Preferred Citation: Rosand, Ellen. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.

7—I compositori scenici : Librettist and Composer

I compositori scenici :
Librettist and Composer

Marco Faustini's failure was intrinsic to the system of opera production that had nourished him. The institutionalization of opera had initiated a chain reaction. The increased demand for new works intensified the pressures on a limited pool of opera makers, whose expansion required the exploitation of additional (including foreign) suppliers, which in turn created difficulties of communication and coordination at every stage in the preparation of a production: at conception, composition, and rehearsal. Conception was impeded by the fact that the libretto was often written before the cast had been assembled, making it difficult for the poet to decide on the number and importance of the various characters. Composition suffered from the geographical distance between librettist and composer, who often resided in different cities and therefore could not work together;[1] furthermore, like librettists, composers did not always know their casts in advance and were unable to tailor their music accordingly. Finally, the rehearsal period became increasingly difficult since, in addition to providing the opportunity for the normal ironing out of staging problems, it had to allow for many alterations involving text and music that would formerly have been taken care of earlier, at the stage of composition or even conception.

One of the significant results of institutionalization, then, was a change in the relationship among the makers of operas, among librettist, composer, and performers. Originally part of a single impetus, the three functions grew increasingly separate and independent of one another. This growing independence, even as it reflected the development of opera, in turn had its own impact on that development.

[1] One of the most revealing documents we have of the kind of interaction that took place between librettist and composer during this period has survived precisely because of the distance that separated them: Ivanovich's letter of 26 June 1673 to Giovanni Maria Pagliardi, concerning their collaboration on Lismaco . The letter is given in Appendix II. 5.


Collaborative Talents

In Ferrari's tiny troupe, whose Andromeda and La maga fulminata had been the first operas in Venice, librettist, composer, and performers were closely linked—by geographical proximity, background, and common goal. Ferrari, being a musician himself, although he did not actually compose the music for either opera, was certainly sensitive to the requirements of music, and the collaboration between him and Manelli must have been worked out on an intimate, daily basis. Both text and music must also have been precisely fashioned to suit the abilities of the singers in the company. The multiple talents and responsibilities of the various members of the troupe—Ferrari, as we know, played the theorbo in the orchestra, and Manelli sang—bridged the boundaries not only between text and music but between creation and performance as well.

The relationship between librettist and composer was of course closer still in those subsequent operas for which Ferrari served as both: Armida (1639), Il pastor regio (1640), La ninfa avara (1641), and Il principe giardiniere (1644). Unfortunately, we are unable to evaluate the results, since none of these scores have survived.[2] Although a number of composers began their operatic careers as singers, including Manelli, Cesti, and Boretti,[3] few of them combined Ferrari's publicly recognized "multiplici virtù," which suggested comparison to "un mostro diversamente simile alla chimera,"[4] and made him an ideal maker of operas. But he considered himself primarily a musician rather than a poet, claiming that his most important attribute as a writer was knowing what kind of poetry was best suited to musical setting.[5] To the extent that the two can be

[2] An example of Ferrari's dual efforts in the chamber music field, his Musiche e poesie varie , vol. 3 (1641), has survived, but it has not yet been scrutinized from this perspective.

[3] Cesti's first operatic role may have been as either Egeo or Dema in the Florentine performance of Cavalli's Giasone in 1650; he also appeared in a performance in Lucca in the same year. See Lorenzo Bianconi, "Cesti," DBI 24 (Rome, 1980): 283; also Francesco Sbarra's letter to Michel'Angelo Torcigliani, printed as a preface to his Alessandro vincitor di se stesso (1651) (partly reproduced in Appendix I.29). Giovanni Antonio Boretti (not Guido Antonio, who appeared in Andromeda in 1637) performed in Ziani's and Aureli's Le fortune di Rodope e Damira in Turin in 1662; see Rosand, "Boretti."

[4] The expression comes from Fusconi's prefatory letter in Ferrari's Argomento e scenario del principe giardiniero (1643). Composer-librettists were definitely a rare breed. After Ferrari, no such figure appeared in connection with Venetian opera until Romolo Pignatta, whose Asmiro re di Corinto was performed at the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1696 (see Magini, "Indagini," 425). Among the few others, active elsewhere, were two singers, both castratos: Giovanni Andrea Angelini Bontempi, who wrote both words and music of his Paride (Dresden, 1662) (see Colin Timms, "Bontempi," New Grove , 3: 37-38), and Francesco Antonio Pistocchi. Because of his diverse talents, Pistocchi was considered an ideal operatic poet by the Arcadian critic Pier Jacopo Martello (see his Della tragedia antica e moderna [Rome, 1715], "Sessione quinta," in Piero Weiss, "Pier Jacopo Martello on Opera [1715]: An Annotated Translation," MQ 66 [1980]: 378-403, esp. 386 and n. 8). The Roman theater manager Filippo Acciaiuoli is supposed to have written both words and music of the opera Chi è cagion del suo mal pianga se stesso (Rome, 1682); see Thomas Walker, "Acciaiuoli," New Grove , 1: 33-34.

[5] As he declared in his preface to the Bologna edition of Il pastor regio in 1641: "I don't care about being a poet, but I profess myself to be a good musician, and to know what kind of poetry is best suited to music" (Appendix I.5a).


separated, then, the composer in Ferrari clearly held sway over the poet. His self-evaluation reveals his attitude toward the relative importance and stature of music and text, at least in his own works. That attitude, the subservience of text to music, or of the librettist to the composer, is reflected more generally, though only fleetingly, in the operas of his time.

Indeed, several early composers of Venetian opera, although they may not have shared Ferrari's poetic skills, exercised control over their poets in various ways. The most striking example, of course, is Monteverdi, whose influence on the texts of his operas was fundamental. His famous lessons to Giulio Strozzi, revealed in letters he wrote concerning their collaboration on La finta pazza Licori , involved dramatic issues as fundamental as plot structure, characterization, and verisimilitude.[6] Monteverdi also instructed his other poets in the art of libretto-writing, although our evidence for this is somewhat more indirect. One of them, the anonymous author of Le nozze d'Enea , confessed to having made a number of changes in his text in order to suit Monteverdi's style: "I have shunned remote thoughts and concepts and rather been attentive to the affections, as Signor Monteverdi wishes, and in order to please him I have also changed and omitted many of the things I had originally included" (Appendix I.9g). Another, Badoaro, gained his education in retrospect, claiming that he hardly recognized his Ritorno d'Ulisse in Monteverdi's setting because of the many changes made by the composer.[7]

To be sure, Monteverdi, like Ferrari, represents a special case, though in a different way. His long experience and many successes had earned him a reputation as the greatest opera composer in Italy. He was credited by at least one seventeenth-century observer as having been the moving force behind the development of opera in Venice, although his participation in the Venetian opera scene was delayed somewhat, as we have already noted.[8] Furthermore, Monteverdi's commitment to the ideals of the seconda prattica placed him in a special position with regard to words. In order to investigate fully the power of his music to communicate feeling through text, Monteverdi essentially had to create the text himself, often using what was provided by the poet as a skeleton to be fleshed out with repetitions, cuts, emphases, and so on (this will be examined further in chapter 9).[9]

[6] This correspondence is discussed more fully in ch. 11 below.

[7] Badoaro made this confession in the letter to the composer that prefaces one of the manuscript librettos of Il ritorno d'Ulisse , quoted in Appendix I.7c.

[8] See ch. I, pp. 15-17 and n. 19, above.

[9] For Monteverdi's need to create his own text to compensate for inadequacies in the poetry, see Gary Tomlinson, "Madrigal, Monody, and Monteverdi's via naturale alla immitatione," JAMS 34 (1981): 60-108. A more positive view of Monteverdi's intention is offered in Ellen Rosand, "Monteverdi's Mimetic Art: L'incoronazione di Poppea," Cambridge Opera Journal 1 (1989): 113-37.


