intermezzo (intermedio) (It.; Fr. intermède).
In the middle. This word has undergone several changes in application, viz., (1) Originally, in 16th-cent. It., a mus. entertainment interpolated between sections of more serious fare, such as songs or madrigals, or between the acts of a play. Earliest recorded was at Florence 1539. In France, the intermèdes
were sometimes on a sumptuous scale and sometimes comprised ballet only. Those by Lully for Molière's plays preceded or followed the comedy in addition to separating its acts and in some cases had nothing to do with the plot, e.g. the Ballet des Nations
which concluded Le bourgeois gentilhomme
(1670).(2) With the development of opera seria
, based invariably on mythological legends, the intermezzo
became popular because of its contrasted, more realistic, and topical, often comic, characters. At the beginning of the 18th cent., comic characters were admitted into opera seria
in scenes near the end of an act, thus forming a separate plot, an intermezzo
. Most popular of these intermezzi
was Pergolesi's La serva padrona
(The maid as mistress) (1733). From this form developed opera
buffa.(3) By the 19th cent. the word had come to be applied in the same sense as interlude
; and for a short orch. piece inserted into an opera to denote a lapse of time, as in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana
, or summarizing events as in the ‘Walk to the Paradise Garden’ in Delius's A Village Romeo and Juliet
.(4) A short movt. in a sym., conc., or sonata, e.g. the slow movement of Schumann's pf. conc.(5) Short independent pf. pieces by Brahms, Schumann, etc.