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Florence and the Origins of Opera

Francesca Chiarelli

According to a well-established narrative, opera was created by a group of Florentine, the Camerata de' Bardi. The nobleman Giovanni de' Bardi and Vincenzo Galilei (the father of Galileo), deeply dissatisfied with what they saw as the deplorable state of contemporary music, looked back to ancient times, when music, rather than an exhibition of virtuosity, was used to accompany and emphasize poetry. Pietro de' Bardi, Giovanni's son, relates in brief the origins of opera and places great emphasis upon the activities lead by the Camerata:

Vedeva questo grande ingegno [Vincenzo Galilei] che uno dei principali scopi di quella accademia era, col ritrovare l'antica musica, quanto però fosse possibile in materia così oscura, di migliorare quella moderna, e levarla in qualche parte del misero stato, nel quale l'avevano messa principalmente i Goti, dopo la perdita di essa, e delle altre scienze più nobili. Perciò fu egli il primo a far sentire il canto in stile rappresentativo.[1]

In this letter, 'stile rappresentativo' is defined as a musical setting for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment, in which great care is taken in preserving the understanding of the poetic text, the aesthetic aim being to move the affections of the soul:

Costui [Jacopo Peri] a competenza di Giulio [Caccini] scoperse l'impresa dello stile rappresentativo, e sfuggendo una certa rozzezza e troppa antichità, che si sentiva nelle musiche del Galileo [Vincenzo Galilei], addolcì insieme con Giulio questo stile, e lo resero atto a muovere raramente gli affetti, come in progresso di tempo venne fatto all'uno e all'altro.[2]

This narrative seems to persuade that Florence, the heart of Renaissance culture and home to linguistic purity in the Italian language, was also the cradle of opera, one of the most successful musical genres of all times. Furthermore, it also leads to believe that the influence of philosophical and literary speculation in its development was somewhat greater than that of music itself. Opera was to be the genre where poetry dominated and where music, essential though subservient, played the role of amplifying both the sound and emotions of the lyric word. Pietro della Valle, a composer active in the first half of the seventeenth century, indicates that the new operatic genre, itself heavily indebted to the 'stile rappresentativo', was created by composers under a poetic and generally cultural direction:

Le prime composizioni buone che si siano sentite in questa forma, sono state la Dafne, l'Arianna, l'Euridice e le altre cose di Firenze e di Mantova. I primi che in Italia abbiano lodevolmente seguitato questa strada [...] sono stati il Principe di Venosa [Carlo Gesualdo], che diede forse luce a tutti gli altri nel cantare affettuoso; Claudio Monteverde e Jacopo Peri nelle opere sopranominate; ma però indirizzati dal Rinuccini, autore di poesie, dal Bardi, intendentissimo delle antichità musicali, dal Corsi, peritissimo nella pratica e gran mecenate e benefattore de' professori di essa. [3]

And Giulio Caccini, composer and singer at the Medici court and a member of the Camerata, clarifies this point in his preface to Euridice, clearly connecting the creation of opera and the cultural debates lead by Giovanni de' Bardi:

In essa ella [Giovanni de' Bardi, to whom Caccini dedicates the print of Euridice] riconoscerà quello stile usato da me altre volte, molti anni or sono. [...] E questa è quella maniera altresì, la quale negli anni che fioriva la camerata sua in Firenze, discorrendo ella, diceva, insieme con molti altri nobili virtuosi, essere stata usata dagli antichi Greci nel rappresentare le loro tragedie e altre favole, adoperando il canto [...] non avendo [io] mai nelle mie musiche usato altr'arte che l'imitazione de' sentimenti delle parole. [4]

Historical facts attest that Florence was indeed the place where the first operas were performed and that the first author of operatic libretti was Ottavio Rinuccini, a poet employed at the Medici court. Is this sufficient, however, to conclude that opera is the typical product of Florentine culture? And although the first operas were characterized by a non-virtuosic score which permitted a ready understanding of the literary text, is this sufficient to conclude that in opera the libretto comes first and that poetry has a leading role over music? These issues will be the central focus of the following discussion. Ottavio Rinuccini's theatrical career will indicate whether early seventeenth-century Florence had such a taste for opera, and a brief examination of case studies in libretti will attest whether opera as a genre, rather than single examples, did indeed give precedence to poetry over music.

