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The business of opera in early modern Bologna: financial and social affairs in Pirro Capacelli Albergati’s notebook for Gli amici (1699)

Huub van der Linden

Résumé

The article analyses the notebook kept by the conte Pirro Capacelli Albergati for the production of the pastoral opera Gli amici at the teatro Malvezzi in Bologna in 1699. Albergati was both the composer of the music and the impresario for the production. The notebook provides not only financial information (the fees paid to singers, the orchestra, the set-designer, etc., as well as the rental of boxes and other revenue), but also contains information on the social context of the production (intermediaries, recommendations, negotiations, rehearsals, etc.). Taking this production as a case-study, the article concludes by arguing that rather than a goal in itself, opera productions functioned as a means for enacting and reinforcing social networks. A full transcription of the notebook is provided in the appendix.

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Notes de l’auteur

This article is the result of research conducted for the PerformArt project (www.performart-roma.eu). This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement nr. 681415). I am grateful to project leader Anne-Madeleine Goulet for her continuous support, and to the two anonymous reviewers of this journal for their helpful suggestions.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Besides the long article Bianconi – Walker 1984, see also Piperno 1998, and, for the later period, (...)
  • 2 In particular Bianconi – Walker 1984.
  • 3 For the methodological implications see e.g. Boutier – Marin – Romano 2005.

1The economic and organisatorial aspects of opera production are a key element in research on how the genre functioned in early modern Italy.1 Opera’s varied and shifting social and cultural functions also entailed myriad ways of trying to make the genre work economically: as a court spectacle, through indirect princely patronage, by means of solo or collective aristocratic patronage, in for-profit theatres, and often as variations on and combinations of all these various possibilities.2 Precisely because of the many different ways in which the business of opera was conducted in different places and at different times – sometimes even changing from production to production in the same theatre – detailed sources for specific theatres, impresarios, and productions are particularly effective in revealing the full operation of bringing an opera to the stage. By filling in the gaps in the slowly emerging mosaic of different solutions to the socio-economic ‘problem’ of opera in early modern Italy, we can start to identify larger trends and patterns, and make meaningful connections and comparisons.3

  • 4 On Bologna’s place within the Papal State see De Benedictis 1995. More broadly on the city see the (...)
  • 5 See Barnett 2008 on instrumental music, Crowther 1999 on the oratorio, Mioli 1981 on singers, and (...)
  • 6 Opera in Bologna has only been studied in a piecemeal fashion for this period. The best overview r (...)
  • 7 For biographies see respectively Tagliavini 1960 and Magnani Campanacci 1994. Copies of the libret (...)

2In the case of Bologna, these connections concern both its position as the second city of the Papal State, as well as its place within the Italian panorama more broadly.4 The city was a major musical centre that boasted numerous musically active churches and confraternities, as well as top-notch singers and instrumentalists united in the Accademia Filarmonica.5 Its opera theatres, however, have so far been remarkably little studied, and so the ‘Bologna piece’ of the mosaic is still largely missing.6 This article aims to make a contribution to the history of the production of opera in early modern Italy by analysing the economic and organisational background of the opera Gli amici, ultimately using it as a case-study for broader reflections on the genre’s social function. The work, a pastoral opera, was performed at the Teatro Malvezzi in Bologna between August and September 1699. The music was composed by the amateur composer conte Pirro Capacelli Albergati (1663-1735), a member of one of the most prominent aristocratic families of the city, on a libretto by Pier Jacopo Martello (1665-1727), the important literary and dramaturgical theorist.7

Fig. 1 – The title page and p. 5 of the 1699 libretto for Gli amici.

Fig. 1 – The title page and p. 5 of the 1699 libretto for Gli amici.

Bologna, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, LO.3.

  • 8 See on these respectively Ricci 1888, p. 3-71, and Ricci 1886-1887.
  • 9 Cosentino 1900.
  • 10 On the theatre see Ricci 1888, p. 119-163 and Calore 1994.
  • 11 On the Festa della Porchetta see Pigozzi – Leotti 2010, and specifically for the seventeenth centu (...)

3Bologna had a number of venues that offered musical theatre around this time, principally the Teatro Formagliari and the great hall of the Palazzo del Podestà on the city’s main square.8 In 1710 the Teatro Marsigli would open in addition to these.9 The Teatro Malvezzi, where Gli amici was performed, was Bologna’s principal aristocratically owned public theatre.10 As was the case for other regional centres, Bologna’s two opera seasons – usually between August and September, and between January and February, although this varied in some years – were chosen both to avoid competition with more important opera centres like Venice, and to coincide with the influx of foreigners on the occasion of fairs and festivals (in the case of Bologna, the principal fair was the annual Festa della Porchetta on 24 August, the culmination of a festival that opened on 14 August).11

  • 12 The notebook is in ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, and consists of 18 unnumbered folios i (...)
  • 13 See for an overview of typologies of such ego-documents Mordenti 2001. Capacelli Albergati calls i (...)

4Capacelli Albergati’s autograph notebook for the production of Gli amici – which is preserved along with other personal papers and notes in one of the numerous boxes of miscellaneous papers in the extensive Albergati archive, held in the Archivio di Stato in Bologna – contains a wealth of detailed financial and organisational information on the opera.12 Precisely this combination of economic and organisational notes in the form of a roughly chronological diary makes this document particularly valuable.13 Exactly how and when the document was compiled is not entirely clear. Some entries (e.g. on letters sent and answers received) provide condensed information concerning exchanges or events that must have occurred over multiple days, suggesting they were written some time after the facts, but differences in ink or pen and the appearance of numerous later insertions also show the notebook was not simply compiled from a pre-existing overview (see fig. 3 below as well as the note at the beginning of the appendix).

  • 14 Crowther 1999, p. 16-18.
  • 15 The work was La forza della virtù, for the libretto see Sartori 1990-1994, nr. 10875.
  • 16 On his role in Silvani’s music printing firm see Van der Linden 2015, p. 357-361; 365-369.
  • 17 See Accorsi 1999 on Martello, musical theatre, and the Bolognese Arcadia.

5Excerpts from the notebook were first published by Victor Crowther in 1999, but so far this insightful document has never been published or analysed in full.14 Although there was at least one other instance, in 1694, when Albergati was one of a group of aristocratic stake-holders of an opera production at the Teatro Malvezzi, the notebook shows that he alone bore the financial risk for Gli amici.15 As with the conte’s short-lived personal involvement with a music printing firm in Bologna between 1716 and 1717, the reason for this rather uncommon solo-patronage was probably the desire to have direct and full control over how his own music was made public (be it through performance or later through print).16 Gli amici is an interesting case within the panorama of opera in Bologna. Although they fall outside the scope of this article, the involvement of Martello, the choice for a pastoral opera – a genre that in these years had poetic and dramaturgical implications within the wider framework of various operatic genres –, the inclusion of French and Spanish ballets, and the fact that the opera was mounted a year after the official foundation of the Bolognese branch of the Accademia d’Arcadia, are all aspects for which the notebook now offers additional source material.17

  • 18 ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, Memorie per l’opera in musica da farsi nel teatro del pub (...)
  • 19 Bizzarini 2008. On the theatre see Cosentino 1900.
  • 20 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 228-234.
  • 21 Atkin 2010. L’ingresso was produced on the occasion of the duke’s wedding.

6Because of different currencies and exchange rates, different production standards, and different economic underpinnings, as well as many other factors, it is not easy to make comparisons with specific opera productions elsewhere. In order to provide some context, I therefore highlight the relative costs of Gli amici in comparison with a few other productions: a second, less comprehensive, notebook in the Albergati archive provides information on the production of Li diporti d’amore in villa – a comedy sung in Bolognese dialect – at the Teatro Pubblico (i.e. the great hall of the Palazzo del Podestà) in 1710;18 further productions used for comparison are La virtù in trionfo o sia la Griselda staged as the inaugural work at the renewed Teatro Marsigli in Bologna 1711 (with the theatre’s owner Silvio Marsigli Rossi as impresario),19 Il talamo preservato dalla fedeltà d’Eudossa at the municipal theatre in Reggio Emilia in 1683,20 and L’ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone at the Teatro Fontanelli in Modena in 1692, both of which were ultimately financially backed by the duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Francesco II d’Este (1660-1694).21

Planning and negotiating

  • 22 This is confirmed by further autograph documents and letters at the Archivio di Stato and the Muse (...)

