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Seventeenth-century Opera and the Sound of the Commedia Dell'arte (Hardcover) (Emily Wilbourne)

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This book considers the relationship between commedia dell’arte and early operatic forms, from the court operas of the first years of the seventeenth century, through semi-private productions in Rome, to the public stages of Venice over fifty years later. While musicology has largely ignored the commedia dell’arte, except in cases of specifically comic opera characters, this book offers a corrective. The importance of serious commedia characters and situations for the development of opera is articulated, with particular attention given to the “prime donne innamorate” and the use of lament. Through a series of case studies that situate side by side commedia dell’arte plays, pedagogical texts on acting, and some of the century’s best-known operatic works, the book illustrates how sound itself functioned as a crucial and influential component of commedia dell’arte dramaturgy. Furthermore, it argues that the aural epistemology of the commedia dell’arte theatre—in which the gender, class, geographic origins, motivations and predilections of each character were audible in their voice—trained Italian audiences in habits of listening that rendered the musical drama of opera verisimilar according to existing dramatic norms, thus underwriting the success of the genre. Vincenzo Galilei’s 1581 exhortation for composers to listen to the speech of the commedia actors for inspiration on how to make their music expressive is used to contextualize the link between the sound of the commedia dell’arte and that of early opera. The first chapter introduces commedia dell’arte and its stock characters, with particular attention paid to the “sound” of the genre as a whole and the use of music within spoken dramatic performances. Subsequent chapters examine Monteverdi’s early operaL’Arianna (of which only the famous lament survives) and his Il Ritorno d’Ulisse andL’incoronazionedi Poppea, as well as some of the first operas in the comic vein, often written by commedia practitioners such as Giovan Battista Andreini. The conclusion looks at how the new genre of opera, both serious and comic, comes to fruition in Cavalli’s large-scale Venetian operas of the 1650s.  Throughout, the book articulates the productive overlapping of the worlds of commedia dell’arte and early opera, from shared audiences and performing venues, to shared actors/singers (especially female, such as the first Arianna, the actress and Giovan Battista’s wife, Virgina Ramponi Andreini), who brought their spoken-theater prowess to their impersonation of operatic characters and helped disseminate the new genre on the Italian stage and beyond.  
Number of Pages: 256.0
Genre: Music, History
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Author: Emily Wilbourne
Language: English
Street Date: November 21, 2016
TCIN: 51505525
UPC: 9780226401577
Item Number (DPCI): 248-22-2053

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