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(Bologna, 1850-1852)

Prepared by Elvidio Surian
Online only (2016)

L’Osservatorio. Giornale artistico teatrale [OSV] was published in Bologna twice weekly, from March 1850 until April 1852. Each issue consists of for or five pages printed in double-column format. The yearly volumes, containing on average 300-350 pages, are paginated continuously. Valentino Zanotti was the sole owner and proprietor of the journal, as well as the owner of an associated music and printing shop. The journal’s editor (estensore) was a certain C. Mellini. The home location of OSV is Bologna, a city that from ca. mid-eighteenth century to ca. mid-nineteenth century was noted as a place where many theatrical agents were to be found. Due to mid-century expansion of audiences and theatres in Italy, the agents provided entire companies for major and minor opera houses from the Alps to central and southern Italy as well as abroad.

The introductory “Programma” explains the primary aim of the journal is the offering of instruction and information to theatrical artists and guidance to music critics in judging contemporary music. OSV gives almost exclusive attention to operatic music and to a lesser extent to performances of spoken comedies and dramas.

The first part of each issue of the journal contains a short essay devoted to reviews of new works mostly by now little known composers, generally performed in Bolognese theatres and churches. Some essays take a strong position in defense of Italian singers and contemporary operatic composers; for example, of Verdi in particular, who was accused by François-Joseph Fétis of plagiarism. A very few reviews and essays are signed.

Noteworthy are the regular columns “Notizie varie,” “Teatri” and “Scritturazioni” [announcements of engagements)], all characterized by extensive chronicling of current activities in major and minor Italian and foreign theatres. The significant aspect of these columns is that they are dense in information concerning the engagement of entire operatic companies, which comprised not only solo singers, but also dancers, choreographers and orchestral players. At times, notices of the contracts were included. Of some interest is the reporting of concerts that took place in private homes in Bologna, for example, among others, at the private theatre of Princess Maria Malvezzi Hercolani, regularly attended by Rossini — who resided in Bologna in 1850 and in 1851. A number of reviews are provided for performances of sacred compositions in Bolognese churches, comprising analyses of single parts of Masses, for soloists, chorus and orchestral accompaniment. OSV ceased publication in April 1852 due to a lack of subscribers.