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Rossini and Authenticity

Author(s): Philip Gossett


Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 109, No. 1509 (Nov., 1968), pp. 1006-1010
Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.
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Rossini and
Authenticity
Philip
Gossett
When
Gioachino Rossini died 100
years ago,
on
November
13, 1868,
he left a world that considered
him a remnant of times
past.
Whatever the
cause,
be
it
sickness,
dissatisfaction with
contemporary
artistic
tendencies,
or
laziness,
Rossini
effectively
lived in semi-retirement from 1829 until his death.
He
composed nothing
for the
stage
after Guillaume
Tell,
and
practically nothing
at all until the last
decade of his life. His
operas, apart
from
II
barbiere
di
Siviglia,
were in little
demand;
his musical atti-
tudes, expressed openly
to
correspondents,
were
frankly opposed
to the
Wagnerian
ideals
sweeping
even
Italy.
The 20th
century
has rediscovered Rossini but has
scarcely begun
to understand the artistic environ-
ment in which he flourished. Modern audiences are
usually
offered versions overladen with
'perform-
ance
traditions'-cuts, substitutions,
and alterations
of vocal lines which have been
elevated,
in our
fossilized
opera houses,
to the status of
dogma.
Most such
performance
traditions are
unauthentic,
originally
introduced
perhaps
to fill
specific needs,
and
pointlessly perpetrated
on
generations
of un-
suspecting spectators
and innocent
performers.
To
take a case which has been
corrected,
for
years
Bartolo's brilliant aria 'A un dottor' from II barbiere
was
traditionally replaced by another,
'Manca un
foglio'.
Written
by
Pietro Romani for a revival at the
Teatro di Via
Pergola
in Florence in autumn
1816,
'Manca un
foglio'
occurs in several
printed
editions
without reference to its true
origin.
We cannot know
precisely
what
prompted
Romani
to
replace
the
original aria,
but a
comparison
of the
two is
suggestive.
Rossini's
composition
makes de-
mands on the
performer substantially
different from
Romani's. The baritone
singing
'A un dottor' must
have
complete
control of the
range
from
Bb
to
f'
an octave and a half
above;
for 'Manca un
foglio'
he need descend
only
to
eb. Furthermore,
the
patter
style
of the
Allegro
vivace in Rossini's aria
requires
excellent
diction;
Romani's is
rhythmically
less
demanding.
The role of Bartolo was
originally
written for Bartolomeo
Botticelli,
while in Florence
the
singer
was Paolo Rosich.
Rosich,
who had
created Taddeo in Rossini's L'italiana in
Algeri
three
years earlier,
had a more limited vocal
range
than Botticelli. Both were comfortable
up tof',
but
only
Botticelli could descend with ease to an octave
and a half below. Indeed Botticelli
sang
not
only
Taddeo in L'italiana
(Milan, 1814),
but also Mustafa
(Parma, 1819),
a role
demanding
a
significantly
lower tessitura. Rosich's deficiencies
explain
the
Florentine substitution but
hardly justify
the
perpe-
tuation of this
'performance
tradition' for most of
the 19th and
part
of the 20th centuries. Even
singers
able to
negotiate
the
original
aria were
effectively required
to
sing
Romani's
clearly
inferior
music.
This is not to imply that we must sweep away all
traditions and rediscover the 'true' texts of the
Rossini
operas.
The
problem
is much more com-
plex,
and involves a re-evaluation of our attitudes
towards textual criticism. First and
foremost,
the
term 'authentic' must be understood: I define an
authentic version of an
opera by
Rossini as
any
version with which Rossini was
directly
connected
as
composer, director,
or
arranger.
This
concept will
prove
more useful in
considering
Italian
opera
of the
early
19th
century
than the usual
categories
of
original
or final version. The notion of a final
version assumes an artistic
community
in which the
purpose
of revision is
improvement,
in some
absolute sense: whether or not we
agree
with the
composer
that his final word is
best,
we can be
relatively
certain that he so intended it. For com-
posers
of Italian
opera
in this
period,
and for
Rossini in
particular,
this
assumption
is
simply
incorrect.
