Ferruccio Busoni Composer
Arlecchino, KiV270, Op.50 (theatrical capriccio in 1 act)
Musicology:This fast-paced, witty, and attractive comic opera comes as a surprise to those who accept Busoni's ill-deserved reputation for academic dullness, and it foreshadows the neo-Classical trend that would appear strongly in Western music after World War I. In 1912 Busoni saw a revival of commedia dell'arte—the traditional theatrical form featuring the stock characters of the trickster Harlequin—and was inspired to begin work on a libretto, finishing it in 1914. Work on the music was interrupted by the composer's departure from Germany during World War I, only to be completed in Switzerland in 1916. (In the interim he adapted some of the music for an orchestral piece called Rondo Arlecchinesco.)
Arlecchino, KiV270, Op.50 (theatrical capriccio in 1 act)Year: 1914-16
Pr. Instrument: Voice
- 1.Arlecchino als Schalk
- 2.Arlecchino als Kriegsmann: Marcia e Scena: Den Schlussel liess ich mir nachfertigen (Arlecchino, Matteo)
- 3.Arlecchino als Ehemann
- 4.Arlecchino als Sieger
Busoni's stated goal was to write an "Italian national opera," but the opera is in German. The reasons for this are practical: it seemed to Busoni that the many German city opera houses, which were more innovative than those in Italy, would be more likely to play the work. The Zurich Opera was immediately interested, but asked for a companion piece to make a full evening with the one-act Arlecchino; Busoni quickly wrote an operatic setting of Carlo Gozzi's Turandot (nearly a decade before Puccini's more famous version). The composer conducted the premiere of both in Zürich on May 11, 1917.
Arlecchino is firmly tonal, and its emotional content is highly stylized. These elements, along with the frequent quoting of earlier music (Mozart and Donizetti, and even the love motive from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde) makes the connection to neo-Classicism.
Busoni presents his story in four scenes. In "Arlecchino as Rogue," the anti-hero narrowly escapes detection in a tryst with Annunziata (wife of the tailor Ser Matteo) by convincing the cuckolded husband that the "barbarian army" is gathering for attack. In "Arlecchino as Warrior," the trickster shows up in military uniform with his "guard" and enlists Matteo to fight against the barbarians. In "Arlecchino as Husband, his wife, Columbina, appears to scold him for his infidelity." The finale, "Arlecchino as Conqueror," sees Leandro (slain in a duel) reviving from death; the way is now clear for him to elope with Annunziata.
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