Performance | The Florentine Intermedi of 1589 | Roots of Opera
The six intermedi composed to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinando de’ Medici of Florence and Christine of Lorraine in 1589 were the most spectacular and expensive ever seen. So lavish was the presentation that it completely dominated the play it accompanied – La pellegrina (‘The Pilgrim’) by Girolamo Bargagli. All the texts and music survive, together with the designs for the costumes and sets. The intermedi were devised by Giovanni de’ Bardi (1534–1612) on the theme of the power of music in the ancient world, with texts written by Bardi, Ottavio Rinuccini (1562–1621) and Laura Guidiccioni (fl. 1550). The music was composed largely by Cristofano Malvezzi (1547–99) and Luca Marenzio (1550–99), with contributions by others, including Peri, Caccini and Bardi.
The individual scenes included: the Harmony of the Spheres (Intermedio 1); the contest in song between the Muses and the Pierides (Intermedio 2); the story of the singer Arion and his rescue by a dolphin (Intermedio 5); and the descent of Rhythm and Harmony from heaven to earth (Intermedio 6). The music for each of these scenes began with an instrumental sinfonia, and continued with a mixture of solo songs performed by virtuoso singers and elaborate choral madrigals requiring 60 singers and over 20 instruments.
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