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 Is there any particular historical reference to italian opera?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?

  • 2
    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, 2013 at 4:16
  • 1
    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? Dec 16, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 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".
    – user12599
    Jul 15, 2014 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


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.


The prova all'italiana is the first rehearsal that put togheter singers chorus and the orchestra that usually play on stage performing the opera just like an concert... it is used to put togheter just the music an singing and that's it. After that there are 3 "prove generali" the first with all of the opera set but just with the piano playing the music then a second prova generale with the orchestra in the final position but musicians are not dressed and is the first time the orchestra play the real opera with singers and chorus acting and singhing. In this second prova generale is still possible to stop and repeat some part of the opera if something needs to be changed or perfected then there is the third prova generale usually just called "prova generale" where selected public not involved in the opera making is invited and this third (real) prova generale is performed with no interruptions at all because this is "the final test" where the opera has to be perfect and exatly how it will be presented to the general public at the "prima"... this entire block of "prove": all'italiana, first generale, second generale and (third) generale at a certain point was the usual way in Italy to make an opera ready to be perormed whilst in the other countries around Europe there wasn't the "prova" where only the music and singing was put togheter (the prova all'italiana), in the other countries they started with the "first" prova generale with piano only and then on and on which if you think makes sense... and have little sense to make a test with the orchestran and then go back to make another test just with the piano... this only happened in Italy and this is why it is calked "prova all'italiana" ... because it was added and use to be performed only in italy. It seems that a composer, listening to the orchestra playing his music with no singing, thought that the musicians were not putting the right emphasis in the sound and to make the orchestra understand what kind of sound he was looking for asked to make a "prova" with chorus and singers with no acting or dressing just to concentrate on the sound so that the musicians would have been "pulled" into the "mood" of his work by listening to the singing and to the words... this is the genesis of the "prova all'italiana" ... this is what I have been told when studying piano... now with a bit of immaginatin I am sure you can guess who is the famous italian composer that invented it!

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