Houses & Companies | The Arcadian Academy | Late Baroque | Opera
Literary clubs that were established in seventeenth-century Italy were commonly known as ‘academies’, taking their name from the Athenian garden where Plato was thought to have met with his followers. One of the most important such groups in the early eighteenth century was the Roman ‘Arcadian Academy’. It was formally established in 1690 to honour the late Queen Christina of Sweden, who had been a keen supporter of the literary arts and was composer Arcangelo Corelli’s (1653–1713) first patron.
The ‘Arcadian Academy’ principally constituted the artistic circle that had already regularly met under the patronage of the queen, although it expanded into a network that spread across Europe. All of the Academy’s members adopted nicknames suitable for shepherds and nymphs, in an attempt to recreate the fabled pastoral paradise Arcadia, described in Greek mythology. Founder members included the librettist Silvio Stampiglia and Gian Vincenzo Gravina (the adoptive father of Metastasio). The Marcello brothers, Corelli and Scarlatti were also granted membership, and Zeno was the founder of an affiliated group in Venice. Handel’s patrons Cardinal Ottoboni, Cardinal Pamphili and Prince Ruspoli were all members, but although Handel composed some chamber cantatas and duets using Arcadian texts and was closely involved with the Academy’s circle of members, he never became a member himself.
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