Notes 60.2 (2003) 437-439
[Access article in PDF]
Operatic Reform in Turin's Teatro Regio: Aspects of Production and Stylistic Change in the 1760s. By Margaret Ruth Butler. (Le chevalier errant: Studi sulla musica degli antichi stati Sabaudi e del Piemonte, 2.) Turin: Istituto per i beni musicali in Piemonte, 2001. [xxxii, 348 p. ISBN 88-7096-288-1. i42.] Facsimiles, bibliography, indexes.
Recent studies of operatic production practices have presented a wealth of new information and engendered a more thorough understanding of the complex artistic and social mechanism of eighteenth- century musical theater. An increasingly important mode of inquiry is the correlation of primary sources (specifically, surviving scores and libretti) with secondary archival documents, including the administrative records of the theater itself, the contracts of singers, instrumentalists, and even copyists, and sources related to the materiel requirements of stage productions. Margaret Ruth Butler's Operatic Reform at Turin's Teatro Regio: Aspects of Production and Stylistic Change in the 1760s is an important and significant contribution to contemporary scholarship on eighteenth-century opera and its production practices. Butler embraces this painstaking methodology as the basis for a scrupulously researched and in-depth portrait of late-eighteenth-century Torinese theatrical life at the Teatro Regio. As Butler notes in her introduction, the choice of Turin as the basis for such an inquiry was suggested by its "status as one of the largest, rapidly growing, and culturally active European cities of the era, ... its royal theater sharing the leading singers, dancers, designers, and other creative personnel with those of other prominent theaters" (p. xxvii). The most significant aspect of this study, however, is the recognition of Turin as perhaps the only Italian state to actively and thoroughly assimilate into local productions the French-inspired theatrical reforms of the mid- to late eighteenth century. With this objective in mind, Butler progresses beyond a simple recollection and interpretation of production materials and issues, instead offering an illuminating study of a heretofore unrecognized center of operatic importance.
Butler explores these themes in systematic fashion over the course of five chapters, beginning with a careful précis of the history of the Savoy state and founding of the Teatro Regio in 1740 as the Royal Savoyard Theater (chapter 1: "Turin's Teatro Regio: A Royal Theater for a Royal City"). Special attention in this chapter is also placed upon the administrative governing body of the Teatro Regio known as the Nobile Società dei Cavalieri, a consortium of local nobility who were "assigned responsibility for all aspects of production" (p. 11). Butler's skillful utilization of primary source materials located in Turin's Archivio Storico della Città (among several institutions) and careful integration of prior scholarship (notably that of Alberto Basso and Marie-Thérèse Bouquet) illuminates the protocol established by the Società in its dealings with singers, negotiations with composers, choice of libretti, and allocation of resources for the spectacles. The review of the artistic climate of Turin and the administrative apparatus of the Società serves as the basis for an introduction to the librettist Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi, chief architect for the assimilation of French-inspired reforms in contemporary productions at the Teatro Regio.
In chapter 2 ("Music Copyists and Manuscript Production at the Teatro Regio"), Butler presents an overview of the copying procedures and revisions found in documents and scores related to the production schedule at the Regio. Based upon the sources, the author offers insight into the decision-making process regarding the choice of repertoire, the preparation of specific works, and revisions necessitated for production, whether in the music or the libretto (p. 44). Of additional importance is the establishment, through examination of handwriting, of direct connections between musical sources and specific productions at the Regio, which serve as the basis of stylistic analyses and their relationship to reform trends. Chapter 3 ("The [End Page 437] Beginning of Reform: Enea nel Lazio") fuses the primary themes of inquiry outlined earlier in the book with a focus on the presentation of Tommaso Traetta's Enea nel Lazio...