7One of the most striking things about the notebook for Gli amici is Capacelli Albergati’s intense personal involvement with all aspects of the opera’s production, something also borne out by the fact that, except for a final balance sheet in a secretarial hand, he wrote the whole notebook himself.22 Capacelli Albergati’s continuous use of the first person singular pronoun for much of the organisatorial work (including, for instance, “I rehearsed”) further underlines this. Its content reveals his full responsibility for the event, something surely also determined by the fact that he was bringing his own composition to the stage. The first thing registered in the notebook for Gli amici (as well as in the one for Li diporti d’amore) is the booking of singers. In the case of Gli amici this started about a month and a half before opening night on 16 August 1699. Singers, and preferably star singers, had become a key element of successful opera productions, and it is unsurprising to see this also reflected in this production, both in organisatorial and financial terms.

Fig. 2 – ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, Memorie per la mia Pastorale fatta d’agosto 1699, f. 2r.

Fig. 2 – ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, Memorie per la mia Pastorale fatta d’agosto 1699, f. 2r.

ASB, Archivio Albergati.

  • 23 On Grimaldi see Speranza 2002. He was a singer in the Neapolitan Reale Cappella at the time, but p (...)
  • 24 Memorie 1709, f. 1v, 4 December 1709: “Accordai (ut supra) con Stefano Cerè per sua figlia Maria C (...)

8Capacelli Albergati’s first entry concerns his booking of La Diamantina, the Bolognese soprano Diamante Maria Scarabelli (1675-post 1725) at the beginning of July (f. 2r). She, in turn, wrote to her patron Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga, the duke of Mantua, in order to engage “Nicolino of Naples”, the soprano castrato Nicola Grimaldi (1673-1732), who was then performing in Mantua.23 Capacelli Albergati still needed a contralto and another soprano. On 15 July he wrote to Rinaldo d’Este, the duke of Modena, to ask for the alto castrato Luigi Albarelli, and to the duke of Mantua to request Francesca Vanini Boschi (†1744), but both already had other commitments (f. 2v). On 19 July Capacelli Albergati booked Maria Maddalena Bonavia (†1725) for the contralto part. The same day, after lunch, he also “had Seraffino called, and I booked his daughter”, Anna Maria Cortellini, known as La Serafina. As often with (younger) female singers, the direct negotiations were conducted with a male relative – a husband, father, or brother – rather than the woman herself. In December 1709, for example, Capacelli Albergati similarly negotiated “with Stefano Cerè for his daughter Maria Cattarina for the part of Eurillea” in Li diporti d’amore.24 With that, the principal cast was complete, as also confirmed by the printed libretto (see fig. 1): Grimaldi as Aci, Scarabelli as Filli, Cortellini as Aci’s sister Clori, and Bonavia in a trouser role as Filli’s fiancé Tirsi.

9Recommendations by employers, teachers, colleagues, family members, etc. were an integral part of the patronage system governing early modern Italian society. This was no less true for the music business, something the notebook shows quite clearly. Most of the instrumentalists for Gli amici were engaged around 18 July, probably with the double bass player Giuseppe Pesci acting as the impresario for the orchestra, because he was later charged with paying the instrumentalists (f. 2v, 4v). However, Capacelli Albergati’s aristocratic peers also recommended musicians and other men for his production. On 19 July the notebook mentions that “the marchesa Cecilia Bentivogli sent to recommend me a viola player for the orchestra, and she said he had been in Germany, and I obliged her and put him in the unfilled place for a viola” (f. 3r). The conte Filippo Calderini also recommended this unidentified “Brega”, as well as one Ercole Mei to assist at the boxes at the theatre (f. 3r-v).

  • 25 The contralto castrato Antonio Giustacchini, who a year later, at opera productions in Florence in (...)
  • 26 Later a member of the Accademia Filarmonica as a cellist, see Callegari Hill 1991, p. 201.

10On 26 July, a certain Francesco Ortolani, who “usually always serves the marchese Gasparo” Malvezzi (the owner of the theatre), came to propose himself to Capacelli Albergati as “usher at the door for the tickets” (f. 4v). As it appears, he was hired and paid 1.10 lire per evening (f. 8v). Another aristocrat, the conte Massimo Caprara, recommended the theorbist Andrea Sandi on 19 July, but Capacelli Albergati notes that he was already otherwise engaged, meaning that he had booked the theorbist Francesco Bonini, known as “Romano dalla Tiorba” (although he would later be substituted with another player). The next day, on 20 July, Capacelli Albergati wrote to Bonini’s protector Francesco Farnese, duke of Parma, to obtain his permission (f. 3r). Even a contralto was still being recommended to Capacelli Albergati at this date, perhaps because word had spread that he had been looking for one: “by the vicelegate and many ladies a certain Giostacchini, a Paduan castrato, was recommended to me, but I was already provided” (f. 3r).25 Recommendations came not just from Capacelli Albergati’s noble peers, but also worked ‘vertically’ up and down the social chain, such as when on 27 July the principal cellist Gioseffo Jachini “recommended a certain Battestino, i.e. Giovanni Battista Musi, as a viola. Because I had already made the orchestra he [Jachini] told me: for the amount I wanted”.26 Musi was hired for 15 soldi per evening, less than half what the other viola players received, probably because he was a student of Jachini’s who could in this way gain experience and some money. In the same way, the soprano La Serafina perhaps recommended one of the young girls that were initially hired to sing and dance (see below).

  • 27 Rosselli 1989 for a succinct overview. Specifically on competition between theatres see e.g. the c (...)

11Because of the itinerant lives of many of the top professionals working in musical theatre (singers, dancers, stage designers), no local production was ever truly local. Besides engaging directly with Bolognese aristocrats and musicians, Capacelli Albergati and others also contacted and involved people from outside Bologna. Diamante Scarabelli had written to the duke of Mantua, in order to request Nicola Grimaldi. Capacelli Albergati himself wrote to Parma on 20 July for Bonini, and the next day to “the prince of Tuscany”, Ferdinando Maria de’ Medici, “for a license for Seraffina, who is under his protection” (f. 3v), which he received exactly a week later. On 14 August, just two days before the premiere of Gli amici, “Francesco Conti, the theorbo virtuoso of signor cardinal De Medici, arrived from Florence at the 17th hour [c. 1 PM], whom I had sent for in place of Romano [dalla Tiorba]” (f. 11r). Part of the reason for attracting star performers from out of town was to offer the audience the excitement of a famous but never or rarely before heard voice, and thus to boost the attractiveness and prestige of the production. But at the same time, the unavailability of Capacelli Albergati’s first two choices for the contralto role of Tirsi, Luigi Albarelli and Francesca Vanini Boschi, shows that competition for top singers was very real.27

  • 28 On the Bibiena family of stage designers see Bentini – Lenzi 2000. Both Ferdinando and Francesco w (...)
  • 29 BUB, MS. 616, vol. 7, Diario delle cose più notabili succedute nella città di Bologna, p. 133: “La (...)
  • 30 The 1692 production of L’ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone in Modena also acquired pearls a (...)

12From the various entries in the notebook it emerges that obtaining the participation of either Ferdinando (1657-1743) or, more likely, his brother Francesco (1659-1739) Galli di Bibiena as a stage designer was a particular priority (the notebook names the former once, but elsewhere speaks of “Fran[ces]co”).28 On 20 July the marchese Francesco Maria Monti wrote to Mantua to obtain “Bibiena”’s participation (f. 3v), on 27 July Capacelli Albergati himself wrote to “Ferdinando Bibiena” (f. 4v), and on 2 August he sent a courier to Mantua “to try and have Francesco Bibiena for the scenery” (f. 5v). On 6 August, with a tone of relief, Capacelli Albergati recorded: “finally Francesco Bibiena, who was much desired, arrived around the 12th hour [c. 8:00], and he came to me right away with the marchese Monti, and I ordered the scenery from him, and I gave him my thoughts, and we made arrangements”. (f. 5v, see fig. 3) The effort evidently had the desired effect, because a chronicle later noted that “the fixed scenery was painted by the famous Bibiena, which was much liked”.29 Besides receiving letters and people from outside Bologna, on 5 August Capacelli Albergati also received 4,000 “jewels” (presumably glass beads) from Venice that served for the costumes.30

Fig. 3 – Part of f. 5v and 6r of the notebook, showing on the left the entries for 4 and 6 August regarding Buffagnotti and the arrival of Bibiena, and on the right the entry for 5 August regarding the 3rd rehearsal (marked to be inserted between the previous two entries).

Fig. 3 – Part of f. 5v and 6r of the notebook, showing on the left the entries for 4 and 6 August regarding Buffagnotti and the arrival of Bibiena, and on the right the entry for 5 August regarding the 3rd rehearsal (marked to be inserted between the previous two entries).

ASB, Archivio Albergati.

  • 31 Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 321.
  • 32 Probably Bernardino Landi, canon of San Petronio, member of a Bolognese family that had become wea (...)