Close working relationships seem also to have existed between other early composers and their librettists. Cavalli, for example, exercising his prerogative as impresario in some cases and in others his position as the most important and respected opera composer in Venice after Monteverdi, personally commissioned or arranged for many poets to write for him: these included Persiani, Busenello, Faustini, Melosio, Minato, and Aureli.[10] They, in turn, knowing the composer for whom they were writing, could fashion their texts to suit him. Indeed, the scores of a number of Cavalli's operas reveal that the music actually took shape along with the text—much as we imagine the Ferrari-Manelli creations to have emerged. Several, including Veremonda (1653), Xerse (1654), Statira (1655), and Arternisia (1656), preserve earlier versions of the text than those in the printed librettos, whose development out of those earlier versions can be traced in the scores themselves.[11]

In a more general way, Cavalli's long-term working relationship with Giovanni Faustini, which produced at least ten operas, must have influenced the poet's style. Faustini's lengthy affective monologues in versi sciolti punctuated by refrains may well have been written to suit Cavalli's gifts as a composer of expressive recitative. Furthermore, Faustini's practice (though hardly his alone) of postponing resolution of his complex plots until the final scene, immediately preceded, even triggered, by a protagonist's lament, may have developed in response to Cavalli's skill at composing affective laments in a mixed recitative-aria style.

The librettos of Cavalli's only other steady collaborator, Minato--who may have been coerced by the composer into writing texts for him[12] —were in various respects modeled on those of Faustini; he too punctuated lengthy monologues by refrains and wrote short strophic texts to be set as arias as well as extended lament texts. The composer indicated his appreciation of Minato in his response to Marco Faustini's request for new works in 1662. In a letter to the impresario of 8 August (Appendix IIIA. 3), he explained that he had decided to abandon operatic composition altogether, but that Minato's insistence had persuaded him to change his mind.[13]

[10] Busenello in fact seems to have written differently for Monteverdi than he did for Cavalli (see ch. 9). For Melosio's relationship to Cavalli, see Pirrotta, "The Lame Horse and the Coachman," Essays , 331-34; for that of Faustini, Minato, and Aureli, see below. Cesti's relationship with Beregan, the author of several of his librettos, is documented in a series of letters from the composer; for an example, see below, n. 72.

[11] See Jeffery, "Autograph Manuscripts," 262. The process of alteration is particularly clear in the aria "D'Ermosilla giovinetta" in Starira (I-Vnm, It. IV, 372 [9896], f. 17 libretto, p. 30) (Jeffery, 227). See also the opening aria of Xerse (I-Vnm, It. IV, 374 [9898], ff. 1-2") and the second ending of Hipermestra (I-Vnm, It. IV, 362 [9886], ff. 134-37). The accidental nature of the preservation of these—or any—scores suggests that similar documentation must have existed in others. For Artemisia , see below, p. 218 and n. 69.

[12] Minato's "Sappi, ch'io non fò del Poeta . . ." (Orimonte preface, quoted above, ch. 6, p. 168, n. 29) may suggest some sort of mild coercion.

[13] For Cavalli's collaborations with Minato, seeEdward Raymond Rutschman, "The Minato-Cavalli Operas: The Search for Structure in Libretto and Solo Scene" (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1979); also id., "Minato and the Venetian Opera Libretto," CM 27 (1982): 84-91; and Martha Clinkscale, "Pier Francesco Cavalli's Xerse " (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1970).


While Cavalli's impact on Minato's texts can only be inferred, his specific influence on a third librettist, Aureli, is documented. The young Aureli consciously modeled Erismena (1655), his second libretto, on the style of Cavalli's regular librettist, the recently deceased Faustini, even borrowing a lengthy passage from Faustini's Ormindo . The borrowing, from an opera Cavalli had set to music more than a decade earlier, was certainly the cornposer's idea, since he used his old music, a particularly moving lament dialogue, in the new context. Erismena became one of the most successful operas of the entire century.[14]

Cavalli was the last (possibly the only) composer of the period to wield power as an impresario. The rapidly increasing complexity of the operatic scene must have made that role unbearable to him, for he gave it up quite early in his operatic career, choosing to work under contract, first with Bortolo Castoreo and others at S. Cassiano, then with Giovanni Faustini at S. Apollinare and with Marco Faustini at S. Cassiano and SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and finally with Mi-nato at S. Salvatore.[15] Even after he renounced his managerial responsibilities, his reputation was sufficient to assure his continued aesthetic control over his subsequent works, but his early shift from employer to employee was one sign of more general adjustments in the operatic hierarchy, of the decline in the composer's comparative status with respect to the librettist—and soon the singer.

Three special individuals—Ferrari, the composer-librettist, Monteverdi, the "creator of opera," and Cavalli, the dean of Venetian opera composers and its leading businessman[16] —maintained the power of the composer somewhat artificially. Competing forces gradually undermined that power, however. Perhaps this change was part of what Ferrari had in mind when he complained so poignantly, already in 1643, that he felt obsolete:

Although a veteran of scenic compositions, I am distressed by the refinement of the century, its factions torment me, but virtue, in the end, is a sun that, despite the clouds of passion surrounding it, never ceases to shine. These days musical theaters attract the most melodious swans; and sirens yearn to be angelic instead

[14] Cf. above, ch. 6, p. 157 and n. 13. The only other Cavalli setting of an Aureli libretto, Eliogabalo , was never performed. It was the last work scheduled by Marco Faustini for SS. Giovanni e Paolo. For the possibility that the work was canceled because the music was considered too old-fashioned, see ch. 8 below.

[15] Cavalli's career as impresario at S. Cassiano, which lasted from 1638 (contract signed 14 April) until 1644 (document signed 4 June), is outlined and documented in Morelli and Walker, "Tre controversie," 97-120. He seems also to have acted in a managerial capacity at S. Moisè, where his Amore innamorato was produced in 1642 (see Pirrotta, "The Lame Horse and the Coachman," Essays , 333-34).

[16] Cavalli's considerable business dealings are detailed in Glover, Cavalli , ch. 1, and Morelli and Walker, "Tre Controversie."


of maritime. . . . With your usual kindness, forgive the defects of my Giardiniere , of my music, and of my theorbo. (Appendix I.4)

The death of Monteverdi, Cavalli's withdrawal from managerial duties, and Ferrari's lament about the changing order of things, all of which occurred around the same time, mark a shift. During the course of the 1640s, the various mechanisms of propaganda used to stimulate the growth of opera in Venice, in particular the printing press, focused with increasing exclusivity on the new professional librettist.

As printed scenarios, librettos, and reports of performances make increasingly clear, the librettist was considered "l'auttore." It was his text that was immortalized through print—usually, as we know, at his own expense (Appendix II.6bb)—and his name that was associated with the opera in the mind of the public. He was usually the recipient of any laudatory sonnets printed in the libretto, though an occasional singer or composer might be eulogized in the same way (often by the librettist himself). The librettist's preeminence, even as late as 1671, was recognized in the following praise of Nicolò Beregan:

The opera of Sig. Nicola [i.e., Heraclio ] is so beautiful that it never becomes tedious. So lofty is its governing idea that Sig. Nicola has been deified in that theater [SS. Giovanni e Paolo], where without his say-so no new production will be undertaken, and if he invents new worlds of exquisiteness, everyone will converge to admire him, since there is really no one comparable to him in invention, magnificence, and summit [Piramide ] of imagination. (Appendix IIIB.6)[17]

It was also the poor librettist who had to bear the brunt of the public's fickleness, to respond to the taste for novelty, and to produce a constant stream of texts rapidly, on demand.[18] Librettists often compounded their responsibility and control over operatic productions by assuming the duties of impresario—as both investors and organizers. Indeed, unlike the composers, Cavalli being a temporary exception, most of the early librettists, including Ferrari, Faustini, Minato, Aureli, Beregan, and Pietro Dolfin, were involved in theater management as well.[19]

[17] "Piramide," literally "pyramid," which might be translated as "glory," was Beregan's nickname.

[18] The pressures on librettists are amply documented in various letters to Johann Friedrich from his secretary Massi. In one (Appendix IIIB.23) he detailed the many problems faced by Pietro Dolfin in trying to put on one of his operas at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and concluded that he "would never counsel a friend of his to produce operas in Venice." Even though their works were performed regularly, unless they belonged to the patrician class, librettists apparently had trouble making ends meet. In another letter (Appendix IIIB.1), Massi asked Johann Friedrich for some extra funds to sustain Aureli in his time of need.

[19] Among other librettists involved as impresarios were Bortolo Castoreo (author of Armidoro [1651] for S. Cassiano) and at least some of the Incogniti, such as Badoaro (at the Novissimo). Marco Faustini, as we know, was not a librettist, but Vincenzo Grimani, one of the brothers who took over his responsibilities at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, was. Santurini, impresario at S. Moisè, began his theatrical career as a scenographer. The next importantcomposer to function in the capacity of impresario after Cavalli seems to have been Antonio Vivaldi. Librettists sometimes performed the functions of impresarios in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See John Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge, 1984).


