The remarkable popularity and related diffusion of opera buffa during the second half of the 18th century represents a phenomenon with both specific problems and possibilities for research. One of the typical features of the plentiful productions are the frequent adaptations of single titles for new mise-en-scene in different places. In part, these adaptations were facilitated by some of the core principles of opera buffa, mainly its dramaturgy with standardized characters and situations; the generally different expectations of the audience towards the lighter comic genre, however, were also of importance.
The study of opera buffa has broadened considerably since the 1990s: the completion of the monumental work of Claudio Sartori, the ongoing digitalization of sources, and the exploration of new contexts and issues related to gender or cultural studies all—to put them briefly in one general frame—facilitated the research and contributed to a better understanding of the genre and to a critical rethinking of the limits of research as well. Similarly, the question of adaptations in 18th century operas has been studied in various contexts, often in relation to pasticci and the reworking of Metastasian libretti. With opera buffa, however, this question appeared mostly in connection with singers and their interpretative abilities. Undoubtedly, the performance of the singer-actor was usually of crucial importance for the success of the opera, and fitting the roles to their respective performers was thus a common process in both writing a new piece or restaging an older one. Nevertheless, it would certainly be oversimplifying and misleading to explain all adaptations and variants of the repertoire only in relation to the qualities (or even caprices) of singers. Apart from the whole sphere of rather technical and external elements and circumstances (e.g., the prescribed length of the performance, the stage settings, the censorship, etc.), many changes in the operas were probably alsoconnected with preferences (presumed or real) of aesthetic/dramaturgical character, whether on the part of the producers or the audience. Obviously, many of these issues are intertwined, thus making their interpretation even more difficult. In the case of the eighteenth century operas, we are usually not provided with “complete” sources and knowledge of the original context, and thus our interpretations often remain hypothetical. On the other hand, the enormous quantity of productions of the individual operas paradoxically also has its advantage. The comparison of a large number of adaptations, the study of their possible filiations, the confrontation of the different interpretational traditions, and other features can effectively aid in eliminating the accidental and highlighting the substantial, decisive aspects of the work and of the genre itself.
This contribution investigates the case of Giovanni Paisiello and Filippo Livigni’s opera buffa La frascatana, whose success was particularly great all over Europe and assured the composer’s universal repute—as Mario Armellini states—by opening him the doors of all the European theatres and thus paving his way to St. Petersburg. Our aim is to follow a particular diffusion path of this opera (Venice-Vienna-Dresden-Prague) and to interpret the “wandering” version within the framework of the different historic-cultural contexts of the respective performance venues.
Particular attention is devoted to the strong interaction between adaptation practice and dramaturgy. The reason why Paisiello’s La frascatana was chosen lies on the one hand in its exemplarity as a particularly popular opera buffa belonging to the modern trend of the 1770s, a period of continuously increasing diffusion of this genre throughout Europe, often starting in Venice, where Paisiello’s opera was premiered. On the other hand, it is one of those rare cases where a particularly favourable situation of sources allows us to reconstruct the various versions with some reliability and trace one path of the work’s diffusion.
Origins and form of the work
La frascatana had its world premiere at the Venetian theatre San Samuele in the autumn of 1774. The libretto was written by Filippo Livigni, the second most important librettist active in Venice besides Giovanni Bertati in the 1770s and 1780s, who rose to fame as an author of several other highly popular opera buffas: I viaggiatori felici (1780) by Anfossi, Giannina e Bernardone (1781) and Il convito (1782) by Cimarosa, and La moglie capricciosa (1785) by Gazzaniga.
First of all, let us recount the plot of the opera: the action takes place in Marino near Rome. As a typical constellation of many buffa plots, nearly every male figure falls in love with the same girl, here the charming and clever protagonist Violante, an orphaned girl from the nearby town of Frascati: Cavalier Giocondo, who is on the way to his own wedding with Donna Stella, the shepherd Nardone, whose love is reciprocated by Violante, and Don Fabrizio, her jealous guardian. Violante pretends to be a simpleton in order to escape the unwanted attentions of men,but also to better manipulate them. The furious Don Fabrizio attempts to lock Violante up in his house, spreads evil rumours about Nardone, and finally decides to abduct her. He shuts Violante up in an old tower in the nearby woods in order to take her to Rome unobserved under cover of night. But before he appears with his henchmen, Violante is freed by Nardone and Giocondo’s servant Pagnotta, who then shuts Lisetta, the servant maid from the local inn, in the tower in place of Violante (which causes a hilarious unmasking scene in the second finale). Later on,Cavalier Giocondo attempts to gain Violante’s heart with money, which Don Fabrizio very much appreciates, but Violante laughs at them and declares that she will only marry Nardone.Cavalier Giocondo has to content himself with marrying Donna Stella, and Don Fabrizio has no share in the gain, as a jealous tutore in opera buffa deserves.
 Livigni’s libretto is, to a great extent, an adaptation of the text of La finta semplice o sia Il tutore burlato by Pasquale Mililotti for the composer Gaetano Insanguine in Naples in 1769. It is quite possible that Paisiello knew Mililotti’s libretto and proposed it himself to Livigni, since several opera buffas of the years before La frascatana originated from the collaboration between Paisiello and Mililotti. However, Paisiello complicated the librettist’s task by choosing to use some arias and ensembles from his earlier works, especially from his freshly completed opera ll credulo deluso (see below). Livigni’s adaptation of Mililotti’s libretto merits a separate chapter; for our purpose, however, it can be summed up as an abridged partial translation that refines and remodels the libretto in the style of the then current buffa mainstream. Notably, Livigni cut one character (Donna Meneca/Menica, Don Fabrizio’s daughter), shortened Act III, and re-texted most of the arias and some ensembles (extension and adaptation of the second finale). The general style has been polished through omission of the dialect, a number of vulgar insults, and rude scenes (drunken Antuono/Nardone, beating of persons) and through a toning down of some of the buffo irrationality and slapstick. Moreover, Livigni achieved a better dramaturgical balance with more subtly differentiated characters and dramatic functions, reinforced the sentimental aspect, and modified the comic one (D. Elvira, originally much more in the style of parte seria converted to buffa (D. Stella) with mezzo-carattere traits; Anselmo, originally a confidant with rather bland characterization changed into the typical buffo servant Pagnotta).
The plot itself fits the conventions of the dramma giocoso. In terms of the number of characters, the dramatic structure, the dialogue, and the individual numbers, La frascatana is a fairly standard work. Act I is the most accomplished, both in plot development and in the quality of the witty dialogue, which gives singers opportunities to make the most of their parts. The act gains a natural flow through the clever layout of scenes featuring Don Fabrizio as he keeps trying to prevent Violante’s suitors from meeting her as well as from revealing his identity as the jealous guardian.