13These examples already show (notwithstanding Capacelli Albergati’s personal management of many things) that a number of the necessary negotiations took place at least partly via intermediaries. This included the rental of the theatre. Gli amici was to be performed in Bologna’s main theatre, the Teatro Malvezzi. After securing Scarabelli and Grimaldi, the next thing listed in the notebook is that the composer, maestro di cappella, and central figure in Bologna’s music scene “signor Giacomo Perti talked to marchese Gasparo Malvezzi about the theatre, and he [Malvezzi] told him that he did not want less than 60 doppie, but that he would give it to me for 40” (f. 2r). This amounted to around 7% of the total gross cost of the production, comparable, for example, to the 8% of the total expenses for the rental of the S. Aponal theatre in Venice during the 1657-58 season.31 Capacelli Albergati similarly negotiated with Anna Maria Cortellini, La Serafina, via her father, and on 24 July he gave the double bass player Giuseppe Pesci the task of “talking about the price with the orchestra already booked, and him being the payer” (f. 4v), making him in effect a subcontractor for the orchestra. The marchese Monti appears to have been something of an agent or protector for Bibiena, because he is repeatedly mentioned in connection with the stage designer (f. 2v, 3v, 5r), although the payment of 20 doble to Bibiena was later made via the librettist of Gli amici, Pier Jacopo Martello (f. 13v). Similarly, although the castrato Nicola Grimaldi was a member of the Reale Cappella in Naples, he apparently had an agent or protector in Bologna, too, because Capacelli Albergati “agreed with the canon Landi” about the singer’s payment of 50 doppie (750 lire), and Landi housed Grimaldi in the family palace on the Via San Donato, not far from the theatre (f. 11r).32

14Traces of various negotiating tactics also emerge from the notebook. Although Malvezzi accepted a reduced price for the theatre, he evidently did not want this discount to set a precedent for future negotiations with other impresarios. Hence, on 28 July the two noblemen agreed on a price of 40 doble “with the condition of publicly saying 60 doble” (f. 4v). The same tactic was used by singers, who also had an interest in purportedly receiving higher fees than they actually did, in order to boost their perceived desirability and status. On 19 July Capacelli Albergati hired Anna Maria Cortellini, and with her father “I agreed to 30 doble, and to say 50, and around 14 performances”, for a total of 450 lire (f. 3r). Here, too, this meant that both parties would publicly state that she received 50 instead of the actual 30 doble. Coincidentally or not, the fictitious amount of 750 lire (50 doble) was almost exactly what Nicola Grimaldi actually received: 754 lire. Capacelli Albergati also agreed with Jachini that for the viola player Giovanni Battista Musi, presumably Jachini’s student, the conte would “keep the accounts separate, and to give him the total sum in one go, without anyone knowing about it” (f. 4v). Here, too, the reason was perhaps to avoid setting precedents, although exactly why silence was kept about this arrangement is unclear.

  • 33 This probably refers to the 1697 production of Il Perseo, which was “a spese del s.r marchese Fran(...)
  • 34 This “fair” is the annual festa della porchetta held on 24 August, the feast of St Bartholomew.

15Another tactic was to refrain from naming a price but to rather ask the patron for an offer (which could then always be refused or renegotiated upward). Capacelli Albergati writes that Diamante Scarabelli “did not want to give a price, and I remained with respectfully giving her what the marchese [Francesco Maria] Monti gave her the other year. The said Monti told me this was a hundred scudi”, or 500 lire (f. 2r).33 Also Maria Maddalena Bonavia, who was hired for the trouser role of Tirsi (“per far da uomo”, f. 3r), “did not want to give a price, but I said, as much as she will get in Bologna for the fair, that is 23 doble and a ducatone”, or 350 lire.34 The final list of the singers’ fees shows, however, that Bonavia was subsequently apparently able to renegotiate this to 455 lire, perhaps because she found out what the other singers were earning (f. 15v). Finally, although the opera premiered on 16 August, it was only on the morning of 20 August, after the third performance, that Capacelli Albergati agreed with Paolo Amici to give him 40 lire per evening for the illumination, although Amici had already come to talk with the conte on 25 July. This late date, too, may indicate protracted negotiations.

  • 35 E.g. the documents related to operas at the Teatro Marsigli in Bologna in 1711 transcribed in Bizz (...)
  • 36 In 1709 he signed a contract with one singer’s father (see n. 24).

16How were these numerous smaller and larger agreements documented? Documentation for other opera productions in Bologna (and elsewhere) shows transactions being recorded in writing.35 Unsurprisingly, this seems to have been particularly the case for the financially most onerous transactions. Although it does not emerge from the notebook, written agreements were perhaps made with (some of) the singers in Gli amici, because this was also the case with Li diporti d’amore in 1709.36 The notebook for Gli amici also registers that Capacelli Albergati agreed with Manzini on a fee of 270 lire for the costumes, an agreement perhaps made in writing and in any case “in the presence of marchese Antonio Albergati and the marchese my brother [Francesco Maria]” (f. 3v). A written agreement was definitely drawn up for the rental of the theatre: “at the marchese Piriteo Malvezzi’s I signed the agreement for their theatre” (f. 4v).

  • 37 Vitali – Furnari 1991, p. 44.

17Capacelli Albergati had also planned choruses with dancing as part of Gli amici. On 10 August “4 girls, who were beginners, came to sing the choruses in the French style during the ballets” (f. 10r-v). Capacelli Albergati leaves the age of these young singers open, but they were evidently teenagers. One of them, Chiara Fuga, the “daughter of the jeweller signor Francesco Fuga”, was thirteen years old at the time, and she would later continue to pursue a professional singing career.37 Another girl was quickly replaced because she was too tall or large (troppo grande). Another girl, Giulia Zanotti, lived “close to La Serafina” and may have been one of the singer’s young pupils.

  • 38 I am grateful to Gloria Giordano for confirming that contemporaneous singing and dancing was pract (...)
  • 39 On dance in Milan see Pontremoli 1999, but I have been unable to identify who this dancer was.
  • 40 On French and Italian dance in Italian opera during this period see Kuzmick Hansell 2002, p. 177-1 (...)

18The list of costumes that Capacelli Albergati commissioned included four Spanish- and French-style outfits for four female dancers, and another pair of French and Spanish costumes for the principal dancer. The notebook records only the hiring of this principal dancer, and it seems clear that the four young female singers hired to sing the choruses were also supposed to dance, presumably in the French and Spanish styles, as the costumes suggest.38 As the principal dancer, Capacelli Albergati wanted to bring in a French woman from Milan. On 21 July he wrote to the governor of Milan, Charles Henri de Lorraine, prince of Vaudémont, in order “for him to give me for my Pastoral his famous French dancer, the wife of a certain painter” (f. 4r).39 By 10 August, however, it was clear that she could not be obtained, and instead Capacelli Albergati hired “a certain Frenchman […] who happened to be in Bologna by chance, but a great dancer”. This Frenchman received a dobla (15 lire) per performance, for a total of 240 lire (f. 10r, 17v). As with Capacelli Albergati’s attempts to hire either the castrato Albarelli or a female singer for the (male) role of Tirsi, the switch from a female to a male dancer was evidently less important than that he or she were French.40 During a rehearsal in the theatre two days later, however, “the choruses with ballets did not achieve their effect because the girls were beginners in keeping time, so that the dancer could not dance, and thus I removed them [the girls], and decided [to keep] just the dancer” (f. 10v). The fact that the titlepage of the libretto still mentions “ballerine francesi” makes clear that it had already been printed at this point (see fig. 1).

  • 41 Modern hours are circa 4 hours earlier (at this time of the year) than those calculated from sunse (...)

19Usually we know little about the rehearsal process of early modern opera productions, but the notebook for Gli amici provides a relatively detailed account. On the evening of 20 July, Capacelli Albergati sent Diamante Scarabelli her part (no such information is recorded for the other singers, who perhaps received their music only at the first rehearsal) (f. 3r). No details are known about the copying, only a total amount of 38 lire for the “copying of music” is listed in the general overview of expenses (f. 17v). The first rehearsal took place on 28 July, starting around 7 PM and finishing around 11 PM.41 Besides candlesticks and wax, also two casks of fruit were brought in, one of them paired with bergamot-flavoured water and lattate (a sorbet-like beverage), and the other one with wine for the instrumentalists. The same refreshments were also provided during the other rehearsals. The week between the first and second rehearsal was used to tailor the music better to the singers’ voices, and at the second rehearsal, on 3 August, “the parts had been adjusted, and it went better”. Much later, between the tenth and eleventh performances, “an aria with theorbo and mandolin in the 3rd act” for Bonavia was added, “that is, changed” (f. 14r).

20During the fifth rehearsal, on 8 August, the singers “rose to their feet for the first time”, suggesting it was the first time they sang by heart and/or started acting. The next day Capacelli Albergati adjusted the rehearsal site, “in order that they rehearse standing up, and it went well”. All of these rehearsals still took place in a secondary location, as is clear from his comment on the rehearsal on 11 August: “I rehearsed for the first time in the theatre”. The rehearsal site was probably the Capacelli Albergati family palazzo in Via Saragozza. The next day the choruses sung by the young girls were cut, as said above, but things still “went well”, and the day after that witnessed the general rehearsal, which lasted two hours and also “went well”.

  • 42 The first two were probably Giovanni Antonio and Francesco Maria Magagnoli, who appear as text cop (...)

21A few further men were employed to support the musical side of the production. The two harpsichords were tuned by Giuseppe Paradossi for one testone (30 soldi) per performance, and he did the same for free for all of the rehearsals (f. 5r). Four men were hired as prompters, “all of them used to doing this, practiced, and gentlemen” (f. 6r). Two of them were the twin Magagnoli brothers, who were paid 15 lire, and the other two were Giovanni Battista Monti and his assistant, who were paid 20 lire.42 Three days after the general rehearsal Gli amici premiered. The only major incident during the run of performances was caused by the attempted arrest of the conte Francesco Ranuzzi at the theatre on 22 August. The police entered the theatre hall ready to fire – “with their rifles lowered and the hammers down” –, thus causing chaos and panic (f. 12r-13r).

Tab. 1 – An overview of the rehearsals for Gli amici as recorded in the notebook.

Nr. Rehearsal dates Comment Start End
1 28 July (Tuesday) 19:00 23:00
2 3 August (Monday) music adjusted 19:00 23:00
3 5 August (Wednesday) La Serafina absent 20:00 00:00
4 7 August (Friday) gentlemen friends present 20:00 00:00
5 8 August (Saturday) 1st rehearsal in feet 23:00
6 9 August (Sunday) site adjusted; nobility present 20:00 00:00
7 11 August (Tuesday) 1st rehearsal in the theatre 21:00 00:00
8 12 August (Wednesday) choruses-with-ballet excised 01:00
9 13 August (Thursday) general rehearsal 20:30 22:30

Financial arrangements

  • 43 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174-176, not including further travel and lodging expenses.
  • 44 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 230, this number does not include the singers’ travel expenses.
  • 45 Atkin 2010, p. 218, referring respectively to Flavio Cuniberto and L’ingresso alla gioventù di Cla (...)
  • 46 I give the amounts converted to the lira bolognese; the amounts given in Atkin 2010, p. 215, range (...)

22As said, star singers were often the linchpin of a successful opera production, but exactly for that reason they were also one of its greatest financial burdens. Competition between theatres and patrons across Italy and beyond drove up the fees that top singers could demand and gave them leeway in negotiations. Out of the total gross cost of 8,302 lire for the full run of Gli amici, fees for the singers made up 2,571 lire (31%), the largest single chunk out of the budget. The production of La virtù in trionfo at the Teatro Marsigli in 1711, with roughly similar economic underpinnings, spent 2,390 out of 5,642 lire (42%) on singers’ fees, with individual fees ranging from 120 to 450 lire.43 By comparison with the operas sponsored by the Este dukes this appears to be on the lower end of the bandwidth: in Reggio Emilia in 1683 singers’ fees accounted for 43% of the total cost (which, however, did not include the rental of a theatre, ultimately owned by the duke himself),44 and in Modena in 1688 and 1692 payment to singers added up to 70% and 44% of the gross cost.45 In absolute terms those fees were often higher as well: in the latter production, for instance, singers were paid between 300 and 750 lire.46

Fig. 4 – Diagram of relative costs of the production of Gli amici based on the overview on f. 17v. Amounts over 200 lire are individually listed, the rest is included under “other”.

Fig. 4 – Diagram of relative costs of the production of Gli amici based on the overview on f. 17v. Amounts over 200 lire are individually listed, the rest is included under “other”.

H. van der Linden.

  • 47 Most names (see n. 81) are identifiable via Gambassi 1989, Gambassi 1987, and Callegari Hill 1991.
  • 48 The initial total of 49.10 lire is emended at f. 17v.
  • 49 Their names are at f. 6v. In this case, “cembali” probably means cymbals instead of harpsichords.

23Although less important in the overall budget, the orchestra for Gli amici was also quickly booked. The notebook includes an initial list (f. 2v) of 20 instrumentalists (with Musi, mentioned above, added later).47 Each was paid between 2 and 4 lire per performance, for a total cost per performance of 51.15 lire, although this sum does not include payment to the first harpsichordist Giacomo Perti and the theorbist Francesco Conti.48 The highest-paid players that actually figure on the list are the second harpsichordist Domenico Sgabazzi, the first cellist Gioseffo Jachini, and the double bass player and orchestra impresario Giuseppe Pesci, who would have earned 4 lire × 16 performances = 64 lire for the full run. On 6 August Capacelli Albergati hired a further six musicians in the role of “six shepherds who will accompany an aria with drums and cymbals” (f. 6r).49 From the fact that costumes were commissioned for them it is clear that they performed on stage. For this one aria they each received 10 soldi per performance.

  • 50 Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 277-292 showed the same for Venice. On seventeenth-century Roman opera co (...)
  • 51 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174: “Al sig. Antonio Spisi per tutto il vestiario, L. 480”.
  • 52 Bentini – D’Amico 1979, p. 142 for reference to Ludovico Scarani and his sons Lazzaro and Leone as (...)

24The costumes worn by the singers and dancers of Gli amici accounted for a surprisingly large part of the total cost of the production (1,804 lire or 21%), even considering that costumes often were an important part of the budget of early modern opera productions.50 The 1711 production at the Teatro Marsigli, for example, appears to have spent just 480 lire (8,5%) on “all the costumes”.51 In the case of Gli amici the high relative cost was probably due to the number of costumes and the fact that they were all newly made. The notebook first mentions the singers’ costumes on 21 July, when Capacelli Albergati records that he spoke to Marc’Antonio Manzini, presumably the tailor. The next day “I agreed with Manzini about the costumes; me giving him the material, and him doing the work, and dress them as usual”. Manzini would be paid 270 lire for his work, a considerable sum, and the notebook specifies the 20 costumes required: 4 singers, 6 shepherds, Spanish and French costumes for 4 dancers, and two more for the principal dancer (f. 3v-4r). Later the same day, Capacelli Albergati agreed with the silk merchant Leone Scarani to “get from him everything needed for the costumes, and that he gives everything to the said Manzini that he asked for, with a receipt”, followed by a list of materials (f. 4r).52 In early August, Manzini also received the 4,000 “jewels” mentioned above, as well as strings of pearls (f. 6r).

  • 53 Although the libretto is ambiguous, mentioning both “scene” and “la scena” (see fig. 1), the chron (...)
  • 54 Memorie 1710, f. 2r.
  • 55 Giacomo Antonio Amici also was responsible for the lighting at the Teatro Marsigli in 1711, see Bi (...)
  • 56 Idem, p. 173. Some further expenses for materials were made in addition.
  • 57 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 231.

25As is already apparent from the considerable efforts made to secure Galli di Bibiena as a stage designer, the scenery was an important part of the production, both conceptually and financially, even though it appears that only one fixed boschereccia scene was made.53 The final cost overview lists “for the scenery etc.” an amount of 604 lire (7% of the total), which probably included the 20 doble (300 lire) paid to the stage designer himself (f. 13v). Lighting constituted an even larger chunk of the total cost: Paolo Amici, the light designer and operator, received just over 40 lire per evening for his work (for a total of 663 lire), an amount that probably included (some) materials and payments to assistants. An additional 99 lire was spent on wax (f. 17v), which, however, may have been for the illumination of the theatre itself. It is noteworthy that scenery and lighting cost far less for Li diporti d’amore in 1710. The scenes for that production were designed by the Bolognese musician, engraver, and stage designer Carlo Buffagnotti (1660-post 1715), who agreed to make two scenes and the proscenium for a fee of 210 lire.54 Lighting for Li diporti d’amore was provided by Giacomo Antonio Amici – undoubtedly a relative of Paolo – for 13 lire per evening.55 The lower costs of scenes and illumination for Li diporti d’amore may have several motives, but both the genre (a comedy with commedia dell’arte-like characters as opposed to a Pastoral) and the performance location (not a stable theatre but a large hall) probably played some part. At the Teatro Marsigli in 1711, Buffagnotti was paid 480 lire as his “provision for the scenes” and a little over 8 lire in “recognition”, which makes clear the distinction between the payment for actually producing the scenes and his personal fee.56 In Reggio Emilia in 1683 the painter of the scenes was paid 1,100 Modenese lire (5,9% of the total, c. 458 lire bolognesi) and a further 1,860 lire (9,9%, c. 775 lire bolognesi) was spent on materials that were probably used to construct the scenes.57

  • 58 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174 documents a print run of 900 copies for La virtù in trionfo o sia la Grisel (...)

