Staging of Musical Drama in Italy at the Turn of Seventeenth Century A History of Theatrical Production
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Abstract Seventeenth-century musical drama is a product of the humanist preoccupation with the revival of the cultural ideals of the antiquity. Italian critics of the sixteenth century, after studying the classical texts of Aristotle and Plato, had already launched theories according to which music was present in the theatrical performances of the antiquity. Some theorists, like Girolamo Mei and Francesco Patrizzi, promoted the idea that tragedies were sung throughout, while others, like Giovanni Trissino, Giraldi Cinthio, and Orazio Toscanella, more accurately considered that only certain parts of the plays were sung. The following work offers a general view of the performance practice of musical drama at the turn of the seventeenth century in Italy. There are few works dedicated to the study of stage matters in the intermedii productions of the century. Information on such performances is scarce, with most of the music and even parts of the libretti being lost. For this reason, in order to offer a more complete image of early musical drama, it is necessary to study the history of theatrical performance practice of the time. The primary sources quoted throughout this work include letters, programs, and descriptions of theatrical events. The most valuable primary sources are, however, the theatrical treatises of the time: Quattro dialoghi in materia di rappresentazioni sceniche (1565) by Leone de' Sommi, professional director at the court of Mantua; Della poesia rappresentativa e del modo di rappresentare le favole sceniche (1598) by Angelo Ingegneri, stage director; and II Corago o vero alcune osservazioni per mettere ben in scena le composizioni drammatiche (1628), an anonymous treatise by a professional director in the early baroque theater. Several such sources have been translated into English, completely or at least in part, by Carol MacClintock, Allardyce Nicoll, Claude Palisca, Denis Stevens, and Oliver Strunk. Other materials have been published by editors such as Alessandro d'Ancona, Angelo Solerti, Paolo Fabbri, and Angelo Pompilio. There are, however, numerous other primary sources that have not been translated into English and offer important details of performance practice. Numerous descriptions of weddings and other court events celebrated through theatrical performances exist only in Italian. They present details regarding set design, hall decorations, lighting, theater machines, costumes, and special effects that allow us to form a better idea of the performance practice of the time. Throughout the work I have introduced numerous quotes and excerpts from these writings in order to convey a more veridical image of the seventeenth-century performances. This study aims to display elements taken from such documents in order to offer a coherent image of performance practice at the time when opera started to emerge as a new genre. For a better understanding of the process this work includes studies of theatrical design, sets, and machinery, costumes and lighting, and stage direction in the early Italian theater.
- Music