Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/511

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OPERA.

mentions, in his ' Drammaturgia,' the names of eight Musical Eepresentations produced between the years 1569 and 1582. The bare titles of these works, to one of which the name of Claudio Merulo is attached, are all that now remain to us ; and, unfortunately, we possess no printed copies of three still more important productions ' D Satiro,' 'La Disperazione di Fileno,' and ' II Giuoco della Cieca ' set to Music by Emilio del Cavaliere, the two first in 1590, and the last in 1595 : but we may form a tolerably safe esti- mate of their style from that of Orazio Vecchi's ' L' Amfiparnasso, performed at Mantua in I594> and printed soon afterwards in Venice. This curious Commedia armonica, as the Composer him- self calls it, is presented in the form of a series of Madrigals, for five Voices, written in the true Polyphonic Style, and equally remarkable for the beauty of their effect, and the learning dis- played in their construction. There is no Over- ture ; and no Instrumental Accompaniment, or Ritornello, of any kind. When the Stage is occu- pied by a single character only, the four super- fluous Voices are made to sing behind the Scenes; when two persons are needed for the action, three are kept out of sight. All doubt on this point is removed by the woodcuts with which the Music is illustrated : but, before we condemn the ab- surdity of the arrangement, we must remember that the grand old Madrigalist only uses his unseen Voices as later Composers have used the Orchestra. He could not leave his characters to sing without any accompaniment whatever; and has therefore supported them, and, to the best of his ability, enforced the action of the Scene, by the only harmonic means within his reach.

It must be confessed that, though Orazio Vecchi was a skilful Contrapuntist and Peri was not, the Florentine Composer had all the ad- vantage on his side, when, three years after the first performance of 'L'Amfiparnasso,' he pro- duced his Music to Rinuccini's ' Dafne.' Count Bardi having been summoned to Rome in 1592 to act as Maestro di camera to Pope Clement VIII, the meetings formerly held at his house were transferred to that of his friend Jacopo Corsi, as enthusiastic a patron of the Fine Arts as himself. It was at the Palazzo Corsi that ' Dafne' was first privately performed, in 1597. No trace of it now remains ; but Peri himself tells us, in the preface to his ' Euridice,' that he wrote it at the instigation of Signor Corsi and the Poet Binuccini, 'in order to test the effect of the particular kind of Melody which they imagined to be identical with that used by the antient Greeks and Eomans throughout their Dramas' ; and we learn from the account given by Giov. Batt. Doni, that ' it charmed the whole city.' The success of the experiment was, indeed, so decided, that, in the year 1600, Peri was invited to provide a still greater work, to grace the festivities which followed the marriage of King Henri IV of France with Maria de' Medici. It was on this occasion that he produced his famous ' Euridice,' the first true Italian Opera

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��that was ever performed in public, and the ac- knowledged prototype of all later developments of the Dramma per la musica. The work excited an extraordinary amount of attention. Ottavio Rinuccini furnished the Libretto. Several noble- men took part in the public performance. Behind the Scenes, Signor Corsi himself presided at the Harpsichord, assisted by three friends, who played upon the Chitarone, the Lira grande, or Viol di gamba, and the Theorbo, or Large Lute. These Instruments, with the addition of three Flutes used in a certain Ritornello, seem to have com- prised the entire Orchestra : and a considerable amount of freedom must have been accorded to the performers, with regard to their manner of employing them ; for, in the barred Score pub- lished at Florence, with -a dedication to Maria de' Medici, in 1600, and reprinted at Venice in 1608, the accompaniment consists of little more than an ordinary Figured Bass. This Score is now exceedingly scarce. Hawkins did not even know of its existence ; and Burney succeeded in discovering one example only, in the possession of the Marchese Rinuccini, a descendant of the Poet, at Florence : but a copy of the Venice edition is happily preserved in the Library of the British Museum, and from this we transcribe a portion of one of the most melodious Scenes in the Opera that which introduces the three Flutes to which we have already alluded.

TIRSI viene in Scena, sonando la presente Zinfonia, con un Triflauto.

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