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Quaderni della Rivista Italiana di Musicologia

La figura e l'opera di Antonio Cesti nel Seicento europeo

Inserito in Quaderni della Rivista Italiana di Musicologia

Atti del convegno internazionale di studi (Arezzo, 26-27 aprile 2002), a cura di M. Dellaborra

(Quaderni della Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, 37)


  • J.W. Hill, “Ov'è il decoro?” Etichetta di corte, espressione degli affetti e trattamento dell'aria nell'Orontea di Antonio Cesti. Abstract
  • H. Seifert, Cesti and his opera troupe in Innsbruck and Vienna, with the new informations about his last year and his oeuvre. Abstract
  • A.M. Testaverde, Palcoscenici fiorentini per Antonio Cesti (1661). Abstract
  • C.B. Schmidt, The transmission of Il Tito. A new assessment. Abstract
  • P. Besutti, “Ad introdurre un essercitio d'arme". Il regio schiavo a Mantova (1672). Abstract
  • M. Dellaborra, "È morta Euridice": influenze di Cesti sull'Orfeo di Sartorio. Abstract
  • F. Siguret, Armonia e contrappunto. Sull'iconologia del Pomo d'oro. Abstract
  • M. Vanskeeuwijck, The Baroque equestrian ballet: a rediscovered example by the Bolognese Composer G.P. Colonna (1676). Abstract
  • E. Torselli, Giacinto Andrea Cicognini, poeta di Cavalli e Cesti: note sulla librettistica di medio Seicento. Abstract
  • P. Mechelli, Giovanni Filippo Apolloni: riflessioni sui testi per le cantate di Cesti. Abstract
  • S. Dieci, Le cantate da camera di Cesti. Abstract
  • R. Kendrick, Una diversa versione di “Pria ch'adori” alla Newberry Library di Chicago. Abstract


J.W. Hill

Ov'è il decoro?” Etichetta di corte, espressione degli affetti e trattamento dell'aria nell'Orontea di Antonio Cesti

Cesti’s Orontea (1656), torn between love and station, erupts, “Where is royal dignity, where is decorum?”. Decoro was then understood as: (1) emotional restraint, expected of monarchs above all; (2) dramatic portrayal of any personage with verisimilitude; (3) consistent treatment of all characters within a drama. In keeping with decorum and the then-newly established correlation between poetic expression of strong affect and use of aria style, Orontea’s arias were not to be heard by other characters. The royal protagonists in Cesti’s earlier operas did not observe decorum in this way, but they do in all of his historical operas from Orontea onward, regardless of librettist, city, or patron: none of their arias is intended to be heard by another personage. This consistency is absent from all other roles in these operas. It has gone completely unnoticed in scholarship. On-stage perception of royal outpouring in Cesti’s arias is avoided by various means. The one eventually favored is partendo: the monarch sings aside in the act of departing. Thus, the exit-aria convention appears to have been promoted by simultaneously changing views of court etiquette, dramatic decorum, and expressive function of arias.

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H. Seifert

Cesti and his opera troupe in Innsbruck and Vienna, with the new informations about his last year and his oeuvre

Hypotheses about the reasons for Cesti’s employment in Innsbruck, reports about his operas for this court and the cast of L’Argia as well as the possible casts of the following operas (with biographical data on the singers) are followed by some new findings: the Italian scenario of the 1657 performance of La Dori in Innsbruck with the original title, the whereabouts of Cesti during 1659 (with a short return from Rome to Innsbruck), the beginning and end of Francesco Sbarra’s employment in Innsbruck, the revival of La Dori in 1665 for the emperor in Innsbruck, the score and libretto of this performance and details of Cesti’s employment by Leopold I together with the core group of his singers. The duties of Cesti and Sbarra in Vienna are treated, and finally the reasons for and the time of Cesti’s departure from Vienna as well as his travelling route and the musicians he recommended to Leopold I could be determined from his newly found letters, also the illnesses that bothered him in Tuscany and the reasons for his refusal to return to Vienna. The most important finding is Cesti’s authorship of the operas L’Artaxerse, Il Genserico (partly) and Giocasta, all written for Venice.

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A.M. Testaverde

Palcoscenici fiorentini per Antonio Cesti (1661)

In 1661, during the wedding celebrations for Cosimo III de' Medici, the Florentine court prepared a real festival dominated by the production and the performance of the famous Abate Cesti. The new stages of the Teatri della Pergola and del Cocomero, where Cesti starred in Ercole in Tebe, in Orontea and in Dori, consolidated the constant relationship of artistic patronage that had tied the tenor to the court, since his partecipation in the experimentation of a 'teatro operistico' tried in the 1647 in Siena by Mattias de' Medici. Although discontinuous, his presence in Florence produced the representation of famous operas of international success, such as Cicognini's Giasone, that will bring him on the scene of the Teatro della Dogana with the Febiarmonici of Giovan Battista Balbi in the summer of 1650. The performances of 1661 are the greatest success of the impresario's policy, which the brothers Mattias, Giovan Carlo and Leopoldo de' Medici, chose to introduce Florence into an international theatrical system and to favour the presence of a troupe of virtuosos of European fame and a repertoire of high level.

