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Drama bez heroja i nacije. Trendovi talijanske opere u doba Zajceva Nikole Subica Zrinjskog (Drama without Hero and Nation. Italian Opera and its Trends in the Age of Zajc's Nikola Subic Zrinjski)


The years after Italian unification (1861) were marked by five factors which determined development of opera. 1) The reaction of young writers and composers, close to «Scapigliatura», against the works of Giuseppe Verdi, who was considered to be the father of old Risorgimento opera with "Nabucco" and "I Lombardi alla prima crociata". 2) The search for the renewal of the drama against the formulas (opera by numbers) from the 1870s onwards under the influence of Wagner’s Musikdrama, thanks to Arrigo Boito and other composers from Milan to Bologna. 3) However, when Ivan Zajc was composing his trilogy, Italian opera was not influenced by patriotic or social features, which was otherwise the case in «nations without history» who had their flag-bearers in Mikhail Glinka, Bedřich Smetana and Ivan Zajc. In this regard it is not possible to compare these composers and their Italian colleagues. The former were involved in difficult attempts to create a national grammar in music based on historical and mythological sources, while the latter, on the contrary, were trying exclusively to renew the compositional language, starting from the assumption that opera was by its very definition an Italian intellectual product. 4) Only in the 1890s, following the spread of Wagner’s drama, based on Germanic mythology and having a revolutionary structure thanks to the leitmotif technique, did Italian writers, faced with the unification of Germany after 1871, embark on the path of nationalism, fully aware of the fact that Italy lacked epics comparable to those of Germany. 5) What kind of opera could Italians – who had not been familiar with the political motivations which formed the basis of the music of their Russian, Polish, Bohemian, and Croatian counterparts – set in opposition to German opera? The only possibility was opera inspired by the history of Italy during the age of the Renaissance, because the 16th century was considered to be the time of the splendour of Italian genius in Europe after the success of Jacob Burckhardt’s book "The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy" (1860). But the attempt to replace their homeland’s history with epic history turned to be a failure, as examples by Alberto Franchetti with his "Cristoforo Colombo (1892) and Ruggiero Leoncavallo with "I Medici" (1893) demonstrate. These operas, lacked uniformity of style. In them three mutually unconnected components were mixed together: themes from ancient Italian music (to give couleur locale), romanza’s style and leitmotif. For this reason the veristic operas, partially enriched with pseudo-popular themes, were considered the best products of late 19th-century Italy by German audiences, and also by an excellent critic such as Franjo Ksaver Kuhač from Zagreb. This demonstrates that national opera never took root in Italy after the country’s unification, in spite of appeals by intellectuals such as Gabriele d’Annunzio and musicologists such as Fausto Torrefranca.