Illusion and the Referential Dilemma in Alfonso Parigi’s Engravings for the Court Opera, La Flora (1628)

By Suzanne E. Court.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Before the painted sipario (curtain) was drawn aside for the first performance of the opera La Flora, which Marco da Gagliano set to music for its 1628 performance in Florence’s Teatro Mediceo, political and mythological allusion had already been established in the minds of the distinguished invited guests. The numerous political metaphors inherent in Salvadori’s libretto based on the myth of Apollo and Flora bestowing the earth with flowers, have been well identified. Also, Alfonso Parigi’s five etchings of the scenery, published with the libretto, have been discussed in relation to the first performance. Parigi, as stage designer, worked within a profession defined by illusion and deception, dominated by techniques of fixed-point perspective and machine-riven elevation. It is a given that the principles of inganno (deception) are central to the genre of opera, for which scenography played a large part. But the question remains as to what extent, if any, scenographic engravings are capable of representing staged illusion, and whether they can possibly represent a particular performance. As visual evidence which is compounded by restrictions of time, color and representation of dimension, these etchings pose a referential dilemma. An argument is forwarded that Parigi’s stage designs for La Flora played a major role within the artistic triumvirate of poetry, music and design, of augmenting and reinforcing political and mythological metaphor through the deliberate application of techniques of illusion, and that these deceptions were further exaggerated in the published etchings.

Keywords: Opera, Seventeenth Century, Early Baroque, Court, Parigi, Gagliano, Salvadori, Scenography, Libretto, Illusion, Perspective, Referential, Medici, Florence, Flora, Mythology, Meraviglioso, Power, Music, Staging

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.247-266. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 19.104MB).

Prof. Suzanne E. Court

Associate Professor, Central Queensland University, Dunedin, Australia

Suzanne Court is a Professor of Musicology and Dean of Humanities and Communication at Central Queensland University in Australia. She has published critical editions of two of Marco da Gagliano’s operas, La Flora (A-R Editions, 2011) and La Dafne (PRB Productions, 2006) as well as his complete madrigals (Gaudia Music and Arts, 2003). She has also published on lute music, producing an edition of G. A. Terzi’s lute fanasias (A-R Editions, 2000).