The International Journey of a Roman Intermezzo
 The opera buffa of the 18th century presents itself as a European phenomenon. The productions of a work at different locations are marked by complex relations on various levels, not least in the case of performances at theaters associated with courts, where cultural life was influenced by dynastic and diplomatic relations. Study of the process of adaptation can serve as a means of revealing and understanding such connections and connecting paths. This article takes the opera buffa L'isola d'amore by Antonio Sacchini as an example to discuss connections of this kind, placing special emphasis on the history of its performance in Vienna, where several threads of reception meet.
Sacchini’s work premiered on 27 January 1766 at the Teatro Valle in Rome. As was customary at this theater in the 18th century, the work consisted of ”Intermezzi per musica a quattro voci” and was thus an opera buffa with a cast reduced to only three to five singers in comparison to the dramma giocoso. At the time of L'isola d'amore, the rule at the Teatro Valle was four roles in the dramaturgical constellation of two pairs of lovers, one of which plays the more comic part, the other the more serious part. The performance featured an acclaimed cast, with the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini in the female role of Belinda and the tenor Gioacchino Caribaldi as Giocondo. Rauzzini later performed in Munich and Vienna, and Caribaldi was a member of the Viennese Ensemble from 1767 to 1770 as well, where he might have sung the role created for him again in 1769. It is therefore conceivable that the score of L'isola d'amore was passed on by the singers or by Sacchini himself, who went to Venice in 1768 (where he could have had copies of the opera made), before moving on to Munich and Stuttgart in 1770.
Antonio Gori, who also worked under the anagram Antonio Rigo, is named as the librettist of the opera, for instance in connection with the printing of the libretto for the performance in Turin in 1767. However, there are indications that this is a false attribution, because Gori evidently only wrote a libretto of the same name that was set to music by Gaetano Latilla in Venice in 1752, which, however, has nothing to do with Sacchini’s opera.
L’isola d’amore belonged, together with works like Niccolò Piccinni’s La buona figliuola or Baldassare Galuppi’s Il filosofo di campagna, to the corpus of the opere buffe, which were received favorably throughout Europe.What is unusual in this case, however, is the high number of subsequent performances outside of Italy, particularly also in the German-speaking world, as well as its initially slow rate of transmission. In the year after the first performance in Rome in 1766, the piece only made it as far as Turin. Two years later there were performances in Dresden, and in 1769 it reached Vienna. In the 1770s the opera was on the program in the Italian language in Mannheim, Regensburg, Munich, Barcelona, Lisbon, Eszterház, London, and Warsaw, whereas revivals in Italy were rare. Also striking is the great number of translations into other languages. It was of course not unusual for an opera buffa to be staged in its original form as an Italian opera and simultaneously in adaptations with spoken dialogues in the vernacular, especially in Vienna. In the case of L'isola d'amore, however, the tapestry of versions is particularly colorful.
 The opera was performed in several German-speaking cities in singspiel versions, based as a rule on a French version, an opéra comique that appeared in Paris in 1775 under the title La colonie in an adaptation by Nicolas-Étienne Framéry. On 4 November 1775, several weeks after its premiere on 16 August, this version was, according to the title page of the printed score, also performed in Fontainebleau before the royal couple—and thus before the Habsburg princess Marie Antoinette, who had been married off to France in 1770. The specifically international success of Sacchini’s opera, which also played a role in the Querelle des Bouffons in Paris, was given a considerable boost by Framéry’s adaptation, and this is the context in which the initially modest yet from the 1770s on more intensive reception of the work should be seen.
The Viennese Versions
In 1776, L'isola d'amore was performed in the French language under the title La colonie in Vienna as well, and the singspiel version staged there in 1780 was also based on the opéra comique by Framéry, whose dialogues were translated quite faithfully into German. In the case of the singspiel, however, one was also reminded of the earlier Viennese performances, as the grand finale ended with a vaudeville section, which is not present in the French version but which may be found in the Italian-language Viennese adaptation of 1769. In the score of this version, the new section (and only the new section) of the finale includes a German text in addition to the Italian, the words of which appear again in the libretto and score of the Viennese singspiel version. This means that the Viennese arranger of 1780 used a copy of the score written for 1769 in addition to his French model. The addition of a refrain section of this kind in the grand finale of an opera buffa was among the characteristic features of Viennese adaptation practice in the late 1760s, and especially of the work of the then opera Kapellmeister Florian Leopold Gassmann.
