Drama bez heroja i nacije. Trendovi talijanske opere u doba Zajčeva Nikole Šubića Zrinjskog

Publication Type:

Conference Paper



Odjeci bitke kod Sigeta i mita o Nikoli Šubiću Zrinskom u umjetnosti = The Impact of the Battle of Szigetvár and the Myth of Nikola Šubić Zrinjski on the Arts (Music, Visual Arts, Literature), Hrvatsko muzikološko društvo : Zagreb, Croatia (2018)




19. century, folk epics, Italian Opera, Scapigliatura, unification of Italy, Verism


The years after Italian unification (1861) were marked by live factors which determined development of opera. The reaction of young writers and composers, close to »Scapigliatura«, against the works of Giuseppe Verdi, who was considered to be the father of old Risorgimento opera with Naluicco and &nbsp;<i>I Lombardi alla prima crociata. </i>The search for the »linguistic« renewal of the drama against the formulas (opera by numbers) from the 1870s onwards under the influence of Wagner's Musikdramen, thanks to Arrigo Boito and other composers from Milan to Bologna. However, when Ivan Zajc was composing his trilogy, Italian opera was not influenced by patriotic or social features, which was otherwise the case in »nations without history« who had their flag-bearers in Mikhail Glinka, Bedrich Smetana and Ivan Zajc. In this regard it is not possible to compare these composers and their Italian colleagues. The former were involved in difficult attempts to create a national grammar in music based on historical and mythological sources, while the latter, on the contrary, were trying exclusively to renew the compositional grammar, starting from the assumption that opera was by its very definition an Italian intellectual product. Only in the 1890s, following the spread of Wagner's drama, based on Germanic mythology and having a revolutionary structure thanks to the leitmotif technique, did Italian writers, faced with the unification of Germany after 1871, embark on the path of nationalism, fully aware of the fact that Italy lacked epics comparable to those of Germany. What kind of opera could Italians - who had not been familiar with the political motivations which formed the basis of the music of their Russian, Bohemian and Croatian counterparts - set in opposition to German opera? The only possibility was opera inspired by the history of Italy during the age of the Renaissance, because the 16th century was consid¬ered to be the time of the splendour of Italian genius in Europe after the success ot Jacob Burckhardt's book The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). But, the attempt to replace their homeland's history with epic history turned to be a failure, as examples of Alberto Franchetti with his Cristoforo Colombo (1892) and Ruggero Leoncavallo with I Medici (1893) demonstrate. These operas, in fact, lacked uniformity of style. In them thiee mutually uncon¬nected components were mixed together: themes from ancient Italian music (to give couleur locale), romanza style and leitmotif. For this reason the veristic operas, partially enriched with pseudo-popular themes, were considered the best products of late 19th-century Italy by Ger¬man audiences and also by an excellent critic such as Franjo Ksaver Kuhač. This demonstrates that national opera never took root in Italy after the country's unification, in spite of appeals by intellectuals such as Gabriele D'Annunzio and musicologists such as Luigi lorchi and Fausto Torrefranca.