Ópera y Teatro musical

L'arbore di Diana

Leonardo J. Waisman
jueves, 20 de mayo de 2004
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L'arbore di Diana, by Lorenzo Da Ponte and Vicente Martín y Soler, is one of some sixty operas produced at the Vienna Burgtheater under the auspices of the emperors Joseph II and Leopold II, between 1783 and 1792. In such distinguished company as Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, the reader may be surprised to find that our opera was the most preferred with the largest number of performances: sixty-five in that theater alone. Next in order of frequency of performances, with sixty-two, comes Paisiello's Barbiere di Siviglia, followed by Sarti's Fra i due litiganti, with fifty-eight. Una cosa rara, the successful opera by Martín y Soler, was performed fifty-five times, and Figaro, the most popular of Mozart's theatrical works only achieved thirty-eight performances; Don Giovanni had fifteen and Così fan tutte, ten.1 

The performances at the Burgtheater, however, only represented the beginning of the European fame of Martín y Soler's Diana  premiered in October 1787, by next January it was already being produced in Prague, by May in Leipzig. In Vienna itself, the summer season of 1788 saw the launching of the career of the opera's Singspiel version, Der Baum der Diana, which became as popular if not more so than the original Italian Dramma giocoso.

A dozen years later, L'arbore di Diana had been heard and seen in more than forty different productions throughout Europe, from Madrid to Moscow and from Milan to London. Translations into French, Polish and Russian were now added to the two Viennese versions. And when its popularity had waned, in 1813, it was still well known enough to merit a parody in which the Goddess was transformed into a suburban Viennese girl.2

Biography of the composer

According to Saldoni, Vicente Martín y Soler had been born in Valencia on May 2nd, 1754.3  Little is known about his youth and his musical education. Son of a singer at Valencia's cathedral he became a choirboy at that institution. Perhaps after a fleeting sojourn in Madrid, he surfaces in Naples towards the end of 1777.4  His first assignment for the Neapolitan court was undertaken jointly with the dancer and choreographer Charles Lepicq: Li novelli sposi persiani, a ballet presented between the acts of the Bellerofonte by Ignazio Platania. In addition to a picturesque “obstreperous symphony” of July 1778, in which none other than the King of Naples was among the “musicians” (he fired cannon shots at Martín's signals), the Spanish composer produced along the following years several opere serie. The first one, Ifigenia in Aulide,5 on a libretto by Luigi Serlio, was performed at the San Carlo Theatre in 1779. For the same theatre, he later wrote an Ipermestra and a Partenope, both by Metastasio. Other centers such as Turin (Andromaca, 1780) and Lucca (Astartea, 1782) also commissioned from him and produced serious operas, but his career veered at this time decisively towards comic opera. The first essay in this genre was probably Il tutore burlato, recently discovered by Rainer Kleinertz at the Biblioteca Histórica Municipal de Madrid in two versions: the original Italian and a Spanish arrangement as a zarzuela (with spoken dialog, as usual), under the title of La madrilène. It would seem that both versions were performed in 1778: as a zarzuela by the company of Manuel Martínez in the Teatro de la Cruz or the Teatro del Príncipe, and as an opera buffa perhaps at the Real Sitio of San Ildefonso (near Segovia). Other comic operas followed: L'amor geloso in Naples, In amor ci vuol destrezza in Venice and Turin, Le burle per amore also in Venice, and La vedova spiritosa in Parma.

The composer apparently alternated his residence in Naples with visits to the court at Madrid (that of September 1779 is documented); it is likely that his title of Chapelmaster to the Prince of Asturias, which identifies him in prints and documents of the 1780s, derive from one of those visits rather than from an association previous to Martín y Soler's departure for Italy. His good relations with the Neapolitan reigning house served him well when he was thrown into debtors' prison in 1781 –he obtained his release. Between 1782 and 1785 the composer lived in Venice; that year he took up residence in Vienna, where he wrote three buffo operas on librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte for the Court Theatre with great success. Il burbero di buon cuore (1786), Una cosa rara ossia bellezza ed onestà (1786) and L'arbore di Diana (1787) carried him to the summit of renown, not only in Vienna, but throughout Europe. This is attested not only by the countless performances of his works, but also by the publication of several editions of arias, duos and canons from the three operas.