However, this is not the only reason why the Italian Viennese version of summer 1769 presents a highly interesting case, one that is ultimately unique with regard to the adaptation practice of these years. It would actually be more precise to speak of two adaptations, because there are surviving prints of the libretto that differ from each another, one of them at the Vienna City Library and at the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Austrian National Library, the other at the Department of Music of the National Library.
 The title pages of the two editions are identical, but this is no longer true of the register of persons. While the libretto print at the Department of Manuscripts and the City Library names only Sacchini as the composer, that at the Department of Music notes the following: ”La Musica è del celebre Sig. Antonio Sacchini, a riserva de’ Cori, de’ Duetti, e de’ Balli e Sinfonia, che son del Sig. Fl riano Gasmann [sic].”In addition, the prints diverge on a point that seems insignificant at first glance: The heroine Belinda is described in one print as Scottish, ”fanciulla nobile scozzese,” like in the Roman premiere, while in the other she is explicitly described as a Spaniard, ”fanciulla nobile Spagnola.”
A closer look at the libretti as well as the Viennese copy of the score A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 17830, which for its part corresponds to the libretto print at the Department of Music, reveals the entire extent of the changes. First of all, the print at the Department of Music, that with the information concerning the music by Gassmann, also contains the plot scenario of a ballet titled Chi si vuol bene si riscontra, which was evidently played after the opera and which refers to its plot by visualizing the wedding festivities in the lie to fine of the opera.
The existence of the ballet plot matches the description in the register of persons, according to which the duets, choruses, overture, and ”Balli” were composed by Gassmann. Indeed, the overture mentioned here proves to be different and unusual in several respects in comparison to another copy of the score of Italian provenance. On the one hand, it features an instrumentation that is very rich for a buffa sinfonia of this time, with flutes, oboes, horns, trumpets, and kettledrums, as well as the bassoon part typically included by Gassmann. On the other hand, the overture does not follow the formal convention of having three separate sections in the tempo sequence fast-slow-fast with the middle section notated in another key, but remains in D major throughout and begins with an andante maestoso in 3/4 time. It later switches to allegro and 4/4 time, but without the changes in key notated at the beginning, and to a further adagio only broken off by a fermata, before ending with another adagio, now again in 3/4 time. After this unconventional sinfonia, the opera begins with an additionally added chorus, "Sposa gentil t'affretta," and only then follows the introduzione written by Sacchini for the premiere, "Bravi, bravi bel pensiero."
The version documented by the libretto and score from the Department of Music is thus an especially festive opera buffa. The other libretto print, on the other hand, shows that a more unadorned version of L'isola d'amore without choruses and ballet was performed, or at least planned, in Vienna in the same summer of 1769. This simpler version corresponds to the conventions of the time concerning the opera buffa as well as to the normal procedure with regard to contemporary adaptation practice. The more elaborate version with its added choruses, an unusual practice not only for Vienna, is one of a kind.
Why such a ”festive version”? A possible explanation is that the wedding of Empress Maria Theresa’ sixth daughter, Maria Amalia, was celebrated in that summer of 1769. While there is as yet no concrete evidence that L'isola d'amore was on the program for this occasion, there are several indications. Andrea Sommer-Mathis points out in her study of the programs of events for Habsburg weddings that the practice at this court of staging specially commissioned wedding operas fell out of use precisely from the time of Maria Amalia’s marriage. Instead, there was a ball on 22 June 1769 in Schönbrunn Palace, and in the evening the guests made their way to the Burgtheater, where the performance ”d'un petit Opera Italien” was on the program, quite possibly L'isola d'amore.