Obviously, composers did not completely lose their influence on the work, even in the eyes of the public. And their names were often included on the title pages of librettos or mentioned in prefaces, almost always in positive, if rather conventional, terms: the composer, variously called the Apollo (Monteverdi, Cavalli, Sartorio, Boretti) or the Amphion (Cavalli, Ziani) of the century, or else the Sun (Monteverdi and Cavalli) or the Moon (Sacrati), often covered or minimized the imperfections, enlivened the inanimate corpse, or sweetened the bitterness of the libretto;[20] or he may have honored, enriched, ennobled, adorned, illustrated, or otherwise favored it.

Composers, as well as scene designers, costumers, and singers—the most obvious creators of pure spectacle—were presumably mentioned in the hope that their names would attract the crowds and thus guarantee the commercial success of an opera.[21] To that end, various flattering biographical details were occasionally supplied, such as the fact that a composer served one or another princely patron. But in more than half the librettos printed between 1637 and 1675, composers' names did not appear at all. We have seen that Giovanni Faustini completed a number of librettos for which no specific productions had yet been planned. They were written for performances in the indefinite future, in a theater and with a cast and composer as yet unknown. Although Faustini was especially industrious, the dissociation between libretto and eventual setting was becoming increasingly characteristic of opera. Librettists, under pressure to produce works quickly, and assured of a steady market, began to write and print texts ahead of time, often before all of the other arrangements for a production could be concluded.

Librettists' Tribulations

Geographical separation, difficulties with last-minute arrangements—the hiring of singers, the completion of the score—all this placed a severe strain on everyone concerned in operatic production. If in many cases librettos were written before composers had been engaged to set them, in others librettists had to write their texts with composers breathing down their necks. Both situations were symptoms of the same disease: the lack of coordination between supply and demand that resulted from the institutionalization of opera.

[20] See, for example, the prefaces of Amore innamorato, Bellerofonte, Erismena , and Antigona . The famous comparison of Monteverdi's sun to Sacrati's moon occurs in the preface to Badoaro's Ulisse errante (1644) (Appendix I.81).

[21] It is thus perhaps somewhat surprising, given his reputation at the time, that Monteverdi's name is nowhere mentioned in the Poppea scenario—but then again, neither is Busenello's.


Time was sometimes so short that composers were forced to begin setting librettos before they had been completed, presumably without even having read the whole text. A number of librettists remarked defensively on the conditions that forced such piecemeal settings. One (Francesco Sbarra) complained publicly to a friend that because of illness and the pressures of a deadline for performance, he had to send his text off immediately to be set (by Cesti):

Because I didn't have even the minimum time necessary to check it over, I had to allow it to be placed under the notes in the very same form in which I sketched it. Furthermore, since it ended up being too long for the music, it had to be shortened, and consequently it can only have been mangled; and they tell me that they had to print it in that form. (Appendix I.29c)

And he begged his friend to see to it that the libretto was corrected before being printed:

I appeal to Your Lordship to do me the favor of checking this work and altering it as you see fit before it is printed. . . . You will find many errors of language, numerous weaknesses and harshnesses in the poetry, and in the humor an infinity of our local idioms that are unsuitable elsewhere, in addition to many dissonances caused by the shortening of the work. (Appendix I.29d)[22]

Perhaps the most vivid description of piecemeal composition was that by the librettist of Hipsicratea (1660), Giovanni Maria Milcetti:

This work was written in Badia delle Carceri and from there sent, page by page, to Murano, whereupon it was immediately structured into scenes. Anyone who knows the distances between the two places will not be surprised by the differences in poetic structure and words between the printed libretto and the opera performed in the theater, because, in effect, even before the poetry was finished and organized it was already being set to music, and the sinfonie were already being sung. (Appendix I.53a)[23]

As usual, rhetoric mixes with reality in these complaints. Like the librettists' common disavowal of serious commitment to writing, the excuse of "l'angustia del tempo" was part of their characteristically apologetic preemptive strategy. In an amusing variation on this approach, a few authors admitted to inordinately long gestation periods for their librettos. Matteo Noris's first libretto, Zenobia (1666), for example, took him four years to write, while Be-

[22] Alessandro vincitor di se stesso (1651), "Lettera dell'autore al signor Michel'Angelo Torcigliani." According to the same letter, Sbarra designed his work for a specific troupe, Cesti's, which he had seen in Lucca (see Appendix I. 29a); therefore he wrote the correct number of parts—not always possible for a librettist to do.

[23] Milcetti may have been writing from Carceri, a town in the Basso Veneto near Este. It is not clear to what "la Badia delle Carceri" refers.


regan claimed that his second libretto, Tito (1666), took five.[24] The seriousness of long-term commitment was evidently deemed as admirable as the sprezzatura of speedy composition.

Whether or not they wrote under pressure of time, librettists had to be ready to make changes in their texts, either at the request of the composer or in response to the requirements of a particular performance. It is quite clear from a variety of evidence that it was only during the rehearsal period that an opera took its final (though not necessarily permanent) shape. The librettist as well as the composer was expected to attend rehearsals in order to accommodate these alterations. In one instance the author of Adone (1639), Paolo Vendramin, wrote to the composer, Manelli, explaining that he could not be present for the rehearsals, and charged him with the responsibility of overseeing the production: "It will be up to you to lend it that study and that diligence that I could not, and which is required when producing an opera in Venice."[25] In another instance, the librettist Francesco Piccoli "being unable to assist in the completion . . . nor in the alterations, indeed changes, required by the staging" of his L'incostanza trionfante overo il Theseo (1658), it was necessary to engage another librettist for the final changes.[26]

In a note at the end of his Hipsicratea (1660), the author Milcetti asked the composer Don Pietro Molinari to add some arias to his text because he was unavailable for final alterations:

Since distance does not allow me to be around to see to the needs of my drama, I am happy that Your Lordship will insert the songs [canzonette ] that you describe. I beg you to mark them in the margins with a star or with double commas, as is the custom. I say this because I do not like to dress what is mine in others' ornaments; thus I will be extremely glad if the difference is clear. (Appendix I. 53b)[27]

[24] "Sono anni quattro in circa, che hò delineato questo, mio parto . . . . Fino ad ora si è nascosto per non lasciarsi vedere cosi imperfetto, e deforme, & al presente arroscisse anco sù la candidezza de fogli. E si conosce senza senno nel comparire su le publiche Scene" (Zenobia , preface); "Dio voglla . . . che questo Drama, composto nello spatio d'un lustro, ancorche concepito da Elefante, non sortisca una vita da Efemera" (Tito , preface). Tito , which Beregan must have begun sometime around 1661, was still not ready to be set to music by 12 July 1665, but that was six full months before it was scheduled to be performed; see Cesti's letter to Beregan in Giazotto, "Cesti," 499.

[25] "Toccherà a lei di darh quello studio, e quella diligenza, che io non hò potuto, e che merita il far recitare un'Opera à Venezia" (Adotie , preface, 6). Vendramin had legal reasons for not coming to Venice at the time; see Arthur Livingston, "Una scap-patella di Polo Vendramin e un sonetto di Gian Francesco Busenello," Fanfulla della Domenica , 24 September 1911, and Bianconi and Walker, "Dalla 'Finta pazza,'" 422 n. 178.

[26] "non potendo egli assistere alia perfettione dell'Opera ne' alle alterationi, anzi diversificationi necessitate dalla pratica della Scena" (Theseo , publisher's preface). This production was particularly difficult. It was the one Ziani complained about having had to revise ten times ("un Teseo fatto e rifatto dieci volte" [b. 188: 268]; also "un Teseo fatto e ri-fatto" [b. 188: 255]). The problems obviously did not begin at the rehearsals, but much earlier. They are evident, but can be unraveled only with difficulty, in the prefaces to the various versions of the libretto published during the inaugural season.

[27] Evidently the composer wrote the extra text too. Milcetti seems unusually moralistic in his discomfort at parading the poetry of another author as his own; more likely, he was worried about ruining his reputation, particularly if the new text proved inferior.


