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Dramma per musica (Italian, literally: play for music, plural: drammi per musica) is a term which was used by dramatists in Italy and elsewhere between the late-17th and mid-19th centuries. It was sometimes abbreviated to dramma.[1]

A dramma per musica was thus originally (in Italy in the seventeenth century) a play specifically written for the purpose of being set to music, in other words a libretto for an opera, usually a serious opera. By extension, the term came to be used also for the opera or operas which were composed to the libretto, and a variation, dramma in musica, which emphasised the musical element, was sometimes preferred by composers.[2]

In the eighteenth century, these terms, along with dramma musicale, came to be the most commonly used descriptions for serious Italian operas. Today, these are known as opera seria, a term that was little-used when they were created.

The terms continued to be used in the early nineteenth century after Gluck's reforms had effectively ended the dominance of opera seria: for example, some of Rossini's later serious operas were designated "dramma in musica".

It should be noted that dramma per musica never meant "drama through music", let alone music drama.[3]

Examples of drammi per musica are Cavalli's Erismena (1656), Vivaldi's Tito Manlio (1719), Gluck's Paride ed Elena (1770), Salieri's Armida (1779), Mozart's Idomeneo (1781) and Rossini's Otello (1816), as well as numerous libretti written by Pietro Metastasio.


  1. ^ Blom, Eric (1971). Everyman's Dictionary of Music, 5th edition, revised by Sir Jack Westrup. London: J M Dent & Sons Limited. ISBN 0-460-02151-6.  
  2. ^ Warrack, John, and Ewan West (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869164-5.  
  3. ^ Sadie, Stanley (ed) (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, vol 1, p. 1242. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2.  


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