 Maria Amalia’s future husband, Ferdinand I of Bourbon-Parma, was the grandson of the French king Louis XV on his mother’s side and the grandson of the Spanish king Philip V on his father’s side. He was also the younger brother of Isabella of Parma (the first wife of Emperor Joseph II), who was born in Spain and had spent the first years of her life there. Against the backdrop of these weddings, whose purpose was not least to consolidate the connection of the Habsburgs to the Spanish royal dynasty, it can hardly be seen as a coincidence that the heroine Belinda, who is distinguished by her fidelity to her beloved husband, would have been changed from a Scot to a Spaniard. The other main goal of Maria Theresa’s marriage policy, the establishment of closer ties to France, was also among the motives of Maria Amalia’s marriage to Ferdinand.As is well known, this marriage policy culminated in the aforementioned wedding of Marie Antoinette, only a year after her sister, and it is even therefore not entirely unreasonable to assume that L'isola d'amore, with its intensive reception in France, including performances in Fontainebleau, could have played a role at a Habsburg wedding in Vienna.
Festive Choruses in Opera Buffa
The choruses in particular speak for the hypothesis that L'isola d'amore served as a kind of compromise: the adaptation of an opera buffa embellished with extensive sections composed from scratch expressly for the occasion instead of an entirely new wedding opera. The term coro was generally used in this time to refer to a final section of a buffa that articulated a closing moral and/or a feeling of general elation, usually not sung by a real chorus like in this case but by the entire ensemble of soloists. The choruses in L'isola d'amore, however, written for four-part female and male chorus, are not only placed at unusual points in the work but are also ill suited to an opera buffa with regard to their language. Rather, they bear a resemblance to the texts of music theater works from the genre of festa teatrale, pieces commonly written for weddings or other court festivities. For example, one might compare the vocabulary of the choruses from L'isola d'amore to that of the libretto of the azione teatrale Il trionfo d'amore written by Gassmann just a few years earlier for the second marriage of Joseph II.
As already mentioned, the opening chorus "Sposa gentil t'affretta," inserted between the new overture and Sacchini’s introduzione, shows on the one hand a parallel to the content of the opera, in which newcomers have to choose a spouse in accordance with the law of the island of love, while on the other hand the verses are suited to a wedding, as they are addressed explicitly to a bride:
Sposa gentil t’affretta
Per te pompa festiva
Orna l’amica riva,
Te impazient’ aspetta
Di mille amanti il cor.
Perché non vieni?
Che mai t’affrena,
Il premio a cogliere
Di tua beltà?
Per chi può scegliere
La sua catena
E´ dolce perdere
 A further chorus, "D'Imeneo, d'amor la face," is placed after the introduzione and a small duet for Marina and Giocondo. In this way, Sacchini’s complex of introductory vocal numbers is framed by Gassmann’s new choruses.
D’Imenèo, d’Amor la face
Splenda a voi, la legge è questa.
Voi restate, a noi la festa
Anderemo a preparar
The topic of marriage is again touched upon and certain expectations raised with regard to the festivities announced in the text. As in the case of other Habsburg weddings, the real-life celebration of Maria Amalia’s wedding in Vienna (in the absence of the groom) provided only a foretaste of the actual wedding, which was to take place at the court of her future husband.
Another chorus, this time as an extension of the finale to Act I, also invokes the favor of Amor and sings the praises of marital fidelity:
Fausto Amor la face accenda
Del più casto, e puro ardor.
E’ sereno ognor risplenda,
Fidi sposi, al vostro cuor.
Fidi sposi al vostro ardore
Fausto Amor la face accenda,
Non la turbi, non l’offenda
O timore, o infedeltà.
The aforementioned additional section of the finale to Act II includes the refrain ”Viva, viva il bel regno d’amore / Che i bei giorni goder ci farà!,” and the entire conclusion makes reference to the festive atmosphere surrounding the double wedding with which the opera concludes.
Thus, all of Gassmann’s choral additions appear to be bound to the textual motif of marriage. A recurring theme is the indecisiveness of the bride, which on the one hand corresponds to the plot in L'isola d'amore, while on the other hand also reflecting the reality of Archduchess Maria Amalia’s own situation, who long attempted to resist being married off to the prince from Parma, whom she did not know and who was moreover several years younger. Thus, the festive adaptation of L'isola d'amore could very well have been intended as a mirror for princes, with the goal of urging the stubborn bride to behave appropriately, encouraging her, and giving her wise advice for her marriage to take along with her to Italy.
