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An impresario (from Italian: impresa, meaning "an enterprise or undertaking") is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a artist manager, a film or television producer. The origin of the term is to be found in the social and economic world of Italian opera, where from the mid-18th century to the 1830s, the impresario was the key figure in the organization of a lyric season. The owners of the theatre, usually noble amateurs, charged the impresario with hiring a composer, for until the 1850s operas on stage were expected to be new, as well as gathering the necessary costumes, sets, orchestra, and singers, all while assuming considerable financial risks. In 1786 Mozart satirized the stress and emotional mayhem in a single-act farce Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario). Antonio Vivaldi was unusual in acting as impresario as well as composer: in 1714 he managed seasons at Teatro San Angelo in Venice, where his opera Orlando finto pazzo was followed by numerous others.
Alessandro Lanari (1787–1852), who began as the owner of a shop that produced costumes, eliminated the middleman in a series of successful seasons he produced for the Teatro La Pergola, Florence, which saw premieres of the first version of Verdi's Macbeth, two of Bellini's operas and five of Donizetti's, including Lucia di Lammermoor. Domenico Barbaia (1778–1841) began as a café waiter and made a fortune at La Scala in Milan, where he was also in charge of the gambling operation and introduced roulette.
The traditional term is still in use in the entertainment industry for a producer of concerts, tours and other events in music, opera, theatre and even rodeo. Significant modern impresarios in the traditional sense include Vincenzo Torelli, Thomas Beecham, Rudolf Bing, Sergei Diaghilev, Richard D'Oyly Carte, Fortune Gallo, Sol Hurok, Aaron Richmond, and jazz festival producer George Wein.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau said of himself that he was an impresario of scientists as an explorer and filmmaker who worked with scientists in underwater exploration. Nicholas Wade described James D. Watson and E. O. Wilson in The New York Times as impresarios of Charles Darwin's works.
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