Il testo delle lettere di Giulio e Tito II non presenta problemi di tipo filologico. La natura stessa delle lettere, fatta di linguaggio quotidiano e estremamente comunicativo, rende i documenti scorrevoli e facili da leggere. La scrittura è ordinata, e in generale priva di correzioni o ripensamenti. Non si è ritenuto perciò di procedere a una trascrizione diplomatica indicando la spezzatura di riga o il cambio di pagina. La possibilità di confrontare la trascrizione con l’immagine dell’originale rende peraltro l’operazione superflua a scapito della leggibilità.
Gli interventi redazionali sono quindi stati ridotti al minimo e indicati sempre fra parentesi quadre.
Tali interventi riguardano:
- la datazione, che a volte richiede di essere completata, precisata o ricavata dalla sequenza stessa delle lettere;
- gli accenti, uniformati secondo le norme dell’italiano moderno;
- le virgolette, uniformate sempre alle virgolette alte (es.: "). In caso di virgolette aperte e non chiuse, si è aggiunta la chiusura tra parentesi quadre;
- le abbreviazioni nelle forme di cortesia del destinatario, uniformate in S.r (non Sr.), S.g (non Sg.), E.° (non E°.) ecc.
- i trattini a chiusura delle frasi – abituali nella scrittura di Giulio, presenti anche in Titol II – sono stati uniformati in punti. Sono stati invece lasciati quando seguono un punto esclamativo o interrogativo, perché segnano spesso un’enfasi nel fluire del discorso.
L’originale è stato invece rispettato per quanto riguarda i seguenti elementi:
I puntini di sospensione e i punti esclamativi. i puntini di sospensione è stato di regola aggiunto uno spazio prima e dopo. In particolare Giulio utilizzava lunghe sequenze di puntini all’interno della stessa frase. Gli spazi aggiunti sono dunque necessari per evitare che la giustificazione crei larghi spazi vuoti.
le abbreviazioni, se intuitive anche per il lettore moderno, sviluppando solo quelle poco chiare o di difficile interpretazione. Nei casi di ambigua interpretazione di una parola si è scelta la grafia corrente.
la j iniziale ed intervocalica.
i paragrafi chiaramente indicati da una rientranza;
gli errori di ortografia o sintassi e le sviste dell'autore, contrassegnati con [sic] solo dove l’interpretazione sarebbe risultata ambigua.
le abbreviazioni nelle formule di commiato e nelle firme.
I passi di incerta leggibilità sono stati contrassegnati con [illeggibile]. Singole lettere illeggibili all’interno di una parola sono state trascritte intervallandole con ‘-’ per contrassegnare quelle non identificate.
Perhaps the greatest challenge confronting the reader of a collection of private correspondence is that of trying to untangle, like the strings of a finely articulated marionette, the seemingly inextricable interplay between natural temptation and genuine necessity to read between the lines. Obviously the author had no reason to provide the kind of once-evident but now ephemeral clarity we can only hope to recuperate with the support of painstaking research and reasonably informed deduction. With the conversion then into another language, the multiple layers of nuanced expression that can be reflexively absorbed when read in the original tongue must inevitably rely upon the voice of the translator for their interpretation.
The very question of why many of these letters even qualified as “private” to begin with is something of a mystery, especially since their concerns are nearly always related in some manner to company policy and practice. Broadly contextualized, their contours are roughly framed and veined with references both direct and indirect to Ricordi’s two major competitors: Casa Lucca, which was finally purchased and absorbed in May 1888 after years of dogged pursuit; and Casa Editrice Sonzogno, a persistent thorn in Ricordi’s side from its founding in 1874 until its path to financial insolvency became fully manifest in 1909 (of which there is possibly oblique mention in the penultimate and antepenultimate letters of the second volume). Written record of sensitive in-house disciplinary matters – of which there are quite a few – may have called for some discretion, as perhaps did the many references to legal matters and copyright legislation involving consultation with more than one attorney. Certainly Giulio’s frustration with the underperformance of the company’s various branch affiliates and Tessaro’s tachygraph, for instance, and isolated episodes requiring the forceful assertion of personal and corporate authority were more suited to private than public record; but the scattershot interspersion of other seemingly pedestrian, almost perfunctory entries is sometimes perplexing. Considering the fact that he was an inveterate micro-manager (already in 1888 the Nuovo Opificio Ricordi employed well more than 200 laborers in the workshops alone), the general director and a frequent contributor to the sequence of house periodicals (from the Gazzetta musicale di Milano to Musica e musicisti and Ars et labor), an active pianist and prolific composer, a dilettante painter whose sensibility guided Casa Ricordi’s glorious expansion into the graphic arts, an impresario/arts manager ex facto with a steadfast commitment to his vision of Italy’s musical legacy... one is left to wonder not only why, but more critically how he found the time to prepare some of these clearly meditated missives.
