Antonio Salieri's La calamita de' cuori (1774): Sources, Form, Context

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Antonio Salieri’s La calamita de’ cuori (1774) warrants musicological attention for what it can tell us about Salieri’s compositional craft and what it reveals about the development of form in Viennese Italian-language comic opera of the mid- and late-eighteenth century. In Part I of this dissertation, I explore the performance history of La calamita, present the first plot synopsis and English translation of the libretto, and describe the variants between Carlo Goldoni’s 1752 libretto and the revised version created for Salieri’s opera. I have collated Salieri’s holograph score, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Mus. Hs. 16.508, with four copies having different relationships to it, and I propose a stemma that represents the relationships between these five sources.

The analyses in Part II contribute to our understanding of formal practices in eighteenth-century drammi giocosi. My study of Salieri’s La calamita reveals his reliance on a clearly defined binary structure, referred to in this dissertation as “operatic binary form,” in almost half of the arias, ensembles, and instrumental movements of this opera. Salieri’s consistent use of operatic binary form led me to explore its use in drammi giocosi by other prominent composers of this time, including Baldassare Galuppi’s La calamita de’ cuori (1752), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Il dissoluto punito, ossia Il Don Giovanni (1787), and selected arias by Pasquale Anfossi, Florian Leopold Gassmann, Giuseppe Gazzaniga, Franz Joseph Haydn, Giovanni Paisiello, and Niccolò Piccinni dating from 1760 to 1774. This study showed that Salieri and his peers adhered to a recognizable tonal plan and set of design elements in their operatic binary forms, and that their arias fall into three distinct categories defined by the tonality at the beginning of the second half of the binary structure. The analysis presented here adds to our present understanding of operatic form in mid- and late-century drammi giocosi and shows that in La calamita de’ cuori, Salieri was following the normative formal procedures of his time.