A New Aria by Salieri
 As far as the other changes made for the occasion of the Viennese performance are concerned, there is a duet for the buffo couple Marina and Nardo, "Non son poi così tiranna," newly composed for the old text, although here it is not possible to determine what music was played in the ”unadorned” version of the opera. For Belinda and Giocondo’s big love duet before the grand finale, on the other hand, a largely new, considerably longer text was used. In contrast to the original duet, in which the lovers immediately agree to forgive and forget, in Gassmann’s duet "Tu vivi? – Tu m'ami?" the couple first sings extensively about its past heartaches, then mistrust and jealousy spark up anew, until finally, after the past intrigue has been cleared up in a verbose passage within the duet itself, they launch into the obligatory declaration of love: ”Or placido accenda / Amor la sua face / E un giorno di pace / Risplenda al mio cor.” This new, much more dramatic duet, which conveys the message that what achieving peace in matters of the heart demands first of all is great effort and willpower, is included only in the festive version of the libretto, where it supports the content communicated by the choruses. Thus, Gassmann’s interludes do not just stand for themselves in isolation but follow a common concept.
With regard to the arias, a total of three were replaced in Vienna, one of them only in the more elaborate version, namely "L'amore è un certo mare," a solo for the bass Nardo. According to a note penciled in on the Viennese score, this interlude was composed by the young Antonio Salieri and is thus among his earliest compositions for the Vienna Theater.
E l’amore un certo mare,
Che si pena a navigar,
Dove spesso a naufragare
E’ costretto il marinar.
E’ incostanza delle belle
Suscitar fa le procelle,
Della femmina l’orgoglio
E’ l’arena, edè lo scoglio
Che fa l’uom precipitar,
E’ credendo entrar in porto
Si ritrova in altro mar
The text was taken from Carlo Goldoni’s libretto for Il signor dottore, which was also on the program in Vienna in the version performed at the premiere in 1758, set by Domenico Fischietti. The choice of these lines too appears to have been well thought out: Contrary to the rather meaningless text used in the premiere of L'isola d'amore, the verses borrowed from Il signor dottore compare love to a stormy sea that is difficult to navigate through. Salieri’s music, which is markedly more turbulent than Fischetti’s score, emphasizes more strongly the dangers of the sea and conveys an impression in the anxious jumps of the singing voice of the great respect Nardo has for the act of navigating this ocean—and thus, in a figurative sense, for that of falling in love. On the one hand, the interlude fits with the long recitativo accompagnato "Piano non correr tanto," which had already preceded the aria in Rome and was newly set to music by Salieri, while on the other it goes wonderfully together with the maritime character of the work about the island of love and even harmonizes with the textual motifs of the choruses and duets added by Gassmann.
 Salieri also contributed a second aria to the work, which, however, is found in both libretto prints of 1769. The first two lines, ”T'amerò, sarò costante / Fido amante e fido sposo,” evidently allude to verses by Metastasio from the text to Il re pastore, which was later also to be composed by Mozart. Incidentally, this Metastasio libretto was first set to music by the Habsburg Kapellmeister Giuseppe Bonno in 1751 and was performed on the name day of Empress Maria Theresa and shortly after the birth of her daughter Maria Josepha at Schönbrunn Palace, and the choice of these lines might thus have been intended as a conscious reference to the Habsburg Court.
From Vienna to the Court of Thurn und Taxis
The idea of using L'isola d'amore to adapt an opera buffa into a work resembling a festa teatrale was taken up in at least one other place, namely at the court of Thurn und Taxis in Regensburg, which traditionally maintained close relations with the Habsburgs and whose theatrical life was oriented closely towards Vienna in the 18th century in particular. Although it was not a Viennese copy of the score but evidently one from Venice that served as the basis for Regensburg, the adaptation used the verses of the choruses from the Viennese ”festive version,” which were set to music again for Regensburg and only for male voices, not for mixed chorus as in Vienna. Those responsible for arranging the Regensburg version, in particular Kapellmeister Theodor von Schacht, did not settle for simply borrowing the text unchanged but rather put their own stamp on it. The chorus from the introductory complex ("Sposa gentil t’affretta"), for instance, is integrated into a sequence of several instrumental dances, and the Regensburg opera concludes with another sequence of six dances, whereas the Viennese version ends, as previously mentioned, with a specially written narrative ballet.