Ottavio Rinuccini must have started his career as an employee at the Medici court at an early age. [5] He was only seventeen when, in 1579, he was commissioned to write the text for a mascherata to be represented during the festivities celebrating the wedding between Francesco I Medici and his mistress Bianca Cappello. By this time, the young poet was already a member of the Camerata de' Bardi.

The Camerata had started to meet around 1576. Its leaders Giovanni de' Bardi and Vincenzo Galilei referred to the Florentine philologist Girolamo Mei for accurate information on ancient culture and the correct interpretation of treatises. Mei referred to Aristotle and Plato for his musical thought, and through this light identified the main problem of contemporary vocal music to be the total absence of aesthetic power over the audience, [6] a power central to the Aristotelian concept of catharsis which had been achieved in Greek tragedy by using music as a way of empowering the expression of the affetti contained in the text. Thus according to Bardi, Galilei and Mei, music should have a subservient role towards poetry. But in contemporary times they had witnessed a reversal of roles in which the poetic text had become increasingly a mere excuse for musical virtuosity:

[...] par loro [to contemporary composers] d'esser tanto più scaltri, quanto più fanno le parti muovere: cosa per mio avviso tratta dagli strumenti di corde, nelle quali non essendo voce, conviene che 'l sonatore [...] muova le parti, e vada facendo fughe, e contrappunti doppi, o altre invenzioni per non recar tedio agli ascoltanti suoi; e questa per mio avviso è quella specie di musica, che è tanto biasimata dai Filosofi, e in particolare da Aristotele [...].[7]

Between the mid-1570s and the early 1580s, the Camerata de' Bardi was not the only meeting-ground for discussions on arts, but the publication of a theoretical output clearly appealing to the authority of the ancients and attacking modern music places the Camerata at the forefront of our investigation.[8] Galilei and Bardi, however, were not particularly interested in music for the stage, nor in creating a new genre which would see an action entirely sung: their aim was simply to reform vocal music.

Music obviously had a place in contemporary stage productions. Ancient Greek tragedy was still a model of practice when staging contemporary tragedies and pastorals, with their choruses and specific portions of the text accompanied by music. Other theatrical genres away from the Aristotelian codes and mainly conceived for court festivals, such as balli, intermedi and mascherate, allocated music a larger role. But though conceived for the stage, these were not characterized as much by an entirely sung dramatic action as by the display of stage machinery, lavish costumes and the virtuosity of the performers. And it is in one of these non-dramatic contexts that Rinuccini made his first contribution to the Medici stage.

His contribution to the 1579 festivities was Maschere d'Amazzoni. Rinuccini's text favours long declamations by one character, often in ottava rima, over the participation of more characters: narration takes over any possibility of dialogue, thus reducing even further the dramatic potential of an essentially non-dramatic genre. Entertainment and literary affectation seem to go hand in hand in the mascherata, as suggested by the title of this mascherata, Rinaldo e il Tasso, which was performed in 1586 for the wedding of Cesare d'Este and Virginia Medici:

Questi ch'incontro a' Cavalieri del Sole
così cortese a' preghi miei s'accinse,
e co 'l sembiante e con le voci sole,
senza oprar ferro, spaventogli e vinse,
richiamato da me, dimostrar vuole
quanto folle desìo vi mosse e spinse
a venir qui con sì superbi vanti,
o schiera iniqua di Dèmoni erranti.[9]

The poetic style and the images, though suggesting a possible setting and choreography, do not appear to be substantially different from those found in the epic genre.

