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Discovering Opera via Timeline #2 - Adriano Banchieri's "La Pazzia Senile" (1598)

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One more proto-opera before I get to the real thing. “La Pazzia Senile” by Adriano Banchieri is another notable madrigal comedy. It precedes what may be the first true opera, Peri’s “Euridice” by two years.
A brief “plot” summary will show at least a superficial relationship with Vecchi’s “L’Amfiparnaso”, again using elements of the Commedia dell’arte. Once more, Pantalone moons over a woman of dubious repute (this time Lauretta instead of Hortensia). He also again has a daughter (Doralice instead of Isabella) in love with a young man (Fulvio instead of Lucio). This time, instead of the aged Graziano already having appealed to Pantalone for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Pantalone deliberately summons Graziano as a suitor to break up the Doralice-Fulvio romance. And again, young love triumphs in the end.
It was difficult for me to get a good handle on this work, since I was unable to find an English translation of the “libretto”. Fortunately, though it is a work of many scenes (twenty-one to “L’Amfiparnaso”’s fourteen) it isn’t a work of great complexity. The comic madrigals greatly outnumber the serious ones in this work, and it seems that, overall, the madrigals of Banchieri’s piece are both shorter and less musically interesting than Vechhi’s. Certainly there is nothing even remotely as poignant as Isabella’s lament from “L’Amfiparnaso”, nor even any of the other serious madrigals of Vecchi.
I have to admit being a bit disappointed that the audio recording of “La Pazzia Senile” I obtained featured an all-male cast. One of the online complete performance videos of the work I saw used real sopranos instead of countertenors, which was more to my personal liking. However, the over-the-top acting of the troop was, to say the least, a bit of an acquired taste.
At any rate, I think I can live without “La Pazzia Senile”. A highlights disc of the work might clock in at about five minutes for me.
Classical Music , Opera


  1. Vesteralen's Avatar
    I just discovered some new You Tube postings from USC-Thornton Baroque Sinfonia that appeared this month. The three videos include the Prologue, a short scene from Act 1, and several scenes from Act II.

    Musically, these are the best performances of this score I've heard. The visuals are not necessarily compelling, but nonetheless they are quite watchable.

    I would highly recommend these videos.