Of the three different levels of pronominal address to a single individual, which are technically “lost in translation”, Giulio’s overwhelmingly preponderant choice was for what was then considered the most formal of them, “Lei” (third-person singular), which ensured a margin of professional distance that was essential for any of a variety of reasons, colloquial quips and candid critiques notwithstanding. Somewhat less reserved in this period, the alternative “voi” (second-person plural) tended to reflect a more cordial but still relatively formal rapport; while he used the most personal form, “tu” (second-person singular), almost exclusively for family and friends or colleagues with whom he had a well-established, reliably confidential relationship.
That said, the boundaries between these distinctions were sometimes quite fluid, even in the finer gradations of distance in “Lei” ranging from peremptory to reverential according to the stature of Giulio’s correspondent. Only a handful of persons, less than ten total, were addressed with “voi”, and in more than one case other letters to the same individual might shift over to the more formal option. Equally sparing in number are those to whom Giulio wrote most directly and transparently, almost always with regard to delicate matters of theatrical programming, confidential personnel assessment, or critical company negotiations involving other family members. Among the approximately forty-five letters to various musicians and librettists, only Arrigo Boito and Francesco Paolo Tosti repeatedly enjoyed this degree of familiarity, at least as represented in this admittedly sparing epistolary sample, and even so the discussion usually revolved around business rather than artistic concerns. Nowhere, however, is the complexity of Giulio’s position and character more evident than in the more than twenty letters to his son Tito II, which run the gamut of all these aforementioned degrees of personal address in tones ranging from acerbic castigation to heartfelt affection, the literal reflection of a padre-padrone relationship born both of necessity and by design.
With regard to Giulio’s remarkably careful application of underlining, I have condensed it into three typographical categories as follows:
1. titles (largely operas and periodicals), rendered in italics and with modern capitalization;
2. non-Italian terms and phrases, rendered in italics and followed by their translation (where appropriate) in square brackets;
3. particular points of emphasis, underlined as in the original text.
Those few occasional oversights or variants in the first two categories have been silently adjusted in the translation.
My approach to the majority of opening and closing salutations attempts to reflect their decorative rather than deliberated nature. Exceptions were made case by case for more personal addressees, whether family or friends, and including those colleagues requiring more thoughtfully worded, sometimes diplomatically formulated expressions. The near-ubiquitous appearance of abbreviated versions of “devoto” or “devotissimo” appended to Giulio’s signature are rendered as “Sincerely” or “Most sincerely” (note the standard English punctuation and capitalization usage for correspondence) with the decided exception of those letters to Verdi, where I preferred the literal translation of the term in support of Giulio’s genuinely (and quite justifiably) “devotional” tone of address. Professional titles and other assorted terms of respect, nearly always abbreviated and sometimes polished with an additional superlative flourish, have been left intact for the most part. The reader will find a glossary elsewhere of these abbreviations rendered in full and with an approximate English equivalent.
None of these translations pretends to a level of uncontestable clairvoyant accuracy. Given this eclectic, if somewhat mysteriously selective gathering of “private” letters generated by a man of many hats – even when writing to his own son – I came to understand that, while the dedicated scholar will always be expected to grapple directly with the original documents, the usefulness of these translations lies principally in their potential to draw a more general interdisciplinary readership further into the complicated world of this fascinating nineteenth-century polymath too often cast as a peripheral player on the vibrant cultural stage of his day.