Giasone's Travels: Opera and Its Performance in the Seventeenth Century

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Giasone's Travels: Opera and Its Performance in the Seventeenth Century

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Title: Giasone's Travels: Opera and Its Performance in the Seventeenth Century
Author: Lin, Thomas Wen Tsen
Citation: Lin, Thomas Wen Tsen. 2015. Giasone's Travels: Opera and Its Performance in the Seventeenth Century. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation presents an in-depth examination of Giacinto Andrea Cicognini and Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone (1649). Its premiere in Venice took the city by storm, generating such enthusiasm among opera audiences that the publisher Andrea Giuliani was forced to print two additional editions of the libretto that same year simply to meet widespread demand. In an industry that chewed up and spat out operas, one in which most productions had an effective shelf life of one year, Giasone would go on to be performed throughout Italy over the next forty years, ranging as far south as Palermo and as far west as Turin, until its final performance in Brescia, 1690. It was without a doubt the most performed stage work of the Seicento. The four decades between 1649 and 1690 saw many changes, both to a public opera economy and culture that were barely nascent in Venice when Giasone saw its first performance, and to the opera itself. Not only were words, verses, swaths of text, and even entire scenes cut, shifted, or added from city to city, Giasone was even revived under different titles from the 1670s onward.
Part 1 of my dissertation untangles the forty-five librettos, twelve scores, two scenari, and four prose editions associated with the opera. I divide these sources into groups of librettos and families of scores based on a combination of publication city, historical data, and most importantly the similarity or variation of content. This philological work sets the stage for Part 2, a close analysis of Giasone employing textual and musical methods that accounts for and explicates the dramatic nucleus of the work, one focused around continuities—of location, character focus, interlocution, and harmony. I show how despite the revisionary pressures exerted on it throughout its forty-year performance history, Giasone’s identity as a sentimental, at times ribald love story, remained intact. In doing so, I provide insight into some of the creative and artistic processes behind the composition of the seventeenth century’s most popular opera.
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