, meaning little joke
), also sometimes burla
, is a musical
term generally denoting a brief comic Italian (or, later, English) opera
. The term was used in the 18th century to denote the comic intermezzos
between the acts of an opera seria
, but was sometimes given to more extended works; Pergolesi
's La serva padrona
was designated a 'burletta' at its London
premiere in 1750.
In England the term began to be used, in contrast to burlesque, for works that satirized opera but without using musical parody. Burlettas in English began to appear in the 1760s, the earliest identified being Midas by Kane O'Hara, first performed privately in 1760 near Belfast, and produced at Covent Garden in 1764. The form became debased when the term 'burletta' began to be used for English comic or ballad operas, as a way of evading the monopoly on opera in London belonging to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. After repeal of the 1737 Licensing Act in 1843, use of the term declined.
The word 'burletta' has also been used for scherzo-like instrumental music by composers including Max Reger and Bartók.
List of burlettas
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, Oxford ISBN 0-19-869164-5