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In music, an intermezzo ( // , Italian pronunciation: [ˌinterˈmɛddzo] , plural form: intermezzi), 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.
Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.
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.
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The Renaissance intermezzo was also called the intermedio. It was a masque-like dramatic piece with music, which was performed between the acts of a play at Italian court festivities on special occasions, especially weddings. By the late 16th century, the intermezzo had become the most spectacular form of dramatic performance, and an important precursor to opera. The most famous examples were created for Medici weddings in 1539, 1565, and 1589. In Baroque Spain the equivalent entremés or paso was a one-act comic scene, often ending in music and dance, between jornadas (acts) of a play.
The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment that flourished in 16th- and early 17th-century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio. A masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. Professional actors and musicians were hired for the speaking and singing parts. Often the masquers, who did not speak or sing, were courtiers: the English queen Anne of Denmark frequently danced with her ladies in masques between 1603 and 1611, and Henry VIII and Charles I of England performed in the masques at their courts. In the tradition of masque, Louis XIV of France danced in ballets at Versailles with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Entremés, is a short, comic theatrical performance of one act, usually played during the interlude of a performance of a long dramatic work, in the 16th and 17th centuries in Spain. Later it became the sainete.
The intermezzo, in the 18th century, was a comic operatic interlude inserted between acts or scenes of an opera seria . These intermezzi could be substantial and complete works themselves, though they were shorter than the opera seria which enclosed them; typically they provided comic relief and dramatic contrast to the tone of the bigger opera around them, and often they used one or more of the stock characters from the opera or from the commedia dell'arte. In this they were the reverse of the Renaissance intermezzo, which usually had a mythological or pastoral subject as a contrast to a main comic play. Often they were of a burlesque nature, and characterized by slapstick comedy, disguises, dialect, and ribaldry. The most famous of all intermezzi from the period is Pergolesi's La serva padrona , which was an opera buffa that after the death of Pergolesi kicked off the Querelle des Bouffons.
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to about 1770. The term itself was rarely used at the time and only attained common usage once opera seria was becoming unfashionable and beginning to be viewed as a historical genre. The popular rival to opera seria was opera buffa, the 'comic' opera that took its cue from the improvisatory commedia dell'arte.
Commedia dell'arte was an early form of professional theatre, originating from Italy, that was popular in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century. Commedia dell'arte is also known as commedia alla maschera, commedia improvviso, and commedia dell'arte all'improvviso. Commedia is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century and was responsible for the advent of actresses and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. A commedia, such as The Tooth Puller, is both scripted and improvised. Characters' entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia dell'arte are the lazzi. A lazzo is a joke or "something foolish or witty", usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine. Another characteristic of commedia dell'arte is pantomime, which is mostly used by the character Arlecchino (Harlequin).
Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity which exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. The term arises from a device developed during the broad, physical comedy style known as Commedia dell'arte in 16th Century Italy. The "slap stick" consists of two thin slats of wood, which make a 'slap' when striking another actor, with little force needed to make a loud—and comical—sound. The physical slap stick remains a key component of the plot in the traditional and popular Punch and Judy puppet show.
In some cases the intermezzo repertory spread more quickly than did the opera seria itself; the singers were often renowned, the comic effects were popular, and intermezzi were relatively easy to produce and stage. In the 1730s the style spread around Europe, and some cities—for example Moscow—recorded visits and performances by troupes performing intermezzi years before any actual opera seria were done.
The intermède (the French equivalent of the intermezzo) was the single most important outside operatic influence in Paris in the mid-18th century, and helped create an entire new repertory of opera in France (see opéra comique ).
Intermède is a French term for a musical or theatrical performance involving song and dance, also an 18th-century opera genre.
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris is one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
The word was used (with a hint of irony) as the title of Richard Strauss's two-act opera, Intermezzo (1924), the scale of which far exceeds the intermezzo of tradition.
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.
Intermezzo, Op. 72, is an opera in two acts by Richard Strauss to his own German libretto, described as a Bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen. It premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 4 November 1924, with sets that reproduced Strauss' home in Garmisch. The first Vienna performance was in January 1927.
