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This report is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

Report From Venice James Malpas
In front of the Music Conservatory on the Campiello Pisani, which is tucked away out of general view at the corner of Santo Stefano, a temporary, ramshackle stage-set and auditorium was transformed at nightfall into the baroque world of the 'Premiere in Modern Times' of Francesco Sacrati's opera La Finta Pazza (1645).

This was on a text by the poet Strozzi, which was refreshingly free of the afflatus that afflicted later seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century libretti, and which was already latent in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea of two years before.

The story elaborates an episode from the Trojan War period, which shows feminine guile and faith (the involvement in feigned madness to save a marriage) set against the glory-seeking machismo of the Greek military ambassadors, from whom the heroine's husband has sought refuge in the typically Ulyssian way of dressing as a woman. (It is handy that he is a counter-tenor.)

The heroine's portrayal of lunacy is decorous and eloquent, far removed from the excesses and grotesquerie that might be expected from our Jacobean drama, but neither was it a display of the ponderous formalism that invests so much of the rival French operatic tradition developing contemporaneously. Lully and Rameau were constrained to produce action-paralysing balletic interludes which Sacrati was fortunate enough to avoid for the major part (a brief romp by 'maniacs' an exception), and the heroine's performance was less balletic that ballistic, for all its grace.

The words are very much in ...


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