In honor of the 2012th anniversary of the death of Horace, here is the opening of Act I, Scene XIV of Rossini’s delightful Il Turco in Italia, which I saw and heard for the first time today (on DVD). The speaker is the poet Prosdocimo, who constantly interferes in the action in a proto-pomo way:
Ho quasi del mio dramma
Ma un atto è poco a un dramma,
E Orazio dice che minore
Di cinque esser non può.
Ma in due parti dividerlo io dovrò,
Che gli uditori miei
Sarian ben presto, caro Orazio, stufi
Se fosser di cinque atti i drammi bufi.
I’ve almost finished
the plot of my play;
but one act is too little for a stage piece,
and Horace says that it cannot consist
of less than five.
But I’ll have to divide it into two parts,
otherwise, dear Horace,
my listeners would soon be irked
if comedies were written in five acts.
Text and translation are quoted from the liner notes to the 1998 La Scala recording conducted by Ricardo Chailly and sung by Cecilia Bartoli, Alessandro Corbelli, Michele Pertusi, and Ramón Vargas (London 289 458 924-2). Yes, I bought the CD and the DVD before listening to either: I’ve seen and heard enough Rossini to know I was unlikely to be disappointed.
I still have trouble seeing Horace as an authority on dramaturgy. In this case, Rossini seems to have the better of the argument. I watched the DVD of Salieri’s five-act Tarare a few weeks ago. Despite an amusing plot and a libretto by Beaumarchais, I found it rather a bore. On the other hand, Salieri’s two-act Falstaff, which I saw at Wolftrap a year or two ago, was quite diverting.
I suppose the most suitable memorial reading for Horace would be Carmina 3.30.