Da Ponte's Memoirs abounds in reference to Martín y Soler's life in this period. By the days previous to the premiere of L'arbore di Diana, our composer had been designated Chapelmaster to Catherine of Russia, as is made clear in the title-pages of the printed libretto and the manuscript scores used for the occasion. This would normally have represented the culmination of the career of an opera composer, since a list of the musicians employed by the Czars in the last decades of the eighteenth century is a veritable roll-call of the most successful musical dramatists of their time: Galuppi, Paisiello, Traetta, Sarti and Cimarosa. Nevertheless, Martín y Soler's years in St Petersburg were not especially propitious. Since Cimarosa was the official composer for the Italian Opera, the Spanish musician was led to specialize in operas in Russian.

Thus his production during those years includes three comic operas in that language (two of them on librettos at least sketched by the Empress herself) and three ballets with his former associate Lepicq. His Viennese operas were also produced there, some of them in Russian translation. It seems that Giuseppe Sarti's reappearance, replacing Cimarosa, further diminished Martín y Soler's standing at the Russian court. He resigned from his post and departed for London, where his old friend and collaborator, the abbé Da Ponte, offered him lodging and work. In 1795 the two of them wrote two opere buffe, La scuola dei maritati and L'isola del piacere, before parting in disharmony, apparently because of rivalries in erotic affairs. Once again in St Petersburg, the Spanish composer participated in the production of some of his earlier operas (from Vienna and London), wrote yet another (La festa del villagio, 1798) and several ballets (Tancrède and Le rétour de Poliorcète, 1799-1800), always with Lepicq. It seems, however, that his activities were mostly concerned with teaching and bureaucratic tasks (1798, Private Councilor; 1798, Inspector of the Italian Theatre). He died in that city in 1806.

These scanty biographical details may be complemented by the portrait of his personality that we may glean from Lorenzo Da Ponte's writings.6 Affability and mildness seem to have been his most distinctive traits. The abbé speaks of his “ever-smiling face”, mentions his “pleasant reminiscences of past times” with him, calls him “my good little Spaniard”, describes him as “mellifluous”, and offers us several samples of his good humour and his easy-to-please temperament.7 He appreciates his music as much as Mozart's (for whom he wrote three librettos), but he discriminates between the kinds of talent each one possessed: “Martini”, says Da Ponte, wrote “sweet melodies ... which one feels deep in the spirit but which few know how to imitate”.

 Martín y Soler as a composer

The image of Vicente Martín y Soler's genius that we have obtained from the writings of the picturesque Da Ponte is not very different from the one we can glean from an examination of his operas. An English critic (1797) summed up his assessment as “a happy union of the lively and the tender”.8  There is no doubt that his distinctive talent as a composer resided in his facility with simple, easily retained and performed melodies, especially apt for actors-singers, remembered by the audience and later reproduced (with the aid of “selected arias” editions) in bourgeois homes and salons. Link is undoubtedly correct when pointing out that, according to the terminology in use during the second half of the eighteenth century, his music was clearly aimed at Liebhaber (music lovers, amateurs), while Mozart's was more attractive to Kenner (connoisseurs, professionals). We should not, however, allow the sweetness of his melodies, the placidity of his rhythms and the lack of adventurousness in his harmonies to prevent us from noticing some other fine qualities of the composer. We may point out, for example, his discriminating use of orchestral colour and his sure grasp of dramatic rhythm. Within the limited number of instruments available in the Classical opera orchestra, and never demanding from the players technical feats that might delay an expeditious process of production, Martín y Soler repeatedly surprises us with subtle and creative details of instrumentation.

An examination of his scores from this point of view is a real delight, revealing to us a composer with a thorough knowledge of the instruments' traits and possibilities, and a remarkable intuition for the blending of their timbres—but one who stays always within the boundaries of common practice in his place and age. For the second aspect mentioned, that of dramatic rhythm, we need only point out the Finale of L'arbore di Diana's first act, an unsurpassed example of how to build up a climax with the simplest materials. His management of the level of tension and excitement in ever-increasing waves, is superb. On the other hand, we may reasonably presume that Martín's specialisation in a cantabile style was a conscious decision on his part, guided by practical considerations for the advancement of his career. He was by no means incapable of producing excellent music in other manners; in this respect we must deplore the neglect of his magnificent arias in the seria style by both contemporary critics and recent analysts.

A study of his evolution in this genre should be of interest; for the present we may only point out the marked difference between, the arias in his Ifigenia in Aulide, on the one hand, and Diana's fury pieces in the present opera. The former are rather rigid in form and awkward in their flow, filled with conventional coloratura patterns; the latter are dramatic and spectacular, as difficult to perform as apparently easy to compose ('Sento che Dea son io'). We might also mention his cantabile espressivo, such as that of Diana's first intervention in the second act's Finale ('Fra quest' ombre'). To achieve a fair appraisal of Martín y Soler's music we must avoid the easy temptation of comparing it to the drama and complexity of Mozart's. We have to consider it on its own terms. No doubt this was what his Vienna and London audiences did, and they assessed him as one of the best composers of his time.

L' arbore di Diana: its origin and character

Martín y Soler was commisioned by the Viennese court to compose an opera for the celebrations of the wedding between Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria and Prince Anton Clemens of Saxony. Lorenzo Da Ponte gives us his version of the origins of this work; as usual in his writings, the account is not shorn of some personal vanity, but is fundamentally sound: Two or three days later I met the Emperor. Da Ponte, said he, write for Mozart, Martini, Salieri, but drop these potacchi, petecchi, pitocchi, peticchi – what the devil was his name?9 The opportunity was offered me by maestri Martini, Mozart, and Salieri who came all three at the same time to ask me for books. I loved and esteemed all three of them, and hoped to find in each compensation for past failures and some increment to my glory in opera. I wondered whether it might not be possible to satisfy them all, and write three operas at one spurt. Salieri was not asking me for an original theme. While in Paris he had written the music for Tarar, and wished now to see it Italian in manner as regards both words and music. What he wanted, therefore, was a free adaptation. Mozart and Martini were leaving everything to me. For Mozart I chose the Don Giovanni, a subject that pleased him mightily, and for Martini the Arbore di Diana. For him I wanted an attractive theme, adaptable to those sweet melodies of his, which one feels deep in the spirit, but which few know how to imitate. The three subjects fixed on, I went to the Emperor, laid my idea before him, and explained that my intention was to write the three operas contemporaneously. “You will not succeed”, he replied. “Perhaps not”, “but I am going to try. I shall write evenings for Mozart, imagining I am reading the Inferno; mornings I shall work for Martini and pretend I am studying Petrarch; my afternoons will be for Salieri. He is my Tasso!” He found my parallels very apt. I returned home and went to work. I sat down at my table and did not leave it for twelve hours continuous—a bottle of Tokay to my right, a box of Seville to my left, in the middle and inkwell. A beautiful girl of sixteenth—I should have preferred to love her only as a daughter, but alas...!—was living in the house with her mother, who took care of the family, and came to my room at the sound of the bell [...] In a word, this girl was my Calliope for those three operas, as she was afterwards for all the verse I wrote during the next six years. At first I permitted such visits very often; later I had to make them less frequent, in order not to lose too much time in amorous nonsense, of which she was perfect mistress. The first day, between the Tokay, the snuff, the coffee, the bell, and my young muse, I wrote the first two scenes of Don Giovanni, two more for the Arbore di Diana, and more than half of the first act of Tarar, a title I changed to Assur. I presented those scenes to the three composers the next morning. They could scarcely be brought to believe that what they were reading with their own eyes was possible. In sixty-three days the first two operas were entirely finished and about two thirds of the last. The Tree of Diana was the first to be produced. It had a most happy reception, equal at least to the Cosa rara. [...] This drama, in my opinion, was the best of all the operas I ever composed, both as regards the conception and as regards the words.10

The role of Diana was sung by Anna Morrichelli, whose talent for dramatic opera seria figures undoubtedly inspired Martín y Soler to compose the bravura passages that distinguish this character's music. Morrichelli would later be prima donna in the Spaniard's London operas, and become his lover. Luisa Laschi-Mombelli (Countess and Zerlina in the premieres of Mozart's operas) sang—and acted excellently, according to the critics—Amore, while Britomarte was taken up by the beautiful but unmusical Maria Mandini. Among male characters, Doristo was sung by the gifted Stefano Mandini, Endimione by the lyric tenor Vincenzo Calvesi and Silvio by Nicolò del Sole. For the next season, Morrichelli having departed, the theatre took unusual pains to announce her substitution by the new star (and Da Ponte mistress), Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, later to be the first Fiordiligi.11

In another portion of his memoirs, abbé Da Ponte sheds some light about the political overtones of the libretto, and gives us a summary of the plot: The plan of the opera [...], aside from some merit of novelty [this was Da Ponte's first Vienna opera not based on a pre-existent literary work], had the timeliness of fitting admirably with certain policies of my august patron and sovereign. The latter had at just that time issued a decree, holy indeed, abolishing the barbarous institutions of monasticism in the states of his inheritance. What I thought of was this: that Diana, fabled goddess of chastity, had a tree in her garden which produced fruits of extraordinary size in its branches. If the nymphs of the goddess were chaste in deed and in thought, as they pass under the tree, the apples began to glow and shine and from them, and from all the surrounding branches, there issued murmurs and sounds that harmonized in a melody of heavenly sweetness. But if any one of them had sinned against the sanctity of that virtue, the fruits became blacker than coal, dropped upon her head, on or her back and disfigured her face, bruised her body or broke her limbs, the punishment being proportionate to her crime. Love, however, could not endure a law so outrageous to his divinity; so he enters the garden of Diana in feminine disguise, enamors the gardener of the goddess, teaches him how he may seduce her nymphs one after the other, and, not content with this, introduces the beautiful Endymion therewithin, of whom Diana herself falls enamored. The priest of Diana discovers from the sacrifices that crime is stalking within the virginal precincts, and with the sacerdotal authority vested in him by the goddess, orders that all nymphs and Diana herself submit themselves to the trial of the tree. The goddess sees that she will be discovered, has the miraculous tree cut down, and Love, appearing in a radiant cloud, ordains that the Garden of Diana be thenceforward the Realm of Love.12

Actually, Da Ponte does not remember the dénouement correctly: to render the joke more cruel, Amore disguises the shepherd Silvio as Diana's priest, and it is he who utters the decree. On this level of analysis, then, Diana and her chaste nymphs are none other than nuns, and Love is a personification of the Emperor. On the other hand, as Dorothea Link points out, the piece fits within the conventions of pastoral drama: an unreal location, disconnected from the world, and a plot based on courtship, without any political or moral connotations. Lack of interest for character definition, considered by Harris as proper to the genre,13 is moderated in Soler's Diana by a few psychological insinuations appearing here and there in the libretto; they are not, however, essential to the understanding of the plot. Other elements of widespread use in the pastoral genre are the figure of the Magician, the ritual scenes, the echo game, and, of course, the presence of shepherds. L' arbore di Diana is also an erotic comedy; the author himself remarks on his text being “voluptuous without overstepping into lasciviousness”14.

As a matter of fact, one Viennese critic reacted indignantly to the immorality he discerned in the opera: “an abominable patchwork of equivocations, of obscenities and of horrors”, “an infamous orgy”, singularly inappropriate as a wedding present.15 Love's travesty as a woman gives occasion to the most suggestive innuendoes, such as his flirting with Diana in spite of his/her sex. But the language of several of the characters is full of erotic overtones, and of very direct eroticism as well: Britomarte says she will “make love” immediately with one of the three strangers; the more ambitious Doristo volunteers as “generic husband” for all three nymphs. The comic element, of course, cannot be missing from an opera buffa. It is provided not only by the comic character, Doristo, but also by the Love's ingenious jokes, by the disproportionate complaint of Silvio against Endimione (I, 4), by Clizia's and Cloe's stuttering when communicating to Endimione that they must kill him immediately (II, 6), by the ever-present play between the elevated moral tone that Diana wants to impose and the direct and naive eroticism of the other characters.

L' arbore di Diana and Die Zauberflöte

For a present-day observer, it is impossible not to notice the evident coincidences between our opera and Schikaneder's and Mozart's Magic Flute. Given the high popularity of L'arbore di Diana in Vienna towards the end of the 1780s, it is entirely logical to assume it was very much present in Mozart's and his librettist's mind when they set about writing their masterpiece. In fact, we know that Die Zauberflöte draws inspiration from a whole series of previous productions, among which we may single out Giesecke's and Wranitzky's Oberon (1789) and Der Stein der Weisen [The Philosopher's Stone] on a libretto by Schikaneder and music by various composers, Mozart among them (1790).16 We may also point out that Mozart's librettist had already had recourse to Martín y Soler's works as sources—he wrote the words to Der Fall is noch weit seltner [An Even Rarer Case], a sequel to the Singspiel Der Seltne Fall [A Rare Case], the German version of Una cosa rara.17