Almost
every
revival of an
opera
in
Italy
involved
musical and textual
alterations,
even
though
the
composer rarely supervised
them.
Changes affecting
the
poem,
whether in the
plot
or
only
in
specific
arias,
were set forth in librettos
printed locally
for
each revival and
preserving
the words
actually sung
in
performance.?
Such alterations were
prompted by
various considerations. The individual
requirements
of the
company
assembled were a
potent force,
as we
have seen above. The whims of an
impresario
or the
theatrical habits associated with a
city
could also be
influential. Roman audiences were adverse to
tragic
endings,
so the
too-obliging
Rossini introduced an
eleventh-hour reconciliation in the Roman revival of
his Otello (1820).
The
terpsichorean requirements
of
the Paris
Opera
were so embedded in tradition that
even
Wagner,
however
grudgingly,
had to submit to
them;
Rossini did likewise in his French
period.
In this artistic environment
change
was a
process
more of circumstance than of creative need. This is
not to
imply
that
change
is seldom for the
better,
but
rather that it is not
necessarily
for the better. Given
a Bartolo unable to
sing
well 'A un
dottor',
a
musical
director must decide whether to let him butcher
it,
to cut
it,
or to
replace
it
(even
with the non-authentic
'Manca un
foglio').
We should not scorn this
flexibility. Living
in an
age
in which the work of art
is often
regarded
as an inviolable
entity,
we
prefer
to
believe that
every
element is somehow
necessary,
that revisions are made
only
in order to
bring
a com-
position
closer to its ideal
form,
in a Platonic sense.
We
picture
Beethoven
working through
a series of
sketches to reach for
and, often, finally
attain that
perfection
which is the
completed
work of art. This
view has coloured our attitudes towards
genres
and
composers
for whom
historically
and
sociologically
it is
inapplicable.
'I have discussed this general problem
in
my
article 'Rossini's
Operas
and their Printed
Librettos,'
to be
published
in the
pro-
ceedings
of the Tenth Congress of the IMS
(Ljubljana, 1967).
1006
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Peter
Whitehead's
costume
design
for
Taddeo in
the new
Sadler's Wells
production of
'L'italiana'
An examination of
contemporary sources, among
them Rossini's own
autograph manuscripts,
other
manuscript copies, printed librettos,
and
early
printed editions,
reveals that most of the
composer's
operas
exist in several versions which could
properly
be called authentic. A few
revisions,
such as the
Roman
travesty
of
Otello,
the Parisian versions of
Maometto Secondo and Moss in
Egitto,
and the
Ferrarese revision of
Tancredi,
have
long
been
known. The number of times Rossini was involved
with such
revivals, however,
has never been
recog-
nized. Not all involve extensive
rewriting.
Often
only
a
single
new aria is introduced. But if we con-
sider how
many
such
pieces
there
are,
most hitherto
unknown,
our
picture
of Rossini's
operatic
activities
changes markedly.
L'italiana in
Algeri,
for
example,
recently performed
at Sadler's
Wells,
was revised
by
Rossini at least three
separate
times within three
years
of its
premiere.
On each
occasion,
besides
introducing
minor
changes
and
cuts,
the
composer
prepared
an additional
major
aria. Examination of
the evidence
pertaining
to these revisions will de-
monstrate how such
knowledge
can be extracted
from
contemporary
sources.
L'italiana had its
premiere
in Venice at the
Teatro in San Benedetto on
May 22,
1813.
During
the
following
summer most of the
original cast
travelled to
Vicenza,
where
they performed
the
opera
at the Teatro Eretenio. There is no reason to think
Rossini
accompanied
the
troupe,
but a new
compo-
sition
by
him
certainly
did. In the libretto
printed
in
Vicenza,
Isabella's cavatina 'Cruda sorte! amor
tiranno' in the first act is
replaced by
a scena
('Cesso
alfin la
tempesta')
and a new aria
('Cimentando i
venti e
l'onde').
