Beth L. Glixon and Jonathan E. Glixon

in Inventing the Business of Opera

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195154160
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868483 | DOI:

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This chapter takes a comprehensive look at the scenic elements of opera: the sets and the machines. The operas featured numerous set changes, with a system of paired flats as well as backdrops and lontani, which conveyed deep perspective at the back of the set. In Venice during the mid-17th century, impresarios preferred to commission new scenery every year, rather than fall back on previously used elements (dote). Typically a painter designed and executed the scenery (along with his assistants), and a carpenter built the machines, which could appear from above or beneath the floor. Examining contracts signed by the impresario Marco Faustini with scene painters and machine builders provide invaluable insight into the costs, responsibilities, and time constraints involved in this important element of opera production. Several inventories of scenery enabling a comparison between the finished materials and the scenes described in the librettos are also discussed.

Keywords: scenery; machines; flats; scenographer; inventories; lighting; props; account book

Chapter.  22454 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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