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Cabaletta is a two-part musical form particularly favored for arias in 19th century Italian opera in the belcanto era until about the 1850s during which it was one of the era's most important elements. More properly, a cabaletta is a more animated section following the songlike cantabile. [1] It often introduces a complication or intensification of emotion in the plot.

Musical form overall structure or plan of a piece of music

In music, Form refers to the structure of a musical composition or performance. In "Worlds of Music", Jeff Todd Titon suggests that a number of organizational elements may determine the formal structure of a piece of music, such as "the arrangement of musical units of rhythm, melody, and or/ harmony that show repetition or variation, the arrangement of the instruments, or the way a symphonic piece is orchestrated", among other factors.

Aria musical piece for a single voice as part of a larger work

In music, an aria is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrumental or orchestral accompaniment, normally part of a larger work.

Italian opera Operas in Italy or in the Italian language

Italian opera is both the art of opera in Italy and opera in the Italian language. Opera was born in Italy around the year 1600 and Italian opera has continued to play a dominant role in the history of the form until the present day. Many famous operas in Italian were written by foreign composers, including Handel, Gluck and Mozart. Works by native Italian composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, are amongst the most famous operas ever written and today are performed in opera houses across the world.

Some sources suggest that the word derives from the Italian cobola (couplet). [2] Another theory suggests that it derives from the Italian cavallo (horse), a reference to the pulsating rhythm of a galloping horse which forms the accompaniment of many famous cabalettas. [3]

A couplet is a pair of successive lines of metre in poetry. A couplet usually consists of two successive lines that rhyme and have the same metre. A couplet may be formal (closed) or run-on (open). In a formal couplet, each of the two lines is end-stopped, implying that there is a grammatical pause at the end of a line of verse. In a run-on couplet, the meaning of the first line continues to the second.

The cabaletta was formed as part of an evolution from early 19th century arias containing two contrasting sections at different tempi within a single structure into more elaborate arias with musically distinct movements. The term itself was first defined in 1826 in Pietro Lichtenthal's Dizionario. [4] It has a repetitive structure consisting of two stanzas followed by embellished variations. The cabaletta typically ends with a coda, often a very virtuosic one.

In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.

In poetry, a stanza is a grouped set of lines within a poem, usually set off from other stanzas by a blank line or indentation. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, though stanzas are not strictly required to have either. Even though the term "stanza" is taken from Italian, in the Italian language the word "strofa" is more commonly used. There are many unique forms of stanzas. Some stanzaic forms are simple, such as four-line quatrains. Other forms are more complex, such as the Spenserian stanza. Fixed verse poems, such as sestinas, can be defined by the number and form of their stanzas. The term stanza is similar to strophe, though strophe sometimes refers to irregular set of lines, as opposed to regular, rhymed stanzas.

In music, a coda[ˈkoːda] is a passage that brings a piece to an end. Technically, it is an expanded cadence. It may be as simple as a few measures, or as complex as an entire section.

Classic examples include "Non più mesta" from La Cenerentola by Rossini (1817), "Vien diletto, è in ciel la luna" from I puritani by Bellini (1835), and "Di quella pira" from Verdi's Il trovatore (1853).

<i>La Cenerentola</i> opera by Gioachino Rossini

La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo is an operatic dramma giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti, based on the fairy tale Cendrillon by Charles Perrault. The opera was first performed in Rome's Teatro Valle on 25 January 1817.

<i>I puritani</i> opera by Vincenzo Bellini

I puritani is an opera by Vincenzo Bellini. It was originally written in two acts and later changed to three acts on the advice of Gioachino Rossini, with whom the young composer had become friends. The music was set to a libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, an Italian émigré poet whom Bellini had met at a salon run by the exile Princess Belgiojoso, which became a meeting place for many Italian revolutionaries.

Vincenzo Bellini Italian opera composer

Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer, who was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania". Many years later, in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi "praised the broad curves of Bellini's melody: 'there are extremely long melodies as no-one else had ever made before'."

In later parlance, cabaletta came to refer to the fast final part of any operatic vocal ensemble, usually a duet, rather than just a solo aria. For example, the duet between Gilda and Rigoletto in Act 1, Scene 2 of Rigoletto ends with a relatively slow cabaletta, whereas the cabaletta for their duet in the finale of Act 2 is quite rousing.

The cabaletta is often used to convey strong emotions: overwhelming happiness (Linda's famous cabaletta "O luce di quest anima" from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix), great sorrow (Lucia's "Spargi d'amaro pianto" from Lucia di Lammermoor), or timeless love (Lindoro's short cabaletta from Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri ). Rossini wrote at least one or even more cabalettas for all major characters in his operas. For example, L'italiana in Algeri contains two cabalettas for Lindoro, three cabalettas for Isabella, one cabaletta for Mustafa, and one for Taddeo. If the final parts of the ensembles are included, the total is almost sixteen cabalettas.

<i>Litaliana in Algeri</i> opera by Gioacchino Rossini

L'Italiana in Algeri is an operatic dramma giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Angelo Anelli, based on his earlier text set by Luigi Mosca. It premiered at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice on 22 May 1813. The music is characteristic of Rossini's style, remarkable for its fusion of sustained, manic energy with elegant, pristine melodies.

Giuseppe Verdi continued to adapt the cantabile–cabaletta formula to great emotional and dramatic effect, before largely abandoning it by 1862 as a solo piece with Don Carlo's "Egli è salvo" in "La forza del destino". [4] A famous Verdian cabaletta appears in his 1853 La traviata in act 1. It follows Violetta's pensive "È strano! è strano...Ah fors'è lui" in which she considers that the man whom she has just met may be the one for her. But this leads by degrees to her resolve to remain "always free" in "Sempre libera", with its rapid and defiant pyrotechnics.

Verdi's 1846 Attila is regarded by contemporaneous critics as the "height of cabalettismo" [5]

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  1. "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" is a rare example that reverses this order.
  2. e.g. Apel 1962, p. 107 and Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. e.g. Fisher 2005, p. 126
  4. 1 2 "Cabaletta, s.f. Pensieretto musicale melodico, o sia cantilena semplice atta a blandire l'orecchio, la quale mercè un ritmo ben distinto imprimesi agevolmente nell'animo dell'uditore, e che per la sua naturalezza viene facilmente ripetuta appena intesa, e dagli orecchianti e dagl'intendenti." Pietro Lichtenthal, Dizionario e bibliografia della musica (Milano, 1826), vol. 1, pg. 106–107.
  5. Greenwald, 2012, p. xxv