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  • La Comedia nueva e le scene italiane nel Seicento: trame, drammaturgie, contesti a confronto ed. by Fausta Antonucci and Anna Tedesco
  • Guillaume Bernardi
Fausta Antonucci and Anna Tedesco, editors.
La Comedia nueva e le scene italiane nel Seicento: trame, drammaturgie, contesti a confronto.
Leo S. Olschki, 2016. 339 Pp.

THE RICH AND COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP that developed during the seventeenth century between the comedia nueva and the various forms of Italian theater (theater, commedia dell’arte, opera) has been a steady object of study by several talented Italian Hispanists since the 1980s. Yet, this field has remained something of a specialist niche. This might be explained in part by the fact that, for several historical reasons, the literary Seicento was traditionally the poor relation of studies in Italian literature, and its richness has generated little attention. Also, until recently, as we shall see, Italian stage works of the seventeenth century were not performed regularly, so there was little practical incentive to examine them as literature. In the last couple of decades, though, interest in Venetian opera of that period has grown rapidly, not only in academia—as attested by the now classic study by Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (U of California P, 1991)—but also in the opera houses of Europe and North America, in which the operas of a composer like Francesco Cavalli have now become quite popular. In parallel, the discovery that many Venetian operas had Spanish comedias as their sources has energized the research on the theater connections between Spain and Italy, yielding much new scholarship, predictably often produced by musicologists (e.g., Anna Tedesco, “Teatro del Siglo de Oro y ópera italiana del Seiscientos: un balance,” Criticón, vol. 116, 2012, pp. 113–35).

The volume La Comedia nueva e le scene italiane nel Seicento: trame, drammaturgie, contesti a confronto, edited by Fausta Antonucci, a Hispanist, and Anna Tedesco, a musicologist, is a magnificent result of this new synergy between scholars of different disciplines. The book gathers the proceedings of a conference held in Rome in January 2015 and jointly organized by the volume’s editors. Proposing a very strong interdisciplinary vision for [End Page 111] the field, the editors invited scholars from various disciplines (Hispanists, musicologists, Italianists, and theater historians) to participate in the conference. This handsome volume published by Olschki, the prestigious Italian academic press, presents twenty-three contributions from scholars based in Italy, Spain, France, and the United States, with most texts written in Italian, though two articles are in English and two in Spanish. There are two substantial introductions—one by each editor—with the rest of the essays divided among five sections. The introductions and the first section present comprehensive overviews of the field, whereas the remaining four sections feature thematically related articles—although some of the subject matter addressed could fit in more than one section, and the volume does encourage a transversal reading of the articles.

The introductions by Antonucci and Tedesco present the vision, goals, and achievements of the conference and of the book, each writer addressing the issues from their own specific disciplinary point of view. These two texts set the tone of the volume and establish with great clarity the motivations and ambitions of the book. They situate the state of the scholarship today but also trace the many avenues of research for the years to come. A section in three voices follows this dialogical opening, as the editors asked three seniors scholars to survey the field through the lens of their own disciplines.

Understandably, the opening statement is by Hispanist Maria Grazia Profeti, widely recognized as a pioneer and a major contributor to the study of the relationships between the comedia and the Italian stage. Profeti first offers a survey of the critical reception of Spanish Golden Age theater in Italy from the nineteenth century to today. A substantial part of her study, as her audience would expect, is dedicated to an examination of her own production and role in the development of the studies of the Spain–Italy relationship since the 1980s. It is fascinating to see such an eminent scholar revisit and interpret her...


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