26The printing press was also employed for various items: the libretto, the tickets, and the posters (cartelli) that advertised the performance and ticket prices. For Gli amici all three are documented in the notebook. On 3 August Capacelli Albergati reached an agreement with Buffagnotti that entailed that he “makes for me 3 plates for 3 types of tickets, at ½ a genovina for each plate. And to print 500 of them for each type, at 15 soldi for each thousand”. A day later Capacelli Albergati also asked him to make the engraved frontispice of the libretto for ½ a genovina (f. 5v). Given this information, Buffagnotti would have received 15.2.6 lire in total. The notebook later also lists 60 “posters on half sheets with the rental [price] of the boxes” and 108 sheets of “carta mezzana” for the printing of the box tickets (their cost is presumably included in the 57 lire of unspecified print-related expenses). Further expenses were for the printing of 1,000 librettos and decorative paper and cardboard to bind them in (f. 9r). Such an apparently low print run – a little over 62 librettos on average per evening for the sixteen performances – is in fact also documented elsewhere.58 The capacity of the theatre was of course much greater. That not more librettos were printed suggests there was good reason to believe that either many audience members would not buy a copy, or that many would attend multiple performances but buy a libretto only once.

Fig. 5 – The engraved frontispice by Carlo Buffagnotti from the libretto for Gli amici.

Fig. 5 – The engraved frontispice by Carlo Buffagnotti from the libretto for Gli amici.

Bologna, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, LO.3.

Tab. 2 – An overview of the costs for engravings, paper, and printing for Gli amici.

3 engravings for 3 types of tickets (Buffagnotti) £ 10.10.—
Printing of 500 copies of each ticket (Buffagnotti) £ 1.  2.  6
Engraving of the frontispice of the libretto (Buffagnotti) £ 3.10.—
60 half-sheet posters with prices of boxes
108 sheets of “carta mezzana” for the box tickets
Printing of 1,000 copies of the libretto £ 126.—.—
33 pieces of cardboard to bind the librettos in £ 4.  2.  6
4 sheets of paper with gold arabesques £ 2.  8.—
8 sheets of French-style marbled paper £ —  8.—
                  Total accounted for £ 149.  1.—
                 Unaccounted for £ 57.14.—
             “For printing and other things” (f. 17v) £ 207.15.—
  • 59 Not 16 boxes per tier, as is stated in all the previous literature on the theatre. The actual numb (...)
  • 60 Atkin 2010, p. 256.

27Revenue came from the rental of boxes for the full run of performances and from single ticket sales. The first mention of the rental of boxes comes on July 21, 1699, when Capacelli Albergati records that “the ladies started to make requests about the boxes” (f. 3v). The detailed list of the boxes rented for the full run of performances starts on 2 August and continues steadily through 15 August, the day before the premiere. The Teatro Malvezzi had four tiers of seventeen boxes each (marked by letters on the ground floor and numbers on the other tiers).59 Except for the more expensive central boxes directly in front of the stage, the ground-floor and 1st-tier boxes cost 60 lire while 2nd-tier ones cost 50 lire for the full season (f. 7r-8r). Boxes were rented by both male and female members of the principal aristocratic families of Bologna, as well as by other notable families, and the rector of the Collegio di Spagna. The information on who occupied which box provides material for a more detailed socio-cultural analysis of how Bolognese society was (or was not) reflected at the theatre during this run of performances, but, like other aspects of the performance, this falls outside the limits of the present article. From the production point of view, these full-season rentals brought in 1,340 lire, or 22,5% of the total listed revenue (which, as we will see, does not include the sale of librettos, food, and beverages). In comparison, at opera productions in Modena in 1688, 1692, and 1700 the rental of boxes brought in respectively 15%, 15%, and 27% of the revenue.60

  • 61 On opera audiences see, for Venice, Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 295-322.

28The notebook also lists the prices for single tickets, showing that these ranged from 12 lire for the central box on the ground floor, to 10 soldi for either the upper circle (ringhiera), high up in the theatre above the 4th-tier boxes, or a bench seat (f. 8v). The notebook does not specify how many of each tickets type was sold, but only gives the total box office receipts for each performance. Nothing is known about who attended the performances by buying single tickets for the remaining boxes and the cheaper seats, but this audience must have included both aristocrats – such as the conte Ranuzzi, who we know attended because he caused a brawl, but who did not have a box for the full season – and people of lower social ranks.61 The revenue per performance oscillated between 166 and 475 lire. No particular pattern is discernable, except for the fact that the performance on 24 August, the one that coincided with the annual Festa della Porchetta, was the highest grossing one, followed by the premiere as the second-highest. A note following these ticket prices states: “4 per cent to those that supervise”, which seems to mean that the various ushers and attendants collectively received 4% of the ticket sales (f. 8v). The revenue of the sale of single tickets (i.e. excluding the rental of boxes for the full run of performances) was 4,607 lire, which would have meant the ushers divided 184.28 lire between them.

  • 62 BUB, MS. 616, vol. 5, Diario delle cose più notabili, p. 88-89 for his involvement.

29Additional revenue came from the sale of librettos, food, and drinks, but the notebook does not include these monies in the final balance sheet or give much detail about them. Nevertheless, some of the financial arrangements do emerge from the notebook. Curiously, for some reason it also includes a sorbet account from 1694 with 14 entries, which add up to the considerable sum of 446 lire. This list probably relates to the 14 performances of La forza della virtù at the Teatro Malvezzi in May and June 1694, for which Capacelli Albergati was one of the six aristocratic stake-holders.62 Why the account is included in the notebook for 1699 is not clear, but it gives an idea of what the gross revenue for such sales could be at the Teatro Malvezzi during these years.

30The arrangements for the sale of food and drinks were various. On 21 July Capacelli Albergati records that “Maestro Gioseppe di Maria asked me for the food stall” (botteghino da mangiare) (f. 3v). Further on in the notebook, on 13 August, he writes that he agreed to grant Di Maria the food stall and for the latter to “give me every evening one genoina” (6.10 lire), which amounts to a total of 104 lire for the full run. Later in the notebook Capacelli Albergati listed revenue of 8 lire for “the rental of the drinks stall” (botteghino dell’acque) and 6,10 lire for a separate wine stall (f. 9r). This probably refers to the rental of the physical stalls themselves, because on 14 August Capacelli Albergati agreed with one Pietro della Vedova that he could operate the drinks stall “with him giving me every evening eight paoli [80 soldi], an arrangement I would not have made with others” (f. 11r). For the sixteen performances of Gli amici, this arrangement brought Capacelli Albergati 64 lire in total, which indeed appears to have been a favour to Della Vedova, considering that the 1694 sorbet account includes one instance when that amount was made on a single evening.

  • 63 At the Teatro Rossi Marsigli the production cost of librettos was a little lower at 2 soldi per li (...)
  • 64 Ricci 1888, p. 93 and 99 for librettos from 1698, 1709 and 1711 at the Teatro Formagliari that cos (...)
  • 65 A similar profit rate was made in Reggio Emilia in 1683, see Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 232.

31Giuseppe Di Maria, who manned the food stall, also sold librettos (“also the librettos to be sold, and to him one soldo for each one that he sells” [f. 11r]). The 1,000 librettos cost around 136 lire to produce (counting the engraved frontispice, printing, and binding), or 2 soldi and 8½ denari per libretto.63 We do not know the retail price of librettos for this specific production, but diaries inform us that librettos cost between 10 and 15 soldi in Bologna at the time, probably depending on the length (i.e. the amount of paper used).64 The retail price for Gli amici was presumably the same. In any case, Capacelli Albergati must have made a decent margin of profit on the sale of librettos, probably at least 5 soldi per libretto if they were sold at 10 soldi, or some 250 lire in total if all 1,000 copies were sold.65 All this shows that Capacelli Albergati must in any case have had some more revenue than just the ticket sales and box rentals listed on f. 18r, which presumably reduced the net loss recorded there.

32From an analysis of the notebook, a range of financial arrangements has emerged, which show a correlation between high earners and lump-sum payment: most of the highest-paid participants – the singers, the stage designer, the tailor – were paid a lump sum covering the full run of performances. There were also exceptions in both senses: one of the lowest-paid participants, the viola player Giovanni Battista Musi, received a lump sum, whereas the high-paid lighting designer Paolo Amici received 40 lire per evening. Most of the others – the orchestra members, other on-stage performers, and the various ushers and attendants – received incremental payment, either a fixed fee per performance or a percentage of specific revenue flows. Others still, like Giuseppe di Maria and Pietro della Vedova, were a kind of subcontractors who bought out Capacelli Albergati for a fixed price per evening and got to keep the proceeds from the food and beverages they sold.

