The birth of commercial opera
L’Ermiona del S.r Marchese Pio Enea Obizzi. Per introduzione d’vn Torneo à piedi, & à cavallo e d’vn Balletto rappresentato in Musica nella Citta di Padoua l’Anno M DCXXXVI dedicata al Sereniss.o Prencipe di Venetia Francesco Erizo descritta dal S. Nicolò Enea Bartolini, Gentilhuomo, & Academ.o Senese
Padua, Paolo Frambotto, 1638
The illustrated libretto of an opera performed in Padua on 11 April 1636 by a travelling company of “mercenarii musici”, as the prelude to a tournament in the Cavallerizza di Prato della Valle of which Obizzi was the promoter. A prose description of the horse ballet and tournament by Nicolò Enea Bartolini is interspersed throughout Obizzi’s verse libretto; the music, by the Roman composer Giovanni Felice Sances, was not printed. Unlike previous operas, L’Ermiona was not commissioned to celebrate a special occasion, nor was it performed before an audience exclusively made-up of the nobility. The architect and stage designer Alfonso Rivarola (called “Il Chenda”) set up a temporary wooden theatre with five vertical tiers of separated boxes accessed from the rear by corridors and common staircases. It is the first major Italian box theatre on record and had immediate influence, guiding the design of the new Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera stage in Venice, where a year later the modern tradition of commercial opera was inaugurated. Fifteen folding engraved plates reproduce Rivarola’s settings and stage machinery.