During the 1580s and 1590s, Rinuccini was a constant presence in theatrical performances at court,[10] but the closest he got to transferring an action onto the stage was in 1589, with the famous cycle of the intermedi which formed part of the festivities for the wedding of Ferdinando I Medici and Christine of Lorraine. These intermedi staged various aspects of the power of music: from conceptual and philosophical notions such as the harmony of the spheres, to mythological exemplars such as Apollo's victory over Python and Arione's rescue by the dolphins.[11] The third intermedio, with Apollo as the main character, was probably the most dramatic of the 1589 cycle. Rinuccini, the author of the text, outlined a potential plot, from the opening scene which presents the situation (Python has been terrorizing the inhabitants of Delos and they ask Giove for help) through an anagnorisis (Apollo's appearance and his victorious fight with Python) to the happy catastrophe (the liberation of Delos from the monster). Of course, this intermedio is still quite far from being a rudimentary example of opera: all that survives of the music are the opening and final choruses, and from the description of the festivities it appears that the central action, the fight, was a ballet.[12] Music was still far from representing actions or affections on stage.

Although the director of the festivities was Emilio de' Cavalieri, a Roman gentleman and a protege of the new Medici Grand Duke Ferdinando, Giovanni de' Bardi contributed a madrigal for the fourth intermedio which seems to reflect Galilei's instructions. 'Miseri habitator del ciec'Averno' has a very simple musical structure and the use of homophony, where all the parts sing the words simultaneously, seems to guarantee that much-recommended understanding of the poetic text. The change of leadership did however mark the end of Bardi's cultural patronage in Florence: as a protege of Francesco I, he could not hope to maintain his privileges with Ferdinando given the political opposition which had existed between the two brothers. Just a year later, in 1590, Bardi moved to Rome, called there by Pope Clemente VII.

A key figure in arts patronage was now Jacopo Corsi, a nobleman with mercantile interests and direct involvement in affairs of state.[13] It was under his patronage that only a few years later, around 1595, Rinuccini and Jacopo Peri (another Medici employee who starred in the 1589 intermedi as Arione) started their experiments which led two years later to the performance of the first opera, Dafne,[14] first performed for a small audience during Carnival 1598 and 1599. There are also indications of another three performances in 1600, two in January and one in August. In 1604, Dafne was again performed at Palazzo Pitti with music by Giulio Caccini, and for the Mantuan festivities of 1608 Rinuccini provided the composer Marco da Gagliano (another Medici employee) with a substantially expanded libretto.

The first 'real' opera, Euridice, on a libretto by Rinuccini with music by Peri, was performed in Palazzo Pitti the evening of 6th October 1600, for a female audience, during the festivities celebrating the wedding of Maria Medici and Henry IV of Navarre. Clearly the Medici wanted to display the new genre, but it is interesting that no great emphasis was placed upon its novelty, and being performed for a reduced audience, it was certainly not the zenith of the celebrations. The place of honour was instead given to Rinuccini and Peri courtly rivals, the poet Gabriello Chiabrera and Giulio Caccini: their Rapimento di Cefalo - something along the line of a dramatically developed intermedio with lavish costumes, scenery and stage machinery - was the main attraction, a safe bet rather than a challenge to tradition.

Both Dafne and Euridice, though traditional from a literary point of view, did turn away from the established practice of sumptuous theatrical performances to accompany pivotal events at court. In Rinuccini's hands, the opera libretto did not allow for the use of machines and lavish costumes, with its setting borrowing from (Tassian) pastoral, and its characters and plot derived from Greek mythology through Ovid. The pastoral genre had recently won the favour of the Medici court. Torquato Tasso's Aminta had been performed in the Boboli garden in Carnival 1590, during Tasso's visit to Florence as Jacopo Corsi's guest.[15] Although no certain documentation can be offered,[16] it has been suggested that this performance of Aminta included musical pieces and intermedi. Subsequently, two pastorals were commissioned by the Medici to Emilio de' Cavalieri and the poetess Laura Guidiccioni, and were performed in 1590-1.[17] In 1595, the year in which the operatic experiments started, was performed in Pitti Il giuoco della cieca, extracted and adapted from Guarini's Pastor fido by Guidiccioni and Cavalieri. Thus Dafne and Euridice, with their landscape of woods and streams, the transformation of all women into nymphs and of most of the men into shepherds (with the notable exclusion of the main characters Apollo and Orfeo), seem to betray a large debt towards pastoral. In this sense they are both the produce of the Florentine soil as it appears to be in the last decade of the Cinquecento. And the musical style used in the new genre seems to connect early opera back to the Camerata de' Bardi through the key figure of Giulio Caccini.