Before the end of Act I there was also a chorus text taken from Vienna ("Fausto Amor la face accenda"), which, however, was extended in the Regensburg version to an entire sequence of scenes including new soloist roles. The four-part male chorus, referred to in Regensburg explicitly as ”Coro de Sacerdoti,” is followed by an interlude consisting of an aria for a single ”Sacerdote” as well as a duet for two priests. The complex then ends with a return to the chorus. Thus, Mozart’s Zauberflöte was by no means the first instance of priests’ choruses and a duet of priests admonishing a pair of lovers in a comic opera.
 In the year 1781, only a year after the performance of the German-language version in Vienna, a singspiel version was also composed in Regensburg, under the title Die Insel der Liebe. The reviser was again Theodor von Schacht, and he did not choose the method that was common elsewhere in these years, namely simply adapting Framéry’s French version. Rather, he used as his main model the Italian version, although he did borrow elements from the opéra comique. The singspiel version in Regensburg also exhibited the ingredients from the Viennese version of 1769, including choruses, dances, a concluding vaudeville section, and the Spanish nationality of Belinda. According to Christoph Meixner, the singspiel version of 1781 preceded the extensive Italian adaptation by three years and could have possibly been prepared in connection with a visit by Emperor Joseph II at the court of Thurn und Taxis. Meixner sees this as rather unlikely, but he might have come to a different conclusion had he been able to include the Viennese versions and thus the probable function of L'isola d'amore as a kind of Habsburg festive opera in his argumentation.
Only two months after the wedding of his sister Maria Amalia and the festive performance in Vienna of summer 1769, Joseph II met with Frederick the Great in Neisse, a meeting that also prominently featured performances of opera buffa, a genre the Prussian monarch used quite deliberately in service of his cultural policy. It remains up to debate to what extent and how the Habsburgs also did this in the time before Mozart, although Vienna had a different theater system in place at the time, in which the opera houses were leased and not treated directly as court theaters. In any case, the performance history of L'isola d'amore speaks for the assumption that opera buffa also played a considerable role for courtly representation in the Habsburg Empire around the year 1770, during the double reign of Maria Theresa and Joseph II. At the same time, the piece also stands for a (long) phase of transition, in which the gradual break with baroque festival traditions in favor of mixed performances and a liberal treatment of genre conventions produced surprising variations for music theater, in this case a courtly version of a work from the supposedly so bourgeois genre of opera buffa.
- This article was written within the context of the FWF research project P24920 Opera buffa in Vienna (1763–1782) (project director: Michele Calella). Homepage, accessed June 24, 2015, http://www.univie.ac.at/muwidb/operabuffa/ ↑
- Cf. Martina Grempler, Das Teatro Valle in Rom 1727–1850: Opera buffa im Kontext der Theaterkultur ihrer Zeit, Analecta musicologica 48 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2012). See also, as a supplement: Chronologie des Teatro Valle 1727–1850, online publication (PDF), accessed June 24, 2015, http://www.dhi-roma.it/grempler_chronologie.html. ↑
- See the libretto of the premiere performance (copy used: I-Rsc, Lib. mus. XVII.74). ↑
- The cast of the Vienna performance is unknown. Other singers would have been possible for the role of Giocondo, but Caribaldi seems most likely. ↑
- Claudio Sartori, I libretti italiani a stampa dalle origini al 1800, vol. 3 (Cuneo: Bertola & Locatelli, 1990), 502. ↑
- Also incorrect is the naming of Metastasio as the author, probably a mix-up with L'isola disabitata. ↑