  • 66 See Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 233-234, and Bizzarini 2008, p. 176.

33Despite all these different arrangements, which on the surface suggest that the production of Gli amici was treated as a commercial affair, the salient number on the bottom line is the 2,354 lire that Capacelli Albergati declared as a net loss, 28% of the 8,302 lire he invested in the production. Similar rates are documented elsewhere: the production in Reggio Emilia in 1683 lost 4,644 on 17,633 Modenese lire (26%), and the Autumn 1711 production at the Teatro Marsigli in Bologna lost 1,404 on 5,642 lire (25%).66 Capacelli Albergati could no doubt afford to lose this money, and the high percentage shows that he probably never expected to make a profit or even break even in the first place.

  • 67 See e.g. De Lucca 2011 on such collective patronage in seventeenth-century Rome, and for collectiv (...)
  • 68 See Atkin 2010, p. 232-309 (p. 208-209 for the quotations) for extensive analysis of the role and (...)

34Where does this leave the 1699 production of Gli amici within the constellation of various ‘solutions’ to the issue of how to make opera work? The particularity of Gli amici was that, although the work was staged in a for-pay public theatre, the composer, impresario, and financial backer were one and the same person. To some degree, Capacelli Albergati’s full control over the production of Gli Amici resembled the direct patronage of an absolute ruler. Yet although he probably did not expect to make a profit and was in full control, he nonetheless went through the fineries of different business arrangements and negotiations that only made relatively small differences to the overall financial outcome of the production. That kind of detailed bookkeeping is more easily explained for productions with multiple financial stake-holders, as was the case with collective patronage.67 In the case of direct princely or aristocratic patronage, often no balance sheet was made for an individual production. The costs (and revenue, if there was any) flowed directly from (or into) the prince’s coffers. In the case of indirect princely sponsorship, Paul Atkin’s conclusion about the accounting for L’ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone, and ducally sponsored opera in Modena in general, may well be generalised: in the end “the sums themselves are an irrelevance” because the duke covered the impresario’s losses, and these productions were underpinned “by an accounting system that moved money around to cover money moved around”.68

  • 69 This tension was of course typical of the genre in general, see the seminal observations in Bianco (...)

35It is hard to gauge how (un)common personal notebooks such as the one analysed here were at the time, but the document’s status as both an ego-document – autograph and in the first person singular – and an account book reflects the tension between the appearance of the production as a commercial activity, with detailed and different financial arrangements, sales figures, and negotiations on the one hand, and as an emblem of aristocratic patronage and largesse, as summed up in the loss the production made, on the other.69

Opera as a platform for gifts and favours

  • 70 Martello 1715, §5.90: “in servigio di qualche principe che, non per guadagno, ma per gala e per li (...)
  • 71 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 260. This extended also to aristocratic opera patronage in private resi (...)

36Part of the answer is, of course, that the money Capacelli Albergati lost had an immaterial return in positively influencing his status among his aristocratic peers and the city as a whole. Years later, Gli amici’s librettist Pier Jacopo Martello referred explicitly to this tension in his Della tragedia antica e moderna. He writes that for a literary-minded librettist it is easier to work for a prince, who “not for profit, but out of splendour and liberality wants to offer to the nobility, more than to the populace, a splendid and elegant performance with music”, rather than for a commercial impresario.70 This situation, that of opera as an instrumentum regni to display princely authority through conspicuous consumption was according to Martello the ideal for maintaining high-minded literary and theatrical standards.71 However, more interesting, in a way, is Martello’s defence of the more common compromise between profit and largesse:

  • 72 Martello 1715, §5.96: “nella mia patria alle volte reggersi l’opere, benché venali, da’ cavalieri, (...)

in my home-town, operas, even those that have to make money, are at times staged by gentlemen [cavalieri], who temper the avidity of the impresario to the point that he does not take over all that which pleases the honest people and the letterati, of which Bologna is the hometown.72

  • 73 Frigo 1985.

37This view of ‘genteel’ patronage as tempering impresarial venality provides a useful key to understanding aristocratic or patrician opera patronage more generally in contrast to both the princely and the fully commercial models. As opposed to princely largesse and impresarial venality, collective or solo aristocratic patronage was, in a way, ‘tempered’ or moderate, reflecting the Aristotelian ethos of virtus in medio. (Aristotle is in fact Martello’s fictional interlocutor for the dialogue form in which Della tragedia antica e moderna is written, although he was of course chosen because of his writings on theatre rather than those on ethics.) Keeping detailed accounts and balance sheets even when no profit was to be expected can be viewed as a reflection of this ethos of moderate liberality, guided by a balanced and prudent attitude.73 In turn, however, precisely this attitude of moderation as a basic principle subsequently made granting favours and giving gifts more significant.

  • 74 On the system of favours and reccomendations see e.g. McLean 2007 (largely valid also for our late (...)
  • 75 The balance sheet on f. 17v lists nearly the same amount, 84.7.6 lire, for the “poetry”.
  • 76 The conte himself spent 137 lire on “lunch for the musicians” (f. 17v), but it is not clear if thi (...)

38For example, Capacelli Albergati’s arrangement with Della Vedova about the drinks stall was explicitly one he “would not have made with others” (f. 11r). But as we saw, recommendations from and favours to specific persons played an explicit role throughout the production, which as a whole functioned within the early modern dynamic of gifts, favours, and counter-gifts.74 The production’s functioning within this context is also apparent from the way in which some participants received payment. Capacelli Albergati paid Martello, his librettist, by sending him “a Roman silver tray worth 16 Roman scudi [80 lire] with 12 printed librettos on it”, rather than cash (f. 12r).75 On the morning of the last performance, 10 September, he took a group of fourteen people, including the singers, to visit the Albergati family’s villa at Zola Predosa, outside Bologna, “because they had asked me to; and having returned I prepared them a lunch in Bologna”. This lunch combined multiple gifts. Capacelli Albergati’s brother offered some fowls that left the conte “very embarrassed by such generosity without merit” (f. 14v).76 The way the singers were paid during this lunch is in particular emblematic of the ambiguous status of the production between commercial activity and princely patronage. Rather than paying them in straightforward cash or through a bank (far from uncommon at the time), Capacelli Albergati gifted “the 4 singers each with a coloured peacock, with around its neck a purse of crimson velvet with inside the payment in many overflowing genovine that had been made to shine, and this on top of a silver basin” (f. 15r). Although they had negotiated over fees, the social fiction of a magnanimous gift was maintained, again implying something closer to the patronage of a sovereign prince.

39In fact, rather than merely viewing the production of an opera as reliant upon the practices of gift-giving and exchanging favours, it can be viewed more instrumentally as a platform for such practices: that is to say, bringing an opera to the stage was perhaps not so much the goal as it was the instrument for (re-)activating client-patron ties and exchanging gifts and favours. This included the preparations as well as the actual performances. As the pope’s representative, the cardinal-legate Ferdinando D’Adda was the highest authority in the city. On the day of the second performance, 18 August, Capacelli Albergati states that the cardinal was the “owner” (possessore) of the central box of the 2nd tier for all the performances, but “His Eminence left the key with me” (a counter-gift of sorts). The cardinal was also sent a copy of the libretto “bound in gilt paper and ribbons, and 11 copies in French paper and gilt edges”. Also the vice-legate cardinal Antonio Vidman and his maestro di camera were given a copy bound in “gilt paper with a blue background and ribbons, and five as above in French paper”. The archbishop of Bologna, Giacomo Boncompagni, gave notice in the morning that he was going to attend the opera in the evening, and he was given a box at the theatre “as usual, and without decorations” (f. 11v).

40The cardinal-legate eventually attended the performance on Sunday 30 August along with the cardinal vice-legate and the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia pro tempore Antonio Campeggi. The notebook describes in some detail the ceremonial that was observed during his visit. The box was decorated with red damask “(in the usual way)”, Capacelli Albergati himself received the cardinal and accompanied him to his box while two of the conte’s relatives attended each with a candelabra, and “as soon as they were in the box, the overture started”. Next, Capacelli Albergati presented a libretto and candle to each of them on a silver tray, and at the end of the opera “one does not lower the curtain until His Eminence has left” (f. 13v-14r). As a counter-gift, cardinal D’Adda reciprocated by offering “generous refreshments to the nobility”, set up in a large room in the theatre (f. 14r). For the box taken by Capacelli Albergati’s sister-in-law and his sister “I did not want anything” (f. 8r), and also the canon Bernardino Landi received a free box for the whole run of performances, in his case in exchange for lodging one of the singers in his house (f. 11r). Besides the compulsory tickets for the two law-enforcement offices (f. 8v), to the singers, too, were given “boxes and tickets as they wish, as well as to the instrumentalists” (f. 15r). Of course, the seats and boxes themselves also had a clear hierarchy, with the cardinal-legate being assigned the central box.