Although the different genres (Martín y Soler's opera buffa / Mozart's Singspiel) would seem to constitute a barrier separating these works, we should remember that the Diana was immensely popular in its German version with spoken dialogues, and that both may be inscribed within the tradition of the Viennese magic opera. The most striking conjunction between the two works is the relation between Diana and her nymphs on the one part, and the Queen of the Night with her three ladies on the other. The parallel between these two courtly entourages is evident; both trios are given prominence at the beginning of the respective operas, and share some psychological traits. Their predisposition for falling in love with recently arrived strangers and their inclination to defy, if only as a prank, their respective sovereigns (only in Diana, however, we see overt rebellion), their handling by both authors in a humorous vein, are common traits. Of course, the treatment afforded them by Mozart is more complex and contrapuntal than the simple, enchanting melodies that Martín y Soler serves them. Correspondences are even more noteworthy between the Queen of the Night and Diana, and they may help explain the controversial transformation of the former into a perverse/ridiculous figure in the second act of The Magic Flute. The precedent of a famous anti-heroine, or better, of a vilified heroine, singing fury arias in purest opera seria style, would doubtless make it easier for the Viennese public to accept that metamorphosis that has been so worrisome for later critics. In this case the difference in musical style is not as noticeable as in the case of the trios, but Diana's character is more believable and rounded than that of the Königin der Nacht, including as it does passages in a sentimental vein, and not only the shrill screams of a harpy. Among the coincidences between the two librettos we should also include the presence of a trio of genies, sung by sopranos (this was eliminated from the clean score of Diana, but apparently conserved in the Singspiel versions), the punishment of transgression by rendering the offender mute (Papageno / Britomarte). In both operas the authors seize the occasion to build comic scenes around a mute attempting in vain to sing. Lastly, one of the basic ideas of both libretti is that of the “assault on the fortress”, apparently rather uncommon among comic operas at that time.18 Amore and his allies set siege and seize Diana's “castle” as the Queen of Night and her co-conspirators (Tamino initially included) try to seize Sarastro's dominions.

The conexions between the Diana and the Zauberflöte seem to us so obvious that it surprises us mightily to find a specialist such as Dorothea Link speaking of Martín y Soler's opera as a model for Così fan tutte.19 The experiences of each of the pieces are so different, their worlds are so wide apart, and (above all), the conception of the field of action of Diana, so asymmetric, so disordered and uni-directional, contrasts so strongly with the symmetrical games and precise architecture of Così, that any idea of modelization seems outright extravagant. On the other hand, the more moderate concept of “conversations between operas” proposed by Hunter—incorporating some of Link's observations—allows an approach that might illuminate discrete aspects of both operas.20

Sources and versions

Dorothea Link's doctoral dissertation is a good source for information about the performance history of L' arbore di Diana; it also contains a list of the main sources.21 Because the opera had a successful run in many operatic centres, there exist dozens of scores and librettos disseminated throughout European and American libraries. For this edition, we have thoroughly surveyed the two Viennese Italian scores and the libretto for the first production. In addition we have consulted, without attempting thoroughness, scores and texts prepared for other early performances. Thus we have a complete panorama of the changes effected during the preparation of the première, as well as some of the revisions undertaken at Vienna, Paris and London for later productions.

The following are the sources consulted: Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, MS KT37. A score, divided into 6 libri, three for each act. Apparently written throughout by the same hand (corresponding to the first copyist of Vienna 17795). A German singable translation has been added by a different hand for the entire text, except for the secco recitatives and a few arias. There is evidence of a second numbering which seems to obliterate the division into two acts (for example, # 13 of the second act is designated as “Nº 13 und 29”). At the head of each number the German hand has inscribed the cue from the spoken dialogue (and in rare cases, also the Italian recitative cue). There are also other inscriptions (mostly in German), many in pencil: tempo modifications (con moto, non troppo, etc.). Some of these were written by someone not totally fluent in Italian (spelling mistakes). It seems to have been used for several different productions (Link speaks of a “conducting score”), since it contains additions and cuts. Some of these are indicated by crossed out measures, but the majority are effected by pieces of paper glued on top of the musical writing, and/or by pages sewn together. Some of the cuts are very early (the music involved is omitted from Vienna 17795); others are much later. Our attempt to have the library personnel unglue and un-sew those pages, in order to fill the resulting lacunae, was unsuccessful. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, MS 17795. Copy of KT37; there is a single copyist up to the end of the aria in I / 13, and in general he has preserved the exact disposition of each page in KT37 to facilitate the process of copying. From the final recitative of I / 13 (Scene 8: Via non tremate) to the end, another copyist. This is a clean copy, from which were apparently taken all later scores that were sent to other cities or used for publications, arrangements, etc. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, MS KT 58 is the Singspiel version (1788), with spoken dialogues. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, MS 10032. Reduction for voices and keyboard, late eighteenth century. Paris, Bibliothèque du Conservatoire, MS 2879. Probably prepared for the 1790 production.

