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Hybrid Critical Editions of Opera: Motives, Milestones, and Quandaries


The publication term “hybrid digital edition” came into existence at the end of 2013, with the publication of Salieri’s theatrical divertimento Prima la musica, e poi la parola. It is a hybrid in that its theatritical apparatus is a digital constellation of auxiliary materials consulted in the course of constructing a new edition, while the score is a conventional one. A user can in principle consult the two bilaterally, but the confinement of the critical report to a physical device unsuited to network use has crippled it in some libraries. Since Prima la musica is both the first of a series of other operas presented in the same way, and of a more opened-ended effort to edit works in other genres similarly, it is important to understand how this combination came to be and what its potential advantages are. Since the new model was perceived by many librarians in the U.S. as excessively expensive, a table of prices of recently published opera editions is provided. These editions prove not to be moderately priced, but the costs of opera scores produced in Europe is, on average, much higher than those produced in the U.S.