Le Varie Musiche

Jacopo Peri, 1609 & 1619

Hastier histories of music sometimes imply through a sin of simple omission that Jacopo Peri disappeared after Euridice was performed and Maria de’ Medici went off to France to meet her new husband. The opera may not have been a raging contemporary success, even if it was seminal in the history of the art form, but in his own day Peri was known for other work. His posthumous notoriety as composer of the first–ever opera is one of those callous blessings and curses imposed by historical hindsight and, regrettably, means that his other music is seldom heard.

His moniker Il Zazzerino — a reference to his apparently copious or unruly hair — seems to have been widely known. Although he remained in Florence, Peri had ties with the Gonzaga family of Mantua. He wrote music for the operas Tetide and Adone for court at Mantua, but they were, as far as is known, never performed. Much of the music he prepared for other dramatic works and ballets for intermedii presented in Jacopo Peri, Le Varie Musiche; Title Page
Jacopo Peri, Le Varie Musiche; Title Page
Florence have vanished, as have later oratorios, all produced in collaboration with other composers according to the Florentine tradition.

His pursuit of solo singing, both as performer and composer, also continued. In 1609, his Varie musiche was published in Florence. Like Caccini’s collection, it comprises solo as well as several–voice songs with basso continuato for harpsichord, chitarrone or organ. The verbose introduction of Nuove musiche is absent: unlike the inveterate teacher Caccini, Peri believed that the new style had to be heard live to be understood, and could not be communicated adequately just by writing it out (publication notwithstanding).

Nevertheless, the same sorts of songs appear, such as the through–composed, monodic madrigals over almost static basses like the opening In qual parte del ciel (“In What Part of Heaven?”), the rhythmic arias with numerous stanzas sung to the same music like Bellissima regina (“Most Beautiful Queen”), and hybrids like Se tu parti da me (“If you leave me”). The songs were published again in 1619 under the same title, with some additions and deletions.

⇐ Caccini, Nuove musiche II | Sigismondo d’India ⇒

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