From the point of view of dramatic logic, Act II is slightly weakened by the structure of the scenes preceding the finale and some aspects of the finale itself (slowing down of the action by Violante’s aria in II.12—which even suspends the trick Nardone and Pagnotta are pulling on Don Fabrizio—and, above all, the redundant entrance and exit of Cavalier Giocondo in II.15 and again in II.17), intended to change and improve Mililotti’s original libretto. In spite of these dramatic imperfections, some of the most popular musical numbers, for instance a “Cecchina-like” aria or amore traditional comic echo aria, are placed precisely in this second half of the second act. Even more changes were made to Act III, which, from the point of view of modern audiences, may seem redundant because the resolution of the plot ought to come immediately after Violante is freed at the end of Act II. For the dramma giocoso, however, the theatre conventions around 1770 still required a three-act structure and a huge confusion of characters at the end of the second act. In Mililotti’s third act, Violante is taken captive again, this time by a band of robbers who carry her away to their cave, from which she is freed by the drunken Antuono (Nardone) only to fall asleep in the woods and be rescued by the rest of the characters and by some guards (“birri”). Livigni removed these (and other) unexpected and clumsy complications of the plot so that Act III focuses solely on the unravelling of the secondary plot line involving Cavalier Giocondo and his first direct confrontation with Violante. This scene (III.3) is essential for the denouement because Violante explicitly states her attitude towardseach of her suitors: she laughs at her tutore, does not care a straw for the noble Cavaliere, and wants to marry only Nardone. Suddenly, after the quintet, which we will deal with later, all of them submit to the will of the self-confident Frascatana, and the action is resolved peacefully.
On the whole, the libretto has qualities that contributed to the opera’s extraordinary success. First and foremost it contains many spectacular and fashionable elements of the opera buffa of the period. The title character, Violante, is a brilliant and to a certain degree exceptional character uniting the traditional part of the clever lower-class girl with traits typical of the sentimental heroine—a figure that was just coming into fashion. Unlike Piccinni’s Cecchina (La buona figliuola) or Anfossi’s Gianetta (L’incognita perseguitata), Violante is relatively self-sufficient, does not give in to external pressures, and—apart from the scene in the woods—makes independent decisions about her fate. Her feigned simplicity represents a doubly fruitful dramatic element that allows for comic improvisation but at the same time also for musical settings that depart from the typical buffo style. Paisiello, of course, took advantage of this. The motive of the nocturnal abduction and imprisonment of an innocent girl in a tower in the woods is, on the other hand, a pre-Romantic feature, typical of the sentimental genre of the time. In this scene, Livigni gives Violante the most emotionally charged aria in the opera, “Dove son... che cosa è questa...” (II.11), in which she is overcome by fear and confusion, perhaps slightly illogically considering her overall behaviour, but fully in line with the type of dramatic situation and the character of a sentimental heroine. Violante’s attractiveness probably lies precisely in this fascinating ambivalence and the unexpected switching between two of the most popular female character types: the self-confident and astute woman and the—either genuine or feigned—naive and sentimental girl.
The sentimental aspect of the work is also emphasized in the otherwise comic role of Donna Stella. Both of her arias contain lyrical parts, the first especially (“D’una sposa meschinella”, I.6) having a strong sentimental savour. This is connected to the fact that Donna Stella personifies the topos of the amante abbandonata, the abandoned lover. In Mililotti’s libretto this figure was named Donna Elvira, which may remind today’s audiences of Mozart’s (albeit later) character of the same name.
Don Fabrizio is Violante’s main antagonist in terms of the typical opera buffa “marriage objectives” but at the same time the main source of comedy in the libretto, as is typical for his buffo caricato role. In Act I, his increasing torment is brilliantly sketched, as the suitors keep approaching Violante and he gets entangled in his own lies. In Act II, Don Fabrizio momentarily thwarts Nardone’s success, only to be later scared in the dark wood by Nardone and Pagnotta in the buffonesque echo aria“Non parlar più da lontano”. His part also includes a major number, “Obbligato dell’avviso” (I.4), with the typical features of a catalogue aria (such as lively parlando segments and comic enumerations) traditionally required in a buffo part.
 The comic line is further supported by the usual servant characters, Lisetta and Pagnotta. The calculating Lisetta manipulates Pagnotta and pins her hopes on Cavalier Giocondo. At the same time, the character is useful for tricking Don Fabrizio when she is exchanged with Violante. Pagnotta is a man with a heart of gold: he helps Nardone free Violante from the tower and spares no pains to set his master on the right path. Cavalier Giocondo, a comic role with some aspects of mezzo carattere, is a womaniser (or at least a fop) and an aristocrat of dubious morals who promises to marry Donna Stella but soon abandons her and courts Violante. All these are familiar motifs absorbed by opera buffa in its—typically mild—critique of manners.
What is remarkable, however, is the way Cavalier Giocondo’s behaviour is represented. True, Pagnotta holds up a mirror to his master and tries to persuade him to give up his vain hopes for Violante and return to Donna Stella, a service which—true to the best tradition of the genre—is repaid with threats of a good hiding. But when Donna Stellacomes to call the Cavaliere to account, he barely hides his disgust as he offers a lip service apology and vows to make good on his promises. At first, this happens in a dialogue (II.3–4), and then—after the dismissal of Lisetta, who had come, surely not unprompted, to offer him her heart—in the aria “Belle luci vezzosette” (II.9). He promises the overjoyed Donna Stella love in the first verse only to mock her outright in the second. The latter, shown in brackets in the libretto, is a typical aside intended for the audience but leaves no doubt about Cavalier Giocondo’s hypocrisy and falsehood. Yet Cavalier Giocondo is not depicted as an incorrigible rake and libertine; he has his positive side as well. He waives Don Fabrizio’s debt and, moreover, compensates him for the indignities he has suffered on behalf of Violante. He also repeatedly admits that his treatment of Donna Stella is not right but, what can you do, a new passion is more powerful! Livigni thus balances on the edge, but his Giocondo is a much less schematic character and much less prone to slapstick comedy than in Mililotti’s version. The overall impression thus depends more on the actor’s take on the role. Perhaps it was also this aspect of the libretto, accentuating the theme of faithfulness and offering interesting possibilities of interpretation, that contributed to La frascatana’s popularity.
The last aspect we would like to mention concerning the quality of the libretto is the number of ensembles Livigni adapted or added. Besides the virtually compulsory love duet of Violante and Nardone in Act III, the libretto also contains the lovers’ quarrel and two other comic duets. The first, “Son dieci ore, mio Signore”, taken in its entirety from Mililotti, provides a noteworthy introduction to the opera. Livigni’s input is more evident in the construction and refining of the “chain” finales in Act I and II, and perhaps also in the integration of the quintet into Act III.
By the time he composed La frascatana, Paisiello had already written about thirty comic operas, including very popular and widely performed works such as L’idolo cinese (1767) and Il duello (1774). He had already co-operated with Livigni on L’innocente fortunata, which belongs to the sentimental opera buffa genre. This experience made him familiar with both style levels and created a rich scale of moods well suited for both comic and sentimental scenes. Two simultaneous commissions in autumn 1774, however, —Il credulo deluso for Naples and La frascatana for Venice—seem to have run Paisiello into time pressure. So he helped himself out by borrowing the overture from his Il duello, five arias from his just completed Il credulo deluso, and a quintet from the opera La somiglianza de nomi.
