European Month of Culture: Spotlight on Italy

Here’s a new blog by our colleague Jason Steinhauer about Elia Andrea Corazza’s research in the papers of Serge Diaghilev at the Library of Congress. This blog commemorates European Month of Culture, and is cross-posted from Insights, a blog about scholarly work at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

Elia Andrea Corazza, Kluge Fellow

Elia Andrea Corazza

Elia Andrea Corazza was a Kluge Fellow in 2014. Photo courtesy the scholar, used with permission.

Scholar Elia Andrea Corazza arrived at the Library of Congress in fall 2014 to conduct research on legendary Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. In particular, Corazza wished to know more about Respighi’s collaboration with Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes, after World War I, in order to shed light on this period of music history and on Respighi’s life and career.

Corazza was well-suited for the task. A trained musicologist and musician from Bologna, Corazza earned his PhD in musicology from the University of Bologna. Prior, he earned three separate master’s degrees in composition, orchestral conducting and pianoforte. He has conducted numerous orchestras and has composed his own pieces.

Corazza relied on the personal papers of Diaghilev held by the Library of Congress. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes toured across Europe, the U.S. and South America, and collaborated with numerous artists, incorporating European operas into the performances, especially Italian ones. Diaghilev met Respighi in Rome in early 1917 and the pair discussed the production of a ballet based on a selection of little-known piano pieces composed by Gioacchino Rossini while in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Leonide Massine choreographed and danced the ballet using the most important European dances, like the French Can-can, the Italian Tarantella, the Polish Mazurka, the Viennese Waltz, and the Russian Dance Cosaque. The result was a musical parody featuring caricatures of Italians, French and Germans titled La Boutique Fantasque, which premiered on June 5, 1919, at the Alhambra Theatre in London. One of the Ballets Russes’ most successful productions, it was performed over 300 times between 1919 and 1929.

Italy detail

Map of Italy. Image courtesy the CIA World Factbook. Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/it.html

An intriguing collaboration between the two men occurred in 1920. The production was an adaptation of La Serva Padrona, an opera composed by Giovanni Paisiello at the court of Catherine II tsarina of Russia at the end of the 18th century, based on the libretto which was set to music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi at the beginning of the 18th century. The orchestration of La Serva Padrona that Respighi made for Diaghilev in 1920 was never staged, however. The sheet music was held at Yale University in the F. R. Koch Collection, however several pages were missing and thought to have vanished forever. That is, until Corazza discovered them inside the Diaghilev papers here at the Library of Congress. With these missing manuscripts, Corazza was able to recreate Diaghilev and Respighi’s La Serva Padrona, and conduct the first-ever performance of it in Bologna—the city where Respighi was born. Corazza plans to direct the U.S. premiere of La Serva Padrona, along with the recently found ballets, in the United States in the near future, bringing this lost opera to life.

Learn more about Corazza’s work:

Related Links:

More about the European Month of Culture can be found here or on social media at #EUMC2016.

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Upcoming Music Division Event for European Month of Culture
Presented in association with the Delegation of the European Union to the United States

Thursday, May 19, 2016 – 7:00pm [Lecture]
AMS Lecture: Revisiting Mendelssohn’s Octet
R. Larry Todd, PhD, Arts & Sciences Professor of Music, Duke University
Montpelier Room, James Madison Memorial Building, Sixth Floor, 10 First Street, SE, Washington, DC
Presented in association with the American Musicological Society and Embassy of Germany
Free, registration suggested

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