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Posts Tagged ‘counter reformation

“Any subject is good for opera if the composer feels it so intently he must sing it out”*…

We know that opera took the form we know today in Italy the first half of the 17th century, when what had largely been ponderous courtly spectacles mutated into the lively popular art that opera has remained for the past 400 year. But why did operas as we know them become… well, operas as we know them?

Why did opera first succeed as a public art form in Venice between 1637 and 1650 when all the elements of the new form were fully evident? The answer is to be found in the conjunction between Venetian carnival festivity and the intellectual politics of Venetian republicanism during the two generations after the lifting of the papal interdict against Venice in 1607. During this extraordinary period of relatively free speech, which was unmatched elsewhere at the time, Venice was the one place in Italy open to criticisms of Counter Reformation papal politics. Libertine and skeptical thought flourished in the Venetian academies, the members of which wrote the librettos and financed the theaters for many of the early Venetian operas.

How opera became Opera: “Why Venice? Venetian Society and the Success of Early Opera,” from Edward Muir (@EdwardMuir7)

* Gian Carlo Menotti

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As we fiddle with Fidelio, we might recall that it was on this date in 1600 that Euridice, an opera by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini, was first performed in Florence; the libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini is based on books X and XI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. which recount the story of the legendary musician Orpheus and his wife Euridice. A presage of what was later to flourish in Venice, it is the oldest surviving opera (though the same authors wrote the now-lost Dafne two years earlier), and is generally regarded as marking the dawn of the Baroque period.

The Prologue, from the score of Euridice, published in Florence in 1600 [source]

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