Valentino Sermattei’s Odesa enterprise of 1859–1865 in art and social discourse




V. Sermattei’s theatre management, Odesa city theatre, operatic art, opera repertoire, Italian prima donnas, theatre audience


Relevance of the study implies the V. Sermattei’s management stage activity peculiarities investigation in terms of the opera singers’, the audience and the theatre management interactions, the study of management decisions and other factors that have led to its decline.

The purpose of the article is to substantiate the private Italian company interdependence of the stage activities success and the sources and means of organizing theatrical business in the Odesa city theatre on the example of V. Sermattei’s management.

The methodology includes art critic (to clarify the performing art development peculiarities in Italy), biographical (to investigate the unknown and little-known facts of opera singers’ biographies) and cultural-historical (to reveal the historical processes and cultural phenomena connection and their influence on Italian opera in Ukraine) methods.

The results and conclusions. The entrepreneur V. Sermattei, who ran the Odesa city theatre in 1859-1865, gained experience in organizing the foreign engagement of opera companies and organizing their performances without theatre activities additional financing by the municipal authorities. In such conditions, the impresario had to implement various strategies that allowed him to save his capital. Among the most common are: the expenses for the theatre building decoration and renovation “freezing”, the involvement of poorly trained musicians in the theatre orchestra, and the part of the company opera singers with low vocal quality and acting training engagement, which everything together made him impossible to follow the key contract requirements, in particular, the opera repertoire renewal and expansion. Since the biggest part of that time opera companies expenses was on the prima donnas soprano in a dramatic role engagement (for the particularly popular performances of the G. Verdi’s and his contemporaries’ operas), V. Sermattei focused on a less expensive option of involving prima donnas contralto in the company. This approach made it possible to stage of the period of romanticism composers’ works successfully, restore the Rossini’s repertoire, which for a certain time improved the financial affairs in the theatre and slowed down the decline of the company. However, the crisis in the theatre, which deepened during the last two years of the contract validity, was not stopped even by the invitation of the former European celebrity prima donna T. De Giuli-Borsi for the performances.

The V. Sermattei’s company troubles prompted the city authorities to improve the contract requirements for the next theatre tenants, to introduce a procedure for selecting an impresario on a competitive basis. In the successive theatre activities period public’s pressure on the impresario mechanisms in order to improve the opera companies’ quality and diversify the repertoire, tested during the period of V. Sermattei management, were applied.

Author Biography

Kostyantyn Batsak, Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University

PhD in History, vice-rector, Associate Professor at the Department of Musicology and Musical Education


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Opera art: musical and non-musical contexts