Until 1950

The centuries old tradition of making scores visually attractive, frequently with commercial intentions, continued into the 20th century. Those produced in the art deco style from the interbellum period are particularly valued today. Differing from the cliché style of the romantic period which made frequent use of heroic and sentimental themes, the art deco designers chose for a fresh, stylized and frequently sleek design. 

Il convento veneziano, also known as Le couvent sur l’eau by Alfredo Casella (1883-1947), is an interesting example of how musical genres can influence each other. This composition is actually a ballet. Traditionally this would have been accompanied by an orchestra but Casella expanded this with a vocal part for soprano, making the ballet more opera-like. The well known Italian illustrator Giulio Cisari (1892-1979) was the creator of the neoclassical cover. This design was also used for the libretto of the premier in the Scala in 1925. 

Il convento veneziano
Sumitra by the Italian-Bohemian composer Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli (1882-1949) was published with an especially decorative cover by the Italian painter and designer Umberto Brunelleschi (1879-1949). The cover of this copy is slightly damaged, but the charm of the stylized tree and three exotic birds remains.



The famous novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj (1828-1910) inspired diverse adaptations for theater, cinema and television. The opera by the Italian composer Igino Robbiani (1884-1966) premiered in Rome in 1924. The publisher Sonzogno chose a trompe l’oeil for the cover of the piano reduction version: the paper cover looks like a tapestry.  


The opera Dèbora e Jaéle by Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) premiered in the Scala in 1922. The art deco cover, designed by Giulio Cisari (1892-1979), depicts the two Biblical women. The styling is in strong contrast with the drama of the opera.

Dèbora e Jaéle


Volti la lanterna, scenes of lost Rome, is a ballet by Ezio Carabella (1891-1964). The scenery for the premier in Rome in 1934 is by Ettore Polidori. The cover of this piano reduction dates from the same year and is a stylized drawing of the decor from the second scene. The concept is that of the centuries old souvenir-culture, but the design is in line with the contemporary art deco style. 


The opera Maria di Magdala by Arrigo Pedrollo (1878-1964) premiered in Milan in 1924. The art deco style cover and the Biblical subject do not make us suspect that this work was dedicated to the former, controversial prime minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini (1883-1945). 

Maria di Magdala


The cover of the opera Arlecchino by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) clearly refers to the Italian tradition of Commedia dell’arte, where the costume is also a part of the character’s identity. The checkered suit and black mask refer to the title role of Harlequin. The opera premiered in Zurich in 1917. 


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