Giovanni Pacini was one of the most popular and prolific opera composers of nineteenth-century Italy. In addition to some 90 operas, Pacini's works include oratorios, cantatas, Masses, Requiems, vespers, and other sacred and instrumental music. His writings include pedagogical treatises and an autobiography which offers a lively account of the contemporary Italian musical world. Toward the end of his career, however, Pacini's works were overshadowed by Verdi's, and he was relegated to the status of a minor composer. For this reason, scholars have dealt only perfunctorily with his music. Some research has touched upon his operas, in particular "Saffo," but the oratorios have yet to be studied.
By the nineteenth century, only a fine line separated oratorio from opera in Italy. Since four of Pacini's five oratorios were composed between 1854 and 1867, he may have turned to that genre as a dramatic outlet in the face of rivalry from the more gifted Verdi. One purpose of this dissertation will be to determine whether Pacini saw the same musical and dramatic possibilities in the oratorio at a time when other composers of his status all but ignored the genre. In addition, the dissertation will provide a critical edition of "Giuditta," examining its history and place in the composer's canon. Since the biographical information published on Pacini has been gleaned from his entertaining but clearly self-serving autobiography and from several equally biased biographies written soon after his death, this research will provide new documentation about his creative years, and will further the study of the nineteenth-century Italian oratorio.