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Extensive 15 bar musical quotation of the Act II, Scene II choral incantation “Sabba Romantico” from Boito’s main work as a composer, “Mefistofele”, Milan, October 31, 1894.  The text is a repat of the words “sabba” and “riddiam” in some cases in different tenses, which translates to “sabbath” and “laugh”. (In the old text from the score, they translate “riddiam” to “dance”. The quotation is mounted and measures 6” x 11” and is accompanied with a second state 5” x 7” matte, doubleweight photograph of the composer.  Our quotation can be found at the end of page 163 and onto page 164 of the 1880 Ricordi, London printing of the piano-vocal score of the opera in Italian and English.

Boito (1842-1918) is best remembered as an opera librettist including: Verdi’s “Otello” and “Falstaff”, Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” and Faccio’s “Amleto” among others.  However, his story was much more complex.  His mother’s family were Polish royalty, his father was an artist.  Born in Padua, he went to the Milan Conservatorio to study music.  He studied with Alberto Mazzucatro and the Conservatory Director Stefano Ronchetti-Monteviti.  With classmate Franco Faccio, they composed the cantatas “Il 4 Giugno” and “Le Sorelle d’Italia” which both were performed whilst they were in school to rave reviews. The works were so lauded the Italian government awarded the pair gold medals and a scholarship to travel for 2 years.  Boito went to Paris, Poland to visit his mother’s family, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain.  Whilst in Germany he became enamored with the works of Richard Wagner.  When he returned to Italy, he started work in earnest as a composer on his work utlilizing Goethe’s “Faust”.  Unlike Gounod, who was a far more experienced composer when he tacked Goethe’s work, Boito included both parts of “Faust” and decided like Wagner, he would write the libretto himself.  Unheard of in Italy at that time, it took him nearly five years to complete the first version of the opera.  Boito’s success at the Milan Conservatorio led to a first performance at Teatro alla Scala, where it ran for two performances with Boito in the pit.  The first performance was Wagnerian in length and was divided into the two parts of Goethe’s story for the second night.  The censors, audience protest and reviews shut the opera down after the second performance.  The Italian audience used to an almost idiomatic style of opera a the time did not understand the romatic German influence in the score, as well as the new avant guarde qualities of the opera. Boito who was also working as a librettist at the time, including Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” revised the opera significantly, including cuts which removed the entire imperial throne room scene presented the opera in Bologna in 1875, to a rousing success.  A further revision in 1880 for London was so successful it went to Boston for the American premiere in the same year.  Verdi wrote to Boito on February 2, 1881 after a performance of “Mefistofele” congratulating him on the success of the opera. On May 25, 1881 it appeared for the first time in its’ revised form at La Scala and has remained part of the repertory ever since. That should be said with a caveat, the requiements of the role of the title character of Mefistofele requires an extraordinary bass and even amongst the greats who have sung it, only several have made the role their own including, Feodor Chaliapin, Nazarreno de Angelis (who was the first to participate in the first complete recording in 1931), Guilio Neri, Norman Treigle and Samuel Ramey.  Others who have sung it, like, Vittorio Armimondi, Jose Mardones, Ezio Pinza and Tancredi Pasero never made it their calling card.

One interesting note, a portion the music which opens Act II, scene II which begins the Witches Sabbath was borrowed by Verdi in the opening storm scene of “Otello”. At the time of this autograph, Boito had just returned from Paris after the Paris premiere performance of the revised “Otello” on October 14, 1894.

Despite a few folds as seen in the scan, a superior autographed quotation of Boito’s masterpiece, perfect for display with the photograph.