It may be deduced from the score that the orchestra had no clarinets: where Vienna demands them Paris has oboes, and in those cases flutes are specified for the oboe parts (as an exception, the second Finale where the clarinets are apparently retained). Only the second act seems to be preserved. Washington, Library of Congress. A copy made in 1908 by H. Willemsen from a British Museum manuscript. It is careful work, with annotations to point out lacunae or ambiguities in the original. The first English performance took place in 1797, a little after Martín y Soler's stay in London. The score, however, shows no sign of the additions incorporated on that occasion (The Morning Chronicle assures as that, in order to better display Nancy Storace's talents—she sang Amore—the “Black Dance” from Paul et Virginie was inserted.22 

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, 641432 TB XV / 8. This is the libretto printed for the first production, and the basis of our edition of the text. It carries no date, but the title page mentions the arrival of Archduchess Maria Theresa, bride of the Prince Anton of Saxony (October 1787). Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, 440.778, Band 89 TB. A copy of the libretto for the first production as Singspiel: Der / Baum der Diana / Ein heroisch-komisches Singspiel / in zwey Aufzügen. / Auf die Musick / des Herrn Vinzent Martin. / Frey aus dem Italiänischen übersetzt / von / F[erdinand] Eberl. / Wien, 1788. / Zu finden in dem K.K. privilegierten Theater in der Leopoldstadt.23

The most noteworthy changes suffered by the opera in its early versions are the following: The closing section of # 6 in the first act (Sento già / Vedo già) was written initially as a canon, a technique of composition much employed by Martín y Soler and duly criticised by some of his contemporaries as something inappropriate for comic opera—although his canon are nothing but the successive entries of the three voices of a passage in homophonic texture. Before the premiere, Martín y Soler suppressed the successive entrances and left only the final statement, with the three voices in harmony. This is the version that we include; it concords with the first libretto and the score Vienna 17795. At a later time, a different canon was inserted in its place: Cosa è mai, which we give in our Appendix. This was retained in the Singspiel version and in the non-Viennese copies that I have been able to examine.

Number 7 of the first act (Un galant' uom son io). Doristo had here an extensive aria with Da Capo. For some reason, it was reduced to a brief Cavatina, thus justifying the ires of an anonymous critic who blamed Martín y Soler for failing to provide opportunities for the baritone Mandini's vocal display.24

Number 8 in the first act (Lieti e amorosi i rai). Endimione's aria was also more ample, with a broad initial ritornello, so as to enhance the hierarchy of a character destined to become a goddess's lover. After the cut—reflected already in the clean score—the piece was further mutilated in later performances.

Number 14 in the first act (Qual piacer prova il cor). The singer who was given the part of Silvio seems to have been the source of many of the composer's headaches. Instead of this number, brief and demanding no ability for legato, Martín y Soler had composed an expressive aria, with long phrases and in a higher tessitura: Sembianze sì belle (transcribed in our Appendix). Apparently even in the process of composition he already decided to set a limit to the difficulties the music posed for the singer: in KT37 we can see the beginning of modulatory passages that were discarded in the same score, as well as signs that abbreviate the length of the aria.25 It was finally decided to replace it with Qual piacer, an unpretentious number. This little piece appears in all the other scores and libretti.

Number 6 in the second act (Come farò?). The Paris version gives the strings a much more active role, and provides a more lively rhythm and a denser texture. It is transcribed in our Appendix.

