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Libretto, (Italian: “booklet”) plural librettos or libretti, message of an opera, operetta, or various other type of musical theatre. It is also used, less generally, for a musical work not intended for the stage. A libretto may be in verse or in prose; it might be specially designed for a specific composer, or it may carry out raw product for several; it may be wholly original or an adaptation of an existing play or novel.

Writing a libretto demands approaches different from those for composing spoken drama. Music moves at a sreduced pace than speech, and also an orchestra deserve to indicate emotions that would certainly need to be made explicit in a play. When sung, fancy literary artifices and also unherbal word orders would current audiences via unnecessary problems, yet straightforward words and also repetitions of phrases provide aids to understanding.


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The earliest operas, beginning in 1597 with Ottavio Rinuccini’s Dafne, set to music by Jacopo Peri, were court entertainments, and also as a commemoration the words were published in a little book, or “libretto.” In the 1630s Venetian opera ended up being a public spectacle, and audiences offered published librettos to follow the drama. The early French and Italian librettists pertained to their works as poetic dramas, and the composer was supposed to pay faithful regard to the accents of the words. A tendency to more lyrical treatment of the message emerged in Venice, yet, and pucount musical demands began to outweigh strict subservience to the poeattempt. Regardless of the improvement of the composer’s role, complete operatic scores were seldom published. It was normally only the librettist who observed his name in print.

The at an early stage 17th-century librettists drew their topic matter from pastdental drama of the 16th century, which encountered supernatural topics, as in Alessandro Striggio’s Orfeo (1607), set to music by Claudio Monteverdi. Other patterns shortly emerged. In 1642 Gian Francesco Busenello based his L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea, music by Monteverdi) on incidents in the life of Nero, and, from that allude on, historic topics ended up being significantly popular. While they appearesulted in the prevalent civilization by the inclusion of love intrigues that were not compelled to reflect historic facts, historic librettos that depicted magnanimous rulers flattered the aristocracy on whom many opera centres were financially dependent.


The style of 18th-century librettos was exemplified by Pietro Metastasio and also by Apostolo Zeno, both of whom aimed at increasing libretto criteria by banishing comic characters from serious opera and also producing a lofty poetic drama. Their elevated style ultimately came under criticism as unnatural and also sometimes absurd. The activity for recreate was a lot of noticeable in the works of Christoph Gluck. Ranieri Calzabigi, functioning very closely via Gluck, created the libretto for Orfeo ed Euridice; the result, in noted comparison via contemporary librettos, sustained Gluck’s musical intends of simplicity and also profundity.

In the late 18th century librettists started to revolve aside from mythology and antiquity. In contrast to serious opera, comic opera had actually always encountered subjects from real life, and also it now became the structure for works that were largely significant in intention. An instance of this method is Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (1791; The Magic Flute), to Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto. After the French Radvancement (1789) the “rescue opera” with its template of resistance to tyranny became well-known, culminating in Beethoven’s Fidelio, based upon Jean-Nicolas Bouilly’s play Léonore.

Nineteenth-century Romanticism encouraged texts handling medieval background and legends of the superherbal, such as Friedaffluent Kind’s libretto for Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821; The Freeshooter, or, even more colloquially, The Magic Marksman) and the librettos written for Giacomo Meyerbeer by Eugène Scribe—e.g., Les Huguenots (1836). Exotic topics and themes drawn from folklore and neighborhood society found their method right into 19th- and also 20th-century librettos, among them Karel Sabina’s for Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride (1866) and also Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot (1926), adjusted from the Oriental fable of Carlo Gozzi. Demand for librettos of high literary top quality likewise rose; Ricdifficult Wagner created his very own, as did Hector Berlioz (e.g., Les Troyens, 1858; The Trojans) and also such later composers as Alban Berg, Leoš Janáček, Arnold Schoenberg, and also Gian Carlo Menotti.

Close collaboration between librettist and also composer gave one more solution to the question of textual high quality. Aside from that in between Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, perhaps the finest instance of successful partnership is that of Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss, that collaborated on Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911), 2 versions of Ariadne auf Naxos (1912 and 1916), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919), Die ägyptische Helena (1928), and also Arabella (produced—after von Hofmannsthal’s death—in 1933).

Among the rare successful supplies of spoken-drama messages are Claude Debussy’s setting of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1902) and also Ricdifficult Strauss’s establishing of Osvehicle Wilde’s Salomé (1905). The expansion of realism in spoken drama also influenced opera, notably in Georges Bizet’s Carmen (1875), based on Prosper Mérimée’s novel.

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This short article was most freshly revised and updated by Virginia Gorlinski, Associate Editor.