religious approach comes to mind, based on the motif of a grotesquely inverted narrative of Passion and the motif of irruption of evil into the world. Second, an additional (cultural) political approach almost suggests itself, taking into consideration the possible construal of the idiot as a grotesque representation of Lenin. Synthetically combined, the different perspectives and ways of interpretation result in a differentiated view on the opera, which discloses its deeper meaning within the context of cultural history.


to top



Stephan Mösch (Berlin): Vom Umgang mit dem Überschuss. Intermediale Strategien bei Peter Eötvös, Johannes Kalitzke und Aribert Reimann


New operas today offer a huge variety of esthetical strategies. It occurs that lots of composers practice new ways of reacting on literature. They don’t follow an existing drama but use significant possibilities of intermedial creativity. The contribution focuses critical attention on the newest works of Peter Eötvös, Johannes Kalitzke and Aribert Reimann, which all had their world premiere in 2010.


to top