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As readers for the University of California Press, Lorenzo Bianconi examined the text with a fine-tooth comb, sparing me the embarrassment of countless minor errors and several major ones; Howard Brown, with humor and sympathy, found his share of lacunae and redundancies; and Philip Brett, going well beyond the call of duty, made many excellent stylistic suggestions.

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I am indebted to Gary Tomlinson for the challenge of his ideas and stimulating queries over the years and for his specific suggestions more recently; to Andrew Porter, who long ago promised me a New Yorker editorial job on the manuscript and kept his word; and to Maria Teresa Muraro, whose friendship, hospitality, encouragement, and access to the Venetian libraries at the other end of an international telephone line were invaluable assets in the completion of my work.

I am grateful, too, to my former student Beth Glixon for making fair copies of the musical examples, to Christian Moevs for a large number of translations, and to my editors at the University of California Press, above all, to Doris Kretschmer for her sustained enthusiasm, to Peter Dreyer for his gentle editorial touch, and to Jane-Ellen Long, who calmly shepherded the manuscript through the final gauntlet of publication. This book could not have been completed without the sustenance, forbearance, and considerable intervention of my family: my sons Jonathan and Eric, who grew up tolerantly—and too fast—in the company of a sibling more demanding than any sister or brother, and their father, my husband David Ro-sand, whose passion for and knowledge of things Venetian nourished mine, and whose professional skill as a writer, editor, artist, and critic and intuition as an opera lover have had their impact on every page of this volume.

Finally, I wish to express publicly my immense private gratitude to my parents for having waited patiently and supportively through many difficult years for me to finish this book, and to whom I lovingly, and thankfully, dedicate it. Editorial intervention has been kept to a minimum. Clefs have been modernized for voice parts only; the original clefs are indicated at the outset of each piece, along with the original key signature and meter, if any.

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For ease of reading, key signatures have usually been added when they are implied by the sources. Original note values have been maintained. An attempt has been made to regularize the barring. Thus, while pieces are generally barred according to the source, where additional bar-lines are required these are dotted. Changes of meter are provided where maintaining the same meter would produce measures of irregular, inconsistent length.

Editorial accidentals as well as notes missing in the sources are enclosed in brackets. All expression and tempo markings are original and are indicated in italics. Figures are generally those in the sources. Occasionally a figure is added in brackets where the harmony might otherwise be ambiguous. Poetic texts in the musical examples follow those of the manuscript sources; they have not been altered to conform to the texts quoted from the librettos.

Punctuation has been clarified, however, and abbreviations have been expanded. In addition, the beginning of each poetic line has been marked by capitalizing its initial letter. In quoting from librettos and manuscript documents, I have chosen to retain the original capitalization and punctuation as well as spelling. Occasionally, however, punctuation and accents have been added to clarify the meaning.

My concern is with the development of a particular art form in a very particular place. Opera did not originate in Venice, but, as with so many inventions that flourished on the lagoon printing, for example , what was conceived and born elsewhere found a most nurturing environment in the Most Serene Republic. With the political stability of its oligarchic structure and the economic democracy that sustained it, Venice offered a unique situation for the elaboration of others' inventions.

The opening of the Teatro S. Cassiano in marked the beginning of an important new phase in the history of the young art. What happened to opera in Venice during the seventeenth century was fundamental to the art itself: there and then, opera as we know it assumed its definitive identity—as a mixed theatrical spectacle available to a socially diversified, and paying, audience; a public art.

Born in Florence, and further developed in Rome, opera essentially defined itself as a genre in Venice. There, and only there, three conditions existed that proved crucial for its permanent establishment: regular demand, dependable financial backing, and a broad and predictable audience. Regularity of demand was guaranteed by the Venetian calendar.


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Carnival season had been a major tourist attraction in Venice for at least a century. Traditionally hospitable to extravagant entertainments of all kinds, it readily accommodated the latest fashion, music-drama, to display before an audience that was already prepared by the carnival atmosphere to enjoy it.

