Theory and Musical Performance of the Chorus in Sixteenth-Century Italy. A Case Study: Vicenza 1585.
On 3 March 1585 Sophocle’s Oedipus Tyrannus was staged at Vicenza on the opening night of the Olympic Theatre. Orsatto Giustiniani translated the tragedy into Italian and Andrea Gabrieli composed the music for the choruses. Individual parts were published in 1588 (Venezia, Angelo Gardano), but other interesting material regarding Oedipus’s choruses is also available; this includes the staging designs created by the artistic manager Angelo Ingegneri and by the famous scholar Sperone Speroni, various kinds of comments, as well as a number of reviews by Ingegneri himself and other spectators, such as Giacomo Dolfin, Antonio Riccoboni and Filippo Pigafetta. We even have a review written by Gian Vincenzo Pinelli, who had actually not seen the play. This article concentrates on the analysis of these documents by contextualizing them within the current ideas on the chorus which derived from the contemporary reception of Aristotle’s Poetics in the Olympic Academy. The Academicians knew Alessandro Pazzi’s Latin translation (1536) as well as Bernardo Segni’s vernacularisation (1549) of the Poetics and some of them were also well acquainted with Robortello’s (1548), Vettori’s (1560), and Castelvetro’s commentaries (1570) on it. Being the first modern mise en scène of an ancient tragedy and because of its wide cultural implications, the Vicenza 1585 Oedipus proves therefore an interesting case study in order to investigate of the sixteenth-century transmission, translation, and interpretation of ancient Greek and Latin treatises on poetry, rhetoric, and music. Their rediscovery triggered new critical considerations and brought about musical experiments with special regard to the chorus, whose echo (maybe) even reached foreign travellers.
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