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In theater and music history, a burletta (Italian, meaning "little joke", sometimes burla or burlettina) is a brief comic opera. In eighteenth-century Italy, a burletta was the comic intermezzo between the acts of an opera seria . The extended work Pergolesi's La serva padrona was also designated a "burletta" at its London premiere in 1750.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

In music, an intermezzo, in the most general sense, is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work. In music history, the term has had several different usages, which fit into two general categories: the opera intermezzo and the instrumental intermezzo.


In England, the term began to be used, in contrast to burlesque, for works that satirized opera but did not employ musical parody. Burlettas in English began to appear in the 1760s, the earliest identified as such being Midas by Kane O'Hara, first performed privately in 1760 near Belfast, and produced at Covent Garden in 1764. The form became debased when the term burletta began to be used for English comic or ballad operas, as a way of evading the monopoly on "legitimate drama" [1] in London belonging to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. After the passage of the Theatres Act of 1843, which repealed crucial regulations of the Licensing Act of 1737, use of the term declined.

Burlesque Literary, dramatic or musical work or genre

A burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Midas is a burletta, or 'mock opera', by Kane O'Hara.

List of Theatrical Burlettas

Kane O'Hara was an Irish composer and playwright.

François-Hippolyte Barthélémon French composer

François Hippolyte Barthélemon was a French violinist, pedagogue, and composer active in England.

The Recruiting Serjeant is a burletta by composer Charles Dibdin and playwright Isaac Bickerstaff. It premièred on 20 July 1770 at Ranelagh Gardens, London.

Other Meanings

The word burletta has also been used for scherzo-like instrumental music by composers including Max Reger and Bartók. In America, the word has sometimes been used as an alternative for burlesque.

A scherzo, in western classical music, is a short composition – sometimes a movement from a larger work such as a symphony or a sonata. The precise definition has varied over the years, but scherzo often refers to a movement that replaces the minuet as the third movement in a four-movement work, such as a symphony, sonata, or string quartet. The term can also refer to a fast-moving humorous composition that may or may not be part of a larger work.

Max Reger German composer, pianist and conductor

Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger, commonly known as Max Reger, was a German composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and academic teacher. He worked as a concert pianist, as a musical director at the Leipzig University Church, as a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, and as a music director at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen.

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Thomas Arne 18th-century British composer

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Charles Dibdin British musician, songwriter, dramatist, novelist and actor

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<i>Le jugement de Midas</i> opera

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William Reeve was an English theatre composer and organist.

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  1. Meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music ( "Definition from the Everything 2 website". Everything2.com. 6 January 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2010.)
  2. Charles H. Parsons, Opera Composers and Their Works: E-K (1986), p. 886
International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

<i>The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians</i> encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it is one of the largest reference works on western music. Originally published under the title A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and later as Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, it has gone through several editions since the 19th century and is widely used. In recent years it has been made available as an electronic resource called Grove Music Online, which is now an important part of Oxford Music Online.