Number 13 in the second act (Ah, invendicato). Another change for a Silvio aria, although in this case the reason why is not as clear. The original number 13 (Lagrimando, sospirando, transcribed in our Appendix) and its substitute share the same range, but the former perhaps requires more subtlety for its interpretation and more fiato, whereas the latter, based on the affect of fury, demands more strength of character than refinement. We do not know whether Lagrimando, sospirando was ever sung; its text is included in the libretto for the first production, but not in later librettos. The chorus of genies at the beginning of Finale I is only mentioned in the libretto. The scores replace it with the three nymphs, aided by a band on the stage. There are several possible explanations: a substitution may have seemed advisable to cut costs, the ladies may have sung that choir from hiding, or in disguise. We find the presence of the genies more effective dramatically, and therefore include them in our score. In KT37, II / 16 / 315, the word “Genien” is written, together with another word I cannot decipher. This coincides with the beginning of Diana's solo: perhaps in the German version they sang unison with her. Besides these substitution and changes, KT37 shows a great many cuts, especially in the recitatives, attesting to a desire to abbreviate the opera in later productions. It is true that in 1797 a London critic, even after recognising that “more charming music we have seldom had the satisfaction of hearing”, had complained about the excessive duration.26

Editorial principles

We have chosen as the basis of our edition the Viennese clean copy (17795). Articulation marks, continuo figures and other original indications from Vienna KT37 have been incorporated without comment, as long as they do not come into explicit conflict with Vienna 17795. Later additions to KT37, not incorporated into Vienna 1795 are either included within parentheses or mentioned only in the list of variants. The indications of the first libretto have been incorporated into the score. Musical variants (except those mentioned in the following paragraph) and editorial interventions are registered below, in the List of Variants. That inventory aspires to completeness regarding the two main sources; it is selective for the others. The pieces suppressed, added or highly modified with respect to Vienna 17795 are reproduced in the Appendix.

Staccato articulations have been standardised without comment (for example, in the Sinfonia to act I, mm. 88-89 the manuscripts have staccato dots or strokes for the first oboe; the rest have been added by the editor). Slurs in vocal parts have also been normalised without differentiating original from editorial ones. Multiple slurs from note to note in legato passages have been replaced by a single slur covering the entire passage. We have not standardised durations in passages with rhythmic conflicts, such as number 4 in the first act. It seems clear that the singer should lengthen his quavers so that his semiquavers coincide with the demisemiquavers of the accompanying instruments. Martín y Soler does not use double-dots; to specify that manner of rhythm he resorts to a sum of shorter simpler values. In some cases, however, (Occhietto furbetto, Act I, number 15) the composer's intention seems to have been to differentiate upbeats of different durations; the editor has therefore chosen to retain always the note-values of the original manuscripts. The symbol consisting in a wavy horizontal line over several notes (as a rule, repetitions of the same sound) has been interpreted as bow-vibrato (ondeggiando), and indicated as horizontal strokes beneath a slur (see e.g. Act I, number 12, m. 54, continuo).

Indications for the frequent passages where only some of the continuo musicians play that line are not always clear: we have maintained the original specifications violoncello, violoncelli, o violoncello solo; when the decrease in numbers is only indicated by the clef (C in fourth line) we have opted for “violoncellos”. The continuo figures have been realised only in recitatives, to facilitate the task of an accompanist who may help singers to learn their part. It is therefore limited to indicating the appropriate harmonies, with no attempt to elaborate an accompaniment. For public performance the concourse of a skilled continuo-player is unavoidable; for such a musician our solutions would be more of a hindrance than of help.

For the edition of the libretto the basis has been the first Viennese libretto, Vienna, ÖNB 641432-AM TB XV/8. But where there are substantial difference with the score, we follow the musical source unless its version be clearly incorrect or inferior. Significant variants (that is, excluding matters of spelling) are indicated in footnotes. The text for our edition of the libretto is identical to that underlain in our score. We have modernised spelling and puntuation; editorial changes are between brackets in the libretto edition, in italics in the score. The recitatives have been printed in smaller type, following the precedent of the first edition of the libretto.


here are extensive lists of performances at the Burgtheater in the period in Otto Michtner, “Das alte Burgtheater als Opernbühne: von der Einführung des deutsches Singspiels (1778) bis zum Tod Kaiser Leopolds II (1792)” (Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., 1970), and more recently, in Dorothea Link, “The National Court Theatre in Mozart's Vienna” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

Mentioned in Dorothea Link, ““L'arbore di Diana: a model for Così fan tutte”“, in Stanley Sadie, ed. “Wolfgang Amadè Mozart: Essays on his Life and Music”, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996, pp. 362-73; 373 and n. 63.

Baltasar Saldoni, “Diccionario biográfico-bibliográfico de efemérides de músicos españoles” (Madrid: Imprenta Antonio Pérez Dubrull, 1868-81). Facsimile edition by Jacinto Torres (Madrid: Centro de Documentación Musical, 1986).

