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Marco Faustini, Impresario

More than any other of the period, the career of Marco Faustini epitomizes and illuminates the world of opera institutionalized. The kinds of problems he faced with his business partners, singers, librettists, and composers as the impresario of three different theaters over a period of nearly two decades (1651-68), and the solutions he devised, all with the aim of selling tickets, reflect the extent to which aesthetic questions were subject to commercial conditions. His controversies, like operatic life itself, grew more and more complicated with each succeeding season as past works continued to accumulate, making the expected novelty ever more difficult to attain. The planning of future seasons began to require more time than before; the hiring of singers, composers, and librettists, in competition with other theaters and patrons, required greater concessions to each group. Faustini's work involved a delicate balancing act among disparate, competing elements, each with its own agenda.

Faustini assumed his brother's responsibilities at S. Apollinare immediately after Giovanni's death, as can be inferred from the wording of his contract of 25 October 1655 with the owners of the theater; it was to run for ten years from June 1656, the date of expiration of Giovanni's contract. Conditions of rental were to conform to the "lease made to Sig. Giovanni Faustini his brother on 19 May 1650."[55] Marco had rights to only half of the theater, those of the other half remaining with one of the original owners, Francesco Ceroni, with whom Faustini litigated continually until 1657, when he abandoned S. Apollinare for S. Cassiano.[56]

The unpublished, unperformed librettos that Giovanni Faustini had left at his death represented a valuable property for a beginning impresario, especially one who was not a librettist himself, for in the intensely competitive theatrical world of the 1650s, new texts were not so easy to come by. Giovanni's legacy provided Marco with a stock-in-trade, enough material to tide him over for a few seasons until he could begin commissioning librettos on his own. But the legacy clearly meant more to Marco than mere operatic capital. There is evidence that his motives were emotional as well as economic, and that his career as an impresario, which began and ended with Giovanni Faustini productions,


was essentially a way of promoting the reputation of his brother. Part of' his strategy was to elaborate the image of the "frenzied poet" that Giovanni himself had initiated.

Giovanni's legacy also benefited the printers of his posthumous librettos. They were probably the ones who stood to profit from sales, now that the author was no longer living. It was also in their interest to keep the Faustini myth alive, to connect the posthumous works via a romantic image of the driven genius to Faustini's past successes. It was undoubtedly for these reasons that Giovanni's entire list of operas was repeatedly invoked, by title as well as number, in each of the posthumous publications. As a result, Faustini's works survived well beyond the normal lifespan of librettos at a time when, once performed, an opera was considered old, and novelty was the single quality appreciated above all others in a libretto. But not only were Faustini's works cited again and again, his untimely death was repeatedly, and ostentatiously, lamented.

Nowhere is this more striking than in the front matter of Eupatra (1655), published four years after the librettist's death. The dedication is to Alvise Duodo, the recipient of previous librettos and business partner of both Marco and Giovanni;[57] it is signed by Bartolomeo Ginammi, the publisher:

Death has no arrow that can harm those who live by their talent and die by necessity of nature. One of these is Sig. Giovanni Faustini of glorious memory, whose death we already mourned, or rather, whom we admired as he was snatched from the hands of death, and whom we applauded as wedded to immortality. Even envy has no venom to poison this glory, nor fog to dim this splendor, while even now new offspring of that most noble mind are being born, among whom is Eupatra, who cannot be called an orphan as long as her father lives in the memory of his descendants, and Your Most Illustrious Lordship is more than ever vigorous in protecting him. (Appendix I.36a)

In the preface to the reader, Ginammi amplified his evaluation with some interesting aesthetic judgments. Not only did he praise Faustini's inventione , but also his method of dramatic development, which saved the denouement for the very end. The passage concludes by referring once more to the author's inventione , to his previous twelve works, and to the untold number of treasures still awaiting performance.

Here, finally, is the Eupatra promised four years ago, the twelfth dramatic effort of Sig. Giovanni Faustini of happy memory. If his works have won universal applause in this city and in all Italy, where they are often performed, it is not to be feared that this princess will not also receive the laurels she deserves. It will be wondrous for its invention and structure. . . . The author, as if foreseeing his untimely death,


left some pages of brief notes in his own hand, as to where certain canzonette belonged, which were then composed by a most capable person. Only to idiots do those tales seem obscure that resolve in the final scenes; but connoisseurs and scholars admire them, because in such compositions even the most attentive minds must remain in suspense, and this is what the author always practiced, not only in the twelve works published so far, but in still others, which are being saved for future years. (Appendix I.36b, d)

Marco managed to keep things going at S. Apollinare for several seasons after Giovanni's death, producing a total of five operas there, one on a libretto by his brother and two each by new librettists, Castoreo and Aureli. As for the music, Giovanni's regular collaborator Cavalli seems to have resisted working for Marco, who was able to secure his services for only one of the operas, Erismena ,[58] and had to rely on less experienced composers for the others: Francesco Lucio, a veteran of a couple of seasons, for Pericle effeminato (1653), and Pietro Andrea Ziani, a rank beginner, for the other three.[59]

Despite the success of Erismena , Marco Faustini evidently found S. Apollinare as unsatisfactory as his brother had feared it would be. He left for S. Cassiano in 1657 (probably because of costly struggles with Ceroni, one of the owners), signing a contract with the Tron brothers on 5 May 1657 to manage their theater for ten years—a contract he failed to fulfill.[60] On the same day, Marco formed a partnership, along with Corraro, Duodo, and Polifilo Zuancarli—his associates at S. Apollinare as well—to produce operas. Because of its size, S. Cassiano would probably have fulfilled Giovanni's hopes for "a more majestic theater" as a showcase for his later works, but in the end only one of them, Elena , ever appeared there.

For Antioco (1658-59) and Elena (1659-60), two of the three works he produced during his brief stay at S. Cassiano, Marco was able to secure the services of Cavalli and Minato, who had been collaborating at SS. Giovanni e Paolo during the previous two seasons.[61] Only the first of Minato's librettos


was original, however; Elena was an arrangement or working out of a scenario left by Giovanni Faustini, another piece of his legacy. Since it had not been included in his Oristeo list, and since it had evidently survived in a highly unfinished state, Elena was presumably one of Faustini's last projects. According to Minato's dedication and note to the reader, the deceased author had left an outline of the subject, which he, Minato, had fleshed out:

The subject of this drama was a product of the most fertile imagination of the late Sign. Giovanni Faustini of famous memory, whose virtues amazed not only the theaters of this city but even those of the most distant lands. Many sublime pens were asked, after his death, to dress it with the mantle of poetry, but for various reasons they all refused. I, however, did not know how to refuse this honor. (Appendix I.37a)

Following these conventional allusions to Faustini's reputation and death, Minato concluded with an elaborate evocation of the romance of his predecessor's existence: "I pray to heaven that the peace of his ashes not be disturbed by someone with my shortcomings who, in daring to touch his achievement, might diminish it. I declare, however, that whatever is bad in it is mine, and everything that shines with merit is his. Gentle reader, then, admire the subject, be indulgent toward the words" (Appendix I.37b).

It almost seems as though Marco kept the legacy of Giovanni's librettos in reserve, spending it parsimoniously to maintain its value, or else perhaps drawing upon it when nothing else was forthcoming. After having guarded his brother's works for five years, he probably made the Elena sketch available to Minato, who may have been too pressed to write a wholly new text for 1659, having already written Antioco for the previous season.[62] In the following year, the peripatetic Marco moved once again with his company, this time permanently, to the most majestic of all the Venetian theaters, SS. Giovanni e Paolo. Here he eventually attempted to produce the remainder of Giovanni's works.[63]

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