  • 77 E.g. Cosentino 1910, p. 39; 52, for such fund-raisers for a section of the covered portico leading (...)
  • 78 For an overview of civic ritual in Bologna and its role in tying together different social groups (...)

41In these different ways the performances became a setting for gift-giving and for signalling social hierarchies. Many of these gifts concerned the full run of performances, but such favours and gifts could of course also be bestowed in connection to specific performances, either to a specific person or by having a particular performance function as a gift (such as, for example, the habit of holding ‘fund-raising’ performances).77 The particularity of an opera production as compared to other social, ritual, or artistic events or transactions was, arguably, that it offered countless opportunities for gifts and favours. Seen in this way, an opera production was a perfect socio-cultural and economic platform, a pretext even, for the simultaneous enactment of numerous and diverse social interactions. Opera performances were elaborate, culturally prominent events, which by engaging agents from different social ranks and professions in various capacities, as well as by their nature as an extended series of performance events, offered countless possibilities for patrons like Capacelli Albergati to give gifts and bestow favours. Like other civic rituals, they formed, for him personally and for the city as a whole, a framework for reinforcing the ties within the city’s social fabric, for building cross-connections between numerous people, up and down the social hierarchy (either directly or through longer patronage chains) as well as horizontally within social groups.78

Appendix

42Bologna, Archivio di Stato, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51. Most abbreviations have been resolved in italics. The document is in Pirro Capacelli Albergati’s own hand, with the exception of f. 17v-18r which are in a secretarial hand. Some phrases or words that were clearly added later (in the same hand) are placed between < >. A number of the later insertions that are longer are cross-referenced to the place in the notebook where they should go through pairs of symbols (see fig. 3 for one such pair). These are here rendered as an asterisk followed by the folio to which it refers: e.g. on f. 2v, *3r refers to a fragment marked *2v that can be found on f. 3r. The following money and coins are mentioned (the lira is the lira bolognese):

  • dobla or doppia = 15 lire
  • geno[v]ina = 6½ lire (6 lire and 10 soldi)
  • lira = 20 soldi = 240 denari
  • paolo = 10 soldi
  • scudo romano = 5 lire
  • soldo = 12 denari
  • testone = 30 soldi (1 lira and 10 soldi)
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Bibliographie

Archives

ASB = Archivio di Stato di Bologna

BUB = Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna

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Morselli 1998 = R. Morselli, Collezioni e quadrerie nella Bologna del Seicento: inventari, 1640-1707, Los Angeles, 1998.

Oriol 2016 = É. Oriol, Engagements et circulation des artistes au XVIIIe siècle : le cas des théâtres Alibert et Argentina de Rome, in Diasporas, 26, 2016, p. 93-113.

Pigozzi – Leotti 2010 = M. Pigozzi, U. Leotti (eds.), La festa della Porchetta a Bologna: fra tradizione popolare, arte e pubblico spettacolo, Loreto, 2010.

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Pontremoli 1999 = A. Pontremoli, Intermedio spettacolare e danza teatrale a Milano fra Cinque e Seicento, Milan, 1999.

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Ricci 1886-1887 = C. Ricci, Il teatro Formagliari in Bologna (1636-1802), in Atti e Memorie della R. Deputazione di Storia Patria per l’Emilia e la Romagna, s. III, 5, 1886-1887, p. 425-456.

Ricci 1888 = C. Ricci, I teatri di Bologna nei secoli XVII and XVIII: Storia aneddotica, Bologna, 1888.

Rosselli 1984 = J. Rosselli, The opera industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: the role of the impresario, Cambridge, 1984.

Rosselli 1989 = J. Rosselli, From princely service to the open market: singers of Italian opera and their patrons, 1600-1850, in Cambridge Opera Journal, 1-1, 1989, p. 1-32.

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Speranza 2002 = E. Speranza, s.v. Grimaldi, Nicola, in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, retrieved on May 2, 2018, www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/nicola-grimaldi_(Dizionario-Biografico)/

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Terpstra 1999 = N. Terpstra, Civic self-fashioning in renaissance Bologna: historical and scholarly contexts, in Renaissance studies, 13-4, 1999, p. 389-396.

Van der Linden 2015 = H. van der Linden, Profit, patronage and the cultural politics of music printing in eighteenth-century Italy: the family and finances of Giuseppe Antonio Silvani, in R. Kirwan, S. Mullins (ed.), Specialist markets in the early modern book world, Leiden, 2015, p. 351-369.

Van der Linden 2016 = H. van der Linden, Benedetto Pamphilj in Bologna (1690–3): documents on his patronage of music, in Royal musical association research chronicle, 47, 2016, p. 87-144.

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Zemon Davis 2000 = N. Zemon Davis, The gift in sixteenth-century France, Oxford, 2000.

 

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Notes

1 Besides the long article Bianconi – Walker 1984, see also Piperno 1998, and, for the later period, Rosselli 1984. See Holmes 1993 and Glixon – Glixon 2006 for monographic treatment of early modern Italian opera impresarios.

2 In particular Bianconi – Walker 1984.

3 For the methodological implications see e.g. Boutier – Marin – Romano 2005.

4 On Bologna’s place within the Papal State see De Benedictis 1995. More broadly on the city see the various contributions in Prosperi 2008.

5 See Barnett 2008 on instrumental music, Crowther 1999 on the oratorio, Mioli 1981 on singers, and Callegari Hill 1991 and Gambassi 1992 on the Accademia Filarmonica.

6 Opera in Bologna has only been studied in a piecemeal fashion for this period. The best overview remains Ricci 1888.

7 For biographies see respectively Tagliavini 1960 and Magnani Campanacci 1994. Copies of the libretto are listed in Sartori 1990-1994, nr. 1240. The music has not survived.

8 See on these respectively Ricci 1888, p. 3-71, and Ricci 1886-1887.

9 Cosentino 1900.

10 On the theatre see Ricci 1888, p. 119-163 and Calore 1994.

11 On the Festa della Porchetta see Pigozzi – Leotti 2010, and specifically for the seventeenth century Maule 1980.

12 The notebook is in ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, and consists of 18 unnumbered folios in the narrow upright format typical of a so-called vacchetta, often used for accounts.

13 See for an overview of typologies of such ego-documents Mordenti 2001. Capacelli Albergati calls it his memorie on f. 1r, and ricordi varii on f. 2r.

14 Crowther 1999, p. 16-18.

15 The work was La forza della virtù, for the libretto see Sartori 1990-1994, nr. 10875.

16 On his role in Silvani’s music printing firm see Van der Linden 2015, p. 357-361; 365-369.

17 See Accorsi 1999 on Martello, musical theatre, and the Bolognese Arcadia.

18 ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, Memorie per l’opera in musica da farsi nel teatro del publico su la sala, intitolata “I diporti d’amore in villa” (henceforth cited as Memorie 1709). This document will be published in full elsewhere.

19 Bizzarini 2008. On the theatre see Cosentino 1900.

20 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 228-234.

21 Atkin 2010. L’ingresso was produced on the occasion of the duke’s wedding.

22 This is confirmed by further autograph documents and letters at the Archivio di Stato and the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica, both in Bologna.

23 On Grimaldi see Speranza 2002. He was a singer in the Neapolitan Reale Cappella at the time, but performed in Mantua in La fede ne’ tradimenti (Sartori 1990-1994, nr. 9873).

24 Memorie 1709, f. 1v, 4 December 1709: “Accordai (ut supra) con Stefano Cerè per sua figlia Maria Cattarina per la parte di Eurillea per £ 300.—, come per scrittura”.

25 The contralto castrato Antonio Giustacchini, who a year later, at opera productions in Florence in 1700, was also named as a virtuoso of the duke of Mantua, see Weaver – Right Weaver 1978, p. 187.

26 Later a member of the Accademia Filarmonica as a cellist, see Callegari Hill 1991, p. 201.

27 Rosselli 1989 for a succinct overview. Specifically on competition between theatres see e.g. the case-study regarding late eighteenth-century Rome in Oriol 2016.

28 On the Bibiena family of stage designers see Bentini – Lenzi 2000. Both Ferdinando and Francesco were under the protection of the duke of Parma at the time.

29 BUB, MS. 616, vol. 7, Diario delle cose più notabili succedute nella città di Bologna, p. 133: “La scena stabile fu dipinta dal famoso Bibiena, che fu molto piaciuta”.