In 1602 Caccini published a collection of solo songs entitled Le nuove musiche. At least some of the pieces included in the collection seem to respond to Bardi's and Galilei's theories, and Caccini himself, in the preface to the volume, associates his musical products with the Camerata by indicating that his songs were first heard and acclaimed by its members, and more significantly by claiming a greater debt towards cultural debate than knowledge of music.

Io veramente nei tempi che fioriva in Firenze la virtuosissima Camerata dell'Illustrissimo Signor Giovanni Bardi de' Conti di Vernio ]...] avendola frequentata anch'io, posso dire d'avere appreso più dai loro dotti ragionari, che in più di trent'anni non ho fatto nel contrappunto; imperò che questi intendentissimi gentiluomini m'hanno sempre confortato, e con chiarissime ragioni convinto, a non pregiare quella sorte di musica, che non lasciando bene intendersi le parole, guasta il concetto et il verso [...] per accomodarsi al contrappunto, laceramento della poesia, ma ad attenermi a quella maniera cotanto lodata da Platone et altri filosofi, che affermarono la musica altro non essere che la favella e il ritmo et il suono per ultimo, e non per lo contrario, a volere che ella [i.e., music] possa penetrare nell'altrui intelletto e fare quei mirabili effetti che ammirano gli scrittori, e che non potevano farsi per il contrappunto nelle moderne musiche.[18]

Caccini's 'new music' was in essence the monodic setting of a given poetic text, that is, a melody sung by a single performer in a style which, though allowing space for the performer's skill, did not obstruct the understanding of the words:

Veduto adunque [...] che tali musiche e musici non davano altro diletto fuor di quello che poteva l'armonia dare all'udito solo, poi che non potevano esse muovere l'intelletto senza l'intelligenza delle parole, mi venne pensiero introdurre una sorte di musica, per cui altri potesse quasi che in armonia favellare [...] Ne i quali, così ne madrigali come nelle arie, ho sempre procurata l'imitazione de i concetti delle parole, ricercando quelle corde più o meno affettuose, secondo i sentimenti di esse, e che particolarmente avessero grazia, avendo nascosto in esse quanto più ho potuto l'arte del contrappunto.[19]

Monody was not a Florentine invention, nor the creation of Caccini himself. Other genres such as the villanella and the frottola, as well as the canzonetta and the light madrigal, had appeared in print for solo voice and instrumental accompaniment throughout the Cinquecento, and several volumes of solo songs were published around the same time as Caccini's Le nuove musiche, without any particular claim to novelty.[20]

If monody was not a Florentine creation, it still played an essential role in Florentine operas, since the aesthetic tenet of the new operatic genre was that music should hold a subservient role, 'accompanying' the poetic text and therefore adopting a style of declamation half-way between full singing (considered as not appropriate to dramatic poetry) and normal speaking. This is how Jacopo Peri describes the new music style needed for setting dramatic poetry:

[...] veduto che si trattava di poesia drammatica e che però si doveva imitar col canto chi parla (e senza dubbio non si parlò mai cantando), stimai che gli antichi Greci e Romani (i quali, secondo l'opinione di molti, cantavano su le scene tragedie intere) usassero un'armonia, che avanzando quella del parlare ordinario, scendesse tanto dalla melodia del cantare che pigliasse forma di cosa mezzana.[21]

Although not created specifically with opera in mind, the 'new' solo music had a crucial role in bringing on stage a dramatic text to be sung in its entirety, since it was necessary to have one performer for each character. Thus the development and consolidation of solo song, which was essentially a stylistic issue, and the appearance of a new genre became intertwined. And if all surviving documents do not indicate any particular interest for contemporary stage music within the Camerata de' Bardi, Giulio Caccini, in his preface to Euridice, clearly establishes the connection with the Camerata by connecting his monodic style (used both for solo songs and for opera) with what he had learnt participating to philosophical debates.