- Cf. Dénes Bartha and László Somfai, Haydn als Opernkapellmeister. Die Haydn-Dokumente der Esterházy-Opernsammlung (Budapest: Verlag der Ungarischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1960), 179. The score and libretto of this performance of 1776 have not survived. At least part of the voice material (without a large part of the singing voices) is probably from Vienna. ↑
- In addition to Florence, Sartori, I libretti italiani, vol. 3, 502, names Florence and Cento as well as Pistoia, Parma, Venice, and Ferrara for the years after 1775. ↑
- Cf. Daniel Brandenburg, ”Zur Rezeption des Buffa-Repertoires im deutschsprachigen Raum. Deutsche Bearbeitungen italienischer Werke in Wien,” in Oper im Aufbruch. Gattungskonzepte des deutschsprachigen Musiktheaters um 1800, ed. Marcus Chr. Lippe, Kölner Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 9 (Kassel: Bosse, 2007), 209–219. ↑
- La Colonie / Opéra comique / a deux Actes / Imité de l'Italien et Parodie sur la musique / del S.gr Sacchini, accessed June 24, 2015. ↑
- The score is in A-Wn, KT 88. The libretto (D-Mbs, Slg. Her 934) is available as a PDF online, on the catalogue of the Bavarian State Library (accessed June 24, 2015). The text of the French-language performance in Vienna is in A-Wn, Mus. 641436-B28,5. ↑
- A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 17830. ↑
- Cf. Martina Grempler, ”Ensemblebearbeitungen in der Opera buffa an den Wiener Theatern der 1760er Jahre,” Die Musikforschung 65 (2012): 127–145. ↑
- A-Wst, A-26954, and A-Wn, 132173-A Alt Mag (accessed June 24, 2015). The other version: A-Wn, Mus. 641432-11,2. ↑
- D-Rtt, Sacchini 425–432. The score has a Venetian provenance, also containing several Regensburg interludes. ↑
- Cf. Andrea Sommer-Mathis, Tu felix Austria nube. Hochzeitsfeste der Habsburger im 18. Jahrhundert (Vienna: Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag, 1994), especially 165. ↑
- Gazette de Vienne No. 50 from 24 June 1769. The account of the festivities is in the supplement to this issue (no pagination). Cf. also Sommer-Mathis, Tu felix Austria nube, 165. ↑
- The note in pencil is in all likelihood in Salieri’s handwriting. Cf. John A. Rice, ”Bearbeitungen italienischer Opern für Wien 1765–1800,” in Bearbeitungspraxis in der Oper des späten 18. Jahrhunderts, ed. Armin Raab, Christine Siegert, and Ulrich Konrad, Würzburger musikhistorische Beiträge 27 (Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 2007), 93. ↑
Sarà lei la disgraziataIn the libretto of the premiere, the text is enclosed in quotation marks and was thus probably omitted even in this case. ↑
Che da questo maltrattata
Vuole andare a spasso a spasso
L’altro Mondo a ritrovar…
Poverella! aspetta, aspetta
Non lo far quel brutto passo,
Ch’io ti vengo ad ajutar.
- Cf. Christoph Meixner, Musiktheater in Regensburg im Zeitalter des Immerwährenden Reichstags, Musik und Theater 3 (Sinzig: Studio-Verlag, 2008), and Christoph Meixner, ”Thalia zwischen den Fronten. Die Nationaltheater in Wien, Mannheim, Regensburg im Spannungsfeld politischer Geheimdiplomatie,” in Musik und kulturelle Identität. Bericht über den XIII. Internationalen Kongress der Gesellschaft für Musikforschung, Weimar 2004, ed. Detlef Altenburg and Rainer Bayreuther, vol. 3 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2012), 114–121. ↑
- Cf. note 13. ↑
- The voices and score of the German version may also be found in D-Rtt, Sacchini 425–432. ↑
- Meixner, Musiktheater in Regensburg, 270. ↑
- Cf. Sabine Henze-Döhring, Friedrich der Große. Musiker und Monarch (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2012). ↑
Up to now, scholars have treated ”opera as a form of courtly representation,” a topic of great significance for cultural history, primarily with regard to opera seria as well as festa teatrale. By contrast, opera buffa has been neglected, often being given the label ”bourgeois,” although the works of this genre were also addressed to a primarily aristocratic audience and could play an important role in the context of the court. The article discusses this topic using the example of Antonio Sacchini’s L’isola d’amore, an intermezzo composed for Rome that was staged in Vienna as a German singspiel, an opéra comique, and, in 1769, in its original form, albeit in two different versions, one of which served as a courtly festive opera.