- John Whenham
Tragedia in one act by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini ; Mantua, ducal palace, 28 May 1608.
Arianna was written for the celebrations following the marriage of Francesco Gonzaga, elder son of the Duke of Mantua, to Margherita, daughter of the Duke of Savoy. Monteverdi probably received the libretto in October 1607, and it was originally intended that the opera should be performed towards the end of Carnival (that is, before 18 February) 1608. The title role was to have been taken by Caterina Martinelli, a young singer trained under Monteverdi’s supervision. In the event the Gonzagas’ original intentions proved impossible to realize. Arrangements for the marriage were beset by political problems, causing the celebrations to be delayed until after Lent, and on 7 March 1608 Caterina Martinelli died of smallpox. Her place was taken by Virginia Andreini, one of a company of actors called to Mantua for the celebrations, and the opera was finally given on 28 May in a temporary theatre constructed for the purpose within the ducal palace. The role of Theseus was taken by Francesco Rasi. According to Federico Follino, chronicler of the occasion, the performance lasted two and a half hours and was played before an audience of several thousand people....