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Discovering Opera via Timeline - A Prelude - Vecchi's "L'Amfiparnaso" (1594-7) #1A

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Rather than traveling back in time, I decided to teleport to the start and travel forward. In sharing this journey via blog, I don't have any intention to try to educate anyone or to attempt to answer arcane questions about the history of opera. This is not intended to be "The History of Opera". It's more "The History of My Journey in the World of Opera".

While browsing at my local library a couple of months ago, I came across a currently-out-of-print title called The Simon & Schuster Book of the Opera. Ordinarily, this would have involved a brief thumb-through and return to the shelf for me. But, what caught my attention about this book was it's unique layout.

I would have expected either an alphabetical list by title of operas, or a list of works organized by composer. This book, however, appealed to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies immediately because it examined works in a strictly chronological framework. So, first off, I had to get a copy of this book. I found a slightly later edition of the book online and purchased it.

Next, I decided to go through the book one work at a time and do my best to read about, listen to, watch (if possible), and discuss each opera in order before moving on to the next one.

My first disappointment was that there did not appear to be any extant score, and hence no performances, audio or visual, for the first opera in the book, Peri's "La Dafne".

So, I moved on to the next listed work - Orazio Vecchi's "L'Amfiparnaso". The first performance of this work was in 1597, but it seems that it may actually have been composed in 1594. The caveat is, it's not really an opera. It's a "Madrigal Comedy" - basically a series of separate madrigals arranged into a slight semblance of a story, with elements of both serious drama and carnival-type humor intermixed. Though the serious and "comedic" scenes are not presented in strict alternation, they do ultimately end up sharing about equal "screen time".

And, herein lies the other problem - according to Vechhi's own written words, the performance was never intended to involve actors at all. The "story", such as it was, was to be envisioned in the mind of the listener. Later Madrigal Comedies, however, did introduce acting, so it seems that Vecchi's work was brought to the stage well after it's first performance as just a madrigal concert.

On the other hand, the title of the work, loosely translated as "Both Parnassus(es)" or "Twin Peaks", if you will, was probably intended to imply that music (one peak) could be combined with story (the second peak) to create something of significance.

Well, this blog is long enough. I'll try to continue the story about "L'Amfiparnaso" in a future installment. Hold your breath.......

Updated Nov-21-2013 at 11:40 by Vesteralen