In the
autograph
score of
L'italiana,
located in the Ricordi Archives in
Milan,
this new
scena and aria in Rossini's hand is found as an
appendix
at the close of the second act.
Interestingly
the
original composition,
'Cruda
sorte!', appears
in
its correct position
but in the hana
of a
copyist.
Whether Rossini
composed
the new aria in time for
Maria
Marcolini,
the
original Isabella,
to
perform
it
in
Venice,
or
whether,
as seems more
likely,
she
inserted it first in
Vicenza,
there now existed two
authentic
compositions
between which
any
local
Isabella could
freely
choose.
Many early
librettos
contain the substitute
aria,
and
among contempor-
ary manuscript copies
'Cimentando i venti e
l'onde' is
clearly preferred, appearing
in eleven of the
manuscripts
I have
examined, compared
with five for
'Cruda sorte!'.
The next
year,
on
April 12,
L'italiana in
Algeri
was revived at the Teatro Re in Milan. The Milanese
correspondent
of the
Leipzig Allgemeine
Musik-
alische
Zeitung2 reported
that:
At the end of the first Act as well as the second
Act,
the
singers, along
with Mr Rossini
(who by
chance had come to the
opening night),
were
called forth.
Rossini's
presence
was
probably
not
'by
chance'. He
was in Milan on December
26,
1813 for the
premiere
of Aureliano in Palmira and
again
on
August 14,
1814 for Il turco in Italia.
Apart
from his
appear-
ance at the Teatro Re on
April 12, nothing
is known
of his whereabouts
during
the first half of the
year,
but he
probably spent
much of this time in Milan.
He had
participated
in the revival of Tancredi at the
Teatro Re in December of
1813,
and one of the
changes
found in the libretto
printed
for this
per-
formanze of L'italiana at that theatre
surely
stems
directly
from the
composer.
Lindoro's cavatina 'Ah
come il cor di
giubilo'
was
replaced by
another
piece,
21814, xvi,
col 451
Recently published
ROSSINI
by
Herbert Weinstock
?5
'An admirable
biography .
. .
will
probably
remain standard for a long time.' New Yorker
'Mr Weinstock has
caught
in his net most of
what
anyone
could
possibly
want to know.'
Times
Literary Supplement
Oxford
University
Press
Music
Department,
44 Conduit Street
London W1
1007
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whose text
begins 'Concedi,
amor
pietoso'.
The
music is found in Rossini's
autograph manuscript,
although
this
particular
selection is not in Rossini's
hand.
The inclusion of
'Concedi,
amor
pietoso'
in the
autograph
score indicates that the
manuscript
itself
figured
in this revival. Rossini
presumably
had re-
tained it after the Venetian
premiere
and
brought
it
with him to Milan. This
partially explains why
the
manuscript
is now located in the Ricordi
Archives,
for Giovanni Ricordi was
responsible
at this time for
most of the music
copying
done in Milan. From this
vantage point
he
gradually
introduced clauses into
his contracts which not
only gave
him
publication
rights
for the music he
copied,
but also secured him
rights
over the actual
autograph manuscripts.3
Musically,
as
well,
it is
highly unlikely anyone
other than the
composer
could have inserted this
piece,
for the cabaletta of
'Concedi,
amor
pietoso'
was actually borrowed from an earlier Rossini com-
position, 'Dolci d'amor parole'. The history of this
latter
piece
is
very complex.
It was
originally
the
entrance aria for Tancredi in the
opera
of that
name,
but was
rejected by
the creator of the
role,
Adelaide
Malanotte-Montr6sor,
even before the first
per-
formance. In its
place
Rossini
composed
'Di tanti
palpiti',
a
piece
whose fame
rapidly
became
legend-
ary.
Rossini
rarely
wasted a musical idea he con-
sidered
worthwhile, however,
and so the cabaletta of
this aria was included in the
piece
added for the
Milanese revival of
L'italiana.
Rossini's
presence
at
the
opening,
the
appearance
of
'Concedi, amor
pietoso'
in the
autograph score,
and the self-borrow-
ing
evident in this
composition,
all combine to
justify
the
hypothesis
that Rossini
personally
added
the new
movement,
even
though
the
autograph
is
lost. He
composed
the first
part
anew and
adapted
the second
part
from the Tancredi cabaletta.4
Soon
after,
Rossini
began
the
Neapolitan phase
of
his
career,
which was to last from the autumn of 1815
through
1822. He introduced himself to
Naples
with
both a new
opera
and revivals of older ones. The
Giornale delle due Sicilie of October
31,
1815 asserts
that Rossini's
S.. Elisabetta
regina d'Inghilterra
is
greeted
with
ever more
applause
on the
stage
of San
Carlo,
where,
to the
glory
of
Italy
and to the admiration
of all
Europe,
the
great composers
of music's
most wonderful
epoch
were formed and nur-
tured. And at the Teatro dei Fiorentini, which
still resounds with the melodious accents of the
imaginative Cimarosa and of the tender and
passionate Paisiello,
his Italiana in
Algeri [is
greeted similarly].
There is no direct
proof
that Rossini
personally
supervised
this
revival,
but as none of his
operas
had
been
performed
in
Naples
before his arrival it
appears quite likely
that he would have directed this
production
of L'italiana. Furthermore,
one of the
revisions indicated in the
printed
libretto and con-
3The
story
of Giovanni Ricordi's rise to
power
is told
by
Claudio Sartori in his Casa Ricordi 1808-1958 (Milan, 1958).
4I
have discussed this
complex
of
pieces
in
greater
detail in my
article 'Gli
autografi
rossiniani al Museo Teatrale alla Scala di
Milano',
in the Bollettino del Centro rossiniano di studi (1967),
Anno I
(nuova serie), 48-54,
65-8.
After the success of 'Verdi Rarities'
RB/SB6748CA
Miss
Caball6
now reveals Rossini in an
unsuspected
range of
moods100
RCA Italiana
Opera
Orchestra and Chorus
conducted
by
Carlo Felice Cillario
La Donna del
Lago;
Tanti Affetti in Tal
Momento;
Otello:
O Tu, Del Mio Dolor; Assisa A'Pie D'un Salice;
Stabat Mater:
Inflammatus et
Accensus;
Armida:
D'Amore al Dolce
Impero;
Tancredi:
O
Patria
Dolce;
Tu Che Accendi
Questo Core;
Di Tanti
Palpiti;
L'Assedio di Corinto:
L'Ora Fatal
S'Appressa;
Giusto Ciel! In Tal
Periglio.
1008
Rossini Rarities SB6771
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tained in a
contemporary manuscript
seems
certainly
to have issued from Rossini's hand.
Isabella's second-act
rondo,
'Pensa alla
Patria',
although
a
highly
successful
composition,
led a
chequered
career. For an 1819 Roman revival the
first line was altered to read 'Pensa alla
sposa', pre-
sumably thereby eliminating
subversive
patriotic
sentiments. This
may
or
may
not have been a factor
in
Naples,
but in
any
event the rondo was
replaced
there
by
an
aria,
'Sullo stil de'
viaggiatori'.
The
manuscript containing
this
piece5
was
prepared,
appropriately,
in the
Copiesteria
de' Teatro de'
Fiorentini.
Apart
from the circumstantial
evidence,
there is internal evidence that Rossini
prepared
this
new
composition.
One of the themes used to intro-
duce the cabaletta in the second half of the aria is
borrowed
directly
from the sinfonia of L'italiana. It
seems
highly unlikely
that
anyone
would have
taken this
privilege
with Rossini's music under his
very
nose
except
Rossini himself. Incidents of the
composer borrowing
themes from an overture for
use within an
opera,
or
building
an overture from
themes
already present
in the
opera, go
back at least
to Tancredi
(1812).
Unlike the other two com-
positions
discussed
above,
'Sullo stil de'
viaggiatori'
never
spread
to other
opera
houses.
Additional minor
changes
were introduced for
each of these revivals: recitative was
altered,
entire
compositions
or
parts
of
compositions
were
cut,
etc.
From all these revisions
emerges
a fount of authentic
material or authentic versions from which a
per-
forming
text could be
adapted
to the
requirements
of
a local situation or the
preferences
of
given per-
formers. This is
precisely
the
way
such material was
used in Rossini's
time, although impresarios
did not
hesitate then to
adopt
non-authentic as well as
authentic alterations. Few
manuscripts
of the time
preserve
unaltered the
original
version of the
opera;
few
printed
librettos do not
testify
to the liberties
taken with it. Excesses
existed,
of
course,
and for
revivals of certain
operas
as
many
as half the
original
compositions
were altered or
replaced
without the
composer's
consent. While
condemning
the exces-
ses,
we would be
misguided
to treat Rossini's
operas
with
greater respect
than did the
composer
himself.
At the least we should understand that there is no one
correct text for most Rossini
operas.
The best text
is that
one, adapted
with
sensitivity
from the
authentic
versions,
which best suits the
requirements
of a
specific
set of theatrical conditions.
In
defining
an authentic version of an
opera,
I
nowhere asserted that Rossini himself
necessarily
composed
all the music
performed
in authentic
versions of his
operas.
It has
long
been known that
on several
occasions, pressed
for
time,
he asked
other
composers
to
provide
music for the
original
version of an
opera.
One Luca
Agolini
wrote three
compositions
for the
original
version of La Ceneren-
tola, two of which ('Vasto teatro 6 il mondo' and
'Sventurata! mi credea') are found in every printed
edition of the opera although it is commonly known
they are not by Rossini. Giovanni Pacini wrote
several compositions for the original version of
Matilde di Shabran. Even though Rossini later re-
placed Pacini's music with new compositions of his
own, all printed editions of the opera preserve the
jMilan,
Bibl. del Conservatorio Verdi,
Noseda
1-86-1,
2
Rossini
Operas
L'Italiana in
Algeri
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Pacini
pieces.
Rossini's have
gone unpublished.
This list could
easily
be extended. Examination of
Rossini's
autograph
scores reveals
many pieces
not
in the
composer's
hand. It would be
imprudent
to
suggest
that all such
pieces
were
probably
not com-
posed by
Rossini. Within the
autograph manuscript
of L'italiana found in the Ricordi
Archives,
for
example,
the duet 'Ai
capricci
della sorte' is not in
Rossini's hand. But the
autograph
of this
particular
composition
does
exist,
in the collection of the
Museo Teatrale alla Scala of Milan.
Still,
in
many
instances
pieces
not in Rossini's hand in an
autograph
score
may
well not be his own
compositions.
None
of the secco recitative in the L'italiana
autograph
is
in Rossini's
hand,
and it seems clear that he must
have asked an associate to
compose
it.
Similarly,
Haly's
aria 'Le femmine d'Italia' is in the hand of a
copyist.
In
operas
for which Rossini
definitely
used
collaborators,
the
pieces
for
secondary
characters
were
generally
entrusted to lesser hands. The same
may
have been true here.
Another
example
is found in
Adina,
a short
Rossini farce
performed
at Oxford in the
English
Bach Festival this summer. In the
autograph
score of
Adina,
located in the Fondazione Rossini of
Pesaro,
several
pieces
are not in the
composer's
hand. These
include three arias borrowed from an earlier
opera,
Sigismondo,
as well as all the recitative and a duet
('Se
non
m'odi, o mio
tesoro').
The duet is not found
in a neat
copy
but notated in what seems to be a
more erratic hand. It
appears likely
that this section
of the
manuscript
is
actually
a
composing
score-but
obviously
not Rossini's. Even within the
autograph
score of II
barbiere, contrary
to most
opinion,
there
are
passages
of recitative not in Rossini's hand and
probably prepared
for the
opera by
someone else.