At any rate, La frascatana was a success. The portrayal of Violante was particularly skilful: her first two arias, “Giovinette semplicette” from Il credulo deluso (I.14) and “Son fanciulla e tanto basta”, are highly elegant and yet simple; perfectly suited to the character and genre. Simple, almost song-like melodic lines that subtly react to the sense of the text are underscored by a light, inconspicuously shaped accompaniment that contributes greatly to the overall effect. Not even the central aria mentioned above, “Dove son.... che cosa è questa”, departs significantly from the typical form of mezzo-carattere arias. Its two parts allow for the development of a richly structured melodic line with a number of minute rhetorical figures including the breaking of melodic lines (an almost physical expression of the heroine’s anxiety), with numerous dynamic contrasts, modulations, and a subtle coloratura near the end of the aria. Most comic arias, including Don Fabrizio’s, show freshness of invention and marked melodic motifs. Nardone’s and Cavalier Giocondo’s arias combine lyrical and comic elements (frequently using a contrasting two-part AB aria). Paisiello at the same time managed to clearly differentiate the two tenor parts. Whereas the melodic line and ornamentation in the first part of Giocondo’s only own aria, “Belle luci vezzosette”, evokes the higher style appropriate for an aristocratic suitor and a mezzo-carattere part, Nardone’s main number, “Se più coraggio avrai” (II.7), is anchored in the comic action style already present in Livigni’s libretto, where Nardone threatens Don Fabrizio in the first part of the aria. Still, the musical setting of the second, lyrical section, in which Nardone turns to Violante, is moderate compared to Cavalier Giocondo’s musical idiom. Moreover, Paisiello concludes the aria rather untypically by repeating the music of the first part, albeit in a shortened version. In this way, the buffo character of the aria, containing typical buffo patter and possibilities for comic stage action, is confirmed. More lyrical, certainly, is his Act I cavatina “Amor non so che sia” (I.3), a sort of reply to Violante’s preceding aria “Giovinette, semplicette”. Both arias represent perfect miniatures in the pastoral-sentimental style, which makes sense inasmuch as Nardone is a pecoraro, a shepherd. His particular combination of typical buffo and mezzo-carattere traits is also evident in his aria “Mettiti un po’ così” (I.9), which begins with graceful phrases and ends with buffonesque insults against Don Fabrizio.
As for ensemble numbers, neither of the two grand finales achieves the complexity and liveliness of later works by Paisiello himself or Cimarosa. Still, there are enough varied and inspired motifs, contrasts, and obvious structuring into larger and smaller musical segments as required by the plot and emerging conventions, including even musical allusions. In both finales, there are marked lyrical sections providing space for an intimate dialogue between the lovers and, at the same time, the required contrast for the coming strepito.
 Somewhat more complicated is the Act III quintet. It follows Violante’s proclamation that she laughs at Don Fabrizio, does not care about the aristocratic Cavaliere, and is going to marry Nardone and no one else but him. Don Fabrizio reacts with threats, and everyone expects a major confrontation, but instead the situation comes to a standstill. Everybody is petrified and sings for himself about his own emotional state: the Cavaliere feels humiliated, Pagnotta is worried, Don Fabrizio confused, Violante is trembling, and Nardone oscillates between anxiety and hope. This “freeze” is typical for shock or surprise moments in opera buffa, and the music supports the moment of immobility and introspection in general rather than following the different emotional states (as is usual in such early quadri di stupore). More surprisingly, its character is rather sweet and calm,with some substantial change and tension only towards the final bars. This is possibly due to the fact that Paisiello took this quintet from his earlier opera La somiglianza de’ nomi (1771) with only slight adaptations, which forced Livigni to fit the text to the music, leaving some original lines intact, adapting others, and providing new lines elsewhere. However, even in its original context there was a similar situation of contrasting and confusing entanglements, with onomatopoeic chatter, set to music with the light-heartedness typical of the time and genre.
Of great dramatic effect were undoubtedly all the comic duets, which provide musical support for the stage action. This is particularly true of Cavalier Giocondo and Don Fabrizio’s duet “Con quel labbro di rubino” (I.7), while the love duet “Questa tua gentil manina” (III.5) is one of the most delightful numbers in the opera. The first part elaborates a mildly arched melodic line supported by gentle harmonic changes and accompaniment that add to the aria’s unique grace.
La frascatana in Vienna
La frascatana met with extraordinary success and had an immediate diffusion in Italy and all over Europe. Already in the first two years after the Venetian premiere, it was staged in more than twenty different towns. The first city the opera reached outside Italy was Vienna, where the Frascatana was played for the first time in April 1775, only about half a year after the Venetian premiere. The opera became so popular among the Viennese public—forty performances are documented for the theatrical season 1775–1776 alone—that an author of the Realzeitung called it “das Lieblingsschauspiel unseres Publikums”, the favourite play of our public. This explains why La frascatana remained on the stages of Vienna for twenty years (in various pluriennial performance series) in spite of changing institutional frames and casts, becoming one of the most staged operas of the last quarter of the century.
The period of its first arrival in Vienna not only coincided with the beginning of the theatrical season 1775–1776 but also marked a new start after an almost complete change of personnel in the Italian opera ensemble at the teatri privilegiati of Vienna, probably due at least partly to the financial problems of the impresa—after the bankruptcy of Count Johann Kohary, the sequestrator Count Joseph Keglevich had taken on the management of the theatres—or perhaps also connected with the recall of Count Johann Wenzel Sporck in his capacity as Generalspektakeldirektor. However, in March 1775 at least seven singers of the previous ensemble—Clementina Baglioni Poggi, Domenico Poggi, Costanza, and Rosa Baglioni, to name a few of the most famous—left Vienna and were replaced by other,mostly less renowned and less expensive, Italian singers who made their Viennese debut in La frascatana at the Burgtheater on the 29 April 1775. This date is confirmed not only by Johann Heinrich Friedrich Müller in his Geschichte und Tagbuch der Wiener Schaubühne but also bythe diary of Fürst Johann Josef Khevenhüller-Metsch—then imperial Obersthofmeister—who discusses the qualities of the newly arrived singers:
This evening one of the new opera buffas, La frascatana, was finally performed. Several new singers performed: Caterina Consiglio, known as la Ciecatella [the little blind girl] because she squints very noticeably; Signor Marchetti, one of the best buffi I have ever heard; Signora Anna Paganelli Bernucci and Signora Anna Santori, who both look better than they sing, and Signor Nova Seni, a weak tenor. The music by Signor Giovanni Paisiello, a Neapolitan, was nevertheless applauded with uncommon enthusiasm.
[Heut abends wurde endlichen eine der neuen Opere buffe: la Frascatana genannt, vorgestellet, worbei [sic] verschiedene neue Personages, als die Catarina Consiglio, chiamata la Ciecatella, weil sie sehr starck schiellet, sonsten aber, gleich dem Signor Marchetti, von denen besten Buffisten, die ich noch gesehen habe, le Signorine Anna Paganelli Bernucci und Anna Santori, deren beider Gestalt besser als die Stimme ist, und il Signor Nova Seni, ein schwacher Tenoriste, sich hören lassen, ansonsten aber die Music von einem neapolitanischen Signor Giovanni Paisello ungemain applaudiret worden ist.]
