libretto ləbrĕt´ō [key] [Ital.,=little book], the text of an opera or an oratorio. Although a play usually emphasizes an integrated plot, a libretto is most often a loose plot connecting a series of episodes. Characterization and emotion are suggested by the words of a libretto but are expressed by the music. The first major librettist was Ottavio Rinuccini, an Italian poet of the 16th cent. Outstanding in the 17th cent. was Philippe Quinault , and in the 18th cent. important librettists were the poet Pietro Metastasio , many of whose 50 libretti were set numerous times by major composers, Ranieri di Calzabigi, and Lorenzo Da Ponte . The 19th-century librettists of note included Augustin Eugène Scribe , W. S. Gilbert , and the composers Arrigo Boito and Richard Wagner ; prominent in the 20th cent. was Hugo von Hofmannsthal .
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