The Italian “National Opera” Imagined from a Southern Slavic Viewpoint: Franjo Ks. Kuhač and Josip Mandić

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The national awakening after the revolutions of 1848, and the related phenomenon of new operatic grammar disseminated from Russia and Bohemia to other countries of Central Europe, were the main factors in promoting a quest of musical autonomy either in Slovenia or in Croatia. In the light of the Southern Slavic people revival, the criticisms on the Italian opera and the Wagnerian Musikdrama, written by the prominent musicologist Franjo Kuhač (1834-1911), and the composer Josip Mandić (1883-1959), reveal two parallel points of view, which have not been taken into account until today. The negative judgement of Kuhač on the last works of Verdi, influenced by Wagner formulae, and the praise of Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana”, are due to his ideological ‘Credo’ on folk music, as the main source in view of creating a national style for opera. However, the lack of knowledge of the true traditional music of the Italian people mislead Kuhač, who believed that popular music in Italy largely depended on opera. Nevertheless, the writing “Nova glazbena struja njemačka i sadašnji talijanski kompozitori” (New Musical Trends in Germany and Contemporary Italian Composers) is a remarkable analysis of Verdi’s and Mascagni’s oeuvres. Josip Mandić, a Croatian lawyer and musician, worked within the frame of Slovene and Pan-Slavic revival in Trieste until World War I. His opera “Petar Svačić” was played first in Trieste (1902), and then in Ljubljana (1904). He collaborated with the Triestine newspaper “Jadran”, and in 1903 he published a detailed article on Wagnerian influence on Puccini’s “Tosca”. Alike Kuhač he was attracted by the idea that a renewed national opera would have been the mainstream to affirm a South Slavic culture, no more involved with the Italian and German civilizations. In his short essay “Glazba: nekoliko refleksija” (“Music: some reflexions”), the young composer explains his personal viewpoint on the Hegelian ‘Zeitgeist’, imagined as a dialectical contrast between the spirit insight the composer, and the external driving force of styles and shapes of music. Within this frame, not only he defines the causes of the end of opera by numbers, but also the fall of “Tosca”, attributing to Puccini the bad choice of a bizarre libretto, that led him towards his own intimate style of romanza, flourished in a brilliant way in the previous opera “Bohème”. Although the reliance on the topic of Slavic national myth, readable in the libretto of the contemporary Petar Svačić, the review written by Mandić is free from ideological bias. At the same time, the author outlines the negative role of unprofessional critics in Trieste that contributed to the fiasco of Puccini’s “Tosca”.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteVloga nacionalnih opernih gledališč v 20. in 21. stoletju. The Role of National Opera Houses in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Studia Musicologica Labacensia 3
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2019

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