As indicated earlier, the libretto of Dafne was expanded before being set again to music by another composer, Marco da Gagliano, for the 1608 Mantuan festivities, celebrating the wedding of Francesco I Gonzaga and Marguerite of Savoy. This transition signals a similar transition that opera as a genre had undergone. In 1607 Alessandro Striggio, courtly poet at Mantua, had taken up the myth of Orpheus and transformed it into a libretto, which was set to music by one of the leading composers of the time, Claudio Monteverdi. Orfeo was performed at the Academia degli Invaghiti in Mantua, thus emphasizing the intellectual component of the new genre. The following year, next to Dafne, the Mantuan court staged as the zenith of the festivities a new opera, Arianna, on a libretto by Rinuccini set to music by Monteverdi. The young singer and Monteverdi's exceptional pupil Caterina Martinelli was intended to sing the part of Arianna, but her untimely death forced him to look for a replacement in Virginia Ramponi Andreini, an actress of the Comici Gelosi, the company employed to perform Giovan Battista Guarini's Idropica.[22]

Arianna became an exemplar amongst contemporary theorists of what opera should be and of how music and poetry should relate to one another. Giovan Battista Doni, a cognoscente with a wide-ranging knowledge of classical culture and contemporary literature as well as a strong interest in music, saw in the predominance of poetry over music the only way of rescuing the aesthetic power of vocal music, and of operatic music in particular. He presented the collaboration between Rinuccini and Monteverdi for Arianna as the highest point reached by contemporary music. But the credit for it seems due more to Rinuccini than to Monteverdi, one of Monteverdi's merits being his willingness to learn from Rinuccini. In a letter to Marin Mersenne of August 1638, Doni refers to the Lamento d'Arianna:

Cl. Monteverde il n'est pas homme de grandes lettres, non plus que les autres musiciens d'aujordhuy, mais il excelle à faire des melodies pathetiques, merci de la longue pratique qu'il a eu à Florence de ces beaux esprits des Académies, mesme du Sieur Rinuccini [...] lequel [...] encores qu'il n'entendist rien en la musique, contribua plus que Monteverde à la beauté de ceste Complainte d'Ariadne [...].[23]

According to the description of the 1608 festivities, the audience was greatly moved by Arianna, and especially by the lament:

nel lamento che fece Arianna sopra lo scoglio abbandonata da Teseo, il quale fu rappresentato con tanto affetto e con sì pietosi modi, che non si trovò ascoltante alcuno che non s'intenerisse, né pur fu una dama che non versasse qualche lagrimetta al suo bel pianto.[24]

The lament was to become a bestseller, the piece of music to be owned by any music-lover,[25] and the presence of an actress rather than a singer seems to confirm that operatic wonder indeed originates from skilful acting (an almost oratorical delivery of the poetic text) rather than from singing. The focus seems to shift from music to the text. And indeed Arianna can be read with literary gratification without the music - which has to be the case for the modern reader, since the libretto was published, but not the score:

O Teseo, o Teseo mio,
sì che mio ti vo' dir, che mio pur sei,
benché t'involi, ahi crudo! agli occhi miei.
Volgiti Teseo mio,
volgiti Teseo, oh Dio!
volgiti indietro a rimirar colei
che lasciato ha per te la patria e 'l regno,
e in queste arene ancora,
cibo di fere dispietate e crude,
lascerà l'ossa ignude.[26]

This excerpt from the lamento offers a case in point. Although the frontispiece of the print defines Arianna as a 'tragedia per musica', the libretto does not show that gravitas of poetic rhythm and language characterizing Renaissance and early-Baroque tragedies. However, the heavy presence of rhetorical figures (in this case, the anaphora 'Volgiti Teseo mio, volgiti Teseo, oh Dio!, volgiti indietro...'), a madrigalian rhythm, typical of Rinuccini's libretti, alternating seven- and eleven-syllable lines and thus diluting the poetic metre, and a clear rhyming scheme place Rinuccini's libretti away from both the prose-like style of tragedy and upbeat 'poesia per musica'. A comparison with the opening of a canzonetta is

Dolci sospiri,
dolci martiri,
dolce gridate:
Mercè, pietate;
ohimè, gridate forte
ch'io son ferito a morte.[27]

Rinuccini's libretti are all devised as a 'chain of madrigals', with plenty of opportunities for lyric effusions by the main characters and the chorus. Orfeo's first appearance on stage, for example, is marked by one of those lyric moments in which he reveals how Nature seems to have sympathized with all his feelings - a trait common to both the poetic and the pastoral traditions:

Antri, ch'a miei lamenti
rimbombaste dolenti, amiche piagge,
e voi, piante selvagge
ch'a le dogliose rime
piegaste per pietà l'altere cime,
non fia più no che la mia nobil cetra
con flebil canto a lagrimar v'alletti:
ineffabil mercede, almi diletti
Amor cortese oggi al mio pianto impetra.[28]

Even the conflict between Honour and Love, at the heart of the plot in Arianna, creates ample opportunities for lyricism. Harking back to Tasso's Aminta, Arianna echoes the pastoral in its structural division between the inhabitants of the city (Teseo and the Consigliero) and the inhabitants of Nasso, the island bearing the same significance as the pastoral woods. After having witnessed the furtive departure of Teseo's ships, the chorus of Fishermen proclaims how fortunate they are not to live in the city - a chorus close to Aminta's 'O bell'età dell'Oro' both in its liquid sonority and in its content:

Avventurose genti,
noi che, lontan da le città superbe,
a le bell'onde, a l'erbe
guidiam tranquilli i mansueti armenti,
o pur nel sen di Teti
tendiam al muto gregge o lacci o reti.[29]

Another element which contributes to the emphasis of lyrical over dramatic elements is the universality of the affections represented. Arianna's grief at finding herself deserted, like Orfeo's joy in marrying Euridice or his despair at having lost her, gains intensity from the plot, but can be appreciated equally with or without the music, even if taken away from its dramatic context. In a truly dramatic libretto, it would not be possible to extract a part of it from its context and still be able to fully appreciate it. A case in point is an opera not chronologically distant from the early Florentine examples, but responding to entirely different stimuli. L'incoronazione di Poppea, on a libretto by Gian Francesco Busenello, was performed in Venice in 1642 with music by various composers, among whom was Claudio Monteverdi. Venice had opened the first 'public' opera house in 1637, thus removing opera from within the boundaries of the court.[30] Opera in Venice would acquire those characteristics which late became typical of the genre: a libretto with a varying degree of poetic quality but always functional to music and the staging; and music which gives ample possibilities for the performers to display their vocal skills.[31] The final duet of the Incoronazione, a love song between Poppea and Nerone, shows how extracting passages from an opera may lead to a substantial alteration of their meaning.

Nerone & Poppea:
Pur ti miro, pur ti godo,
pur ti stringo, pur t'annodo;
più non peno, più non moro,
o mia vita, o mio tesoro.

Taken out of its dramatic context, this could simply be the 'innocent' duet between two lovers who are finally reunited. But knowing who these lovers are, and all that had to happen for them to be 'united', casts a totally different and somewhat sinister light on it. The Incoronazione is presented in the prologue as a triumph of Love over Fortune: and indeed

the love of Poppea and Nerone triumphs over all obstacles - over objections of state, over legality and morality. But the dark side of that victory is equally present; Poppea seems also to celebrate the defeat of reason. Seneca dies, Ottavia [Nerone's wife] is exiled [...]. The apparent immorality of the denouement casts a shadow over our perception of the work. Is it really love that triumphs or is it mere lust, or Poppea's greed for power?[32]

Nothing similar would have happened with Euridice or even the 'tragic' Arianna, where everything was exactly as it first appeared.[33] Just over three decades separate the opera which moved to tears the Mantuan audience from the one presenting such a contradictory and complex spectacle to the paying Venetian public.

