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An enigmatic souvenir of Venetian opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702)

Bruno Forment (UGent)
(2010) EARLY MUSIC. 38(3). p.387-401
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Abstract
The Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, preserves an iconographic gem that so far has escaped musicological attention: a monumental oil on canvas capturing a Venetian opera performance in 1702. The painting, by Alessandro Piazza, summarizes the fortes and vicissitudes of carnival opera in colourful, even uncompromising fashion. Unfortunately, the picture cannot stand as a straightforward snapshot of operatic history. For whereas the theatre's interior and public can be identified as belonging to the early Settecento, its staging harks back to an illustration in the libretto to Berenice vendicativa (1680), an operatic extravaganza staged at Marco Contarini's private theatre in Piazzola. However, pictorial analysis, combined with contextual research, leads towards the hypothesis that the painter might have idealized a 'try-out' performance of Francesco Gasparini's Tiberio, imperatore d'Oriente (Venice, 1702) at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, in the absence of its dedicatee, Johann Wilhelm of Neuburg-Pfalz (who had the opera revived at his Dusseldorfer Opernhaus in 1703). The Berenice vendicativa print, which had been designed by a court artist of the elector, Domenico Rossetti, appears to have been provided by Berenice's original librettist, Giorgio Maria Rapparini, who at that time served the elector as private secretary. In sum, Piazza's enigmatic vista offers cautionary insights into the interpretational intricacies of operatic memorabilia.
Keywords
iconography, carnival opera, painting, MA, Worcester Art Museum, 18th-century Venice, Alessandro Piazza

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MLA
Forment, Bruno. “An Enigmatic Souvenir of Venetian Opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702).” EARLY MUSIC 38.3 (2010): 387–401. Print.
APA
Forment, B. (2010). An enigmatic souvenir of Venetian opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702). EARLY MUSIC, 38(3), 387–401.
Chicago author-date
Forment, Bruno. 2010. “An Enigmatic Souvenir of Venetian Opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702).” Early Music 38 (3): 387–401.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Forment, Bruno. 2010. “An Enigmatic Souvenir of Venetian Opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702).” Early Music 38 (3): 387–401.
Vancouver
1.
Forment B. An enigmatic souvenir of Venetian opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702). EARLY MUSIC. 2010;38(3):387–401.
IEEE
[1]
B. Forment, “An enigmatic souvenir of Venetian opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702),” EARLY MUSIC, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 387–401, 2010.
@article{598213,
  abstract     = {The Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, preserves an iconographic gem that so far has escaped musicological attention: a monumental oil on canvas capturing a Venetian opera performance in 1702. The painting, by Alessandro Piazza, summarizes the fortes and vicissitudes of carnival opera in colourful, even uncompromising fashion. Unfortunately, the picture cannot stand as a straightforward snapshot of operatic history. For whereas the theatre's interior and public can be identified as belonging to the early Settecento, its staging harks back to an illustration in the libretto to Berenice vendicativa (1680), an operatic extravaganza staged at Marco Contarini's private theatre in Piazzola. However, pictorial analysis, combined with contextual research, leads towards the hypothesis that the painter might have idealized a 'try-out' performance of Francesco Gasparini's Tiberio, imperatore d'Oriente (Venice, 1702) at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, in the absence of its dedicatee, Johann Wilhelm of Neuburg-Pfalz (who had the opera revived at his Dusseldorfer Opernhaus in 1703). The Berenice vendicativa print, which had been designed by a court artist of the elector, Domenico Rossetti, appears to have been provided by Berenice's original librettist, Giorgio Maria Rapparini, who at that time served the elector as private secretary. In sum, Piazza's enigmatic vista offers cautionary insights into the interpretational intricacies of operatic memorabilia.},
  author       = {Forment, Bruno},
  issn         = {0306-1078},
  journal      = {EARLY MUSIC},
  keywords     = {iconography,carnival opera,painting,MA,Worcester Art Museum,18th-century Venice,Alessandro Piazza},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {387--401},
  title        = {An enigmatic souvenir of Venetian opera: Alessandro Piazza’s Teatro (1702)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/em/caq067},
  volume       = {38},
  year         = {2010},
}

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