Damien Colas

I critici francesi e le strutture dell'opera italiana dell'Ottocento: problemi di terminologia

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This essay focuses both on how the French critics perceived the musical and dramatic structures used by the nineteenth century Italian opera composers and the terms and expressions that they used in the press of the time to describe and qualify such compositional procedures. The reader may be surprised by the lack of specific terminology as regards this, while French critics - often very competent and composers themselves - had a clear notion of it, as is evident in some detailed analyses. The lack of terminology resulted not as much from the inability to name musical objects as from a refusal to do so. The old French reading guidelines - inherited from the classical rationalism and always used to evaluate Italian opera - were base on the criteria of the originality and dependence of the organisation of music in relation to the dramatic structure. Hence, the lexical system was aimed to highlight the uniqueness of each artistic product as opposed to its adherence to a known, preestablished archetype. Furthermore, what emerges is that the listening abilities of the nineteenth century educated listener focused on a short timeframe and did not include the piece in its whole length. This implied indifference in connection to the formal structure of the "closed piece". Indeed, the acknowledgement of its formal properties is a condition of utmost importance to define and name different entities.

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