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C.B. Schmidt

The transmission of Il Tito. A new assessment

Based on documents in the Scuola Grande di San Marco, the genesis of Antonio Cesti’s opera Il Tito (Venice 1666) has been thoroughly scrutinized. Through letters involving the triangle of impresario (Marco Faustini), librettist (Nicolò Beregan), and composer (Cesti), we have learned much about the practices of Venetian theaters in the mid-1660s. [See this author’s article in Journal of the American Musicological Society XXXI, 1978/3, pp. 442-66.] The present companion study first examines the historical, mythological, and literary background of Beregan’s libretto. The printed text is then compared to that found in the principal musical manuscripts (I-Vnm, I-Rvat, I-Nc) to determine whether music for printed text marked with virgolette exists and to isolate text not found in the 1666 libretto. A series of tables clarifies the relations of the musical sources to each other and to the libretto. Finally, a print of anonymous excerpts entitled Scelta delle più belle ariette . . . (Amsterdam: P & J. Blaeu, 1691) is inventoried and discussed because it contains three excerpts from Il Tito representing the only operatic music by Cesti known to have been printed in the seventeenth century.

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P. Besutti

“Ad introdurre un essercitio d'arme". Il regio schiavo a Mantova (1672)

About the fortune and circulation of Antonio Cesti's Dori, based on Giovanni Filippo Apolloni's libretto, the contributions of Carl B. Schmidt are still fundamental and it is very difficult to add unpublished elements. But that huge quantity of historical musical and bibliographical information constitutes a warning to thoroughly examine the contexts, the productive conditions and the structural variations of the opera during its long history: this is the aim of this contribution regarding a particular 'ripresa' of Dori in Mantua, partially hidden behind the title Il regio schiavo o sia La Dori. Three aspects of that performance are examined with principal attention: 1) the execution of the opera and its spectacular complements by 'dilettanti' interpreters; 2) the function of the final dance in form of “essercitio d'arme” and its meaning in the history of Dori reception; 3) the singling out, at least in a conjectural way, of the representative tradition of the opera text proposed in Mantua, suspended between the Venetian current and that of the so-called paduan dukedoms.

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M.T. Dellaborra

"È morta Euridice": influenze di Cesti sull'Orfeo di Sartorio

Just like Cavalli, Cesti contributes to form the generation of Venetian composers to which Antonio Sartorio belongs, as well as the Ziani brothers, Pier Agostini and Giovanni Antonio Boretti, also. The bond between the two musicians reveals itself in the completion by Sartorio of Cesti's Ermengarda regina de' Longobardi (1670) and it also emerges from various stylistic features and from particular expressive attitudes especially assembled in the score of Orfeo (Aureli-Sartorio, 1672). The comparison between this and some other operas by Cesti, composed in the second creative period of his career - from La magnanimità di Alessandro (1662) onwards - is developed with respect to specific forms and musical techniques (recitative - secco or accompagnato - arias, basso continuo, duets, dances) and it is meant to show that Sartorio marks a definite stylistic turning-point in his production: inspired by Cesti and his extraordinary stylistic variety - that was a model for the opera's repertoire not only in the Venetian circle - Sartorio aims at different and more 'modern' expressive intentions, attentive to new aesthetical and artistic demands.

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F. Siguret

Armonia e contrappunto. Sull'iconologia del Pomo d'oro.

Festa teatrale by Cesti first performed in 1667 at the court of Leopold I of Absburg for his marriage and his bride's birthday, Il pomo d'oro was probably one of most famous performances of the XVII century. The fascinating scenography by Burnacini, with numerous changes of scene, is known thanks to the 24 engravings by M. Küsel. Considering this iconology in the harmonic context of the work, the author emphasizes the tangle of the soggetti and controsoggetti (Amor et Arma) through which he develops the mythological theme of the Judgment of Paris, oscillating between Discordia (Discordia throws the golden apple on the table in the prologue) and Concordia (whose intervention Jupiter demands at the end, after the quarrel between the jealous goddesses). The bonds between the different “tables” of the scene (the backdrops, the scenes and the disposition of the characters) correspond to the fugal style of this development. Disguised under the narrative features of the ancient fable, at all the levels of reading (literal, moral, anagogic), the work is yet nothing but a metaphor of the virtues and of the present and future glory of the prince whose fertile hymeneals will be a promise of eternity for the casa d' Austria, as it can be seen in the apotheosis of the last scene.

