In this talk I investigate the collaboration between Serge Diaghilev, founder of The Ballets Russes, and the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.
The speech was delivered at the Library of Congress on April 30th, 2015, as a part of the John W. Kluge Fellowship which I received during the 2014-2015 academical year.
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Dan Turello wrote this article on my research at The Library of Congress, during my Kluge Fellowship. He describes my quest to reconstruct the entire score of Paisiello’s La Serva Padrona, which Ottorino Respighi orchestrated for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1920, but was not staged and considered lost.
Short excerpt from the article by Dan Turello:
Sometimes a few missing pages can make it a challenge to reconstruct an entire work. This was exactly the case when current Kluge Fellow Elia Corazza discovered the autographed orchestration of La Serva Padrona, an 18th century opera written by Giovanni Paisiello and then adapted by Ottorino Respighi for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1920.
Corazza, a composer, conductor, and musicologist, with training in piano, composition and orchestral conducting, as well as a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Bologna (Italy), became interested in La Serva Padrona as a part of his broader effort to rediscover some of Respighi’s lost works. Respighi became popular in Italy after the First World War, just as Fascism was taking hold in the country. During these years, Respighi transcribed various works of pre-romantic music created by Italian composers including Monteverdi, Paisiello, Cimarosa, and Rossini, that had long since been forgotten and seldom, if ever performed.
World premiere in Bologna of the intermezzi made by Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes. The musical reading of the young conductor Elia Corazza was outstanding.
Thanks to his enthusiasm on the project, to his work on every stage of the production, to his critical knowledge of the repertoire and to his demonstrated conducting talent, the young conductor premiered Paisiello-Respighi’s chamber opera giving an outstanding musical reading: the Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale was committed as ever before, with an urging narrative rhythm and the music put in evidence in its shining and energetic liveliness.
In 1920, impresario Sergei Diaghilev commissioned the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi to revise Giovanni Paisiello’s opera buffa, La Serva padrona, for his Ballets Russes. Respighi shortened Paisiello’s work, reorchestrated it, and even added choir in several places. Also he added a ballet finale at Diaghilev’s request, based on a selection of ballet music by Paisiello composed during his tenure at the court of Catherine II in St. Petersburg. A performance of this revised version of La Serva padrona, however, never materialised.
A few years ago, conductor, composer, and musicologist Dr. Elia Andrea Corazza undertook to realise Diaghilev’s vision. The resulting critical edition, which expands Respighi’s piano reduction into a full score for the first time, is now available from Schott music. Notes by Diaghilev in his own copies of Paisiello’s original score helped Corazza to reconstruct Respighi’s version of the opera. The world première will take place on 5 August 2014 in the court of the Piccoli Teatro del Baraccano in Bologna, conducted by Corazza in a production by Paolo Billi. The production can be seen two more times on 6 and 7 August.
Read the full article, forthcoming performances and the full score on Schott’s website.