Composers must often have been required to add text, particularly for arias. In sending his libretto Lismaco to its composer, Giovanni Maria Pagliardi, Ivanovich encouraged him to make whatever changes he thought necessary:

If you find some emotion [affetto ] in the recitative that can be reduced to a cavata , don't hesitate to do so, since anything that stands out unexpectedly is pleasing. As far as the number of ariette is concerned, to be arranged with their sinfonie , use your discretion, with due attention to the brevity that is so important here [in Venice]. (Appendix II.5b)

The numerous textual alterations that occurred either at the time of setting to music or during rehearsals created a special problem at the publication stage. If printed librettos, like their less expensive predecessors the scenarios, were to be of use to the audience in the theater, they had to correspond to tire work being performed on stage. This was rendered difficult by the length of librettos—too long to be printed in the period, at most a matter of a few days, between rehearsals and premiere. As it was, librettos often did not come off the press until the very last minute.[28] Printers compensated for this difficulty by devising various methods of incorporating last-minute alterations. In fact, the frequency and extent of such changes is confirmed by the development of standard techniques for indicating them: the use of virgolette , which could be added on the printer's copy of the manuscript even at the last minute before typesetting, and brief stop-press additions, which could be set at the bottom of pages that had already been printed.

At first, at least, virgolette gave the clearest message: they indicated text that was not sung. I have already mentioned one of the earliest uses, that in the 1640 print of Rinuccini's Arianna , which followed the revival of Monteverdi's opera in that year. Although they were unexplained, the virgolette were placed next to passages that were obviously cut in the revival (nearly all of the choruses, as well as some of the dialogue)—those passages, in fact, that would have been anachronistic in Venice. The printer—and probably Monteverdi too—had edited the text according to Venetian usage ("secondo l'uso di Venezia"), without acknowledging as much.[29] At first it was usually recitative that was cut, but as the century wore on virgolette tended to appear next to second strophes of arias as well.[30] Although they retained their original function throughout the cen-

[28] A letter from Massi to Duke Johann Friedrich, dated 27 January 1672 [1673], indicates that the libretto of Massenzio was not ready until 3 A.M . on the morning of the premiere (Appendix IIIB. 17). Printers could run into trouble if they began publishing too soon, as in the case of Doriclea ; see ch. 6, pp. 192-93, above.

[29] "L'uso di Venezia," or "brevità veneta" (mentioned in the preface to Pasife as well as elsewhere) was one of the most frequent reasons given for cutting; others included adapting a play for sung rather than spoken performance (as in La finta savia and Torilda [see n. 33 below] and just plain fear of boring the audience ["per levare il tedio"]).

[30] It is difficult to draw chronological conclusions from the practice of cutting second strophes, however, since many second editions of librettos of the same period add strophes to arias.


tury, virgolette were also increasingly used to distinguish material added to a libretto by another hand.[31]

For more complicated situations, and when time did not allow for virgolette , librettists used the preface to explain discrepancies or else resorted to stop-press additions. Since these affected only a single page of type, they could presumably be produced at the very last minute, conceivably even on the day of the performance, even though librettos were stitched (though not bound). A note in the preface to Aureli's Gl'amori infrutuosi di Pirro (1661), for example, explained that the libretto had been printed too soon to incorporate virgolette .[32] The tightness of schedule is nicely illustrated by another Aureli libretto, La costanza di Rosmonda (1659), in which virgotette appear in the second and third acts only. A last-minute postscript explains the discrepancy: the first act had been printed before cuts were made so it appeared without virgolette , whereas the other two acts had been printed late enough to incorporate them (Appendix I.44a). Of course, we have no idea which lines of act I were affected; we know only that some were cut.

What postscripts lacked in specificity, however, they made up in flexibility, for they could convey many different kinds of information about a variety of last-minute changes, and not just cuts. Most important, they often justified such changes, thus providing valuable insight into aesthetic and practical considerations affecting opera production. At the end of his Delia (1639), for example, Strozzi informs the reader that his text has been altered by the composer, Manelli: "So that your eyes will agree with your ears, know, exquisite reader, that in representing the work more than three hundred lines have been omitted, in order not to abuse your courtesy" (Appendix I.15i). And then he proceeds to justify the cuts: "It is necessary that the poet abandon his ornaments, that is, his digressions and episodes, to make way for the singers' ornaments. Do not, therefore, fault the performers for doing what they have done the better to serve you" (Appendix I.15j). In one of his later librettos, La finta savia (1643), Strozzi again explains that the unusually lengthy text has been cut because it was too long for musical setting, having been written to be performed without music as well (Appendix I.18a).[33]

[31] As in Hipsicratea , mentioned above; virgolette were also used to differentiate the various hands in Ciro (1653-54), which was revised twice, and La schiava fortunata (1674), originally by Moniglia and Cesti, with new music by Marc'Antonio Ziani and new text, possibly, by Giulio Cesare Corradi (according to Ivanovich), among other instances.

[32] "[P]er non arrecarti tedio con la longhezza, si tralasciano molti versi, che per essere già stati stampati non s'hanno potuto segnar con i punti, onde ti prego a supplire con la velocità dello sguardo nella lettura" (Gl'amori infrutuosi di Pirro , preface).

[33] Perhaps surprisingly, in view of the qualms of the academic librettists discussed in ch. 2, Bissari's Torilda (1648) was one of the few other librettos that offered the option of spoken performance (according to a stop-press addition at the end of the 1648 libretto: "le Virgole poste nel margine segnano quel, che si può tralasciare in Recita musicale, come per altra Recita serve l'opera intiera").


Although some changes clearly occurred when the composer initially set the text to music and may have been justified by aesthetic considerations, many more must have been made at the last minute in response to specific performance conditions. In Veremonda (1653), for instance, several lines were added in a scene of the second act: "Since, owing to the distance of the Fort of Calpe, Zelamina and Zaida couldn't be understood, they have been made to come outside to speak, and then, having seen Delio, in respect for Giacutte, to go back in until he leaves. As a consequence, the following lines in the middle of act 2, scene 8, must be altered and added."[34]

Whereas librettist and composer had to make these small adjustments on the spot, some changes were effected simply by a new direction to the singer (with perhaps a record of it left in the libretto), as in La costanza di Rosmonda (1659): "In act 1, scene 14, where it says 'Clitennestra recites in a balcony,' it was thought better to have her appear on the stage in order to make her visible to the eyes of everyone, especially those seated in the boxes" (Appendix I.44b).

The preface to Aureli's Claudio Cesare (1672), finally, summarizes quite effectively the kinds of changes that took place during rehearsals and the typical librettist's attitude toward them:

After the libretto was printed and the opera rehearsed on stage, it was decided to cut various superfluous parts of it; therefore, you are urged kindly to pass over various lines and certain scenes, which for greater brevity have been cut, since we did not have the opportunity of doing so, the libretto already having been printed. Below you will also find three aria texts that have been changed; all of this information is given so that only what is read will be sung, thus bringing greater delight to the audience. You will appreciate the difficulties that composers [compositori , meaning composers and librettists] face today in satisfying not only the strange tastes of this city, but also the extravagant whims of the performers [i Signori Musici recitanti ]. (Appendix I.50b-c)

Composers' Obligations

The kinds of alterations that so preoccupied librettists were of less concern to composers; or at least their concern was less obvious. One reason for this difference was sociological. Librettists, however inadequate, casual, or amateurish they claimed to be, were educated in and practiced lettere : they were writers, whose words laid traditional claim to immortality, especially since the invention of the printing press, and whose capabilities were judged by well-

[34] "Perche, per la lontananza della Fortezza di Calpe, Zelamina, & Zaida non potevano esser intese, si fanno uscir fuori à parlare, e poi, veduto Delio, per rispetto di Giacutte, ritornar dentro , fin ch'egli parta. Però, si devono mutare, & aggiungere questi Versi nel mezzo della Scena Ottava dell'Atto Secondo." This information is provided in a note at the end of the libretto, probably by the producer, Balbi, who signed the preface. The four added lines are also given in the note.


established critical criteria. Composers, on the other hand, no matter how intelligent and well educated—and whatever the higher claims of music as theory—were essentially artisans, practitioners of a trade, for hire. Theirs was a service profession. Last-minute modifications determined by the demands of a patron, an occasion, or a particular performance site were a traditional part of their job. Such changes were, of course, more fundamental to the structure of librettos than of scores: they involved adding or subtracting characters, eliminating precious lines of poetry, metaphors, special turns of plot, and other such invenzioni . For composers the changes were minimal: a transposition here, an aria there.

