Peter von Winter (1754-1825), violinist, conductor, and composer, began writing music for the stage in the early 1780s; his initial foray into opera came at Munich’s Nationaltheater in 1782. Even after his appointment to positions in the electoral court (as assistant Kapellmeister in 1787, and Kapellmeister in 1798), he continued to supply works for Munich’s stages and maintained a second, peripatetic career in the theatre, taking multiple, years-long leaves in the 1790s and 1800s to compose for opera houses around Europe. The products of these journeys included well-reviewed opere seria for London, tepidly-recieved tragédies lyriques for Paris, a Singspiel sequel to Die Zauberflöte (Das Labyrinth oder Der Kampf mit den Elementen, Vienna, 1798), and works fusing multiple styles, like his greatest success, Das unterbrochene Opferfest (Vienna, 1796).1
- [Fratelli rivali. Act 1]. I fratelli rivali / musica [di?] sigr Pietro Winter. L’autunno 1793. Merritt Mus 867.3.602
Between 1791 and 1794, Winter’s travels took him to Naples and Venice, where he supplied works for performances at San Carlo and San Benedetto. This working manuscript of the first act of Peter von Winter’s I Fratelli Rivali was likely prepared for the opera’s premiere at Venice’s San Benedetto in November, 1793. The score not only shows evidence of extensive revisions to both text and music, but also contains some of the annotations – such as stage directions – necessary for its production.
The manuscript is written in multiple hands, including that of Winter and at least one copyist. Although their handwriting is fairly similar, it seems likely that the copyist was responsible for transcribing most of the music and text, including clefs, key signatures, and much of the instrumentation. Some of the arias, including Silvio’s cavatina “Qual diletto in sen mi’nonda,” do appear to be primarily in Winter’s hand. This is unquestionably still a working draft of the score: small corrections to the music are visible throughout, while at the close of Dorinda’s aria “Amor in questo secolo,” Winter’s completion of the instrumental parts spills past the copyist’s vocal line and the printed staves, reaching into the margin and nearly to the edge of the page.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the compressed, delicate, even scratchy notation of the vocal numbers – written in several different inks now varying in color from black or brown to a faded grey – the recitatives are uniformly set down in a much looser hand, written with a broader pen nib and the same shade of ink (and on pages much more frequently splattered with water, paint, or ink wash). Whether this implies that they were all added to this draft at close to the same time is a question for further investigation.
With its clear picture of a work still very much in progress, this manuscript offers an intriguing look at the business of creating opera for the late-18th century stage.
1. Abert, Anna Amalie and Paul Corneilson. “Winter, Peter,” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, Web. 11 Sep. 2013. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezp-pro… (Harvard access).
Tyler, Linda. “Winter, Peter,” The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Ed. Stanley Sadie. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 11 Sep. 2013. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezp-pro… (Harvard access).