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date: 22 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes how programming in Italian opera houses gradually shifted from new to established old works in the middle of the nineteenth century. By tradition, contractual agreements committed an impresario to stage a consistent number of works, either recently composed or new to the city. From the 1820s, both taste and programming became increasingly focused on a small number of authors and composers, seen most significantly in the successes of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. From 1850, theaters produced fewer new works, and programming became increasingly stable and consistent around a small repertory. Crucially, it was the authority wielded by producers and publishers, reinforced by the will of the public, that defined the new canonic repertory, rather than any leadership from critics. This chapter is paired with Jutta Toelle’s “Operatic canons and repertories in Italy around 1900.”

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