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Barbara Russano Hanning


Opera in a prologue and six scenes by Jacopo Peri, with assistance from Jacopo Corsi, to a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini after Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 1); Florence, Corsi’s palace, pre-Lenten Carnival season, 1598 (1597 old Florentine style), 1599, 1600.

This experimental musico-dramatic work, for which the music survives only partially in manuscript, and which its creators called a favola in musica (musical tale), is generally considered the first opera. The complete libretto exists in a printed edition from 1598. The characters’ vocal ranges given here are those assigned in Gagliano’s 1608 version (see Dafne (ii)). (The scene settings are inferred from the action.)

Prologue Ovid explains the cautionary nature of his tale: never underestimate the power of Love.

Scene 1 [A secluded grove] The resident nymphs and shepherds entreat Jove to send a saviour to deliver them from the monstrous dragon, which has been terrorizing their land, and are answered by Apollo in the form of an echo (‘Ebra di sangue in questo oscuro bosco’), after which the god descends and slays the python with bow and arrow. (This scene is a reworking of Rinuccini’s third ...