Michele Curnis

"Vantaggioso patto \ toccar con gl'occhi e rimirar col tatto". Drammaturgia poetica, retorica nel "Giasone" di G.A. Cicognini (1657)

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The established and somewhat justifiable commonplace that in opera a dramatic writing is at the service of the music and therefore not concerned with the ambitions of 'high' literature certainly can not be applied "sic et simpliciter" to the libretto of Venetian baroque opera - particularly in the case in point, when the librettist is a man of elevated theatrical lineage such as Giacinto Andrea Cicognini. In fact, he claimed autonomy and total freedom for the composer of verses even over that of the music, as can be appreciated in reading the preface that introduces one of the most fortunate Italian baroque operas: "Giasone", written for Francesco Cavalli (Venezia, Teatro di S. Cassiano, 1649). The general intention - given the licence to postulate one - is perhaps the playful refiguration of a classic mythology, revisited in tune with the cultural climate of the Venetian Accademia degli Incogniti. But "playful" does not signify "comic"; and the regret towards a lost and irrecoverable epoch is expressed through concise references, both literary and musical. The arguments about the poetry of "petrarchista" stamp, the "querelle" provoked by Marino's "Adone" (from 1620 onwards), the erotic-sentimental languor of Tasso and Guarini, the laborious retrieval of classical erudition by means of abridged editions and pioneering encyclopaedias are only some of the elements of a back-drop that Cicognini chose for his revisiting of the ancient Argonauts within the most stringent cultural contemporaneity.

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