Among Weber’s music for the play Preciosa, a drama that Pius Alexander Wolff derived in 1811 from Cervantes’s “exemplary novella” La Gitanilla, is an overture and eleven other numbers (J. 279). The story concerns a gypsy girl, whose beauty and performance on the stage attract an increasingly wide following.

When an aristocrat sees her, he leaves his home to follow Preciosa wherever she goes. He is prepared to abandon all for her, but learns near the end of the drama that Preciosa is actually of noble birth, and they can marry.

Preciosa was successful on the German stage, and various productions occurred from its premiere through the 1820s. The production that included Weber’s music was given its premiere in March 1821.

For his incidental music, Weber attempted to contribute to the Spanish setting by using some traditional Spanish tunes as the basis for several numbers. The overture begins with a stylized bolero that sets the one for the ensuing drama.

He proceeds to themes that occur elsewhere in the incidental music, and in doing so establishes a context for what comes afterward. This overture differs from others by Weber with its slower passages and more cantabile melodies.

In the orchestration itself, the work contains elements suggestive of Spanish style, including various bells and other percussive sounds. The overture to Preciosa is a more playful than the more solemn and atmospheric ones for Der Freischütz and Oberon. While the tonal structure follows more closely sonata form, the thematic content suggests more a potpourri of motives that would occur later in the drama.

The overture of Preciosa is performed most often apart from the rest of the incidental music, and as such, it is an excellent example of the Romantic concert overture.

Weber – Preciosa, Op. 78


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