Giovanni Pacini, Gli Arabi nelle Gallie

Concentus musicus

17: Giovanni Pacini, Gli Arabi nelle Gallie, critical edition by Giuseppina Mascari, Kassel et al.: Bärenreiter 2021 (LVI, 532 pp.), ISBN 979-0-006-56396-8.

"The most prolific and perhaps the most imaginative of the Italian masters, the author of a hundred operas, who was, in the early stages of his career, Rossini's competitor; the tireless emulator of Bellini and Donizetti, Verdi's forerunner; the versatile musician, who underwent the four musical transformations of his century while always preserving his enviable originality, died in Pescia on the 6th of this month, at the age of seventy-four (sic) years".

With these words opens the brief biography of Giovanni Pacini written by Antonio Ghislanzoni and published between December 1867 and January 1868 in the pages of the "Gazzetta musicale di Milano". Indeed, even if it exaggerates the number of works actually composed by the maestro, this passage well frames the salient elements of the career of this 'prolific' composer, a career rich in successes that extended over more than fifty years and that saw him as a contemporary of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi.
The five-year period from 1823 to 1827 saw the greatest successes of Pacini's first artistic period: twelve operas, almost all written for the two main Italian theaters, La Scala in Milan and San Carlo in Naples. Gli Arabi nelle Gallie, opera seria in two acts on a libretto by Luigi Romanelli, was performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on March 8, 1827 (it is not superfluous to note that it was only a few months before Bellini's Il Pirata appeared on the same stage), obtaining considerable success, as can be deduced from the reviews that appeared in the newspapers of the time. The success of the opera was not limited to its first performance. Soon this title was present on the stages of all Italian theaters and in Milan it was revived the following year. In order to have an idea of the diffusion of the opera, we can refer to the data relative to the authors and the most performed titles in the years 1830-1839: during this decade of the Arabs in Gaul, 59 productions were verified, while the decline of Rossini's serious production is evident, with the exception of Otello and Semiramide. It is also significant that almost thirty years after the first performance, Pacini returned to this work, which he substantially 'revised' by adding new numbers for the Théâtre Italien of Paris. This version was staged on January 30, 1855.

The edition aims at reconstructing an important piece of the history of Italian opera in the early 19th century, offering an important contribution to the knowledge of a composer, appreciated by contemporaries, but who deserves more attention from scholars, theaters and the public.