Still,
such
passages
and
compositions
were
approved
by
the
composer
and so must be considered authentic.
There is
scarcely
an
opera by
Rossini not beset
with serious textual
problems.
The existence of these
problems
is
just
now
being recognized
and
ap-
proaches
to them are
being
worked out. Editions of
Rossini's
operas
are needed
containing
all the
authentic material for each
opera. Equally import-
ant,
those who
produce
these
operas
must resist
'performance
traditions' in favour of careful assess-
ment of their
companies
with the aim of
achieving
the most
satisfactory performance
based on the
authentic material. Certain
practices,
like the
omission of
every
cabaletta
repeat,
must be
recog-
nized for the travesties of Rossini's
style they
are-
far better to cut an entire
composition,
as Rossini
himself did on
many occasions,
than
brutally
to dis-
figure
almost
every piece
in an
opera. Only
with this
attitude can we
begin
to
approach
Rossini's
operas
with both the
respect
due to the foremost Italian
composer
of the first half of the 19th
century
and the
irreverence he himself showed to his works.
Couperin
on the
Harpsichord
Wilfrid Mellers
Less than 20
years ago, Couperin
was considered an
amiable French miniaturist.
Today
we
accept
him
as a
great European composer;
and this
change
in
attitude is
inseparable
from a
change
in our
approach
to the
performance
of
baroque
music. We have
learned that
authenticity
in
performance
is not a
matter of
antiquarian interest;
it
may
determine
whether or not the music lives for us. We have dis-
covered that Handel's oratorios are heroic
operas,
without
stage action,
on biblical
subjects:
and that
their
impact
is
greater,
not
less,
if
they
are
per-
formed with
baroque
rhetoric rather than with a
sanctimonious
austerity.
We have discovered too
that Bach's cantatas and Passions
paradoxically
sound more
powerful
when
performed by
small
forces,
in chamber-music
style,
with
appropriate
ornamentation and
phrasing.
If Bach and Handel make better sense when
per-
formed with some
approach
to
authenticity,
Couperin performed
without historical
awareness,
makes almost no sense at all: and this is not
simply
because he is the less 'universal'
composer.
The sen-
sible Dr
Burney-using
the
adjective
in its modern
English meaning-complained
that
although Coup-
erin was a fine
composer
'he so crowded and
deformed his
pieces by beats,
trills and shakes that
no
plain
note was left'. But to the sensible
Couperin--
using
the
adjective
in its French
meaning-these
graces
were neither 'decorative' nor 'inessential'
notes,
as the textbooks so
misleadingly
call them.
They
were essential and
structural,
because a
part
of
the line and
harmony: synonymous
with the
graces,
the
refinements,
of human
feeling.
This is what we
might expect:
for
Couperin
lived in a world in which
the most trivial
point
of
etiquette
entailed reference
to a serious code of values.
We can
perhaps
best
approach
the
problem
of the
graces
in
harpsichord
music
by way
of the relation-
ship
between
harpsichord
and lute. In the
early
17th
century
the lute was the
supreme
instrument of the
French salon: and the reason is not far to seek. The
lute's tone-colour is rarefied and
exquisite. Though
soft,
it is
capable
of an infinite
variety
of
nuance;
moreover,
since the
strings
are
directly
under the
control of the
player's fingers (which
are the servants
of his
passionate
heart and
intelligent head)
it
speaks
with intimate
humanity.
The dissonant
sobs,
the
portamento sighs,
the haze of
fioriture
with which
the
composer-virtuosi
embellished their dance-
structures were not
designed primarily
to exhibit
technical
skill;
their
purpose
was to make the instru-
ment
speak
more
feelingly.
The
harpsichord
resembles the lute in
being
a
plucked string
instrument. It differs from the lute in
that the
strings
are
plucked
not
by
the
fingers,
but
by
quills operated by
mechanical
jacks. Inevitably,
the
harpsichord
ousted the lute as solo instrument as
music became less intimate,
more the servant of
1010
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