Ecco carnevale!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Today is Rosenmontag in our corner of Germany, the highlight of the Carnival season. It is hard to avoid colorful costumes, parades, and general revelry (in all its forms). Join us on our own parade of Carnival music through the centuries!

Carnival has been marked by its unique regional and national celebrations for centuries. Beginning in the seventeenth century, the Carnival season was the most important time of the year for opera premieres and it lasted from December 26 until the day before Ash Wednesday. The RISM online catalog offers numerous evidence for the connection between music and Carnival festivities, and today we’ll highlight a few of these pieces.

Back in the 16th century, Giovanni Croce (1557-1609) composed and published the canzonettas Mascarate piacevole et ridicolose, per il carnevale, a 4. 5. 6. 7. & otto voci … libro primo (Venice, 1590), for which no complete copy exists today (RISM ID no. 9900011825).

The opera Giasone (Venice, 1649) by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) was one of the most performed operas of the 17th century and must not be overlooked (RISM ID no. 850003998).

The sheer number of operas performed during the Carnival season in the 18th century is almost overwhelming. To choose but three examples:

Johann Adolf Hasse’s (1699-1783) opera Solimano was premiered on 5 February 1753 at the Dresden Court (RISM ID no. 250000818). For Giovanni Ambrogio Migliavacca (ca. 1718-after 1787), this was the first libretto that he wrote as the Dresden court poet.

In Venice, Semiramide by Tommaso Traetta (1727-1779) was given as the second opera of the 1765 season at the Teatro San Cassiano (RISM ID no. 212008804).

People didn’t only go to the opera. The collection Angloisen Per ill Carnevale Nell’Anno 1781 containing 23 anonymous dances could have served in one of the numerous dance performances. Today it can be found in the Baden-Württemberg State Archive (RISM ID no. 456004036).

In 1879, Hans von Bülow (1830-1894) published his Il Carnevale di Milano as op. 21. A polka from this work can be found in an arrangement for two pianos eight-hands at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (RISM ID no. 452009011).

And finally, an example from the 20th century: even the famous Cologne Karneval song “Wer soll das bezahlen?” by Jupp Schmitz (1901-1991) is in RISM (RISM ID no. 702012160).

By the way, the Ecco carnevale of this post’s title is the name of a work by Pier Francesco Valentini (1586-1654; RISM ID no. 850015550).

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Originally published 27 February 2017.

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