Librettists might have been more relaxed had their works remained as ephemeral as opera scores or performances. It was the act of printing the libretto per se—a sign and consequence of institutionalization, as we have seen—that stimulated these writers' anxiety and caused them to express their concern so openly. Their professional identities (as well as their material profits) were embodied in the published work.

Librettos enjoyed an independent existence as printed texts. Scores did not; they were working documents, tied to the facts and moments of performance. Whereas it was to the librettist's advantage to distinguish between the composition and rehearsal stage in the development of his text, such a distinction was hardly relevant to the composer, for whom the two stages merged in the normal process of composition. Indeed, composition was not considered complete until the work had been readied for performance; the composer's presence at rehearsals was an integral part of his contract. This is clearly set forth in Cavalli's contract of 24 July 1658 with Marco Faustini at S. Cassiano, which stipulates that, in addition to providing one opera per year for three years himself ("con la diligenza et Virtù sua propria"), he "be present at all the rehearsals that are needed, and also to change parts, alter, cut, and add whatever is necessary in the music in the service of the opera" (Appendix IIIA.2).[35]

Although composers' scores are never as explicit as printed librettos in distinguishing between the stages of composition—between what took place before and what took place during rehearsals—they often record something of the composer's process, his methods of shaping and continually modifying his musical setting as he moved toward performance or even from one perfor-

[35] The contract is given in full in Quellentexte , ed. Becker, 72. Cavalli's responsibilities were laid out in essentially the same way nearly ten years later in his final contract with Faustini, of 29 June 1667 (b. 194: 50): "dovendo assister alle prove et occorrendo anco aggiunger, alterare, et levare quelle cose, che fossero necessarie, et occorressero conforme alla sodisfazione d'esso Sig. Faustini, al quale doverano restare l'originali" (i.e., the score and parts). This was the contract for the ill-fated Eliogabalo . Here it is clearly spelled out that the composer did not have the rights to his score (cf. ch. 6, n. 77, above); also Bianconi and Walker, "Production," 237 n. 72. This contract is partially transcribed in Brunelli, "Angustie," 334-35.


mance to the next. Printed librettos, by their very fixity, help to shape speculation about the meanings of the scores to which they are connected. Differences between libretto and score might indicate that the score either represents a modification for a subsequent performance or an earlier stage of the libretto, which later was revised for publication by the poet; or again, the score might represent a later version that the poet could not or would not adopt for his published text.

These differences could, of course, have originated at the composition stage. Even during the early years of intimate collaboration, composers did not always set the poet's text exactly. We have already referred to important differences between Monteverdi's and Badoaro's versions of Il ritorno d'Ulisse . The scores of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea , too, diverge considerably not only from Busenello's printed text and the several extant manuscript versions of the libretto but from the scenario as well.[36]

A number of Cavalli's scores are quite different from their printed librettos. Strophic texts are set non-strophically, both as arias and recitatives, refrain lines are added, and, of course, passages of text omitted. Such differences, however, probably more reflect the temporal relationship between extant score and printed libretto than any aesthetic question. These discrepancies would probably have disappeared if the libretto could have been printed late enough to include all last-minute alterations. On the other hand, they also reveal the kinds of changes Cavalli and, presumably, other composers normally made as they worked from a manuscript libretto, changes that might subsequently be incorporated in printed librettos. In the case of librettos printed before the works were performed, we can usually assume that most differences from the score reflect composers' changes. But if they were printed afterwards, as in Busenello's Delle hore ociose , which contains all of his librettos, we must also consider that the librettist may have revised his text in the interim, and that his original text, or one closer to it, is represented in the music.[37]

Since composers presumably had less of a stake in a precisely finished product than did librettists, and since it was part of their job to make continual adjustments and changes up to the last minute, many of the indignities librettists complained about were simply matters of course to them. Piecemeal composition, for example, which might have prevented librettists from editing or polishing their works to their own literary satisfaction, was more the rule than the exception for composers. They reported the receipt and dispatching of

[36] But, since we know that both scores are late, their differences from the librettos might have reflected changes made well after Monteverdi's death. On these differences, see Curtis, preface to L'incoronazione di Poppea , and id., "La Poppea impasticciata "; also Rosand, "Monteverdi's Mimetic Art," and id., "Seneca."

[37] Curtis, however, argues that Busenello's print is probably closest to his original text (preface to L'incoronazione di Poppea ).


single acts or groups of scenes of librettos and scores with apparent equanimity. Thus Ziani, writing to Faustini on 2 August 1665 about the ill-fated Doriclea (whose last-minute cancellation we have already discussed), reported that he had just sent him the music of act 1, but was awaiting the arrival of act 2 of the libretto so that he could begin to set it.[38] And Cesti exhibited similar nonchalance when he wrote on 21 June 1665 to Beregan, whose Tito he had been contracted to set, urging him to send act 1 as soon as it was ready, without waiting until the entire work was completed.[39] He made the same request again on 12 July. He must have received the text (and set it) by 2 August, when he reacted enthusiastically to the arrival of act 2 in another letter to Beregan: "I received the second act; it is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful."[40]

Composers' piecemeal settings routinely found their way to the singers (or impresario) in the same fashion. Cavalli sent the first act of his Hipermestra to Florence ahead of the others.[41] Cesti and Ziani both refer often to having sent off a single act or several scenes with the promise of the rest in due course. In a letter of 20 December 1666, Cesti writes that he has just mailed half of act 2 of Tito and hopes that act 1 has arrived, although it lacks the opening sinfonia ("la Sinfonia avanti s'alzi la tenda"), which he will write after having finished the opera "because it isn't so urgent at the moment" ("per non essere presentemente di tanta necessità")[42] Although piecemeal setting may not have bothered composers, it seems (reassuringly) to have had a negative effect on some singers, who were frustrated in their attempt to understand their parts. As we shall see, Nicola Coresi complained that he had received the wrong impression of his role in Meraspe from the excerpt he had been sent originally;[43] and Catterin'Angela Botteghi asked to see the whole libretto of the same opera so that she could understand better how to interpret her role.[44]

Composers may have taken piecemeal composition for granted, but they were not altogether insensitive to the time pressures that plagued librettists. Ziani lost no opportunity of reminding Faustini how he had saved the day by writing Annibale in Capua in five (or six) days.[45] Speed was his trademark, a characteristic both he and, apparently, his critics emphasized, though obviously

[38] Letter from Vienna (b. 188: 75) partially transcribed in Giazotto, "La guerra dei palchi," 504-5.

[39] Letter from Innsbruck (b. 188: 119): "Quando havesse all'ordine tanto basterebbe mandarmi il 1º Atto" (Giazotto, "Cesti," 499).

[40] "Ho ricevuto il 2º Atto bellissimo, bellissimo, bellissimo." Letter from Innsbruck (b . 188: 76-80); see Giazotto, "Cesti," 501.

[41] According to letters from Atto Melani quoted in Lorenzo Bianconi, "Caletti," DBI 16 (Rome, 1973): 692 (I-Fas, Archivio Mediceo del Principato, F. 5452, cc. 747-48, and F. 5453, cc. 595-96).

[42] Letter to Beregan (b . 194: 138); see Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 459, and Giazotto, "Cesti," 507. In the end, the sinfonia, in three parts, was pieced together from several of his earlier operas; see Schmidt, 459 n. 49.

[43] Letter from Rome, 13 August 1667 (b . 188: 166); see Brunelli, "Angustie," 337; also ch. 8 below.

[44] Letter from Florence, 27 August 1667 (b . 188: 170); see Brunelli, "Angustie," 339.

[45] Letters of 25 July 1665 (b . 188: 82) and 9 May and 10 July 1666 (b . 188: 279, 269); transcribed in Quellentexte , ed. Becker, 78-79.


for opposite purposes. Ziani regarded his facility ("solita facilità") as an inimitable quality,[46] which he invoked ironically in a request to Faustini for payment ("I write quickly but am paid slowly") as well as to counter criticism of his works: "If my arias are, have been, and will have been good, for the theater as well as for church, all of them pass under the same rush in the making."[47] He imputed to the envy of his competitors the accusation of his having written Alciade while in transit from Innsbruck to Venice, yet he himself described some music he was sending to Faustini as "another piece of an opera completed by me in transit."[48]

Ziani was especially famous (or infamous) for his speed, but other composers could work just as quickly when necessary—though they and their supporters did not hesitate to exaggerate such feats. Sartorio, for example, was reported to have set Bussani's Massenzio in thirteen days, although it probably took him closer to a month.[49] Whereas Sartorio survived the pressure and even profited from it in enhanced reputation, not all composers were so resilient. One of them, Giovanni Antonio Boretti, reportedly even died from the anxieties of readying an opera for production: "Poor Gio Ant Borretti . . . died yesterday after two weeks of sickness caused by readying his opera for production" (Appendix IIIB.11c).[50]

Although they were often at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control, composers, like their librettist colleagues, recognized the difference between working at leisure and under pressure. Cesti, for example, who complained about having to compose five acts of Il potno d'oro in six weeks, wrote

[46] "Non so se le fatiche continue di questo Paese di tal uno, apporterà a lei pregiudizio se pure la pre-stezza del operate del Ziani non dasse motivo ad altri d'imitarlo e superarlo." Letter of 10 July 1666 (b . 188: 269); transcribed in Quellentexte , ed. Becker, 79.

