Marco Pollaci

The Significance of Neapolitan Compositional School for 19th-Century Italian Opera Composers

An increasing interest in the study of the methods of musical training has resulted in a steadily growing research on the education of composers. The revaluation of the Neapolitan school as a significant factor in the training of composers in many parts of Europe from the 18th to the 19th century, and in Italy until the very end of the 19th century is still ongoing. In particular, the renewed interest in the partimento and in solfeggi apprenticeship has opened up many new paths for investigation.
The so-called ‘apprendistato’ (apprenticeship) consisted of a collection of rules and models common to most musicians of that period. Opera composers underwent years of studies in these traditional methods. Paisiello, Cimarosa, Pergolesi, Spontini, Bellini, Donizetti and other great musicians spent many years as apprentices in the Bolognese-Neapolitan school, which arguably continued to form the basis of their creative activity. The importance of Fenaroli to Verdi’s training, for instance, was mentioned by Verdi himself. Mingling itself with a growing Wagnerian influence, the partimento traditions still survived through the end of the century with the last opera composers, such as Cilea, Puccini, Catalani and Mascagni.

The proposed paper aims to show the influence of traditional methods of teaching on the style of late 19th-century opera composers, through the analysis of selected passages.