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M. Vanskeeuwijck

The Baroque equestrian ballet: a rediscovered example by the Bolognese Composer G.P. Colonna (1676)

In this article I present my recent rediscovery of G. P. Colonna's (autograph) manuscript score of the Torneo "Le stelle combattute dagli elementi," performed in Ferrara in 1676 for the Bentivoglio-Pepoli marriage. After a short historical overview of the equestrian ballet as a genre, the essay briefly describes the circumstances in which Colonna wrote the music. Based also on the introductory text to the libretto, I then provide a synopsis of the play and an explanation of the extra-musical references, combined with a study of the relationships between the score and the libretto. The music is organized in four large sections: first, an introduction, subdivided in eleven scenes; second, the five short macchine-each introduced by a short instrumental sinfonia-which are static scenes sung by one single character; third, the combat, or Torneo proper, which has no music; fourth, the conclusion of the tournament in three scenes. The dynamic alternation between recitatives, ariosos, arias, duets, trios in various forms, preceded by an instrumental overture and concluded by a short six-part madrigal, is a hybrid of a (long) secular oratorio and a dramma per musica. This rare example of a complete musical setting of an equestrian ballet represents the apotheosis of Baroque spectacle which began to fade in Italy c.1700.

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E. Torselli

Giacinto Andrea Cicognini, poeta di Cavalli e Cesti: note sulla librettistica di medio Seicento

Author of the librettos of two successful operas, like Cavalli's Giasone and Cesti's Orontea, the Florentine Giacinto Andrea Cicognini is a key character to understand the changes in the subject, in the language, in the imagination and in the taste that took place around 1650 in the musical theater. The contribution goes back over his career of theatrical author, underlining that such innovations were in nuce already present in the first libretto of Cicognini, the Celio. Then it analyses the bond with the coeval theatrical experiences, particularly with the drama production of Spanish inspiration and with the commedia dell'arte and finally it underlines some characteristic topoi of the Baroque Opera in Cicognini's texts.

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P. Mechelli

Giovanni Filippo Apolloni: riflessioni sui testi per le cantate di Cesti

This contribution investigates some aspects of the poetic texts of Giovanni Filippo Apolloni, particularly those which were destined for the cantate da camera composed by Pietro Antonio Cesti, in an attempt to discover to what extent these texts might have determined particular musical choices in the microstructures or in the overall musical structure of Cesti’s cantatas. After having reviewed the various phases of Apolloni’s biographical-artistic career, the author analyses his poetic production, emphasing a tendency towards lyrical-narrative texts, narratives with mythological or pastoral context, and those which make use of historical settings. The author notes besides a propensity towards rhetorical-lyrical amplification and to the condensed judgment with a moral-edifying purpose, which insinuates itself in recognizable syntactical-metrical structures such as the endecasillaboin rhymed couplets. The latter allows Cesti to exploit certain poetic images, but above all to emphasise moralising or pessimistic passages which he highlights through the use of frequent repetition, basso ostinato, minor keys and slow ternary melodies of pathetic nature. The author then reviews the stylistic features of the composer’s output, both with regard to the overall structure of Cesti’s cantatas and with regard to the finer details of his individual recitativi, ariosi, and arie. Particular attention is paid to those in the cantatas “Alpi nevose e dure”, “Era l’alba vicina”, “Rimbombava d’intorno”, “Sovra un’eccelsa Torre”, “Era la notte e muto” e “Ferma Lachesi ohimé”.

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S. Dieci

Le cantate da camera di Cesti

Although this subject has interested different musicologists for various decades, the catalogue of Cesti's cantatas is still provisional and dishomogeneous with respect to the poetic subject. Furthermore its systematic analysis is complicated by the nature itself of the sources. According to manuscript anthologies, Giovanni Filippo Apolloni is the author more fertile in texts of three kinds: the lamento, a monologue in which the hero is the interlocutor and in which the recitative in hendecasyllable prevails, according to the early XVII century tradition; the canzonetta, where the closed piece prevails, often strofic and in ternary meter and in which the musical composition is less closely linked to the poetry; the satira, that experiences a revival in the intellectual circles of XVII century Rome. Already defined by the researchers, the stylistic dictionary is further developed considering the executive praxis and the liberty of attitudes in the creation of a sound track, that is all the more evident in the cantate-canzonetta rather than in the lamento. Finally, the presence of more than one sonorous writing and various categories within the same genre, underlines another function of the cantatas, connected with the dynamics of musical production and the awareness of their advertising value.

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R. Kendrick

Una diversa versione di “Pria ch'adori” alla Newberry Library di Chicago

This paper considers the version of Cesti’s chamber duet Pria ch’adori preserved in Chicago’s Newberry Library (US-Cn M1619 etc.) Uniquely among the surviving sources, in this manuscript the piece is pitched down a fifth and thus scored for two altos. The Newberry copy suggests the personal use of a singer, and it also transmits a slightly different musical text from the others. In addition, the widespread popularity of the cantata, testified by such sources as this, seems to be due to Cesti’s methodical and logical compositional strategies in response to the changing literary voices, differing registers, and subtle structural conceits of Giovanni Lotti’s text.

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