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In classical music, a burletta (Italian, meaning "little joke", sometimes burla or burlettina), is a brief comic opera. In the 18th century, a burletta was the comic intermezzo between the acts of an opera seria. The extended work Pergolesi's La serva padrona was also designated a 'burletta' at its London premiere in 1750.

In England the term began to be used, in contrast to burlesque, for works that satirized opera but without using musical parody. Burlettas in English began to appear in the 1760s, the earliest identified being Midas by Kane O'Hara, first performed privately in 1760 near Belfast, and produced at Covent Garden in 1764. The form became debased when the term 'burletta' began to be used for English comic or ballad operas, as a way of evading the monopoly on "legitimate drama"[1] in London belonging to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. After repeal of the 1737 Licensing Act in 1843, use of the term declined.

The word 'burletta' has also been used for scherzo-like instrumental music by composers including Max Reger and Bartók. In America, the word has sometimes been used as an alternative for burlesque.

List of burlettas[edit]


  1. ^ Meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music ("Definition from the Everything 2 website". Everything2.com. 6 January 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2010. )