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Centuries of rappresentazioni musicali in the collections of the Princes Czartoryski Library 31.05-06.11.2022 Centuries of rappresentazioni musicali in the collections of the Princes Czartoryski Library

The exhibition “Centuries of rappresentazioni musicali in the collections of the Princes Czartoryski Library” is focused on opera, a genre of music which has from the outset combined several artistic forms including words, music, images, and dance.

An Italian composer, Marco da Gagliano, called opera “a spectacle worthy of princes” in the Prologue of his first opera La Dafne from 1608. The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer stated that opera is “an unmusical invention for the benefit of unmusical minds”. This diversity of opinions, nonetheless, does not change the fact that opera has enjoyed considerable popularity since its introduction. In Poland, musical spectacles in which texts were delivered to the accompaniment of music amidst theatrical scenery with fanciful effects took root for good during the reign of Władysław IV. It was at the court of this monarch that, beginning in 1635, the first rappresentazioni musicali were performed, transporting viewers into the world of Baroque opera. Władysław IV, while still crown prince, had the opportunity to experience such rappresentazioni during his travels around Europe. What survives to this day are mainly the librettos of dramma per musica and programmes and summaries of particularly popular court ballet presentations.  

The general history of musical culture illustrates just what diverse forms opera took on in different countries and locations. The librettos and sheet music selected from a period covering three centuries show the language and content contexts in which the word “opera” appears. Names used include  dramma per musica, dramma musicale, dramma giocoso, tragédie lyrique, tragédie mise en musique, and opéra-comique, opera set to music, comedic opera, musical illustrations with choir, dramatic amusement with song, light opera, national opera, romantic opera, and so on. Regardless of their skill and desire to follow the canons of the operatic art, the creators of these spectacles made use of a vast array of source texts and musical forms. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in Polish culture for political and social reasons, national themes which portrayed heroic figures and distinguished Poles were enthusiastically embraced. The illustrations printed on the sheet music remind us that opera has never existed without theatrical scenery, without and architectural space, or stage decoration. This exhibition, to which we cordially invite you, showcases the creators of librettos, as well as composers, actors, singers who may today have been forgotten. Theatrical posters from the 1870s present the musical and dramatic repertoire of the theatres of Kraków.


Małgorzata Kumala

Autor: Małgorzata Kumala

MNK Czartoryski Museum

ul. Pijarska 15, 31-015 Kraków
  • Monday: CLOSED
  • Tuesday - Sunday: 10.00-18.00