Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Maria Anne Purciello (Princeton University, USA)

Marketing virtue: comic verisimilitude at La fiera di Farfa

For the 1639 Carnival celebrations, Giulio Rospigliosi introduced a new intermedio, La fiera di Farfa, at the end of Act II of his revision of the successful opera, Chi soffre speri (1637). Loosely based upon Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane’s satire on Tuscan society entitled La fiera (1619), Rospigliosi’s La fiera di Farfa represented a familiar scene from daily life: local merchants and mountebanks hawking their wares in the market. The comic intermedio’s skillful intermingling of recognizable commedia dell’arte personalities, operatic characters, and authentic vendors from the marketplace at nearby Farfa, created a new naturalism for the Roman operatic stage. The resulting teatrum mundi, designed to implicate its audiences through dramatic verisimilitude, provided a fitting spectacle with which to inaugurate the new Barberini theater – one that led Rospigliosi’s contemporaries to regard La fiera di Farfa as the high point of the revised opera.

This paper examines Rospigliosi’s fusion of comedy with credible representations of real life in La fiera di Farfa. It considers how, in drawing upon the subject matter and satirical underpinnings of Buonarroti’s La fiera, Rospigliosi was able to blur the line between appearance and reality on the operatic stage, thereby inviting his viewers to join his characters at the marketplace in Farfa. By manipulating comedy’s potential to mirror Roman society, Rospigliosi was, in effect, encouraging his audiences to engage with Chi soffre speri’s moralizing allegory as defined by Cardinal Francesco Barberini: he who acquires Virtue will attain the reward of Wisdom.

Last updated on 10 May 2004