Dependable financial backing derived from the Venetian sociopolitical structure: competition among patrician families, essentially a self-ennobled merchant class, encouraged investment in theaters as a means of increasing wealth and status. A few powerful families sustained the major expenses of constructing new theaters or adapting old ones for operatic productions.

But a broader aristocratic base supported these theaters as annual leaseholders of. Indeed, a list of such subscribers from any season in any theater offered a who's-who of Venetian society. The audience for opera, drawn from the carnival crowds that annually swelled the population of the city, was unusually large; it was also unusually diverse. Carnival was a time of masks, social license, the blurring of class distinctions. When foreign tourists took their places in the theaters, they were surrounded by the full spectrum of Venetians, from the patricians in the boxes to the volgo in the stalls.

The significance of this varied audience cannot be overestimated. It was responsible for the breadth of opera in Venice and the range of its appeal. It also provided the basis for the celebration of the myth of Venice that formed such a significant aspect of the public message of opera in the Serenissima: the spectacle of opera mirrored the spectacle of miraculous Venice herself.

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Nourished by these particular conditions, opera took quick and healthy root on the lagoon: the first historic spectacle at S. Cassiano in , Andromeda , spawned another in , three more in in two theaters , five in and in three and four theaters respectively , and as many as seven in The more they saw of this spectacular new art form, the more audiences wanted, and what they wanted had to be or seem new.

The need to supply such a steadily expanding and increasingly demanding market placed great pressure on the muses of librettists and composers. They sought to develop procedures that would speed up the creative process, maximizing the appearance of novelty, of brilliant invention, while allowing them, as efficient craftsmen, to draw on their own—and others'—previous works. Their efforts soon resulted in the establishment of a conventional poetic and musical language and a conventional structural core for plots, one that could support a variety of superficial modifications — a change of setting, an extra complication, or some new topical allusions.

This conventional core not only sustained infinite variation in Venice; it was portable elsewhere. Indeed, just this portability was one of its essential features. For even as it offered hospitality to the new art, a permanent home, Venice sent it out again to the rest of Italy and, eventually, Europe. The troupes responsible for the first Venetian performances of opera were traveling companies ema-. Cassiano ; Delia SS.

Giovanni e Paolo ; Armida SS.


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    Cassiano or SS. Giovanni e Paolo ; La ninfa avara S. Cassiano ; Narciso ed Ecco immortalati SS. Giovanni e Paolo ; Sidonio e Dorisbe S.


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    They found a stable base of operation in Venice, but only during Carnival; off season they still earned their livelihood elsewhere, carrying with them the products of the Venetian stage. Elsewhere, however, the product had to be modified to appeal to different audiences and to suit different performing conditions: topical and local Venetian allusions, for example, would hardly be effective in, say, Bologna or Milan, and temporary theaters in such cities often lacked the possibility of sophisticated stage effects available in Venice. The conventional core, however, which comprised the basic features of the genre, could be adapted accordingly.

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    The chronological coverage of this book is less than the full seventeenth century promised by its title. Rather, it deals with the forty-year span between the opening of the first and last opera houses of the century: S. Cassiano in and S. Giovanni Grisostomo in This limitation is not arbitrary. By all of the important elements of opera had been laid out, and the next two decades were a period of consolidation.

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    The opening of S. Giovanni Grisostomo, however, marked a change in attitude toward the art, the end of what we can now see as the first of the cycles all of them of about forty years that were to shape and reshape opera during the course of its subsequent history: an arc moving between the extremes of aesthetic principle and extravagant over-ripeness. The s heralded the beginning of a new cycle: the development of the so-called reform movement that culminated in the enthronement of Metastasio. Giovanni Grisostomo also coincided with a general increase in operatic activity outside Venice, much of it in public theaters, and, consequently, of the definitive establishment of opera as a pan-Italian—indeed, fully European—phenomenon.

    The developments of the final decades of the seventeenth century thus belong to a new chapter in opera history.