[47] "Il mio scrivere è presto, ma son tardi pagato. . . . Se le mie arie sono, sono state e saranno state buone sì per teatro come per le chiese tutte passano soto alla medema fretta nell'operatione." Letter of 9 May 1666 (b . 188: 279); transcribed in Quellen-texte , ed. Becker, 78.

[48] "Bugiardi e maligni sono quelli che tassano Alciade fatto per viaggio (che non è veto però) ma se fosse stato fatto anco sopra alle zangole gli farei un presente della sedia e a suo dispetto farò sempre buona riuscita" (ibid.). "Gli mando un altro pezzo d'opera fatto da me in viaggio." Letter of 3 November 1665 from Innsbruck (b . 188: 226), not included in Giazotto's inventory but identified as Ziani's in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 459 n. 47.

[49] He actually composed it between 23 December 1672 and 25 January 1673. The date of completion is established by a letter of 20 January 1672 [1673] from Dolfin to Duke Johann Friedrich (Appendix IIIB. 16). The letter reports that the premiere of Massenzio was scheduled for the following Wednesday. Since 20 January was a Friday in 1673, the following Wednesday would have been 25 January. According to the same author, writing on 23 December, Sartorio began writing the opera on that date (Appendix IIIB. 10); Dolfin subsequently reported that it had taken Sartorio only thirteen days to complete the work (letter of 3 February 1673, Appendix IIIB. 18).

[50] It is not clear whether Boretti's problems were caused by Claudio Cesare or Domitiano , or both, since they seem to have been intended for the same season; the dedications of both librettos are dated 27 December 1672, but Bonlini lists Claudio Cesare for 1672 (along with Adelaide ) and Domitiano alone for 1673. A second edition of the latter libretto, however, alludes to difficulties with the season: "In quest'anno gl'accidenti han variato gl'ordini nelle Rappresentationi del Drama; onde la mid debolezza non ti com-parirà sù la Scena, colpo del caso, che in ogni cosa ne hà parte," confirming that Domitiano was the fatal work. Furthermore, it was plagued with difficulties created by a poor cast (see Appendix IIIB.13).


appreciatively to his librettist Beregan about being able to take his time over Tito , working at the relaxed pace of one act per month: "When one can enjoy the benefit of time, things come out much better."[51] In the event, however, he did not finish the opera any too soon—in fact, not until 17 January, less than a month before the premiere at SS. Giovanni e Paolo.[52]

The main source of trouble for composers, as for librettists, was the time it took to negotiate with the singers. It is clear that casts were often not fully assembled until well after the librettist and composer would have had to begin work. Librettists could still manage with a fairly general notion of the cast; some idea as to the number and relative importance of the singers would suffice for an initial draft of the text, which could be modified later. Giovanni Faustini, we remember, had sketched a number of librettos without knowing who would perform (or even set) them. It was unthinkable, however, for a composer to begin work before he knew at least the ranges of the voices for which he was writing. In the early days of the stable, continuous companies of Ferrari-Manelli, Cavalli-Faustini, and Sacrati, this was not a problem, and there were even periods of stability later in the century, when casts carried over from one season to the next.

But last-minute hiring and cast changes were increasingly the rule.[53] Composing Alciade (1666), Ziani had to make several decisions on his own ("in order not to lose time") because Faustini had not informed him of the cast in time. He wrote the role of the boatman (Nocchiero ) for the bass singer (who otherwise had a very small part and could evidently double here) and Lerilda for a soprano (of which Faustini had several to choose from). And he asked for information on the voice for the "Vecchia" Clipea in act 3, not indicated by Faustini, having assigned it, in the interim, to the soprano who also played Idiotea—and who, he said, had not appeared on stage for a while (Appendix IIIA.10). Even in parts that had been cast, however, he was forced to make a number of alterations in response to last-minute substitutions or even careless assumptions: octave

[51] "Quando si gode il benefizio del tempo, le cose riescon molto meglio." Letter of 16 August 1665 (b . 188: 88-89), transcribed in Giazotto, "Cesti," 503-4; the contents of this letter are summarized in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 456. While Giazotto claims that this letter was addressed to Faustini, Schmidt assumes, more convincingly, that the recipient was Beregan.

[52] Letter of 17 January 1666 (b . 188; 305, 344). The dedication of the libretto was signed 13 February 1666; see Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 460. From Ziani's letters to Faustini of 3 April and 9 May 1666 (b . 188: 255-56 , 279-80) we learn that the music and the performers of Tito had been well enough received, but that the libretto had been criticized, and that Faustini's profits had not been particularly high. These letters are summarized in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 462-63, and partially transcribed in Giazotto, "La guerra dei palchi," 506. For the letter of 9 May, see Appendix IIIA.11.

[53] This is documented repeatedly in the Faustini papers as well as in the correspondence of Duke Johann Friedrich's Venetian agents. See, for example, the letter of 30 December 1672 from Dolfin in which he mentions the possibility that his singer, Lucretia, might have had to learn a part in two days (Appendix IIIB. 11a).


transposition of one role (Guerra) from baritone to alto, and transposition a fourth or fifth lower to suit the alto performer of the messenger (Nuntio Messo ) in Doriclea , which he had originally scored for soprano.[54]

Cesti, too, repeatedly requested information about the intended singers for his Tito , at one point asking specifically who would sing the hunter (Cacciator ) in the final scene of act 2, "because there is no indication."[55] At another point he made a revealing suggestion of his own, that instead of two sopranos and a contralto, it would be better to have a lower voice, either tenor or baritone, "because in the most beautiful scenes diversity of voices seems much better, and if the scene between Domitiano and Berenice, as it is, scored for two sopranos, were sung by two different voice parts, it would stand out marvelously, and I am taking into account that with the two Amorini there will be nine sopranos."[56]

The information requested by both Ziani and Cesti evidently concerned minor roles, many of which involved decisions about doubling. Clearly the major roles would have been assigned earlier. Normally, casts were decided upon several months before the beginning of a season—usually by August—with singers scheduled to arrive in Venice, parts learned, by mid November at the latest—that is, about six weeks before the premiere, when rehearsals began.[57] The planning of special stage effects and the construction of machinery

[54] Letter of 3 November 1665 (b . 188: 226). Ziani had written nearly the entire role of Euristo in Akiade for soprano, not realizing that the singer was an alto. He finished it in the proper range and presumably altered the part already written (Appendix IIIA.11). Changes like these are reflected in a number of scores in the Contarini collection, especially Poppea, Calisto , and Xerse , though they may just as easily be for revivals as for last-minute cast changes. There is some confusion about this letter. Giazotto fails to mention it but lists another one, of 13 December 1665 (b. 194: 116), which he says concerns the types of voices to be used for Doriclea ("La guerra dei palchi," 507).

[55] "perche non v'è alcun segno" (letter of 16 August 1665 [b . 188: 88-89]); see Giazotto, "Cesti," 504, and the discussion in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 455-56.

[56] "perche nelle scene più belle paria molto meglio la diversità delle voci, e se la scena fra Domitiano e Berenice, come è fatta in duoi soprani, fosse cantata con due patti diverse, spiccherebbe a meraviglia; e considero che saranno con li duoi Amorini in numero 9 soprani." Letter to Beregan of 2 August 1665 (b . 188: 76-80); see Giazotto, "Cesti," 501. The contents of this letter are discussed in Schmidt, "The Tito Commission," 452-53.

