Ninette e gondolieri nei salons d’Europa. Osservazioni sparse sulla barcarola (veneziana?) e qualche cenno su Rossini e Perucchini
The barcarole is one of the mainstays of the vocal repertoire in musical salons during the first half of the nineteenth century. Yet it has no precise definition as a poetic or musical genre. In the early 1800s the term “barcarola” had no clear terminological meaning in Italy; Venice possessed no local musician or publisher of the calibre of Guillaume Cottrau, creator of the Neapolitan canzonetta. Giovan Battista Perucchini (1784-1870) and Antonio Buzzolla (1815-1871) were recognized specialists in the genre of the canzone veneziana. In particular, the amateur composer and pianist Perucchini was at the centre of a surprisingly wide network of international contacts – such as would contribute significantly to disseminating the “sound of Venice” (true or perceived) in salons throughout Europe. Devoid of explicitly Venetian compositional elements, the Venetian barcarole provided a key reference to the Italian musical landscape for non-Italians. The network of relationships can be reconstructed through contemporary travel literature. In this specific context, this paper presents some emblematic cases, all listed in Giovanni Ricordi’s catalogue of 1855. The “barcarola veneziana” Co’ pensieri malinconici is a setting by the Danish composer Henrik Rung of a text by Pietro Pagello. The poetic text was included, among others, in Jules François Lecomte’s travel guide Venise (Paris, 1844). Also emblematic by virtue of its reception in northern countries is Vieni, la barca è pronta by the Paduan poet Jacopo Crescini, set by Saverio Mercadante in Les soirées italiennes (Paris, 1836) and Gaetano Donizetti in Matinées musicales (Paris, 1841). In 1852, the text was set by Giacomo Bortolini, a specialist in Venetian vernacular poetry. Its popularity until the end of the century is illustrated by numerous references in the Revue contemporaine (Paris, 1853), Teatri, arte e letteratura (Bologna, 1853), Armand de Pontmartin’s short story Le chercheur de perles (Paris, 1854), Giuseppe Lorenzetti’s vaudeville Il giovedì grasso di Venezia (1866) and Camillo Boito’s short story Il maestro di setticlavio (1891). Rossini’s Soirées musicales (Paris, 1835) contains various musical evocations of the peninsula with shades of local colour; images of the lagoon occur in Regata veneziana and the barcarole La gita in gondola. Author of both texts is Carlo Pepoli, himself a specialist in poetry for the salon song repertory. In 1858, Rossini set a longer and more developed description of the regatta to a text by the Venetian author Francesco Maria Piave.