Khevenhüller is the main source attesting to the names of the interpreters of La frascatana, as Viennese librettos of that time did not contain the singers’ names. It is striking that the two first mentioned and highly praised singers, Caterina Consiglio and Baldassarre Marchetti, also created the parts of Violante and Don Fabrizio in Venice, so that it would seem plausible that they were recruited by some (Viennese?) mediator together with the score of La frascatana—maybe even the copy conserved at the Austrian National Library (shelf mark KT. 168) made by the renowned Venetian copyist workshop of Giuseppe Baldan, showing many traces of Viennese adaptations—and of Il geloso in cimento.
 Khevenhüller’s censure of the other three singers recalls the generally harsh criticism by Joseph II, who ordered a performance of La frascatana on 12 July 1775 and subsequently complained in a letter to Khevenhüller about “die schier alle nichts taugende Sänger und Sängerinnen der Opera Buffa” [“all the totally worthless singers of the opera buffa”], which probably contributed to the dismissal of the whole Italian ensemble during the following months, in connection with the foundation of the Deutsches Nationaltheater.
In contrast, Count Karl von Zinzendorf expresses only positive opinions of the singers, albeit limited to their acting skills and exterior appearance.
Au spectacle. La Frascatana. Musique delicieuse. ... Le buffo Marchettj a un masque excellent. La prima donna est vive et gaye, Donna Stella est belle, et Lisetta jolie.
Both commentators highlight the beauty of Paisiello’s music, which was probably the reason for the great and lasting success of this opera.
Since in the eighteenth century opera buffas were adapted for each town, season, and sometimes even individual performance to the specific needs of the company or theatre, the question arises as to the form in which the Viennese public saw the opera. As the comparison of the Viennese sources with those of the Venetian production demonstrates, the opera was moderately modified for the staging in Vienna. The adaptations concern mainly the arias of the two secondary female parts, Donna Stella and Lisetta, four numbers in total, all of which were substituted, causing a “double shift” in the typology of roles.
Donna Stella’s first aria “D’una sposa meschinella” (I.6), a typical “abandoned lover” aria—the wording “amante abbandonata” even appears in the text—is a bipartite aria with a first sentimental and almost larmoyant section, definitely in the mezzo-carattere style, while the second section tends toward the buffo character in the typical parlando. The aria suits the dramatic situation—Donna Stella is looking out for her betrothed after having heard about his infidelity, while the servant Pagnotta pretends that the Cavaliere has already left—as well as the changing attitude of Donna Stella, who at first threatens revenge full of anger, as a serio character would do, then “debases herself” to the level of a low-ranking person by almost hitting Pagnotta, then, appearing confused, begins the aria in this state of mind, begging Amor for mercy. In Vienna this aria was replaced with the aria “Fra lo sdegno ed il dolore”, a typically seria-style aria di sdegno, with great leaps and coloraturas, which, albeit connected with Donna Stella’s former revenge threat, seem exaggerated in this dramatic context.
Regarding Donna Stella’s second aria (II.4) the situation is more complex. For the Venetian premiere Paisiello had recycled the music of the beautiful aria “Son fanciulla da marito” from Il credulo deluso (I.9), re-texted by Livigni into “Quel bel nome di sposino” in order to perfectly tailor it to the dramatic situation. Here Donna Stella, trusting the Cavaliere’s false declaration of love and vow of fidelity, sings of her joy and consolation in a delicate aria tending toward the mezzo-carattere, cherishing the illusion of marrying the Cavaliere. In the Viennese libretto of 1775 this aria is replaced with “Sposina a te Fedele”, an aria similar in character and content, which does not show up in any Viennese score. In the score Mus. Hs. 17800, which would seem to reproduce the Viennese version of the Frascatana of 1775, there appears at this point the seria-style aria “So che fido a me tu sei”, a composition by Vincenzo Manfredini, if we can trust the note on the score. The same aria can be found in the Dresden score of La frascatana of 1776, making a rapid replacement before, or just after, the first Viennese performance very likely. Even though here the content of the aria, consisting of an appeal for unwavering love, is more appropriate to the dramatic situation than in the first case, we are again confronted with a substitution in favour of an aria of a seria nature and a more elevated style, a much longer piece with remarkable coloraturas and altogether more outstanding than Paisiello’s original aria. We do not know who decided to replace the two arias of Donna Stella, nor exactly why. In both, there is a definite shift of the character from the mezzo-carattere of the poor abandoned lover to a prouder, disdainful lover, drawing her nearer to her “predecessor” Donna Elvira of Mililotti’s libretto. This choice could have been due to a request by the singer, who possibly insisted on more demanding arias in order to show off her skills, but since the identity of the singer is unclear, it is impossible to verify this hypothesis. The transformation of Donna Stella into a seria character could also be attributed, at least partly, to a dramaturgical strategy of the Opernkapellmeister—at that time the young Antonio Salieri—who perhaps wanted to emphasize the stylistic difference between Donna Stella and the protagonist Violante, even though this would cause a disproportion between Donna Stella and her partner, Cavalier Giocondo.
Another “consequence” concerns Lisetta’s part. Her two arias are also replaced: “Son donna è vero” (I.5) with “Semplicetto troppo sei” and, in the second act, “Non serve a fingere” (II.1) with “Sono è vero una ragazza”. However, the text incipits do not reveal the main point. The arias that at first sight could seem to be new arias for Lisetta are in reality the original arias of Donna Stella with new texts! Transfers of arias between different characters within the same work are rather rare in the adaptation practice of that time, which is why the question of the motivation behind such a procedure is even more entangled.
 The first aria of the maid Lisetta (I.5) is located in the following context: Lisetta tries to persuade the servant Pagnotta to trust her and hand over Violante’s portrait, which he keeps safe for his master and which Lisetta needs to plot an intrigue. Here Paisiello foresees a “two-faced” aria, in which Lisetta pretends in the first section to be reliable and keep faith, and scoffs in the second—aside—section at Pagnotta’s credulity and foolishness. In Vienna, this aria was replaced with Donna Stella’s “D’una sposa meschinella”—the aria of the abandoned lover mentioned above—provided with a new text suited to Paisiello’s music, albeit less in line with the dramatic situation. In fact, the epithets “semplicetto” and “meschinello”, addressed to Pagnotta, are well suited to the first musical section we defined as sentimental and mezzo-carattere, and the same is true of the second section in a style tending toward the buffo, which coincides with the new text “E chi finge con Lisetta / Corbellato resta affè”. But the theme of the tentative feigning of the counterpart, in this case Pagnotta, which is seen through, does not make much sense here, as Pagnotta does not try to feign at all. (On the other hand, the intrigue plotted by Lisetta, to make Violante believe that the Cavaliere gave her—Lisetta—Violante’s portrait, is equally inconsequential.)
