TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN
9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music
The Illness, Testament and Death of Francesco Gabrielli
Sources concerning commedia dell’arte players and the music they
performed are often frustratingly scarce. Not so in the case of Francesco
Gabrielli, the Bolognese comedian known as Scapino. Gabrielli was
famous for the extent and beauty of his instrumentarium, as shown in the
letters Claudio Monteverdi and Giovan Battista Doni wrote to each other
in 1634. And Gabrielli published a number of important documents,
which elucidate his musical compositional process and offer insight into
his performance practices. In addition to the undated manuscript
"Nella famosa rappresentazione de suoni e strumenti" housed in the Biblioteca
Burcardo in Rome and the two barzellette included in the song anthologies
of Remigio Romano (1618-27), Gabrielli published a book of theatrical
villanelle (1624), the text of his Pazzia di Scapino con spropositi
pazzeschi et canzoni burlevoli (Bologna, s.d.), and a widely-known
miscellany from which the title of this essay is drawn, L'Infermità,
testamento, e morte di Francesco Gabrielli detto Scapino (1638).
This last includes the famous Aria di Scapino, intabulated for performance
with the Spanish guitar.
Born in Bologna into the family and performing ensemble of Giovanni
Gabrielli (“Sivello”), Francesco Gabrielli later entered the service of
Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga in Mantua. There, he lived and worked with
the impressive group of comedians that Vincenzo had drawn into his circle.
These included the Andreini family--Isabella, Francesco, Giovan Battista
and Virginia (the first Arianna), as well as Salamone Rossi and his sister
Madama Europa. My goal in this essay is to establish for the first
time the performance practices and musical style of Francesco Gabrielli,
and to.redraw the context of musical activity in Mantua to include the
rich creative sphere of the commedia dell’arte.
Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo