Melodramma (plural: melodrammi) is a 17th-century Italian term for a text to be set as an opera, or the opera itself.[1] In the 19th century, it was used in a much narrower sense by English writers to discuss developments in the early Italian libretto, e.g., Rigoletto and Un ballo in maschera.[2] Characteristic are the influence of French bourgeois drama, female instead of male protagonists, and the practice of opening the action with a chorus.[3]

It should not be confused with Melodrama (spelt with a single rather than a double m) in the sense either of Victorian stage melodrama (drama of exaggerated intensity) or of spoken declamation accompanied by background music (in Italian, melologo).[4]


  1. ^ The Harvard Dictionary of Music, fourth edition, 2003, p. 499.
  2. ^ Patrick Smith in The Tenth Muse, p.73; The Harvard Dictionary of Music, fourth edition, 2003, p. 499.
  3. ^ Patrick Smith in The Tenth Muse, p.73.
  4. ^ Budden, Julian: Melodramma in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7

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