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(p.23) 1 Imitation
Music in the Present Tense
Emanuele Senici
University of Chicago Press

The chapter begins with a summary of the main themes emerging from a detailed examination of the Rossinian discourse in Italy before ca. 1825. Among the most prominent is the issue of the relationship between words and music, which fell under the rubrics of “imitation” or “expression.” Rossini’s works were heard as radically innovative in this respect, critics most often voicing their concern over a perceived lack of connection between text and music. If Rossini’s music could not be heard as imitative, however, how should it be heard? If it did not attempt to represent the emotions depicted by the words, what was its function? In the context of early nineteenth-century Italian operatic aesthetics, the supposed inability to relate music to text in Rossini’s works made it considerably harder to connect representation to reality. The issue of mimesis becomes an issue of representation, then—and thus ultimately of dramaturgy in the broad sense of the term, including not only the techniques, procedures, and conventions that characterize Rossini’s operas, but also the relationship between reality and representation promoted by such techniques, procedures, and conventions.

Keywords:   imitation, mimesis, representation, dramaturgy

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