As far as Lisetta’s second aria is concerned, which also follows a dialogue between the two servants and, incidentally, represents the only moment of the opera where Lisetta’s unlikely intrigue with the portrait is mentioned again, Paisiello’s aria “Non serve a fingere” is likewise substituted with Donna Stella’s second aria “Quel bel nome di sposino”. The latter is transformed through the new text into a presentation aria, “Sono è vero una ragazza”, and is also less suited to the dramatic context. As to content, it would have probably made more sense to exchange the positions of Lisetta’s two “new” arias, “Sono è vero una ragazza” in place of “Son donna è vero”—both the first verse and the meaning of the text being more similar—and “Semplicetto troppo sei”, with the admonishment against pretence, in place of “Non serve a fingere”.
On the whole, the substitution made in Vienna of the two buffa arias of the maid Lisetta, with their fast, syllabic melodies, typical, in their simplicity, of her role as a terza buffa, with the music of Donna Stella’s original arias, has the effect of shifting the role towards the mezzo-carattere and moderating the young maid’s snappishness—in the new arias she appears sweeter and “di buon core”, as she states herself. Given that the singer Marianna Santoro had several times sung typical seconda-buffa or terza-buffa parts before her debut in Vienna—among others also in the role of maidservants, such as Vespina in Il Conte Baccellone (Venice 1774) or Pimpinella in L’amor bizzarro o sia La gelosa di se stessa (Venice 1775), both by Giacomo Rust—there seemed to be, judging by her skills, no vital need to change the role type of the Lisetta part. The motivation for these substitutions would seem to consist exclusively in keeping as much as possible of Paisiello’s music instead of composing expressly new music or inserting arias from other operas, as was the usual practice. The importance of the music of Paisiello, who subsequently would become the Viennese public’s “favourite composer”, was probably already a matter of fact for the arrangers before the staging of the opera.
A last, rather mysterious change in the Viennese version of 1775 has to be noted: the replacement of Nardone’s buffa aria “Se più coraggio avrai” (II.7), where he threatens Don Fabrizio, with the bravura aria “Se tu sapessi o cara”, in which Nardone assures Violante of his love and constancy—two totally different arias that share only the aim “far rimanere come un salame” the tutor Don Fabrizio (to leave him standing like a fool), as is said in the last line preceding the aria. The Viennese libretto of 1775 does not contain this change, but the aria appears in the Viennese score Mus. Hs. 17800 (as well as in other sources), for which reason it could be—as in the case of Donna Stella’s aria “So che fido a me tu sei”—a modification introduced shortly before or after the Viennese premiere. There is also some uncertainty concerning the identity of the singer entrusted with Nardone’s role: Khevenhüller speaks of only one tenor (“ein schwacher Tenoriste”) and names him “Signor Nova Seni”. The surname corresponds to the name of the tenor Giovanni Battista Seni, but the meaning of “Nova” remains obscure: is it a personal name, a diminutive, part of the surname, or simply an erroneous combination of names of two different persons? Undoubtedly, “Nova” coincides with the name noted on the score CZ-K and closely resembles the name “Nava” on top of Nardone’s aria “Se tu sapessi o cara” in the score A-Wn Mus. Hs. 17800. Both the Indice de’ teatrali spettacoli and Müller attest that the tenor Antonio Nava was active in Vienna during the theatrical year 1775–1776. Another indication that Nava played one of the two tenor roles in La frascatana is to be found in the Realzeitung of the 4 June 1776, where a cast change made at the beginning of the theatrical season 1776–1777 is referred to as follows:
At the Kärnthnertor ... On the 4th Italian Opera, La Frascatana, Davia, and Nava were sung by Mlle Cavalieri and Herrn Jermoli.
[Am Kärnthnerthore (...) Den 4. wälsche Opera, La Frascatana, Davia und Nava wurden von Mlle Cavalieri und Herrn Jermoli gesungen.]
In place of the names of characters, the names of the singers appear, who had played these roles during the whole previous year and had been identified by the public, or at least by the author of this item, with the characters impersonated by them. In any case, here the name Nava appears, who had been substituted with Guglielmo Jermoli, a mezzo-carattere tenor, who could have played either Nardone or the Cavaliere. Since we know that a name appearing at the top of an insertion aria in a Viennese score refers to either the composer or the owner—usually the singer—of the inserted aria, it is very likely that in Vienna Nardone’s role was played by Antonio Nava. What is a little strange, however, is that this aria, whose origin could not yet be established, is notated in soprano clef. According to Sartori, in the early 1760s Antonio Nava di Roma sang female roles in Rome, while in the seventies he sang male roles in opera buffas. We do not know whether it is a case of homonymy, but in the absence of reliable information about the singer and his voice we may assume that in Vienna he had sung the aria di bravura “Se tu sapessi o cara” an octave lower in the tenor register. This assumption seems to be quite plausible inasmuch as Paologiovanni Maione recently reported having found several cases of tenor parts notated in soprano clef in the Neapolitan repertory. In any case, this aria is quite out of line with the role stylistically, textually, and above all musically, as it hovers between a pastoral-sentimental mezzo-carattere and a simple buffo innamorato type but does not show any feature of a seria character.
 To sum up, it is possible to state that on the whole the Viennese arrangements—the change of Donna Stella’s arias from the mezzo-carattere to the serio style, the change of Nardone’s aria from the buffo to the serio style, and the change of both of Lisetta’s arias from the buffo into the mezzo-carattere—convey the impression of an evident shift towards a higher style, which seems to correspond to a general “ennobling” process of the opera buffa in its Viennese adaptations. On the other hand, it is highly debatable whether the public of Vienna liked such changes and insertions; either way, judging from both diary entries by Count Zinzendorf dated 7 and 14 May 1775, the insertion arias did not attract much attention, as Zinzendorf’s enumeration of the musical numbers he liked best does not include a single one of the arias inserted for the staging in Vienna:
7. May. ... Au spectacle. La Frascatana. Musique delicieuse. L’ouverture l’air du premier acte Giovinette semplicette etc. Amor non so che sia, le Duo a la fin du premier acte. La scene de l’Echo au second acte. La XXIme scene. Or che in placido silenzo etc. Le Duo a la fin, la fin du 3me acte.
14. May. Je fus un moment chez Me de Cavrianj, puis au spectacle ou j’entendis avec plaisir la Frascatana, le Duo de la 7e scene du 1er acte. L’air de la 9me scene du 11. acte. Belle luci vezzosette etc. L’air de Violante a la XIme scene. Dove son etc., la scene 22. Or che in placido silenzio etc., l’air de tappatà a la IIIe Scene du 3me acte.
