For practical reasons, all these performances were held in the same recently remodelled Medici Theatre in the Uffizi. Why and how were they accepted? And what form did their association take? Mostly, scholars are content simply to repeat uncritically the assertion that actors especially Isabella Andreini were admitted in this period. So too does the evidence of professional artists and musicians joining literary circles and more experimental academies, especially in Rome, Florence, Siena, and Milan from around It will also question why, and which, academies accepted actors as members.
First, the academic context will be introduced, then there will be a brief examination of some specific cases of interactions between the actors Adriano Valerini and Isabella Andreini with academies in Northern Italy around the end of the sixteenth century. Closing observations on Giovan Battista Andreini will signal further developments in the next century. Theatrical Practices in Sixteenth-century Italian Academies From the mid-sixteenth century secular theatre was one of the specific activities most cultivated by academies, which were commonly at this time interdisciplinary in character, though marked by a strong penchant for ritual and spectacle.
Indeed, theatrical activities formed the major concern of two of the earliest academies formed, the above mentioned Intronati of Siena and the somewhat anomalous Congrega dei Rozzi , as well as of others such as the Olimpici of Vicenza and the Innominati of Parma These institutions to different extents led the way in innovating dramaturgical and technical practices, in addition to theatre-building during the later sixteenth century.
This interest remained at about the same level in the seventeenth century 4. This explains why public, dramatic spectacles were usually staged by academies for occasional or festive events feste before distinguished invited audiences and, importantly, why they were not commercially motivated. The dramatic texts selected for performances could be by academy members or outsiders, though in either case they were subjected to close collective scrutiny usually by censors censori , who were specially appointed. By this time, however, the distinction between amateur and professional was complicated by the presence of a few highly specialized, semi-professional actors.
In northern Italy they were associated particularly with Ferrara, rather than Florence and Mantua, the more remunerative centres for arte performances. As Alessandro Marcigliano has documented, actors of this kind like Giovan Battista Verato were highly valued for their practical skills within courtly and academic spheres, and carefully presented as virtuoso amateurs. By contrast, the director, the Venetian literato Angelo Ingegneri, was a highly skilled amateur, as were it appears the actors taking the speaking roles, thus allowing the academy to circumvent Venetian theatre legislation which pertained to professionals.
Surviving eye-witness accounts report favourably on the staging aspects. However, of the actors, Giacomo Dolfin singled out for praise only the experienced semi-professional, Giovan Battista Verato, who played Tiresias, the priest of Apollo, and, unusually for a public academy performance, his daughter, who played Jocasta.
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Both had been brought to Vicenza by their sponsor, Battista Guarini. Such entertainment undoubtedly reflects contemporary courtly practices, especially in Ferrara with the celebrated musica secreta performed in private first by skilled amateurs and then by professionals.
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It also looks forward to a greater inclusion in academies, from the turn of the seventeenth century, of virtuoso female poet-musician-performers, sometimes as full members, despite the usual formal constitution of academies as male-only preserves. Virginia Cox has gathered significant new evidence in this respect.
This created a more hybrid form of theatre, mixing higher with the traditional lower registers. Despite the efforts by academies with theatrical interests to distinguish themselves in name and style from professional companies, there was still some blurring of the boundaries.
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Giovan Battista, a Florentine citizen despite his itinerant existence, and educated at Bologna university, clearly demonstrates his connections with this academy in his early print publications. As Fabrizio Fiaschini has detailed, four printed works dated between and , including his tragedy Florinda , refer to the academy and its members in their dedicatory letters, through internal references, the inclusion of verse by members, and other circumstantial links.
However, the medal does not fully reproduce the academy emblem there is no motto for example.
As Elena Tamburini has shown, Simone Panzanini of Bologna, famous for taking the Bergamasque porter role in the Gelosi company, among others from the group, had connections with the more socially and culturally heterogeneous and marginal Accademia della Val di Blenio near Milan. This Academy was founded in and presided over for many years by the painter and theorist Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo. However, printed works by actors often exude a sense of separateness from more official academic circles. Like many novice writers, some explicitly express fear of hostile criticism from academicians versed in the art of poetics rather than performance.
In the manner of Grazzini, various cultured professional actor- writers also exploited the opposition in polemic and parodic vein. They did this through controlling access to membership and their performance spaces, and by differentiating performance practices and actors involved.
His first and best known work, probably the first of any arte actor in print, was compiled to celebrate his beloved colleague in the Gelosi, Vincenza Armani, on her untimely death in , a publication which would spawn a fertile tradition of literary compilations for female actors and singers. No subsequent verdict or recognition is recorded, which is intriguing particularly since the play would later be pirated by a fellow actor, Bernardino Lombardi, and printed under the false name of Torquato Tasso as La Gismonda, tragedia Paris, The correct attribution was exposed in the edition by Gherardo Borghini, who was close to Isabella Andreini.