Many of the most celebrated intermezzi are from operas of the verismo period: Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and L'amico Fritz , Leoncavallo's Pagliacci , Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Suor Angelica , Giordano's Fedora , Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur , and especially that from Massenet's Thais , which became known as the Méditation.
Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from an 1880 short story of the same name and subsequent play by Giovanni Verga. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on 17 May 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Since 1893, it has often been performed in a so-called Cav/Pag double-bill with Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.
L'amico Fritz is an opera in three acts by Pietro Mascagni, premiered in 1891 from a libretto by P. Suardon, based on the French novel L'ami Fritz by Émile Erckmann and Pierre-Alexandre Chatrian.
Pagliacci is an Italian opera in a prologue and two acts, with music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It is the only Leoncavallo opera that is still widely performed. Opera companies have frequently staged Pagliacci with Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni, a double bill known colloquially as 'Cav and Pag'.
In the 19th century, the intermezzo acquired another meaning: an instrumental piece which was either a movement between two others in a larger work, or a character piece which could stand on its own. These intermezzi show a wide variation in the style and function: in Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream the intermezzo serves as musical connecting material for action in Shakespeare's play; in chamber music by Mendelssohn and Brahms, the intermezzi are names for interior movements which would otherwise be called scherzi; and the piano intermezzi by Brahms, some of his last compositions, are sets of independent character pieces not intended to connect anything else together. Stylistically, intermezzi of the 19th century are usually lyrical and melodic, especially compared to the movements on either side, when they occur in larger works. The Brahms piano intermezzi in particular have an extremely wide emotional range, and are often considered some of the finest character pieces written in the 19th century.
Opera composers sometimes wrote instrumental intermezzi as connecting pieces between acts of operas. In this sense, an intermezzo is similar to the entr'acte. The most famous of this type of intermezzo is probably the intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana . Puccini also wrote intermezzi for Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly , and examples exist by Wolf-Ferrari, Delius and others.
Also, incidental music for plays usually contained several intermezzi. Schubert's Rosamunde music as well as Grieg's Peer Gynt contained several intermezzi for the respective plays.
In the 20th century, the term was used occasionally. Shostakovich named one movement of his dark String Quartet No. 15 "intermezzo"; Bartók used the term for the fourth movement (of five) of his Concerto for Orchestra .
Pietro Antonio Stefano Mascagni was an Italian composer best known for his operas, such as his 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria Rusticana which caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music. While it was often held that Mascagni, like Ruggiero Leoncavallo, was a "one-opera man" who could never repeat his first success, L'amico Fritz and Iris have remained in the repertoire in Europe since their premieres. Mascagni said that at one point, Iris was performed in Italy more often than Cavalleria.
Giovanni Battista Draghi, often referred to as Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. His best-known works include his Stabat Mater and the opera La serva padrona. His compositions include operas and sacred music. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 26.
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as commedia in musica, commedia per musica, dramma bernesco, dramma comico, divertimento giocoso.
In opera, verismo was a post-Romantic operatic tradition associated with Italian composers such as Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano, Francesco Cilea and Giacomo Puccini. Verismo as an operatic genre had its origins in an Italian literary movement of the same name. This was in turn related to the international literary movement of naturalism as practised by Émile Zola and others. Like naturalism, the verismo literary movement sought to portray the world with greater realism. In so doing, Italian verismo authors such as Giovanni Verga wrote about subject matter, such as the lives of the poor, that had not generally been seen as a fit subject for literature.
Mario Del Monaco was a spectacular operatic tenor who earned worldwide acclaim for his powerful voice and acting skills.
Entr'acte means "between the acts". It can mean a pause between two parts of a stage production, synonymous to an intermission, but it more often indicates a piece of music performed between acts of a theatrical production.
Comic opera denotes a sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending.
The intermedio [interˈmɛːdjo], in the Italian Renaissance, was a theatrical performance or spectacle with music and often dance which was performed between the acts of a play to celebrate special occasions in Italian courts. It was one of the important predecessors to opera, and an influence on other forms like the English court masque. Weddings in ruling families and similar state occasions were the usual occasion for the most lavish intermedi, in cities such as Florence and Ferrara. Some of the best documentation of intermedi comes from weddings in the Medici family, in particular the 1589 Medici wedding, which featured what was undoubtedly both the most spectacular set of intermedi, and the best known, thanks to no fewer than 18 contemporary published festival books and sets of prints that were financed by the Grand Duke.