In Zinzendorf’s opera-related diary entries of the 1770s it is uncommon to find him expressing enthusiasm over so many individual numbers in a single work. This would lead us to assume that the extraordinary success of this opera might be ascribed to the particularly high concentration of “hits”. Here is Zinzendorf’s “hit list”:
1. Sinfonia (from Il duello)
2. Violante’s entrance aria “Giovinette semplicette” (I.3; from Il credulo deluso)
3. Nardone’s entrance aria “Amor non so che sia” (I.3)
4. Duet Don Fabrizio, Cavalier Giocondo “Con quel labbro di rubino” (I.7)
5. Cavalier Giocondo’s aria “Belle luci vezzosette” (II.9; from Il credulo deluso)
6. Violante’s aria “Dove son... che cosa è questa” (II.11)
7. Don Fabrizio’s echo aria “Non parlar più da lontano” (II.12; from Il credulo deluso)
8. A part of the Finale II “Or che in placido silenzio” (II.21)
9. Quintet “Son deriso” (III.3; from La somiglianza de’ nomi)
10. Love duet Violante, Nardone “Questa tua gentil manina” (III.6)
Various reasons could explain why Zinzendorf was struck by certain numbers. Perhaps he was impressed by the singer’s skills, or by a particularly effective scenic action, in both the comic numbers mentioned—“Con quel labbro” (4.) and the echo aria “con pertichini” (7.), in which the excellent buffo Marchetti probably distinguished himself. However, it is striking that the majority of the numbers Zinzendorf noticed tend to the mezzo-carattere style, especially Violante’s “Cecchina”-style aria (6.), the entrance arias of both protagonists (2. and 3.), and the first part of the unique aria of Cavalier Giocondo (5.), but also most of the mentioned ensembles (8., 9., 10.). Significantly, of the two finali—the real trademark of opera buffa and often the cause of its popularity—Zinzendorf highlights in both diary entries only the quiet elegiac part of the second finale in nocturne mood (8.) and not other sections tending to the buffo style. In the same way, especially most of the purely buffo numbers, such as Don Fabrizio’s “Obbligato dell’avviso” (I.4), the Introduzione (I.1, duet Pagnotta, Cavaliere), and Pagnotta’s arias “Brutta cosa che sarebbe” (I.1) and “Il cor per l’allegrezza” (II.3), escaped Zinzendorf’s attention. Assuming that the inveterate opera-goer Count Zinzendorf represents the taste of at least a part of the Viennese public of the time, his particular fondness for the mezzo-carattere and disregard for the purely buffo sphere could be connected to an intentional tendency towards a “less buffo” style in theViennese adaptation, where three buffo arias were eliminated.
Even though the Viennese insertions did not attract Zinzendorf’s attention, the “Viennese version” of 1775 must have fared well, as it was taken up by other opera troupes and formed the basis of further Viennese performances of the successful Frascatana. After forty performances in the 1775–1776 season (from 29 April 1775 to 20 February 1776), the opera was staged for one more year, to be precise from 4 June 1776 to 5 February 1777, in spite of the new institutional circumstances. After the dismissal of the whole Italian ensemble and the founding of the Deutsches Nationaltheater, some of the Italian singers set up their own private company and staged Italian operas on their own account at the Kärntnerthortheater, which was made available by Joseph II at no expense. The cast of La frascatana remained mostly the same, with the exception of the two newly cast roles mentioned above, among them the future star Caterina Cavalieri. No special libretto was written for this resumption, let alone a new score; the material of 1775 was probably used again, so that possible adaptations for both new singers are not recorded. However, one particular episode of this performance phase is documented: in August 1776, on his way to Russia, Paisiello attended a performance of the Frascatana in Vienna and received such enthusiastic homage from the Viennese public that on 20 August the Realzeitung published a detailed report of the event:
A few days ago the famous Kapellmeister Herr Paisiello from Naples arrived here. He was invited to the theatre, where his opera La frascatana was given, our public’s favourite play and the musical masterpiece of this genre. The nobility present received him with quite distinctive signs of great esteem, and as soon as the boxes and the parterre heard of it, a general wave of applause and cheers expressed him approval and gratitude for the delight this composer of genius has so often given to every sentimental soul. Herr Paisello [sic], deeply touched, thanked with a deep bow from Prince Galiczin’s [sic] box. Now everybody turned to this box shouting again hundreds of bravos.
[Vor einigen Tagen kam der berühmte Kapellmeister Herr Paisiello von Neapel bei uns an. Man lud ihn in das Schauspiel ein, und sang die von ihm gesetzte Opera, La Frascatana, das Lieblingsschauspiel unsers Publikums und das Meisterstück der Musik dieser Gattung. Der anwesende Adel empfieng ihn auf der Galerie mit ganz unterscheidenden Zeichen der Hochachtung, und kaum erfuhren es die Logen und das Parterr, so brachte ihm ein allgemeines Händeklatschen und Ruffen den Beifall und den Dank für das Vergnügen dar, welche dieser genievolle Kompositor jeder empfindenden Seele so oft gegeben hat. Herr Paisello, von Rührung durchdrungen stattete seinen Dank aus der Loge des Fürsten Galiezin durch eine tiefe Verbeugung ab. Nun wandte sich alles gegen diese Loge und rief ihm aufs Neue ein hundertfaches Bravo zu.]
 A similar judgment was made by Metastasio, who mentions the episode in a letter addressed to Saverio Mattei:
Some weeks ago, the good Paisiello passed through this city ..., but he stayed only a few moments. On stage there was a very beautiful opera of his, entitled La frascatana; he attended one performance and at the end received long and clamorousapplause from all the audience.
[Passò, alcune settimane sono, per questa città [...] il bravo Paisiello, ma si trattenne momenti. Era appunto in iscena una sua bellissima opera, intitolata La frascatana; egli assisté ad una rappresentazione, e ne ricevé nel fine da tutta l’udienza lunghi e strepitosi applausi.]
But the story of the Viennese success of the Frascatana did not come to an end here. A further long-lasting performance cycle with a totally new cast began on 8 December 1783, shortly after the re-establishment of the Italian opera ensemble, and lasted until the 4 February 1785. Interestingly, the already examined version of 1775 served as a basis, since besides some new additional changes the three insertion arias of Lisetta and Donna Stella (“Semplicetto troppo sei”, “Sono è vero una ragazza”, “Fra lo sdegno ed il dolore”) contained in the libretto of 1775 are retained. It is instead more difficult to reconstruct the version of the short performance series of La frascatana, which ran from 13 December 1794 to 20 January 1795. For this phase no special libretto is recorded. Judging from the score KT. 168, which contains several numbers taken from other operas composed after 1785 probably attributable to this performance cycle and the playbill of 13 December 1794, the opera probably underwent conspicuous changes and was reworked to a two-act version.
Dresden and Prague
The Viennese production of La frascatana in 1775 was only one of the first among dozens after the premiere in Venice. The opera was performed in many adaptations, and even Paisiello himself prepared a new version for its staging in 1786 in Naples. In his thematic catalogue, Michael F. Robinson already mentions 19 versions; these concern the “final” shape of the scores and do not always correspond to the actually performed variants. Interestingly, there is a relatively high number of sources relating to different productions of La frascatana in Central Europe, both in Italian and German, which, however, correspond to the “original” Viennese version or show positive dependence on it. In our opinion, such adoptions indicate more than a simple dissemination of sources; rather, they prove that these changes reflected more general tendencies than mere accidental local circumstances and individual wishes. In the following paragraphs, we will examine three different productions of La frascatana in Dresden and Prague, which seem to best demonstrate our supposition.
