Houghton's Catalog of Italian Ballet Released

Morris Levy, Project Music Cataloger in the Technical Services division of Houghton Library and one of the authors of the newly published Italian Ballet, 1637-1977, at the Harvard University Press bookstore where the catalog and other Houghton publications are featured this month.

December 6, 2005 - When it comes to dance, historical Italian ballet is overshadowed by the well-loved and dominant French and Russian traditions from which modern ballet descends. A new book published by Houghton Library and distributed by Harvard University Press aims to bring the Italian form back into the spotlight for scholars: Italian Ballet, 1637–1977, the second catalog of materials from the John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward Collection of the Harvard Theatre Collection, a division of Houghton Library.

Complete with a significant index, Italian Ballet includes more than 2,100 items relating to Italian ballet from the 17th through 20th century. Compiled by Morris S. Levy, Project Music Cataloger in the Technical Services division of Houghton Library, and John Milton Ward, William Powell Mason Professor of Music, Emeritus, and Honorary Curator of Dance and Music for the Theatre in the Harvard College Library, the book’s materials represent a sampling of those that Ward himself has contributed to Houghton and the Harvard Theatre Collection over the years, beginning in the 1950s.

Italian Ballet includes printed scores, librettos, and treatises on ballet as well as hundreds of manuscript scores, letters, contracts, choreographic notes, and costume and set designs. Much of the material dates from a time in Italy when ballet wasn’t a standalone entertainment, according to Levy. Instead, ballets were incorporated into operas, either as part of the performance itself or as an interlude between opera acts. The chronological Italian Ballet traces the history and development of the art form beginning in 1637. Furnishing descriptive citations for each ballet as well as 40 pages of detailed indexes, the catalog provides a reference to the collection as well as a resource for scholars.

"Italian ballet is little talked about," says Levy. "Dance was so important to the performance of opera, but it’s not studied. Maybe with this publication people will see how much material is here at Harvard and how much there is to do."

Levy and Ward previously published The King’s Theatre Collection, Ballet and Italian Opera in London, 1706–1883, another catalog of materials in the Ward Collection. Ward has since added an additional 200 items, so they are revising The King’s Theatre Collection for publication in spring 2006 before moving on to a catalog of the collection’s French materials.

Italian Ballet, 1637-1977, is available for purchase, along with other Houghton Library publications, at the Harvard University Press bookstore in Holyoke Center.

Page Last Reviewed: May 12, 2009