07 Oct 2007

SALIERI: Prima la musica e poi le parole

Divertimento teatrale in one act.

Music composed by Antonio Salieri. Libretto by Giovanni Battista Casti.

First performance: 7 February 1786, Schönbrunn Orangerie, Vienna.

Principal performers:
Maestro Bass
Poet Bass
Eleonora Soprano
Tonina Soprano

Setting: A room in the house of the Maestro.


Count Opizio orders a new opera to be written within the space of four days. The composer has already turned out the score, but the poet, suffering from deadline pressure, must adapt his verses to the existing music. Eleonora, the prima donna hired for the opera by the Count, enters and delivers a sample of her vocal artistry. Together with the Poet and the Maestro, she acts out a scene from Giuseppe Sarti’s Giulio Sabino that devolves into a grotesque parody. Eleonora exits, and the librettist and the composer wrestle with the problem of writing a new text for the existing music or producing music for an existing text. A lengthy dispute ensues. Tonina, representing opera buffa, enters and demands a role in the new opera. The composer and the librettist quickly concoct a vocal number for her. A quarrel then erupts between the two singers as to which of them should sing the opera’s opening aria. The scene culminates in having both sing their arias simultaneously. The composer and the librettist are able to pacify the two ladies by agreeing to a juxtaposition of the seria and buffa styles, thereby putting a conciliatory end to their quarrel.

[Synopsis Source: Prima la musica e poi le parole, Bärenreiter BA 7698a (2007)]

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