LOMBARDO PUBLISHING FiRM
IS THE ONLY ONE
AUTHORIZED TO SELL OR RENT
ALL THE WORKS OF LOMBARDO PUBLISHING FiRM COPYRIGHT
WORLDWIDE IN ALL THE LANGUAGES
in the score of an Operetta
It is an interesting coincidence that the birth and development
of modern operetta appeared during a renaissance in graphic arts
and a renewed taste for “art nouveau.” At the end
of the 19th century and the beginning of the twentieth, every
treatment of graphic art became a subject of great interest: from
posters and books, to magazine ads and postcards, down to the
covers of libretti and music scores. It was natural that the most
successful melodies and songs of the “belle époque”
would be publicized this way, greatly contributing to the development
of this new branch of illustration.
The covers were the natural place to make the printed scores as
attractive as possible: they had to be charming and communicate
clearly overall. And so today we admire not only what’s
between the covers of these works, but also small these masterpieces
of imaginative expression and graphic composition.
At the time, the two great graphic illustration houses in Italy
were the “Ricordi Graphic Workshop” followed by the
“Lombardo Music Publishing Firm”—the latter
distinguished for the particular and almost unique approach to
the marketing and production of operetta.
On the covers of Lombardo’s operettas the most recurring
subject is the female figure, usually the main character of the
story. Take for example the cover to the score of “The Dance
of the Dragonflies:” a man in a tail-coat and a large cloak,
a top hat and unfailing monocle, seems to invite us in to the
show. This establishes a person in the foreground representing
his time, his social status and his way of living. The black area
of his suit stands out in high contrast from the fiery red background,
and cutting through this
design, a white window shape opens, revealing a flight of dragonflies.
This flight evokes the story’s dream, but also a transformation
from everyday life. The open windows seem to be the way to get
to this dreamland, but in the foreground there is always daily
life and the sense of duty, which characterized this century,
marked by progress and innovation.
Using only three colors, a deep expressive value, and only one
figure, the anonymous graphic artist succeeded in expressing one
of the most emblematic images of the epoch as well as the man
of the “belle époque.”
These covers illustrated their time, and were a new and unusual
art form that appeared thanks to the gay world of operetta. In
1926, the cover for “Gigolette” signed by the artist
Ramo, seemed to announce the news.
Many famous graphic artists worked for Carlo Lombardo, who was
the sole Italian agent for many foreign music publishing companies.
Trombin and Dudovich put their signatures on the cover of “The
Land of Bells” in 1923;
Mario Brogg on “Cin-ci-là”
in 1925; Bianchi on “Luna Park;” there were Reni, Violi,
and other masters as well. Unfortunately, all the plates and lithographic
stones used to make these works of art, so jealously guarded in
their time, were destroyed when the office was destroyed by an aerial
bombardment in 1944.
These late “belle époque” modernist designs leave
behind the rigor of the 19th century, and close it out employing
highly descriptive forms using vivid chromatic effects. Woman is
no longer idealized and sublimated, but represented as being in
an ambiguous, exasperating, contemporary reality.
After the war, symbols and colors in operetta artwork began to tell
a new story, representing a new history: there appeared more blank
spaces filled with color, or plain typographic designs representing
an impoverished reality, without ornament. Perhaps we will return
one day to our theatrical origins and will have expressive multi-colored
covers again, representing a new fusion of music and poetry, of
word and rhythm.
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