Three years later, Valerini tried a different approach. His lengthy prose encomium of his native city, Le bellezze di Verona Verona, , contains a section explicitly praising the celebrated local academy. Certainly, like his other eight existing printed works, the Bellezze shows off his humanist erudition and his close contacts with important intellectual and aristocratic circles in the city — but, significantly, it makes no mention of his status as an actor.
This could of course simply be down to the patchy state of the archival documentation for these years. Although the academy was increasingly becoming populated by noblemen, it still admitted professional members who were of lower social extraction, including the high-profile painters, Domenico Brusasorci and later his son Felice who appear to have been involved with the academy theatricals , as well as musicians of great renown — though these did not always have full membership status.
They doubtless wished to avoid any potential run-ins over the issue of theatre with the civic and religious authorities of Verona — both of which were strongly opposed to secular dramatic performances.
Notably, in the authorities even turned down a request by the Duke of Mantua to allow his troupe headed by Valerini to perform there. There are suggestions that they cultivated amateur theatre in a private, even secretive manner; and some prominent members also had connections — probably in less official contexts — with professional comici, including Valerini.
Some new evidence of this is suggested by a manuscript verse anthology in the State Archive of Verona, which has hitherto been examined only in relation to music. This manuscript contains sonnets by and for Valerini among verse by Lavezzola himself and various letterati, including several Filarmonici members and other Veneto dramatists. The rime involving Valerini and other theatrical figures in the manuscript are, however, not found in the printed volume put together for Lavezzola posthumously by Francesco Mondella Rime del S.
Alberto Lavezzola, Verona, Kathryn Bosi has indicated that this aristocrat knew and supported various actors and dramatists in Verona and Vicenza , including Isabella Andreini and Valerini, from the late s. Whatever dealings Valerini had with the Filarmonici, therefore, seem to have been at a purely private and not an officially recognized level. Instead, an individual member was asked to respond, and five other members voluntarily did likewise. Importantly, she was an academic equal, as in she had been made a member of the distinguished Accademia degli Intenti of Pavia.
Her membership of the academy was preceded by many years of literary and social connections with academy members and local elites, such as Gherardo Borgogni, and was reinforced by publications and regular performances in the nearby capital Milan from the s. This successfully advertised her highly placed contacts and her innovative poetic skills, both of which she would have known were of interest to the Intenti. In addition, there were political authorities and other civic officials, university professors and intellectuals from across the arts and sciences.
The institution had a strong interest in politics and poetry, as well as music; but it seems unclear whether they were engaged in theatrical activities too. She had become a member of the Pavia academy by 14 November, where she apparently stayed at least until 24 December. In the following year Andreini returned to Milan in April, and she was in Pavia again in December, when Spelta was completing the Aggionta to his Historia, a work which shows his strong interest in political and carnival spectacle.
This was of course a problem for the exceptional few female academicians generally.
Giovan Battista Andreini, comico-accademico The two facets seem to have been combined in the case of her son, Giovan Battista Andreini, a distinguished comico and letterato who was associated with the Accademia degli Spensierati of Florence from This private academy functioned relatively independently from the circuits of grand-ducal power, and was connected to broader literary, religious and political circles across northern Italy in which Isabella operated. As Fabrizio Fiaschini has analysed in detail, the publications of the academy members reflect a growing openness to experiments with mixed genres and the contamination of verse, musical and theatrical forms, as practised also in other contemporary, private Florentine academies.
However, there is no direct confirmation of this in the sole surviving printed edition of Florinda from the edition was apparently destroyed by the author because Acts iv and v were poorly printed. Emily Wilbourne has argued that the actress is referring here to a small printed collection of verse by five Spensierati from , which were composed alongside ones for Florinda, of which others were perhaps lost with the earlier destroyed edition.
From the early decades of the seventeenth century some comici were becoming more accepted and their performance styles were even imitated in polite, literary society, reflecting a growing interest in novel, hybrid dramatic forms mixing styles and genres, following a trend for which Guarini was an important pioneer. The Immobili [The Immobile Academy] of Florence, headed by Jacopo Cicognini, were heavily involved in improvised performances and even began to run a private theatre with Medici support from c.
Inevitably, the usual distinctions are made between the groups: i. This the Intronati had already foreshadowed with their strong interest in female characters and, more covertly, in female performers like Vincenza Armani. So, to give a provisional answer to my initial question about how far accademici and comici interacted in this period, one might conclude that they did at first occasionally, though rarely openly or corporately.
Increasingly, though, the increased blurring between the practices of these groups suggests that the rhetoric of mutual antagonism coexisted with unacknowledged coalescence.
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Madonna Arminia, Lelio! Arminia Here I am, my Lord, eagerly awaiting your every command. Zelandro My dear Rovenio, what do you want? Your house is like a museum of virtues. Rovenio Just as it should be to receive you, who resemble Jove himself. Master Filino, where is your part? Filino Here it is, written down on this sheet, but also imprinted on my mind.
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