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Books

Oper als Geschäft
31 Oct 2007

Oper als Geschäft

This book is in German, which may make it of limited interest to people who are not sufficiently familiar with the language.

Jutta Toelle: Oper als Geschäft

Baerenreiter, Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, 2007, 269 pages

ISBN 3-7618-1365-1

EUR 34,95  Click to buy

It has a principal title: Opera as a business, and a closely related subtitle: Impresarios of the operatic stage in Italy (1860-1900). These two titles are closely related, but also quite different. The first strikes this reviewer as difficult to deal with, since it is the sort of thing that is not that easy to get a handle on. The second could, by itself, have made a fascinating book, especially if it had not been limited to Italy, but to Italian impresarios all over the world, ideally over a somewhat longer time frame, perhaps from Verdi’s first opera (1839) to the beginning of World War I (1914).

This was a period when enterprising Italian companies and their managers not only traveled throughout Italy, but expanded the boundaries of Italian opera all over the civilized world, including the United States, Latin America, the near East (including the Balkans and Russia), as well as the far East, going as far afield as India and Australia. In fact, one company had crossed Siberia, reaching Vladivostok in 1914, but was unable to return home the way they came due to the outbreak of World War I. No problem—they traveled down the coast of China, calling on many South East Asian cities, including some in the Philippines, the then Dutch Indies, Malaya, and India, and eventually winding up in Australia and New Zealand.

Essentially, the author deals with three main impresarios: The Marzi brothers, Luigi Piontelli, and the Corti family, primarily the brothers Cesare and Enrico, their father and their uncle. All of these impresarios traveled extensively, and managed different theatres at different times. But all included La Scala in Milan at one time or another. The Marzis were also prominent in Rovigo, Ravenna, Mantua, Venice and Florence. Piontelli in Venice and Turin, while the Corti’s biggest achievement is cited by the author as being an extended Italian tour with Adelina Patti in 1877-78. They are also listed as heading a “stagione” at the Theatre Italien in Paris in 1883-84

The title also contains an exhaustive index with brief capsule biographies of prominent names, as well as a glossary of Italian terms.

Tom Kaufman

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