Prima la musica e poi le parole

Synopsis | Historical Context | Origins | Cast | Reception | Metamelodramma and Intertextuality

Live recording (recorded by members of the OPERA Editorial office) “Musik im Landtag” (Mainz) 28th May 2013 with reduced orchestra, Soprano: Elisabeth Scholl
Recitativo „Non dubitar, verrò“
Aria „Là tu vedrai chi sono“

The vocal score to this work is available on sale and on hire. The parts are available on hire.

Eleonora - soprano
Tonina - soprano
Poet - bass
Maestro - bass

Oboe I, II, Clarinetto I, II, Fagotto I, II;
Corno I, II, Tromba I, II;
Archi, Basso continuo


A new opera, to be ready in four days’ time, is commissioned by Count Opizio. In the beginning, we see the Maestro and the Poet arguing about the preparations. The Maestro, his music ready, demands that the Poet set his verses to the existing music. The prima donna Eleonora appears and provides a sample of her vocal artistry. She sings an aria from the opera seria Giulio Sabino. Another number from this opera follows in which the Poet and the Maestro serve as extras. They have to kneel in order to imitate Sabino’s children, while the remaining characters are represented by two chairs. The scene inevitably ends in a farce. After the departure of Eleonora, the Poet and the Maestro again take up the problem of setting new text to existing music or creating new music for previously existing text, which leads to a heated discussion. The soubrette Tonina appears, a soprano representing opera buffa, who demands appropriate music for herself. She parodies an ombra scene and then gives a stutter aria. The Maestro tells Tonina that he has composed an aria for her, which she begins to sing ‘at sight.’ Eleonora now returns to the stage and sees her artistic rival, Tonina, as having an advantage: As prima donna, she lays claim to the first aria for herself. The conflict culminates in both singers performing their respective arias at the same time. The juxtaposition of seria and buffa singing ultimately ends in a ‘friendly co-existence,’ which calms tempers; all then join in a conciliatory conclusion.