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    Benedetto Marcello's Satire on the State of the
    Italian Opera in the Early Eighteeth-Century

    [Benedetto Marcello]. IL TEATRO ALLA MODA o sia METODO sicuro, e facile per ben comporre, ed eseguire l'OPERE Italiane in Musica all' uso moderno, Nel quale Si danno Avvertimenti utili, e necessari a Poeti, Compositori di Musica, Musici dell'uno, e dell'altro sesso, Impresari, Suonatori, Ingegneri, e Pittori di Scene, Parti buffe, Sarti, Paggi, Comparse, Suggeritori, Copisti, Protettori, e MADRI di Virtuose, ed altre Persone appartenenti al Teatro. DEDICATO DALL' AUTTORE DEL LIBRO AL COMPOSITORE DI ESSO. Stampato ne BORGHI di BELISANIA per ALDIVIVA LICANTE, all' Insegna dell' ORSO in PEATA. Si vende nella STRADA del CORALLO alla PORTA del PALAZZO d'ORLANDO. Come pure in MILANO da Francesco Agnelli. Stampandosi ogn' anno con nuova aggiunta. [Milan?: n.d., after 1733]. Third edition (first published anonymously in 1720) of Benedetto Marcello's satire on the Italian opera. Small octavo (6.375 x 4.25 inches; 162 x 107 mm.). 72 pages (A-D8 E4). Engraved title vignette; six nine-line decorative woodcut initials, including a white-on-black woodcut initial on page 3.
    Modern (twentieth-century) tan paper-covered boards. Boards lightly rubbed at extremities and darkened in places, with a few light scuff marks. Faint mostly marginal dampstaining to title; considerable foxing and browning, heaviest at beginning and end.
    Small hole in A2 (pages 3/4) neatly repaired, affecting a few letters and signature mark on recto, and a few letters in two lines on verso; small abrasion on recto of A3 (page 5), affecting lower corner of decorative woodcut initial; small hole in A6 (pages 11/12), affecting a couple of letters on both recto and verso; outer blank margin of C7 and C8 (pages 45/46) strengthened; short tear repaired on verso of C5 (pages 41/42); short tear to upper margin of E1 (pages 65/66), just entering text (no loss); diagonal strengthening across E3 (pages 69/70) and to upper corner of both E3 and E4 (pages 69/70 and 71/72); a few lower corners strengthened: A5, D1, D2 (pages 9/10, 49/50, 51/52). Still, a very good copy of this fragile work.
    Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 67. From the library of John Carroll Collins.
    Please visit for an extended description of this lot.

    More Information:

    Il teatro alla moda ("The Fashionable Theater") is a "satirical pamphlet in which its author, the Venetian composer Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739), vents his critical opinions on the milieu of the Italian opera seria in the first decades of the eighteenth century. It was first published anonymously in Venice, by the end of 1720. Virtually every aspect of opera seria and its social environment is mercilessly criticized by Marcello: the artificiality of plots, the stereotyped format of music, the extravagant scenography and machinery, the inability and venality of composers and poets, the vanity and vulgarity of singers, the avidity of impresarios, the ineptitude of musicians...Il teatro alla moda is written as a series of chapters where advice is ironically given to the various people involved in operatic productions, in order to meet 'the modern customs' and bizarre requirements of such theatrical events. Besides the title, the frontispiece contains several allusions to well-known protagonists of the Venetian theater of the time. For instance, the publisher's name 'Aldiviva Licante' refers, by means of anagrams, both to Antonio Vivaldi, then very famous as an opera composer, and to the singer Caterina Canteli" (Wikipedia).


    The full title reads in English: "The Fashionable Theater or A sure and easy method to compose well and to produce Italian operas in the modern fashion. Containing useful and necessary instructions for librettists, composers, for singers or either sex, for impresarios, orchestra musicians, theatrical engineers, and painters of scenery, for those playing comic parts, for theater tailors, pages, extras, prompters, copyists, for patrons and mothers of female singers [virtuose], and for other persons connected with the theater. Dedicated by the book's author to the writer of the same. Printed in the Belisania district by Aldiviva Licante, at the sign of the bear in the bark. Sold in Coral Street at the entrance to Orlando's mansion. As well as in Milan by Francesco Agnelli. To be reprinted every year with new additions."


    The words printed in capital letters in the "imprint" represent the names of singers, composers, or other persons connected with opera at the time of Marcello's writing, including: Bolognese singer Caterina Borghi (BORGHI); Cecilia Belisani, also from Bologna (BELISANIA); Anna Maria Strada, virtuosa di camera (STRADA); opera composer and choir director Giovanni Porta (PORTA); librettist Giovanni Palazzi (PALAZZO); and Venetian impresario Giuseppe Maria Orlando (ORLANDO).


    This edition contains the same engraving that appeared on the title-page of the first two editions, but reproduced in reverse: "a little boat, rowed by a well-dressed gentleman. Numerous supplies such as a wine barrel and sacks of flour are lying in the forward part of the boat, at the bow of which stands a bear wearing a wig and waving a little flag [representing the impresario Orsatti]. An angel wearing a priest's hat and playing on a diminutive violin occupies the opposite position, hovering over the rudder at the stern [representing Vivaldi, whose nickname was 'prete rosso,' or 'Red Priest,' because of the color of his hair]."


    See Reinhard G. Pauly, "Benedetto Marcello's Satire on Early 18th-Century Opera," in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 2 (April 1948), pages 222-233. For a complete English translation, see Reinhard G. Pauly, "Il Teatro Alla Moda-Part I," in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 3 (July 1948), pages 371-403, and "Il Teatro Alla Moda-Part II," in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1 (January 1949), pages 85-105. See also Aldo Rava, "Alcune edizione del Teatro alla moda di Benedetto Marcello," in Il Libro e la Stampa. Bullettino Ufficiale della Società Bibliografica Italiana (N. S.), Vol. 4, Fasc. 3 (Maggio-Giugno 1910), pages 85-89.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
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