An up-to-date presentation of known facts (and new discoveries) about the beginnings of Martín y Soler's career may be found in Rainer Leonhard Kleinertz, “Zwischen Neapel und Madrid: Vicente Martín y Soler und das Spanische Königshaus”, “Anuario Musical” 51 (1996): 165-75. Previously, Ulisse Prota-Giurleo had recovered important documents concerning the Neapolitan sojourn of the composer: “Del compositore spagnuolo Vincente Martín y Soler”, “Archivi” 27 (1960): 145-56. For a general biographical overview, the best sorce is Dorothea Link's doctoral dissertation, “The Da Ponte Operas of Vicente Martín y Soler”, University of Toronto, 1991. (Chapter 1: “Martin's career”).

Modern edition by Juan Bautista Otero, Isidro Olmo Castillo, Manuel Forcano and Oscar Gil (Barcelona: Real Compañía Ópera de Cámara, 1999).

“Memorie di Lorenzo Da Ponte da Ceneda scritte da esso” (Nueva York, 1823-27). Modern edition: “Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte”, trad. al inglés por Elisabeth Abott (Filadelfia: Lippincott, 1929). The quotations in the present English version are drawn from citations in Link, “Da Ponte Operas”.

The Memoirs from which these epithets are quoted were written in the 1820s. In a letter written by Da Ponte to Casanova in 1795, however, the tone is manifestly different: he calls Martín y Soler “damned bastard”, “malevolent”, talks about his “black soul” and complains of the Spaniard's usurpation of his rights, of his stealing from him, and of his calumnies. Evidently, time tempered the ire of the old “abbé”. (See Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, p. 220).

“Times”, London, April 17, 1797, quoted by Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, p. 228.

Francesco Pitichio, for whom Da Ponte had written the libretto of “Bertoldo”

1 Da Ponte, “Memoirs”, p. 174, in Link, “Da Ponte Operas, pp. 48-49.

1 She had been temporarily replaced by the leading singer of the “Singspiel” company, Caterina Cavalieri, at the behest of the Emperor himself (letter of June 11th, 1788). See Mary Hunter, “The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 17 and 43.

1 Quoted in Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, pp. 49-50.

1 Harris, “Handel and the Pastoral Tradition” (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980), p.11.

1 Quote in Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, p. 50.

1 Anonymous, “Lettre d'un habitant de Vienne à son ami à Prague, qui lui avait demandé ses réflexions sur l' opéra intitulé L' arbore di Diana”, Österreichische Staatsarchiv, HstA, Karton 40, Vertrauliche Akten; quoted by Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, p. 67, from Michtner, “Burgtheater”, p. 435.

1 “Der Stein der Weisen” has been recently released in a CD performed by Boston Baroque; it includes an extensive companion booklet by David Buch and Martin Pearlman where the relationship to “Die Zauberflöte” is discussed.

1 With music by Benedikt Schak, who would later play the role of Tamino. See Otto Erich Deutsch, “Mozart: A Documentary Biography” (Stanford University Press, 1965), p. 367.

1 At least, this is what may be inferred from Mary Hunter's study of nearly 80 “opere buffe” performed at the Burgtheater. Hunter, “Culture of Opera Buffa”, pp. 40-42 and “passim”.

1 Link, ““L'arbore di Diana”: a model for “Così fan tutte”“.

2 Hunter, “Culture of Opera Buffa”, pp. 250-56.

2 Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, pp. 26 and 331-37 for the productions, 74-77 and 300-302 for the sources. In general, the source information is limited to the first Viennese production.

2 Cited by Link, “Da Ponte Operas”, p. 227.

2 Mary Hunter refers to a MS 10777 in Vienna, containing (in piano reduction) arias composed by Angelo Tarchi for “La ferrarese”, as substitutions for numbers I / 9 and II /14. Unfortunately I found this information too late to include the substitute arias in this edition.

2 “Lettre d'un habitant de Vienne”, quoted in Link, “The Da Ponte Operas”, p. 57.

2 The calligraphy of these changes is the same as that in the rest of the manuscript. Given that in this case we are evidently dealing with a composing score (or, at the very least, one where changes were composed-in), and given that, according to Link, these are not Martín y Soler autographs, we are led to believe that the copyist himself provided—or at least modified—the substitute arias.

2 “True Briton”, April 19, 1797, quoted in Frederick Petty, “Italian Opera in London, 1760-1800 “ (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982), p. 314

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