The first performances of La frascatana in Prague and Dresden took place in 1776, when opera productions in both cities were in the hands of the Italian impresario Giuseppe Bustelli. He acquired the main Prague theatre in Kotzen in hereditary lease in 1764, and, from 1765, he started also to stage operas in Moretti’s theatre (Kleines Kurfürstliches Theater) in Dresden, thanks to several contracts with the Elector’s court. Although Bustelli soon established two separate operatic companies working in the two cities (and occasionally visiting other towns such as Leipzig, Karlsbad, Brunswick, or Hamburg), the repertoire, the personnel, and sometimes even the performance material migrated from one place to the other.
In Dresden, La frascatana was staged as the first opera of the carnival season. The number of only four performances during January, reported by Ortrun Landmann, is quite usual for Dresden during that period; however, considering the general popularity of the opera, the lack of evidence of further performances or later productions is rather surprising. Two main surviving sources, the handwritten score and printed libretto, testify that the Dresden production in 1776 was based on the Viennese version. The score itself was copied in Vienna and includes the four above-mentioned new arias for Donna Stella and Lisetta. The printed libretto, however, includes a paper slip with the new aria “Sarò sempre a te Fedele” for Donna Stella as a last-moment replacement for “So che fido a me tu sei”. The music of the aria is not known today; the words, however, reveal an elevated style with opportunities to display both tenderness and passion that is perfectly suited to Donna Stella’s character. The last change testified by the sources concerns the Cavaliere’s aria “Belle luci vezzosette”, which was set anew to music by the court composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann. Unlike Paisiello, Naumann precisely follows the different statements and emotions (feigned love and derision) expressed in the stanzas. The first is set in dance-like cantabile allegretto culminating in delicate fioriture, while the second, a shorter allegro, is set in a patter-like style used in a typical comic a parte section. Surprisingly, Naumann chooses the ABA’ form, repeating the first stanza and stressing the lyrical mode of the aria. Although the original reasons behind this new composition are unknown, the effect of the aria is to elevate the role of Cavalier Giocondo and bring him in line with Donna Stella. From this point of view, the Dresden version seems to be dramatically even more consistent than its Viennese model.
The last remark about the Dresden production in 1776 concerns the singers. Unfortunately, the cast is not known; however, L’indice degli teatrali spettacoli confirms a personnel with a clear division into parti serie, mezzo carattere, and parti buffe, which certainly resonated with the aforementioned adaptations.
 In Prague, La frascatana was first staged in 1776, probably also during the carnival. Unlike in Dresden, the Prague opera performances are known mostly only through printed librettos, as the music archives of the impresarios were mostly dispersed and destroyed. Similarly, the chronology of the daily performances is unknown for these years. Fortunately, La frascatana hada better fate than some, as not only several copies of the printed libretto have survived, but even Bustelli’s score. These sources testify that the Prague Frascatana of 1776 seems to be rather faithful to Paisiello’s original version. The arias of both Donna Stella and Lisetta have been preserved, as well as other numbers from Acts I and II. Later, only Lisetta’s aria “Non serve a fingere” was replaced in the score witha new musical setting of a more cantabile character. While the author of the aria remains unknown, we do know the music was written out by a Prague copyist.
A more substantial change concerns only Act III, where the first scene was modified and enlarged with a new duet for Violante and Cavalier Giocondo, “Ah, ch’amor Violante mia”, while Scenes III.5 and III.6 were cut (including the original duet “Questa tua gentil manina”). Although shortening the third act was quite in line with the general trend in Italian opera in the late 1770s, this does not seem to be the case here, as the new duet is of considerable length. Although the third act of Bustelli’s score has not survived, the origin of the duet can be determined with near certainty. The rather unusual incipit and slightly odd wording in the next verses point towards an adaptation of “Ah che amor d’Eurilla mia”, a duet from Antonio Sacchini’s pastoral intermezzo Il finto pazzo per amore (Rome, 1768), staged by Bustelli already in 1769 in Dresden and in 1774 in Prague under the title Il disertore per amore. Sacchini’s duet is a typical “number” placed before the end of the opera: a reunion of lovers vowing their eternal love. The music is rather virtuoso in character and reflects both the dramatic situation and voice types of the first performers (two soprano castrati). Although one may speculate about some minor changes arising from the adaption of the duet for La frascatana, it certainly remained an essentially “seria” piece, as Sacchini’s music was probably the very reason for using it instead of writing a completely new piece. This looks like a textbook example of an opera being “enriched” by a demanding piece that provides more space for the vocal virtuoso qualities of the performers. Yet certain facts suggest a different interpretation.
As with Dresden, we know the singers of Bustelli’s Prague company but not the precise casting, although there were not many options. In Prague 1776, the role of the Cavaliere was probably assigned to Vincenzo Righini, a tenor, who joined Bustelli’s company in 1773 and besides his singer’s duties also worked as an opera composer. If the only reason for the change was to please the singer, aninsertion of his own aria at the end of the scene would certainly have been easier and more effective. Furthermore, from a dramatic point of view, “Ah, ch’amor Violante mia” is a rather atypical duet for antagonistic characters, Cavalier Giocondo having been rejected by Violante. This is perfectly in line with the plot and the role of the Cavaliere, as one of the main functions of this character is to play the unsuccessful rival of Nardone. Nevertheless, there is not a single scene in the original libretto where the Cavaliere and Violante are alone and the Cavaliere can articulate his feelings for her. This could be considered a weak point (especially as the role is a mezzo-carattere), and it was perhaps regarded as such by Righini or Bustelli himself, who decided to make a change. Consequently, the duet enhanced the role of Cavalier Giocondo and added new dramatic action and musical qualities, albeit at the cost of overstepping the stylistic parameters of Paisiello’s score and the loss of the original duet. Thus, rather than as a simple showpiece for performers, the new duet can perhaps be better understood as a result of dramaturgical intentions supported by individual interests.
Unlike in Dresden, there is also testimony from alater production in Prague in 1784. The opera was then staged by Pasquale Bondini, a former singer, who had been working under Bustelli for many years in Dresden and directed his own German theatre company there from 1777 on (visiting Leipzig and Prague as well). In autumn 1781, after Bustelli’s death in Vienna, Bondini reintroduced Italian opera in Prague, starting with public performances at Count Thun’s theatre and later at the Nostitz (Estates) Theatre. For the 1784 production of La frascatana, only the printed libretto survives. The print is in accordance with the Viennese (Dresden) version. Bondini even used the old Dresden print from 1776, though this time without changes, that is, he kept the four modified arias for Donna Stella and Lisetta. For the Prague performance, only new title pages were printed. Bondini must have acquired these librettos either from Bustelli’s legacy or directly from Dresden, where he still maintained several contacts. While these practical circumstances might have contributed to the choice of La frascatana for staging, they were surely not the main reason for using the librettos without any new changes and performing the opera in the “same” form as in Vienna or (in almost the same form) Dresden. In this case, Bondini’s personal experience with the Dresden production in 1776 was certainly of far greater importance. At that time Bondini acted probably both as stage director and performer, and his wife Catarina and/or her sister, Antonia Saporiti, were also involved. (While Pasquale Bondini could sing the role of Don Fabrizio, his wife, known to posterity as the first Zerlina, probably performed the role of Lisetta and her sister Antonia possibly that of Donna Stella). In 1784, Catarina Bondini was still engaged at Dresden, making her participation in La frascatana in Prague less probable. However, Antonia Saporiti had already moved to Bohemia, which may also have been a factor in the choice of the Viennese (Dresden) form.