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.
The Querelle des Bouffons, also known as the Guerre des Bouffons and the Guerre des Coins, was the name given to a battle of rival musical philosophies which took place in Paris between 1752 and 1754. The controversy concerned the relative merits of French and Italian opera.
La canterina, Hob. XXVIII/2, is a short, two-act opera buffa by Joseph Haydn, the first one he wrote for Prince Esterhazy. Based on the intermezzo from the third act of Niccolò Piccinni's opera L'Origille (1760), it lasts about 50 minutes. It was written in 1766, and was premiered in the fall of that year.
I Rantzau is an opera in four acts by Pietro Mascagni (1892), based on a libretto by Guido Menasci and Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, based on the play Les Rantzau (1873) by French writers Erckmann and Chatrian, after their novel (1882) Les Deux Frères.
In theater and music history, a burletta 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.
A spinto soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that has the limpidity and easy high notes of a lyric soprano, yet can be "pushed" on to achieve dramatic climaxes without strain. This type of voice may possess a somewhat darker timbre, too, than the average lyric soprano. It generally uses squillo to "slice" through the sound of a full orchestra, rather than singing over the orchestra like a true dramatic soprano.
Domenico Monleone was an Italian composer of operas, most noted for his opera Cavalleria rusticana of 1907, which for a while rivalled the success of Mascagni's work of the same name which was from the same source. The work was the third opera to be based on Verga’s 1884 theatrical adaptation of his own short story, Cavalleria rusticana, Stanislao Gastaldon’s Mala Pasqua (1888) being the first, and Mascagni's famous opera (1890) being the second. Mascagni and his lawyers intervened and Monleone changed the opera ‘beyond recognition’ setting the music to a new libretto. In this form it was presented as La giostra dei falchi in 1914.
Pimpinone, TWV 21:15, is a comic opera by the German composer Georg Philipp Telemann with a libretto by Johann Philipp Praetorius. Its full title is Die Ungleiche Heirat zwischen Vespetta und Pimpinone oder Das herrsch-süchtige Camer Mägden. The work is described as a Lustiges Zwischenspiel in three parts. It was first performed at the Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg on 27 September 1725 as light relief between the acts of Telemann's adaptation of Handel's opera seria Tamerlano. Pimpinone was highly successful and pointed the way forward to later intermezzi, particularly Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La serva padrona.
Lina Bruna Rasa was an Italian operatic soprano. She was particularly noted for her performances in the verismo repertoire and was a favourite of Pietro Mascagni who considered her the ideal Santuzza. Bruna Rasa created the roles of Atte in Mascagni's Nerone, Cecilia Sagredo in Franco Vittadini's La Sagredo and Saint Clare in Licinio Refice's 1926 oratorio, Trittico Francescano. She also sang the role of Tsaritsa Militrisa in the Italian premiere of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tale of Tsar Saltan.
Mala Pasqua! is an opera in three acts composed by Stanislao Gastaldon to a libretto by Giovanni Domenico Bartocci-Fontana. The libretto is based on Giovanni Verga's play, Cavalleria rusticana which Verga had adapted from his short story of the same name. Mala Pasqua! premiered on 9 April 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, six weeks before Pietro Mascagni's opera Cavalleria rusticana which was also based on Verga's play. Bartocci-Fontana's libretto adds some elements that were not in Verga's original and expands on others. The name of the Santuzza character was also changed to Carmela, but the basic plot and setting remain the same. Its title refers to the curse which Carmela places on Turiddu, the lover who had spurned her: "Mala Pasqua a te!". Following its Rome premiere Mala Pasqua! had a few more performances in Perugia and Lisbon, but it was completely eclipsed by the phenomenal success of Mascagni's opera. After the 1891 Lisbon run it was not heard again until 2010 when it was given a semi-staged performance in Agrigento, Sicily.
"Sancta Maria" is a Latin-language soprano aria based on the Intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria rusticana, composed by Pietro Mascagni. It uses some of the same lyrics as Ave Maria and has become a popular concert piece. It also has been recorded by several singers, like Andrea Bocelli, Sissel Kyrkjebø, Charlotte Church, Katherine Jenkins and the tenor Friar Alessandro.