In general terms, opera was to become all that the Florentines were reacting against. Early Florentine opera was essentially an intellectual pleasure, with very few concessions to the ear or the eye in the name of a more valuable aesthetic pleasure to be had through an empowering of poetry and music. Philosophers provide the aesthetic tenets for a genre which, like classical Renaissance tragedy, sees as its main objective to educate, while entertaining (delectando iuvari). Later on, with Jacopo Corsi, this same idea prompts experiments on the stage and the consequent creation of a new literary form, the libretto, written to be accompanied by music. However, the libretto, especially in Rinuccini's hands, has very feeble dramatic elements and favours lyric effusions over developing a more complex plot.

However, opera as we know it is certainly closer to the Venetian examples: a libretto written not to satisfy the requirements of poetry but those of drama and music, though this does not necessarily produce a libretto without literary or poetic quality; and music which takes over the poetic component with its power of captivating the audience emotionally and displaying the bravura of the performers. The difference between these and the first Florentine operas seems to prove that opera in Florence was indeed something else, the product of an essentially literary inspiration which would not survive long in practice.

Footnotes

[1] Pietro de' Bardi, 'Lettera a Giovan Battista Doni sull'origine del melodramma' [1634] in Angelo Solerti, Le origini del melodramma. Testimonianze dei contemporanei (Turin: Bocca, 1903; facs. edn. Hildesheim & New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1969), p. 144.

[2] Pietro de' Bardi, 'Lettera a Giovan Battista Doni', p. 145.

[3] Pietro della Valle, 'Della musica dell'età nostra che non è punto inferiore, anzi è migliore di quella dell'età passata' [1640], in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma, p. 153. If Gesualdo is referred to as the 'father' of the 'cantare affettuoso', we still need to note that he did not venture on to the operatic ground, nor did he publish compositions for solo voice à la Caccini: the 'cantare affettuoso' refers to his use of the polyphonic style in a powerful rendition of the poetic text.

[4] Giulio Caccini, Preface to Euridice, in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma, p. 52.

[5] For a complete biography of Rinuccini, see Francesco Raccamadoro Ramelli, Ottavio Rinuccini. Studio biografico e critico (Fabriano: Gentile, 1900).

[6] See Claude V. Palisca, 'Girolamo Mei: Mentor to the Florentine Camerata', The Musical Quarterly, 40 (1954), 169-189.

[7] Giovanni de' Bardi, 'Discorso mandato a Giulio Caccini detto Romano sopra la musica antica e 'l cantar bene', in Giovan Battista Doni, Lyra Barberina, edited by Anton Francesco Gori (Florence: Stamperia Imperiale, 1763; facs. Edn. Bologna: Forni, 1974), pp. 233-248.

[8] I am referring here to Vincenzo Galilei's 'Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna', published in 1581, and to his 'Discorso [...] intorno all'opere di Gioseffo Zarlino', published in 1589; the latter is an open attack on Zarlino, one of the leading music theorist, and through him on contemporary music.

[9] Ottavio Rinuccini, 'Rinaldo e il Tasso', in Angelo Solerti, Gli albori del melodramma (Turin: Bocca, 1903; facs. edn. Bologna: Forni, 1976).

[10] In addition to the Maschere d'Amazzoni and Rinaldo e il Tasso, Rinuccini wrote the Ballo di Bergere (1590), the Mascherata degli Accecati and the Mascherata di Stelle (both 1596) and the Mascherata di Donne tradite, possibly written between 1596 and 1598. See Robert Lamar Weaver & Norma Wright Weaver, A Chronology of Music in the Florentine Theatre 1590-1750 (Detroit: Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography number 38, 1978).

[11] For a recounting of all the events leading to the 1589 wedding as well as its festivities, see James M. Saslow, The Medici wedding of 1589. Florentine Festival as 'Theatrum Mundi' (New Haven & London: Yale University Press: 1996).

[12] For a critical comment on this issue, see Nino Pirrotta, Li due Orfei (Turin: Einaudi, 1975), p. 249; for the description of the 1589 festivals, see Raffaello Gualterotti, Descrizione dell'apparato e degli intermedi [...] (Florence: Padovani, 1589).

[13] See Tim Carter, 'Music and Patronage in Late Sixteenth-Century Florence: The Case of Jacopo Corsi (1561-1602)', I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance, 1 (1985), 57-104.

