9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


The 1657 Production of Francesco Cavalli's Artemisia

Hendrik Schulze

We know of a contract between Cavalli and the impresario Marco Faustini, signed in 1658 (I-Vas, SGdSM b. 194, fol. 266-267), in which the composer is required to compose three operas and to lead the rehearsals, changing the parts, altering, making cuts and additions during the process (mutar parte, alterar, sminuir et aggionger.) However, since the operas in question are no longer extant or are preserved in fair copies only, we can’t trace in their sources the process described in the contract. But the opera Artemisia of 1657 – the first two acts of which survive in a compositional manuscript that seems to have been used as Cavalli’s performing score as well – shows a lot of traces exactly fitting the kind of work mentioned above. This manuscript, by its alterations and additions, sheds light on questions of dramaturgical and formal ideas of Cavalli and the librettist, Nicolo Minato, as well as showing some of the circumstances of the performance, details concerning instrumentation, singers, continuo practice, and cuts. In it one can see several stages of the work process, composing, rehearsing, and the actual performance. Research into these issues can help the scholar to understand the conditions of opera production in seventeenth-century Venice. On top of this purely scientific interest, such research may be of practical value to the performer as well.

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Last updated on 4 April 2000 by Yo Tomita