[57] This timetable is generally supported by the Faustini correspondence with singers. For example, according to a letter from her husband Nicola, dated 27 August 1667, Antonia Coresi (or Tonina) knew her part well enough to go on stage the very next day: "sa la parte in maniera che ancora per lei si potrebbe andar domani in scena" (b. 188: 166; in Brunelli, "Angustie," 338). Many reports from Venice document that rehearsals were taking place during November. "Qua siva concertando le opere," writes Massi, for example, in a letter to Johann Friedrich, 28 November 1670 (vol. 4, no. 627, f. 216). A particularly late contract was the one signed by Faustini with Pietro Lucini on 11 November 1665 (b . 194: 53; see Brunelli, "Angustie," 325; also Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 458 n. 46). The panic expressed in Alvise Duodo's letter to Faustini of 5 November 1658 is understandable. He reports that the costumes are not being worked on, what musicians there are have not received their parts, and "God knows an opera can't be performed in this form." And he reminds Faustini that, to top it all off, one of the principal parts has not even been assigned yet; nor has anything been heard from the Roman contralto to whom thirty scudi have already been advanced (b. 188: 19-2o); text in Bianconi and Walker, "Production," 224 n. 47.


probably began before the singers arrived—in October.[58] But there were often troublesome exceptions. Long-distance negotiations with at least one singer, the much-sought-after castrato Ciecolino (Antonio Rivani), were still in progress on 17 November 1670, a mere month before the season was to begin.[59] Two years later the same difficult singer did not arrive in Venice until late December, after the season had started, "tardi per recitare," but not too late to appear in at least some performances.[60]

Although negotiations with singers often concluded surprisingly close to the beginning of the season, there was apparently considerable flexibility with respect to the actual date of opening night for a work. Traditionally, of course, the season coincided with Carnival, which began the day after Christmas, and most opera houses opened as close to that time as possible. We noted earlier how Marco Faustini tried to move the opening day of SS. Giovanni e Paolo forward by some two weeks in 1666 in order to seize the advantage from his competition.[61] Later in the century, openings in early December or even late November were not uncommon, particularly in years when Carnival was unusually short.[62] Theater managers could hardly be blamed for wanting to squeeze more performances into a season.

[58] Letter from Massi to Johann Friedrich, 5 October 1670 (vol. 4, no. 627, f. 200): "Si va ogni giorno più fissamente pensando all'opera, si assoldano musici, e siva inventando nuove mutanze nell'ordine del Theatro. Tengono che in quest'anno si vedranno cose fuori dell'ordinario." Contracts with scene designers were often the first to be signed. Faustini signed one with Gasparo Mauro on 8 March 1665 for Tito and Doriclea (b . 188: 109), transcribed in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 444 n. 9, and a month later, on 8 April 1665, he signed a three-year contract with Horatio Franchi in which the latter agreed to produce costumes for two operas per year at the annual salary of 800 ducats (the figure is comparatively high because Franchi was required to supply the materials himself [b. 194: 42]). But negotiations with a few singers for the same season were concluded even earlier: contracts with Nicola Coresi and Sebastian Cioni were dated 17 February and 7 March 1665, respectively. See Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 445 n. II.

[59] Letter from Massi, 17 November 1670 (vol. 4, no. 627, f. 211 ): "sono qui cominciate le comedie a San Samuele, e qua Cecolino al quale hanno offerte dobble 250; ma lui non vuol recitare se non sono almeno 300." Ciecolino, or Ciccolino, had been employed by the duke of Savoy since 1668, when he precipitously left the service of Queen Christina in Rome. During the 1650s his patron was Cardinal Gian Carlo de' Medici of Florence. See Rosselli, "From Princely Service," 7.

[60] See letters from Massi of 9 December 1672 (Appendix IIIB.8), 30 December 1672 (IIIB.11b), and 13 January 1673 (IIIB.15). Late arrivals were obviously not uncommon, as illustrated by the case of a Signor Clemente, whose late arrival forced Aureli to carve a new role out of existing text in an opera that had already been cast: "per essere il Sagnor Clemente arrivato in tempo ch'erano già dispensate le parti del Drama, m'è convenuto inserirlo nell'uno, e nell'altro al meglio, che hà potuto permettere la brevità del tempo; havendo havuto un solo riguardo, di non privarti del godimento della voce di un Virtuoso si insigne" ( Gl'amori infrutuosi di Pirro , preface). This singer may have been the Antonio Clementi who played Berecintia in Ercole in Tebe in Florence in 1661 (see Robert Lamar Weaver and Norma Wright Weaver, A Chronology of Music in the Florentine Theater, 1590-1750 [Detroit, 1978], 131), or else Clemente Hader (see Bianconi and Walker, "Production," 277).

[61] It should be reiterated, perhaps, that competition was especially fierce in 1666, with four theaters planning productions rather than the more usual two.

[62] Such was the case in 1672-73, according to several documents in the Johann Friedrich correspondence. See, for example, Massi's letter of 28 October 1672 (vol. 4, no. 627, f. 303): "Comincieranno le opere avanti il tempo, perche il Carnevale venturo sarà breve"; also 29 November (f. 287): "Si allestiscono li Teatri per le opere, quali principieranno pertempo per esser corto il carnevale." See also manuscript avvisi in I-Vnm, It. VI, 459 [12103], of 21 November 1682 (Appendix IIIC.1) and S December 1682 (Appendix IIIC.2), which indicate that the traditional opening day was anticipated for the benefit of the duke of Mantua, an important patron; but another report, from 11 December 1683 (It. VI, 460 [12104]), indicates that the operas were not always ready when opening day was pushed forward too far (Appendix IIIC.5).


In any case, since the opening date was not strictly fixed, it could be postponed if the opera were not ready yet; if the problem concerned the second opera of the season, the first could continue until the second was ready, or else an opera from a previous season could be substituted at the last minute. All of these situations actually occurred. Composers were announced and changed (Argiope );[63] a new libretto and setting, or just a new setting, commissioned at the last minute (Eliogabalo, Massenzio );[64] or an old opera substituted (Orontea for Doriclea ).[65]

Naturally the most intense pressure occurred during the rehearsal period, when a libretto, along with the score, took its final shape. Many operas were reportedly revised and readied for performance in a matter of days: twelve days proved adequate to prepare Annibale in Capua for performance in 1661 (twice as long as the five [or six] it took Ziani to write it, as he never tired of saying), ten for a revival of Cesti's Orontea in 1666, and a record eight for his Dori in 1667.[66] Printed librettos and manuscript scores both reveal the kinds of changes that would have taken place during rehearsals, or else during the run of the work. The cast of Faustini's and Cavalli's Calisto , for example, gained a character, a crude peasant (Bifotco ), at the last minute (or at least after the libretto had been printed and the score copied). Bifolco appears in three scenes, twice alone and once with another character, in acts 2 and 3. Faustini refers to these scenes in a note to the reader as "superimposed on the original structure of the story to delight you,"[67] and Cavalli's score accounts for the addition with the rubric:

[63] The preface to Argiope promised two composers, Rovetta and Leardini (Appendix I.28c), but a stop-press addition on the last page of the volume, p. 96, announced that in the end, Rovetta did not contribute (Appendix I.28d). The production of Argiope was delayed by several years, as we have seen, possibly as a result of the War of Candia.

[64] Cavalli's setting of Bussani's Massenzio was scrapped at rehearsal and Sartorio commissioned to provide a new setting (letter of 23 December 1672 from Dolfin to Johann Friedrich [Appendix IIIB.10]). The case of Eliogabalo was somewhat different. Cavalli's setting of Aureli's original libretto, intended for the season of 1668 at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, was canceled at the last minute, in part because of Faustini's difficulties with the Grimani brothers. They commissioned Aureli to write a new libretto on the same subject, to be set to music by Boretti, which was performed that same season, 1668. In a contract with Marco Faustini of 10 October 1667, Aureli agreed to "adjust certain things in Eliogabalo, " which suggests that he was not the original author (b. 194: 31; transcribed in Brunelli, "An-gustie," 335), a fact that he himself confirms in the dedication to the second Eliogabalo signed 10 January 1667 [1668] (Appendix I.49).

[65] The substitution is specifically documented in the note to the reader of Orontea , signed 10 January 1666 (see ch. 6, pp. 192-93, above). The note is translated in Schmidt, "Tito Commission," 460.

[66] Apparently the revival of Dori in Florence in 1661 took only four days to prepare; see Carl B. Schmidt, "Antonio Cesti's La Dori," RIM 10 (1975): 460; also id., "Tito Commission," 463 n. 55; the relevant letter from Cesti is quoted in John W. Hill, "Le relazioni di Antonio Cesti con la corte e i teatri di Firenze," RIM 11 (1976): 27.

