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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a realistic trend in late 19th-century Italian literature, music, and fine arts that strove to reflect the social and psychological conflicts of the contemporary national historical reality of a unified Italy, which had entered upon the path of capitalist development.

In literature verismo was subject to the contradictory influence of E. Zola’s theory of naturalism, the critical realism of French and Russian literature, and the ideas of the Italian socialist movement. The national originality of verismo lies in its profound sympathy for the oppressed working people, whose life (for the most part, that of peasants and poor people from the provinces) formed the basic content of the novels and short stories of the theoreticians of verismo—G. Verga, L. Capuana, D. Ciampoli, R. Fucini, M. Serao, and others. The verists introduced the language of the common people into literature, making extensive use of dialects; they also created a theater reflecting everyday life (the comedies of G. Rovetta and G. Giacosa); and they introduced a new content into poetry (L. Stecchetti, pseudonym of O. Guerrini, and A. Boito). Nevertheless, the verists failed to see the social potential for eliminating social injustice; hence their works were filled with motifs of doom and an overexaggeration of the role of physiology. The best traditions of verismo have been developed by modern, progressive Italian literature.

In music verismo became famous in operatic works. The social motifs characteristic of the literature of verismo were seldom developed in these operas. For the heroes of their works the composers chose rural folk, poor city dwellers, and representatives of bohemianism, and they concentrated on the drama of these characters’ personal lives, based for the most part on clashes over love affairs. The first examples of veristic opera were P. Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (produced 1890) and R. Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (produced 1892). More important achievements in operatic verismo were reached in the creative work of G. Puccini (for example, Manon Lescaut, produced 1893; La Bohème, produced 1896; Tosca, produced 1900; Madama Butterfly, produced 1904; and The Girl of the Golden West, produced 1910). The success of these veristic works was due to their theatrical effectiveness and melodically expressive music, which underscored the emotionality. Nevertheless, naturalistic tendencies, a melodramatic approach, a superficial, illusory quality, overexaggerated expression, and a predilection for monotonous melodization of the recitatives detracted from the fullness of the characterizations. Tendencies related to verismo existed in France (operas by A. Bruno and G. Charpentier’s Louise), Germany (E. d’Albert’s opera Tiefland) and other countries.

In the fine arts verismo was characterized by an interest in the lives of peasants and workers and significant sociocritical tendencies, but also by a pessimistic, at times passively naturalistic, acceptance of reality (the painters F. P. Michetti and G. Pellizza da Volpedo and the sculptors V. Vela and V. Gemito, for example).


In Russian translation:
Ital’ianskie novelly: 1869-1914. [Foreword by B. G. Reizov.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.


Gramsci, A. Letteratura e vita nazionale. Turin, 1950.
Marzot, G. “Il verismo.” In Questioni e correnti di storia letteraria. Milan, 1949.
Salinari, C. Storia popolare della letteratura italiana, vol. 3. Rome, 1962.
Rinaldi, M. Musica e verismo. Rome, 1932.
De Logu, G. Pittura italiana dell’ottocento. Bergamo [1955].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It has been characterized as verismo opera and is frequently discussed in the context of late 19th century aesthetics.
The depiction of the world of simple artists and lower class people and the combination of everyday life with a sophisticated musical structure, among other aspects, define Pagliacci as verismo opera. The portrayal of social reality, however, is not the only feature related to the world of late 19th century Italy presented in the opera.
A darker and even more passionate song is "Betrayed", which at times sounds almost like a page from a verismo opera. The final phrases, in which the singer alternates between "She is false" and "She is Fair" pack an incredible punch, thanks to the incisive melodic leaps and bracing harmonic turns that Lang employs.
To date: The Complete Puccini Libretti (2 vols., 1993-94), The Complete Verdi Libretti (4 vols., 1994-96), The Libretti of Mozart's Completed Operas (2 vols., 1997-98), French Opera Libretti (2 vols., 1999), Italian Belcanto Opera Libretti (2 vols., 2000-2001), Italian/French Belcanto Opera Libretti (2002), Italian Verismo Opera Libretti (2000), Four Strauss Opera Libretti (2002).
The greatest frustration of the evening however, was not hearing Leoncavallo's lush orchestration, so crucial to verismo opera. Let's hope that Opera York's budget will be able to include an orchestra in the future.
Pagliacci, one of the first verismo operas, relies dramatically on its setting among ordinary people and the conflict between real and acted life.
Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on May 17, 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome.
Although Ms Gheorghiu's best-known roles are in the verismo operas of the 19th and early 20th centuries, she began with two earlier pieces by Giordano and Handel which were beautifully and simply delivered.
Tosca, like Aida, stands as one of the monumental verismo operas of the nineteenth century and this production captures the grandeur and vastness of the operatic canvas on which Puccini created his first fully symphonic opera.
Assembled here on this new compilation, together with recordings from the next couple of years, Caruso sings arias from a generous clutch of verismo operas as well as examples from Donizetti, Verdi, Bizet, Massenet and some of the greatest composers of salon songs.
Verismo operas may be full of big tunes and opportunities for declamatory singing--often waggishly described as "can belto" rather than "bel canto"--but their stories can, on closer inspection, seem rather sordid and unedifying.