30 The 1692 production of L’ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone in Modena also acquired pearls and beads from Venice, see Atkin 2010, p. 201-203.

31 Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 321.

32 Probably Bernardino Landi, canon of San Petronio, member of a Bolognese family that had become wealthy through the production of glass. On the family and its art collection see Morselli 1998, p. 247-251.

33 This probably refers to the 1697 production of Il Perseo, which was “a spese del s.r marchese Francesco Maria Monti e d’altri interessati”, see Ricci 1888, p. 128.

34 This “fair” is the annual festa della porchetta held on 24 August, the feast of St Bartholomew.

35 E.g. the documents related to operas at the Teatro Marsigli in Bologna in 1711 transcribed in Bizzarini 2008, p. 168-176.

36 In 1709 he signed a contract with one singer’s father (see n. 24).

37 Vitali – Furnari 1991, p. 44.

38 I am grateful to Gloria Giordano for confirming that contemporaneous singing and dancing was practiced at the time. On dance in Bologna during this period, including French dance, see Mòllica 2001. For Martello’s own descriptions of French, Spanish, and Italian dancing (expressed, however, after he spent time in Paris and Versailles in 1713) see Martello 1715, §6.107-6.117.

39 On dance in Milan see Pontremoli 1999, but I have been unable to identify who this dancer was.

40 On French and Italian dance in Italian opera during this period see Kuzmick Hansell 2002, p. 177-192 and Di Tondo 2001, p. 96-109.

41 Modern hours are circa 4 hours earlier (at this time of the year) than those calculated from sunset used at the time.

42 The first two were probably Giovanni Antonio and Francesco Maria Magagnoli, who appear as text copyists in Bologna for cardinal Benedetto Pamphilj in 1692, see Van der Linden 2016, p. 118, doc. 1.18. Monti may have been the occasional librettist and notary of that name.

43 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174-176, not including further travel and lodging expenses.

44 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 230, this number does not include the singers’ travel expenses.

45 Atkin 2010, p. 218, referring respectively to Flavio Cuniberto and L’ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone. Singers were paid roughly the same fees in these two productions, but the relative cost is much lower because in 1692 much money was spent on scenes and costumes.

46 I give the amounts converted to the lira bolognese; the amounts given in Atkin 2010, p. 215, range from 20 doppie (= 760 lire modenesi) to 50 doppie (= 1,900 lire modenesi).

47 Most names (see n. 81) are identifiable via Gambassi 1989, Gambassi 1987, and Callegari Hill 1991.

48 The initial total of 49.10 lire is emended at f. 17v.

49 Their names are at f. 6v. In this case, “cembali” probably means cymbals instead of harpsichords.

50 Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 277-292 showed the same for Venice. On seventeenth-century Roman opera costumes see De Lucca 2013 and Goulet 2014, p. 158-161. Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 231 for 6,9%, spent on costumes in Reggio Emilia in 1683. Even the newly-made costumes for the opera in Modena in 1692 did not account for more than 18% of the total cost, see Atkin 2010, p. 206.

51 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174: “Al sig. Antonio Spisi per tutto il vestiario, L. 480”.

52 Bentini – D’Amico 1979, p. 142 for reference to Ludovico Scarani and his sons Lazzaro and Leone as “pubblici e primari tessitori di sete”.

53 Although the libretto is ambiguous, mentioning both “scene” and “la scena” (see fig. 1), the chronicle cited above at n. 29 seems to confirm there was only fixed scenery.

54 Memorie 1710, f. 2r.

55 Giacomo Antonio Amici also was responsible for the lighting at the Teatro Marsigli in 1711, see Bizzarini 2008, p. 174.

56 Idem, p. 173. Some further expenses for materials were made in addition.

57 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 231.

58 Bizzarini 2008, p. 174 documents a print run of 900 copies for La virtù in trionfo o sia la Griselda at the Teatro Marsigli in 1711 (Sartori 1990-1994, nr. 25004), and Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 232 mentions 1,100 librettos in Reggio Emilia in 1683.

59 Not 16 boxes per tier, as is stated in all the previous literature on the theatre. The actual number is, among other things, clear from f. 7v, which mentions box nr. 17 on the 1st tier.

60 Atkin 2010, p. 256.

61 On opera audiences see, for Venice, Glixon – Glixon 2006, p. 295-322.

62 BUB, MS. 616, vol. 5, Diario delle cose più notabili, p. 88-89 for his involvement.

63 At the Teatro Rossi Marsigli the production cost of librettos was a little lower at 2 soldi per libretto, see Bizzarini 2008, p. 174.

64 Ricci 1888, p. 93 and 99 for librettos from 1698, 1709 and 1711 at the Teatro Formagliari that cost respectively 10, 10, and 15 soldi, and p. 131 for two librettos at the Teatro Malvezzi in 1697 that cost 10 and 15 soldi. Librettos with many engraved plates always cost more than these amounts.

65 A similar profit rate was made in Reggio Emilia in 1683, see Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 232.

66 See Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 233-234, and Bizzarini 2008, p. 176.

67 See e.g. De Lucca 2011 on such collective patronage in seventeenth-century Rome, and for collective bourgeois patronage in late eighteenth-century Perugia, Feldman 2007, p. 284-347.

68 See Atkin 2010, p. 232-309 (p. 208-209 for the quotations) for extensive analysis of the role and function of accounts such as that for L’ingresso alla gioventù in Modena in 1692 (ultimately backed by ducal patronage) from an accounting point of view.

69 This tension was of course typical of the genre in general, see the seminal observations in Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 234-243.

70 Martello 1715, §5.90: “in servigio di qualche principe che, non per guadagno, ma per gala e per liberalità vuol dare alla nobiltà più che al popolo, un’illustre e graziosa rappresentazione con musica”.

71 Bianconi – Walker 1984, p. 260. This extended also to aristocratic opera patronage in private residences (i.e. productions without revenue), such as Alessandro Scarlatti’s L’Arsate performed at Palazzo Orsini in Rome in 1683, which cost a total of 2,355 scudi (= 11,775 lire bolognesi), see Goulet 2014, p. 162. See also Feldman 2007 on different models of opera production as related to ideas of sovereignty.

72 Martello 1715, §5.96: “nella mia patria alle volte reggersi l’opere, benché venali, da’ cavalieri, i quali frenano l’avidità dell’impresario a quel segno che non assorbisca affatto quel tutto che è di soddisfazione all’onesta gente ed a’ letterati, de’ quali è patria Bologna”.

73 Frigo 1985.

74 On the system of favours and reccomendations see e.g. McLean 2007 (largely valid also for our later period). Many studies on early-modern gift-giving focus on gifts and diplomacy, but see Zemon Davis 2000 and Krausman Ben-Amos 2008 for the kinds of gift-giving most relevant to our case. No monographic treatment exists for seventeenth-century Italy.

75 The balance sheet on f. 17v lists nearly the same amount, 84.7.6 lire, for the “poetry”.

76 The conte himself spent 137 lire on “lunch for the musicians” (f. 17v), but it is not clear if this refers to this final lunch or the whole production.

77 E.g. Cosentino 1910, p. 39; 52, for such fund-raisers for a section of the covered portico leading to the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, on a hilltop outside the city.

78 For an overview of civic ritual in Bologna and its role in tying together different social groups see Terpstra 1999.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – The title page and p. 5 of the 1699 libretto for Gli amici.
Crédits Bologna, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, LO.3.
Titre Fig. 2 – ASB, Archivio Albergati, Miscellanea 51, Memorie per la mia Pastorale fatta d’agosto 1699, f. 2r.
Crédits ASB, Archivio Albergati.
Titre Fig. 3 – Part of f. 5v and 6r of the notebook, showing on the left the entries for 4 and 6 August regarding Buffagnotti and the arrival of Bibiena, and on the right the entry for 5 August regarding the 3rd rehearsal (marked to be inserted between the previous two entries).
Crédits ASB, Archivio Albergati.
Titre Fig. 4 – Diagram of relative costs of the production of Gli amici based on the overview on f. 17v. Amounts over 200 lire are individually listed, the rest is included under “other”.
Crédits H. van der Linden.
Titre Fig. 5 – The engraved frontispice by Carlo Buffagnotti from the libretto for Gli amici.
Crédits Bologna, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, LO.3.
Titre  
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Référence électronique

Huub van der Linden, « The business of opera in early modern Bologna: financial and social affairs in Pirro Capacelli Albergati’s notebook for Gli amici (1699) », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines [En ligne], 130-1 | 2018, mis en ligne le 14 novembre 2018, consulté le 23 octobre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mefrim/3699 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrim.3699

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Auteur

Huub van der Linden

University College Roosevelt (Middelburg); École française de Rome, h.linden@ucr.nl

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