Ellen Rosand shows how opera, born of courtly entertainment, took root in the special social and economic environment of seventeenth-century Venice and there developed the stylistic and aesthetic characteristics we recognize as opera today. With ninety-one music examples, most of them complete pieces nowhere else in print, and enlivened by twenty-eight illustrations, this landmark study will be essential for all students of opera, amateur and professional, and for students of European cultural history in general.
Because opera was new in the seventeenth century, the composers (most notably Monteverdi and Cavalli), librettists, impresarios, singers, and designers were especially aware of dealing with aesthetic issues as they worked. Rosand examines critically for the first time the voluminous literary and musical documentation left by the Venetian makers of opera. She determines how these pioneers viewed their art and explains the mechanics of the proliferation of opera, within only four decades, to stages across Europe. Rosand isolates two features of particular importance to this proliferation: the emergence of conventions—musical, dramatic, practical—that facilitated replication; and the acute self-consciousness of the creators who, in their scores, librettos, letters, and other documents, have left us a running commentary on the origins of a genre.
Ellen Rosand is George A. Saden Professor of Music at Yale and author of Monteverdi’s Last Operas: A Venetian Trilogy
"In this elegantly constructed study of the early decades of public opera, the conflicts and cooperation of poets, composers, managers, designers, and singers—producing the art form that was soon to sweep the world and that has been dominant ever since—are revealed in their first freshness."—Andrew Porter
"This will be a standard work on the subject of the rise of Venetian opera for decades. Rosand has provided a decisive contribution to the reshaping of the entire subject. . . . She offers a profoundly new view of baroque opera based on a solid documentary and historical-critical foundation. The treatment of the artistic self-consciousness and professional activities of the librettists, impresarios, singers, and composers is exemplary, as is the examination of their reciprocal relations. This work will have a positive effect not only on studies of 17th-century, but on the history of opera in general."—Lorenzo Bianconi