[14] According to Peri in his preface to Euridice, Dafne was conceived as a 'semplice pruova di quello che potesse il canto dell'età nostra' (Jacopo Peri, Preface to Euridice, in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma), p. 40.

[15] See Nino Pirrotta, 'Temperaments and Tendencies in the Florentine Camerata', The Musical Quarterly, 40 (1954), 169-189.

[16] Pierantonio Serassi and Solerti do not mention Tasso's visit to Florence in their biography of the poet: see Pierantonio Serassi, La vita di Torquato Tasso (Rome: Paglierini, 1785), and Angelo Solerti, Vita di Torquato Tasso (Turin & Rome: Loescher, 1895).

[17] The two lost pastorals are Il satiro and La disperazione di Fileno. See Warren Kirkendale, 'L'opera in musica prima del Peri: le pastorali perdute di Laura Guidiccioni ed Emilio de' Cavalieri', in Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell'Europa del '500 (Florence: Olschki, 1983).

[18] Giulio Caccini, preface to Le nuove musiche (Florence: Marescotti, 1602), in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma, p. 56.

[19] Giulio Caccini, preface to Le Nuove Musiche, p. 57 & p. 59.

[20] See Tim Carter, Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy (London: B.T. Batsford Limited, 1992), pp. 187-201.

[21] Jacopo Peri, preface to Euridice (Florence: Marescotti, 1600), in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma, pp. 43-44.

[22] See Edmond Strainchamps, 'The Life and Death of Caterina Martinelli: New Light on Monteverdi's Arianna', Early Music History, 5 (1993), 155-186.

[23] See Marin Mersenne, Correspondance du P. Marin Mersenne, religieux minime, edited by Cornelis de Waard, 12 vols (Paris: CNRS, 1932-72), VIII (1964), 7-25.

[24] Federico Follino, Compendio delle sontuose feste fatte l'anno M.DC.VIII nella città di Mantova per le reali nosse del Serenissimo Principe D. Francesco Gonzaga con la Serenissima Infante Margherita di Savoia (Mantua: Osanna, 1608); as quoted in Paolo Fabbri, Monteverdi (Turin: EDT, 1985), p. 133.

[25] '[L'Arianna] fu tanto gradita che non è stata casa, la quale, avendo cembali o tiorbe in casa, non avesse il lamento di quella.' Severo Bonini, Prima parte dei discorsi e regole sovra la musica (Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, n° 2218); as quoted in Solerti, Le origini del melodramma, p. 139.

[26] Ottavio Rinuccini, Arianna, in Teatro del Seicento, edited by Luigi Fassò (Milan & Naples: Ricciardi, 1956), pp. 77-78.

[27] Ottavio Rinuccini, Poesie (Florence: Giunti, 1622), p. 191.

[28] Ottavio Rinuccini, Euridice, in Teatro del Seicento, pp. 27-28.

[29] Ottavio Rinuccini, Arianna, p. 72.

[30] It has been suggested that the opening of opera houses, with its consequent change of patronage systems and its move towards different political institutions and cultural environments, can be used to argue that the history of opera should start from this point onwards, leaving aside as a totally different genre the courtly opera sponsored by Florence, Mantua and the Papal court. See Tim Carter, Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy, p. 218.

[31] For an analysis of Venetian opera, see Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventheenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, 1991).

[32] Ellen Rosand, 'Seneca and the Interpretation of L'Incoronazione di Poppea', Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), 34; for an analysis of L'Incoronazione within its Venetian cultural context, see Iain Fenlon & Peter N. Miller, The Song of the Soul: Understanding 'Poppea' (London: Royal Musical Association, 1992).

[33] The traditional understanding of Arianna as the deserted heroine with whom both the authors and the audience sympathize, has been, for example, substantially challenged by recent feminist approaches to historical musicology: see Susan Cusick, '"There Was Not One Lady Who Failed to Shed a Tear." Arianna's Lament and the Construction of Modern Womanhood', Early Music, 22 (1994), 21-41.

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Aurifex, Department of English & Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, SE14 6NW, UK

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