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Dedication to Euridice by Ottavio Rinuccini (1600).

November 10, 2007

Euridice [1600]


To the most Christian Maria Medici, Queen of France and of Navarre.

It has been the opinion of many, most Christian Queen, that the ancient Greeks and Romans, in representing their tragedies upon the stage, sang them throughout. But until now this noble manner of recitation has been neither revived nor (to my knowledge) even attempted by anyone, and I used to believe that this was due to the imperfection of the modern music, by far inferior to the ancient. But the opinion thus formed was wholly driven from my mind by Messer Jacopo Peri, who, hearing of the intention of Signor Jacopo Corsi and myself, set to music with so much grace the fable of Dafne (which I had written solely to make a simple trial of what the music of our age could do) that it gave please beyond belief to the the few who heard it.

Taking courage from this, Signor Jacopo gave to this same fable a better form and again represented it at his house, where it was heard and commended, not only by the entire nobility of our favored state, but also by the most seren Grand Duchess and by the most illustrious cardinals Dal Monte and Montaldo.

But much greater favor and fortune have been bestowed upon the Euridice, set to music by the aforesaid Peri with wonderful art, little used by others, for the graciousness and magnificence of the most serene Grand Duchess found it worthy of representation upon a most noble stage in the presence of Your Majesty, the Cardinal Legates, and ever so many princes and lords of Italy and France.

For this reason, beginning to recognise with what favour such representations in music are received, I have wished to bring these two to light, in order that others, more skilful than myself, may employ their talents to increase the number and improve the quality of poems thus composed and cease to envy those ancients so much celebrated by noble writers.

To some I may seem to have been too bold in altering the conclusion of the fable of Orpheus, but so it seemed fitting to me at a time of such great rejoicing, having as my own justification the examples post in other fables. And our own Dante ventured to declare that Ulysses was drowned on this voyage, for all that Homer and the other poets had related the contrary. So likewise I have followed the authority of Sophocles in his Ajax in introducing a change of scene, being unable to represent otherwise the prayers and lamentations of Orpheus.

May Your Majesty recognise in these my labours, small though they be, the humble devotion of my mind to Your Majesty and live long in happiness to receive from God each day greater graces and greater favors.

Florence, October 4, 1600.
Your majesty’s most humble servant
Ottavio Rinuccini.

Angelo Solerti, Le origini del melodramma (Turin 1903)

Strunk, Oliver, Source Readings in Music History, The Baroque Era. WW Norton & Company, New York and London, 1965.
SBN 393-09682-3, pp. 7-9.

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