La canzone da gondola veneziana come ricordo musicale di viaggio nell’Ottocento
In the nineteenth century, Italy functioned as a place of longing for northern, particularly German artists, poets and musicians, with its promise of insouciance and sensuality. Above all for composers, study trips to Italy brought new experiences and inspiration. Rome was highlight of the tour, but Venice was also an important station. Barcaroles were composed by many non-Italian composers during the nineteenth century, and typically formed part of the horizons of travellers to Venice. The gondola song, a musical emblem of Venice, played an important role in the contemporary portrayal and commercialization of the city for foreign visitors and much contributed to the spread of stereotyped ideas on Venice throughout Europe. At the same time, composers regularly expressed their impressions and memories of Italy through music, thus creating souvenirs for themselves and those who remained at home. During the 1830s and 40s, for example, certain gondola songs were created with a view to perpetuating memories of Venetian sojourns: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Venetianisches Gondellied op. 19b, no. 6 (composed in Venice in October 1830), Ferdinand Hiller’s Il desiderio of 1842 (from his Sei pezzi per canto op. 23) and, in all likelihood, Maurizio Strakosch’s arietta Lina (1845). Time and place of composition characterize these pieces as “musical souvenirs” based on a common image or cliché of Venice. The majority of barcaroles were undoubtedly created with an eye to commercial success – examples are Mendelssohn’s Venetianisches Gondellied op. 57, no. 5 (1843) or Buzzolla’s Un ziro in gondola (1847). The Venetian composer Antonio Buzzolla dedicated no less than two of his Ariette veneziane to Ferdinand Hiller’s wife, the singer Antonietta Hiller, for whom, as can easily be imagined, they functioned as souvenirs of her time in Italy. The lover’s “nocturnal invitation” to his beloved to escape with him to sea on a gondola forms the poetic basis of the compositions discussed in the present study. The lyrics are obviously inspired by a well-trodden thematic model, much appreciated by the public and commercially successful. The gondola ride also evoked a certain erotic freedom. Its success throughout Europe may be due to a combination of clever commercial strategies and the widespread image of Venice reflecting the expectations, longings and desires of nineteenth-century travellers.