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When an opera is played without staging (be it either a rehearsal or an actual concert) it is called all'italiana (translated: "in the italian style"). Or, at least, this is how we call it here in Italy.

This term is used when the singers are not wearing any scene dress, they just stand up near the director and the orchestra is on stage (not in the pit).

Why is it called like this? Is there any particular historical reference to italian opera? I don't recall any work of Verdi, Rossini or Puccini being written to be played without staging. So where is this term coming from?

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Interesting! I've always known this as "concert presentation" or "semi-staged", depending on the direction. Or perhaps even "oratorio-style", though that certainly isn't a preferable term. –  NReilingh Dec 16 '13 at 4:16
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I can't find any ref's on the inter-stuff. Are you sure this isn't some local slang rather than a general term? –  Carl Witthoft Dec 16 '13 at 13:33
    
I've played opera in some orchestra around Italy and, yes... This term was always used. I've never been able to track down the historic origin of it. –  Saturnix Dec 17 '13 at 20:44
    
I've asked a friend of mine who's works at La Scala theatre. Even if she didn't know the answer, she told me "all'italiana" executions might as well include orchestra in the pit and costumes but no scene movements at all. Will edit my answer... –  Saturnix Dec 19 '13 at 17:01
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I sing in a lyric chorus in Italy. We make operas, concertos and so on. We use the term (and I always heard the term used this way), to indicate the first rehearsal with director soloist and chorus and piano (played by an opera specialist piano accompanist, not by the director) but no orchestra. Everybody seated. The generale is the last before the "prima", and there is always also the orchestra and also dresses, scene and everything. I'm italian, but frankly I don't know why it's called "all'italiana". –  Andrea Ledda Jul 15 at 23:13

1 Answer 1

The full term is "prova all'italiana". There are numerous references to this online; nearly all of them linked with the German (almost) equivalent "sitzprobe". It is easy to understand the meaning of the German phrase, it is literally a "seated-rehearsal",

where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups. It is often the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together.

Crucially this same Wikipedia article continues,

The equivalent Italian term is prova all'italiana.

(Usually I would be sceptical about trusting Wikipedia, but there are numerous other sources of this same information, for instance here and here.)

The Italian term is one of several which use the word "prova" (literally meaning "test") to refer to a rehearsal. For instance, there is also the "prova generale" which refers to a final dress-rehearsal. In German there is the "wandelprobe", where the singers go through the motions of acting their parts while the orchestra plays, and the "generalprobe", again a final dress rehearsal. (See this source.)

Which is all very interesting, but hasn't really answered your central question! Why is this called a "rehearsal-in-the-Italian-style"? This light-hearted article muses on the same question, initially feigning ignorance about the term "sitzprobe", but then acknowledging its meaning, before genuinely being unable to give a reasonable explanation of the term "prova all'italiana", instead resorting to suggesting that it sounds,

as though it should mean to test everything in Italian, but obviously doesn't.

So, why this term? After a couple of hours of internet searches, and even reading some books, I couldn't find you a definitive answer. But it seems that this kind of performance or rehearsal is referred to by a lot of people as a "prova all'italiana", a "rehearsal-in-the-Italian-style", or I prefer the way this guy refers to it,

rehearsal Italian style.

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