[67] "inestate nella Favola per dilettarti fuori della sua tessitura." The "diletto" was probably provided by some stage business performed by the country bumpkin. The added text is given at the end of the libretto, on pp. 76-82.


"Qui và la Scena del Bifolco," though no music is provided.[68] Conversely, the cast of Cavalli's and Minato's Artemisia was modified by reduction sometime after the music was written, but before the libretto was printed. The score, mostly autograph, has music for a character called Cleante, who does not appear in the libretto, and it actually illustrates how the reduction was achieved. In three places, music for Cleante has been crossed out and the text distributed to other characters in the opera.[69] The fact that Cleante never made it into the printed libretto and that the score is one of Cavalli's composing scores rather than a fair copy suggests a relatively early date for the modification.[70]

Dramatic coherence, what there was of it, was increasingly at the mercy of such exigencies. A curious extreme was surely reached in 1676 when Giulio Cesare Corradi, the librettist of Germanico sul Reno , claimed to have added a scene for an Orfeo, not listed in the cast and totally extraneous to the plot, in order to exhibit the talents not of a singer but of a special violinist.[71] But once again, the incorporation of such late arrivals, motivated by the usual desire to appeal to the audience, exacted a toll principally on the librettists. The required changes were often substantial enough to interfere with whatever dramatic continuity or balance their original texts may have aspiredto. To composers the cost was negligible. Musical modifications were usually relatively minor and had little if any effect on the opera as a whole.

We return then to the social distinction between librettist and composer and their different claims, aspirations, and functions with respect to dramma per musica . Librettists were deeply concerned with the dramatic coherence and literary integrity of their work, as we have seen in the elaborate strategies they developed for preserving it or compensating for its absence. Composers could not possibly have felt the same way. Their scores could never have aspired to the objective wholeness of librettos; their music was doubly contingent: on their librettists and on their performers. Musical coherence independent of el-

[68] I-Vnm, It. IV, 353 (9877), ff. 59 and 101 .

[69] I-Vnm, It. IV 352 [9876], ff. 18 -19, 42 -44, and 67-68 . See Jeffery, "Autograph Manuscripts," 238-39.

[70] Much earlier, that is, than the adjustment Au-reli had to make in his and Ziani's Gl'amori infrutuosi di Pirro (1661), mentioned in n. 60 above. Additions to casts during the run of an opera were apparently not that uncommon, as indicated by the following avviso of 2 January 1683 [1684] (I-Vnm, It. IV, 460 [12104]): "Si proseguiscono le recite nelle quattro enumerati Teatri, et in quello di SS. Giovanni e Pao-lo vi si è accresciuto un personaggio con nuove aggiunte, e canzonette. Superando però il vanto di tutti quello di San Luca per le esquisite voci."

[71] "Ti prego pure à non far rifiessione sopra l'Orfeo di Stige nel fine del Atto Secondo, accessorio solo introdotto per farti sentire un famoso Suonatore da Violino" (Germanleo sul Reno , preface). This suggests the beginning of an increased emphasis on virtuoso instrumentalists, which Harris Saunders sees as a special feature of later seventeenth-century opera in Venice ("The Teatro Grimani di San Giovanni Grisostomo: The Interaction of Family Interests and Opera in Venice," paper read at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, New Orleans, 1987).


ther was an anachronism and an impossibility. Indeed, once the formerly unified activity of producing an opera had disintegrated into an amalgam of specialized tasks, the subservience of the composer in the operatic hierarchy became still clearer.

The kinds of alterations composers were called upon to make during rehearsals or in preparation for revivals, to adapt their works to new performers or to the requirements of a new theater or audience, remained central to their profession. But because of institutionalization and the consequent logistical problems raised by geographical separation and competing patronage, these alterations could not always be made by the original composers. Cesti, for example, instructed Beregan to arrange for Rovettino to fulfill his rehearsal obligations—namely, "to cut, add, change, or do whatever else was necessary in the music"—since he could not come to Venice for the premiere of his Tito , owing to commitments to his employer in Vienna.[72] And Ziani, although he referred on several occasions to his obligatory presence in Venice for the rehearsals of his work, assuring Faustini at one point that he would not "leave Venice until the whole score has been furnished and accommodated,"[73] later gave him rather grudging permission to engage someone else for the task.[74]

Given the nature and extent of some of the changes that took place at rehearsals—new arias, cuts, transpositions, rearrangements, even whole new roles—which might have been supplied by someone other than the original composer, many of these works would certainly qualify as pasticcios. But they were not the first such cooperative ventures. Multiple authorship may not have become a necessity until the pressures of institutionalization made it so, but it had been a reality, even a positive feature considered worthy of advertising, well before then.

Some early Venetian operas were specifically designed and promoted as pasticcios. La finta savia (1643), for example, proudly boasted the music of four different composers: Laurenzi, Crivelli, Merula, and Ferrari (Appendix I.18b).[75] Many of the operas we have already mentioned ended up as pasticcios, either by design or by accident. Argiope (1649), as we have seen, was touted as

[72] Letter of 6 December 1665 to Beregan (b . 194: 145, 156): "Occorrendo poi di levare, aggiungere, mutare e qualsivoglia altra cosa nella musica io prego V.S. Ill. a far supplire al Signor Rovettino . . . che mi dichiaro sodlsfattissimo sapendo che m'ha voluto sempre bene et ha favorito altre volte il mio poco talento" (see Giazotto, "Cesti," 506-7).

[73] "Non partirò di Venetia se non la vederò del tutto fornita & acumodata." Letter of 2 August 1665 (b . 188: 75); Giazotto, "La guerra dei palchi," 504-5.

[74] "Che io habbi per male, che altri mettino le mani in mia absenza nelle mie opere non ci penso niente, perchè per commodità della scena non si può di meno." Letter of 10 July 1666 (b . 188: 269); Giazotto, "La guerra dei palchi," 507.

[75] There were actually six composers involved, including Alessandro Leardini and Vincenzo Tozzi. See Osthoff, "Laurenzi," 175. For an extended discussion and schematic indication of the distribution of the text of La finta savia among these six composers, see Magini, "Indagim," 540-45.


a pasticcio manqué;[76] Faustini's revival of Cesti's Orontea became a pasticcio in effect when it was prefaced by Ziani's new setting of the prologue to Doriclea .[77] And Cavalli's Giasone became part of an overt pasticcio when it appeared in Rome as Il novello Giasone in 1671 with some music by Stradella. Indeed, nearly every work that was revived, either in Venice or elsewhere, in the original composer's absence, or after his death, was a pasticcio. The most famous of these, at least in the versions that have come down to us, is Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea , the only modern "classic" of Venetian opera. Both extant scores, which probably reflect the Naples revival of 1651, contain music that Monteverdi could not have written. The only disagreement in this case is over the amount of original music still remaining.[78]

But that is not a meaningful question for operatic music of this period. Unlike that of the libretto, the sanctity of the operatic score was a concept virtually unknown and irrelevant in seicento Venice. Although it is difficult to judge from our distance, the replacement of one composer by another does not seem to have created a problem of stylistic incongruity either for contemporary audiences or for the composers themselves. Operas were increasingly bound by musico-dramatic conventions, making substitution of composers relatively easy.[79]

Because their professional stature and livelihood depended on it, librettists emphatically claimed and numbered their texts, carefully keeping track of their careers and burnishing their reputations. Composers, however, as they continued, often anonymously, to fulfill their multiple functions, increasingly disappeared behind their creations, leaving the singers to represent them.

[76] See n. 63 above.

[77] See above, ch. 6, p. 192 and n. 92.

[78] Curtis finds considerable evidence, notational as well as musical, of the intervention of composers younger than Monteverdi in the score of Poppea ; see "La Poppea impasticciata. "

[79] It is worth emphasizing that individual styles emerged quite late among opera composers, particularly in comparison with the sixteenth-century madrigalists. The strength and demands of operatic conventions undoubtedly helped to thwart such development. Equally significant, perhaps, is the fact that because opera scores were not published, they did not circulate, and were thus not available to be scrutinized. The music remained ephemeral, tied to the moment of its performance. The printing press did not serve these composers as it did both their madrigalist predecessors and their literary colleagues, the librettists.


7—I compositori scenici : Librettist and Composer

Preferred Citation: Rosand, Ellen. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.