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libretto (ləbrĕtˈō) [Ital.,=little book], the text of an opera or an oratorio. Although a play usually emphasizes an integrated plot, a libretto is most often a loose plot connecting a series of episodes. Characterization and emotion are suggested by the words of a libretto but are expressed by the music. The first major librettist was Ottavio Rinuccini, an Italian poet of the 16th cent. Outstanding in the 17th cent. was Philippe Quinault, and in the 18th cent. important librettists were the poet Pietro Metastasio, many of whose 50 libretti were set numerous times by major composers, Ranieri di Calzabigi, and Lorenzo Da Ponte. The 19th-century librettists of note included Augustin Eugène Scribe, W. S. Gilbert, and the composers Arrigo Boito and Richard Wagner; prominent in the 20th cent. was Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the verbal text of a work of musical drama, such as an opera or operetta and, in the past, of a cantata or oratorio; a ballet scenario; a brief summary of the content of an opera, operetta, or ballet. The term came from the fact that in the late 17th century, opera librettos were often printed for theatergoers in the form of little booklets.

The libretto is the literary and dramatic basis of an opera. Until the mid-18th century, librettos were composed in a fixed pattern following standard musical and dramatic conventions. Thus, the same successful libretto was often used repeatedly by different composers. Later, the libretto was usually written by a librettist in close collaboration with the composer, and sometimes with his direct participation, ensuring better unity among action, words, and music.

In the 19th century, outstanding composers with literary and dramatic gifts began writing librettos for their operas themselves, including H. Berlioz, R. Wagner, A. Boito, and M. P. Mussorgsky. Such 20th-century composers as S. S. Prokofiev and K. Orff continued the practice.

The main sources of subjects for librettos are folk poetry, legends, fairytales, and professional works of literature. Literary works are usually significantly different in libretto form—for example, the basic concept of Pushkin’s Queen of Spades was revised in P. I. Tchaikovsky’s opera. Only in exceptional cases have dramatic works been used intact in librettos—for example, Dargomyzhskii’s The Stone Guest, based on Pushkin’s drama, and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, based on Maeterlinck’s play.

Librettos vary greatly in content, structure, application of a verse or prose text, and presence or absence of subdivisions of the text. The history of the libretto is inseparably linked with that of opera itself in all its generic and national varieties. Every type of opera in musical history has a corresponding type of libretto.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a text written for and set to music in an opera, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Families would share librettos and singers, and Reardon does not rule out collaboration between the families for productions mounted by the Rozzi in the final decade of the seventeenth century.
Setting it in a train station without substituting the bell-collar for a public announcement chime and without changing the libretto to "train carriage" - carrozza ferroviaria - is, however, a blatant contradiction.
2 and Josephus, was written (as the librettos dedication makes explicit) to celebrate the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745-46, the final armed attempt in Britain to remove the ruling Protestant Hanoverians and restore the exiled Catholic Stuart monarchy.
In this case it is somewhat unsettling that the author does not clarify to the reader that the edition of the libretto she uses corresponds, in fact, to the Viennese performance on which she focuses--the book shows a reproduction of the cover page of the Venetian libretto, while the quotations are from a modern edition of Metastasio's collected works.
Unfortunately for Toshiba, whether it's the Libretto or the unnamed touch tablet, it might not matter.
Bred by Agricola Dell 'Olmo in Ireland, Little Libretto is the first foal out of Sharadayna, an unraced Priolo granddaughter of Prix Vermeille winner Sharaya.
When one considers that, apart from the Ungaretti poems set by Gentilucci and the libretto of Ulisse, these texts scarcely invite consideration away from their music, and further, that in Parole da Beckett, as Suvini-Hand puts it, the words 'are, to a large extent, treated as raw elementary sound, and the actual text is often unintelligible' (p.
Welsh Part-Bred Ch - Miss G Berisford (Nantcol Libretto); R - Mrs M Almond (Hopgarden Hidalgo).
The singing is better than the acting and, even with Stephen Fry's witty libretto, the English words can be difficult to make out.
"How is the self formed during youth?" is the focus of part two, "Identity Formation." A child bored with doing homework, depicted by Ravel (music) and Colette (libretto) in an opera, is explored, followed by a Malaysian young woman's memories of childhood learning classical piano in colonial Malaysia.
Though footnotes noting where the libretto is an exact quote or a paraphrase of its original literary source are present, Faust/Romeo Et Juliette is far more than a simple scholarly or literary reference; it is intended especially for anyone determined to faithfully produce, conduct, or perform Gounod's great operas regardless of their level of fluency in French, and to this end includes literary source footnotes and essays explaining the development of the libretti.