DOI: https://doi.org/10.31318/0130-5298.2019.0.45.190007

VALENTYNO SERMATTEI’S PRIVATE ITALIAN MANAGEMENT AT ODESA OPERA HOUSE (1857 – 1859)

Kostyantyn Batsak

Abstract


The relevance of the paper. The Italian Opera of Odesa from its foundation in the beginning of the 19th century became an integral part of the city cultural life. The authorities annually allocated huge amounts of subsidies to support the existence of an Italian troupe in the local theatre. During and after the Eastern War of 1854-57, the city budget suffered from an economic downturn, which is why the Italian opera gradually lost its urban source of funding – from 1855 the usual practice of the Italian opera troupe foreign engagement was discontinued. In such circumstances, the only way to organize theatrical performances was to rent a free theatre hall by various touring troupes. F. Berger’s private Italian opera enterprise acted in Odesa on the basis of the lease, in particular, during the period from 1856 to the spring 1857. After its departure, the city stayed without Italian opera. For the next two theatrical seasons the municipal authorities were again forced to offer the lease of the theatre to another Italian impresario V. Sermattei. A certain period in the history of Odesa Italian opera was one of the poor investigated ones: there missed a piece of information about the artistic composition of the troupe, repertoire policy and peculiarities of entrepreneur’s organizational activities; it is necessary to verify the Italian artistes’ valuations made by local and Italian music critics.

The objectives of the study is to investigate V. Sermattei’s Odesa private enterprise activities on the stage and its socio-cultural dimensions through the prism of music-critical discourse.

The methodology involves the semiotic-hermeneutic method (to analyze the peculiarities of scenic directing, the specifics of musical-critical thought, the audience reactions and preferences as a text of culture and its hermeneutic comprehension); bio-bibliographical method (for clarifying and combining the facts of Italian singers’ life and creative activity in Italy and abroad, in particular, in Ukraine); cultural-historical method (allows to study V. Sermattei’s Italian troupe scenic activities as a social phenomenon, contributed to the dissemination of Italian opera achievements in the local musical and theatrical environment).

Findings and conclusions. V. Sermattei’s enterprise during 1857-59 gained peculiarities connected with the specificity of its financing. As the profit was constituted with season ticket and entrance fees only, the entrepreneur sought to profit by saving money on performances (props, scenery), reducing the cost of soloists, choirs and orchestra musicians engaging, as well as increasing the number of premieres performed in the theatre repertoire. The austerity mode had a negative effect on the engaged soloists’ scenic qualities, many of whom had no stage experience, so they were unable to perform the popular Verdi’s repertoire, also it led to reducing a number of choirsingers and orchestra musicians.

The accelerated pace for new performances preparation influenced the directorate coursed the operas being staged without proper rehearsals, so the performers felt uncertain on stage, made mistakes and, as a consequence, exposed to fair criticism. Instead, the music reviews, being published in local newspapers, gained professionalism, first of all, thanks to P. Sokalsky’s, S. Schiff’s and other music correspondents having had special music education publications. News columns devoted to the Italian troupe performances testified to their authors’ deep awareness in the field of the opera history, vocal performance art, contemporary trends in music development in general. The Italian artists’ performances are analyzed in music-critical articles according to the texts of the original operatic scores, often several author’s editions are taken into consideration. The singers’ vocal and acting talents, revealed at Odesa premieres, local musicologists often compared with the eminent Italian artistes’ performances, which they succeeded to see at famous Europe theatres.


Keywords


V. Sermattei’s Italian enterprise; Odesa city theatre; opera performing arts; opera repertoire; repertoire policy; musical-critical thoughts

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