 While the presumed correspondence between the 1776 Dresden production and the Prague one of 1784 could be ascribed mostly to the figure of Pasquale Bondini, there are many other similar cases that lack such a straightforward “practical” explanation. The difference between the procedures adopted by Bustelli in Dresden and in Prague in 1776 is particularly significant and points to further important facets of the problem—the socio-cultural context of the repertoire and dramaturgical strategies. As in Vienna, the Dresden operatic repertoire in the 1770s consisted virtually only of opera buffa. In Dresden the genre was imposed in 1765 for economic and other reasons, representing a marked change in local operatic tradition. Although opera buffa certainly had its partisans and performances were from then on regularly open toa more “general” public, the memory of previous magnificent productions under Johann Adolf Hasse was still very much alive for some members of the court. To secure a maximum of splendour for the new “bourgeois” court theatre, various strategies were used. Modern Italian composers were often invited, though the buffa repertory continued to be performed with castrato singers. The interest in, or rather necessity of, “bel canto” and vocal virtuosity is apparent from the numerous adaptations in the Dresden repertoire. Where an opera lacked the traditional parti serie and their high-style arias, as was the case with La frascatana, they were often simply added. Usually, one of the female roles was given arias in the serious style, but many other interventions might also be made, especially as the need to employ a primo uomo was still strong.
In Prague, Bustelli worked in adifferent context. Although opera buffa had been successfully performed sincethe 1750s, every impresario also staged the seria repertoire. Very probably, the taste of the aristocracy and the common wish to run the city theatre as an attractive social centre for the upper classes were the decisive reasons for keeping opera seria. Bustelli apparently exerted himself to meet the various wishes and tastes of the Prague audience and strived to stage both genres, although it was no easy task. In autumn 1772, after a two-year break, Bustelli re-opened the Prague opera seasons with an exclusively seria repertoire. A year later, however, he was forced to again change both the company and dramaturgy, and opera buffa was reintroduced. Thus, in 1776 the repertoire was mixed, and alongside La frascatana or Anfossi’s Il geloso in cimento there were productions of Armida by J. G. Naumann and Righini’s Merope. Under such circumstances, observing each genre’s rules and keeping the variety (if not even the purity) of styles was much more important and natural than in contemporary performances in Dresden or Vienna. In other words, there were far fewer reasons in Prague (and usually not dramaturgical ones) to modify the roles in opera buffa towards the high style and provide the scores with new arie di bravura, which both audiences and singers could enjoy in the old-style buffo repertoire (Piccinni’s La buona figliuola, Sacchini’s Il finto pazzo per amore) as well as in the serious operas themselves. When La frascatana was staged in 1784, however, the situation was rather different. Bondini usually mounted only one opera of serious character per season (together with at least seven comic operas), making it all the more necessary to furnish the buffa repertoire with some arias in the high style.
In Vienna, the place of origin of the examined changes, opera buffas had been staged almost exclusively for several years, but differently from Dresden, there was no such distinct nostalgia for opera seria, with castrati and the systematic insertion of seria arias. Although from the huge quantity of material it is difficult to identify a clear line of intentions, a general trend towards a “moderate” buffo genre can be noticed, “ennobled” on the one hand through a censorship process entailing the elimination of coarse elements, vulgarities, and ambiguities, and on the other hand, as our investigation into Viennese adaptation practice reveals, by the apparent Viennese distaste for exaggerated buffoonery. This seems to be confirmed by the criticism of the coarser features of opera buffa and the affirmation of a more refined taste expressed in theatre almanacs and journals, as well as in a letter by Joseph II regarding another opera buffa by Paisiello, Don Chisciotte della Mancia, where he complains about the excessive number of “boufoneriess” and the need to make changes, of which as a matter of course the Opernkapellmeister—in this case Gassmann—was in charge. Thus, though the real reasons for the Viennese adaptation of La frascatana remain obscure, they appear to comply with this general preference for an “ennobled” buffo genre with beautiful music, possibly elevated language, and less lazzi. Such taste was related to the cultural context, in which theatres were at least indirectly subject to the control of the court, a context very different from the highly commercial production system with competing theatres in the Republic of Venice, the place of origin of La frascatana and of many opere buffe imported into Vienna.
By following a particular diffusion path of La frascatana and analysing the respective version, we have confirmed the complexity of conditions which governed the staging of operas in different theatres. The particular success the opera had in Vienna can be seen as a trigger for the diffusion of this version in Central Europe. Nevertheless, the reasons for its attractiveness probably lie principally in its musical and dramatic qualities, which suited the aesthetic and practical requirements of the various receiving environments. The diffusion of this particular version, as well as of many similar modifications of other operas, suggests the importance of some traditional aspects of the opera buffa (dramatically contrasting roles, arias in the high style) that diminished or disappeared altogether in the modern productions of the 1770s. Naturally, the relative worth of these individual features (and their subsequent handling) changes from one place to another, and—as the case of Vienna implies—the more complex the situation is, the less one distinct tendency is to be expected. The comparative approach combined with a detailed examination of sources, however, helps us to better understand the particularities of the performing versions and the corresponding cultural contexts, and thus the opera buffa genre itself.
List of sources for La frascatana mentioned within the article
I-Fc, B. I. 72–73 (Venetian copy)
I-Nc, Rari 3. 2. 9 (partial autograph score)
A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 17800 (Viennese copy)
A-Wn, KT. 168 (Venetian copy with Viennese insertions)
CZ-K, K 17, No. 69b (Viennese copy)
D-B, Mus.ms. 16610
D-Dl, Mus. 3481-F-6 (Viennese copy)
D-Wa, 46 Alt 134-135 (Venetian copy)
D-Dl, Mus. Hs. 3481-F-7 (German singspiel version)
D-Hs, ND VII 296 (German singspiel version)
D-SWl, Mus. 4114 (German singspiel version)
1774 Venezia, I-Bc, Lo. 379; I-Vcg, ROL.0509.01
1775 Vienna, A-Wn, TB 641432-AM IX/1
1776 Dresda, D-Dl, MT. 1424
1776 Praga, CZ-Pnm, B 5097; CZ-Pu, 65 E 4013
1784 Praga, CZ-Pu, 65 E 3089
La Frascatana oder Das Mädchen von Fraskati
1782, s. l., A-Wn, 1762-A
1788, s. l., A-Wn, 3208-A