Maometto II - Musical Structure

Musical Structure

Musicologists have identified many distinctive elements of the 1820 score for Naples which moved beyond the traditions then existing. As Philip Gossett notes:

"Italian opera of the early nineteenth century worked within a finely tuned system of musical and dramatic conventions, many of which were developed and codified in Rossini's earlier operas."

Some of these elements explain the reason for the opera's rejection by Neapolitan audiences of that time, because "Rossini carried his art far beyond (their) capabilities." One aspect is that Act One lasts 90 minutes and contains only five sections, one of which is the "terzettone" (a name unique to Rossini meaning "a big fat trio"). This trio runs some 25 minutes and includes "the temporary departure of two principals, intrusive cannon fire, an outbreak of popular dismay, and a prayer."

Another element is a move away from a conventional bel canto era finale which usually contained a florid and virtuosic rondo for a happy ending or a cabaletta for a tragic one. Instead, Rossini gives the prima donna a 40-minute display of vocal artistry during which she never leaves the stage. (It should be noted that in the 1822 Venice revision, Rossini substitutes his own aria "Tanti affetti in tal momento" from La donna del lago in order to achieve the conventional effect, as well as to create a happy ending.) An additional element is the fact that, as Gossett notes, there are only five independent arias in the opera, but only two end with cabalettas.

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