Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 3:30pm to 4:45pm
Colleen Reardon (Professor of Music, University of California, Irvine) will present a talk titled “A Tenor’s ‘Voice’ on the Periphery: Cesare Grandi and the Siena Production of Farnaspe (1750)” on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 from 3:30-4:45 pm in Music Room 1145. Sponsored by UCSB Music History and Theory Forum.
Much scholarly work on 18th-century opera seria has focused intently on how performers influenced all aspects of production. Most studies, however, have concentrated on prominent singers, especially the renowned castratos of the day (e.g., Bernardi and Guadagni). A cache of 119 letters regarding the preparations for staging a musico-dramatic work in Siena in 1750 not only provides a rich new source of material on the complexity of the impresarial role, it also offers a case study of how a singer accustomed to playing secondary parts could take charge when the impresario was an amateur without the expertise and connections necessary to bring off an opera. Letters from the tenor Cesare Grandi to the aristocratic impresario show that he successfully recruited instrumentalists and singers to the opera (including the star attraction, Gioacchino Conti), had music copied for all parts, revised the libretto, and suggested the costume designer, the actual work to be performed, and the time period in which it should premiere. It was largely due to Grandi’s careful handling of both the impresario and many of the impresarial duties that the premiere of Farnaspe, scheduled to celebrate the reopening of Siena’s opera theater, was such a triumph.
About the Speaker
Colleen Reardon is an archival scholar whose research focuses on musical culture in the Tuscan city of Siena and whose projects have been supported by grants from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has written about various facets of Sienese music in a number of articles and in three books, all published by Oxford University Press. Agostino Agazzari and Music at Siena Cathedral, 1597-1641 (1993), is a life-and-works study of the city’s most famous early modern composer. Holy Concord within Sacred Walls: Nuns and Music in Siena, 1575-1700 (2002) surveys the rich musical life in the city’s convents through extant plays, sacred autobiographies, musical scores, and financial records. A Sociable Moment: Opera and Festive Culture in Baroque Siena (2016) examines the intense production of operatic performances in the city during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and interprets them as an expression of local identity by a political subject citizenry. Ongoing projects include a study of the Siena production of Farnaspe (1750) and an examination of the American tour of the Sienese soprano Marietta Piccolomini (1835-99), one of the most famous nineteenth-century interpreters of Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata. Colleen Reardon has served as chair and member of several committees of the American Musicological Society (Louis Lockwood, Ruth A. Solie, Annual Meeting) and has just completed a two-year tenure as President of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music. She is Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine.