Pubblichiamo di seguito la relazione presentata da Caterina Pagnini nellambito della sessione “European Spectacle Behind the Curtain: Décor, Machines, and Special Effect” del 52nd ASECS Annual Meeting, Baltimore MD, 10 giugno 2022, presieduta e organizzata da Elisa Cazzato.
1. The sources
The history of the Infuocati Academy at the Cocomero in Florence portrays one of the most interesting realities in the spectacle scene of the Ancient Regime; a history that developed in the context of the birth of the academies, that from the end of the 16th century began to proliferate at the major Italian courts under the protection of the ruling families; a phenomenon that in Florence grew more and more between the second and third decade of the 17th century and consolidated in the 18th century.
The analysis of the academic documents and the registry of printed materials relating to the productions of operas realised at the Teatro del Cocomero throughout the period of the Medici government, from 1701 to 1737, have highlighted the unquestioned importance of the Teatro del Cocomero ruled by the Infuocati Academy in the context of the citys offerings of spectacle. A centrality that made it one of the major production entities in the public theatrical scene of the Italian circuit, both as regards the repertoire of operas and of the Comici dellArte comedies.
The “Teatro Niccolini-Accademia degli Infuocati” Collection, held in the Historical Archive of the City of Florence, contains a particularly rich documentary heritage in terms of quantity and quality, collecting all the sources relating to the administration of the academy and the theatrical seasons of the Cocomero, the renovations of the theatre building, as well as the various papers submitted to the Medici and Lorraine chancellery.
The research on primary sources has therefore focused on a thorough analysis of the fonds, most of which are unpublished, alongside parallel consultation of first-hand sources. In this regard, the testimony of the Diaries of Giovan Battista Fagiuoli (actor, playwright, and bishops official in close contact with the Medici) was considered essential, indispensable for a comparison with the data from academic books regarding the theatrical programming of the «stanzone in Via del Cocomero».
In parallel to the archival survey, the repertoire of the Cocomero for the period under examination, by consulting and transcribing of printed material relating to the librettos of musical performances (most of which are kept in the Gasperi Fund at the Museo internazionale and Library of Music in Bologna, as well as in the Biblioteca Marucelliana and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence).
From these primary sources it was possible to gather valuable information on the dynamics of the enterprise and the realizations of the performances, which are the basis for the scientific reconstruction of the theatrical event. In fact, its crucial to consider the spectacle as a collective product resulting from the interaction of different “dramaturgies”: those of the performers, those of the craftsmen, those of the space and, no less important, those inherent in the relations between patrons, artists and audience.
2. The history of the Infuocati and their theatre
Florence, 1699. Around the middle of the year, the buildings in via del Cocomero (todays via Ricasoli just near the Cathedral) and the management of the theatrical activity of the homonymous «stanzone per le commedie» were taken over by the Accademia degli Infuocati, a so called «conversazione» founded in 1652 as an association with a recreational purpose and formerly active in the theatre of the Volta degli Spini, between 1660 and 1669. Just in this year, with the relocation to the new building in via del Cocomero owned by the noble Ughi family, the Accademia degli Infuocati was re-founded and economically revived thanks to the support of the first son of Grand Duke Cosimo III, the Grand Prince Ferdinando de Medici, who finally gave it official protection.
In 1701, the Cocomero thus became a proper “public institution” recognised by the Grand Ducal government; a reality that with its dynamic, varied and intense theatrical proposal – comedies in prose and operas – would far exceed the production and activity of the Teatro della Pergola, the most institutional of the Florentine theatres, which would in fact begin to slow down its production and then cease it at the beginning of the century (the Pergola resume its activity when it reopened in 1718).
During the period of the Grand Princes protection (from 1701 to 1713), the Infuocati consolidated their vocation for management, subletting their theatre to the companies of comedians and to impresarios of operas who requested the space in order to be able to perform in Florence, that was undoubtedly becoming one of the most important cities in the Italian circuit, precisely because of the presence of the Cocomero and the efficient management of the Infuocati.
The sale of tickets and the rental of boxes for individual performances or for entire seasons thus became the main means of sustenance and financing for the academy, which, with the official protection of the Medici prince, no longer experienced moments of financial difficulty. Thanks to the shrewd policy of the Infuocati, flanked by the fundamental activity of gambling, officially forbidden but unofficially supported by Ferdinando himself, the theatrical seasons at the Cocomero were always busy, so that it was often impossible to satisfy all the requests for subletting the space to perform.
When Prince Ferdinando died in 1713, after more than ten years of efficient management, the Infuocati found themselves once again at a crossroads, faced with the uncertainty of the survival of their enterprise; but it was the timely intervention of Prince Gian Gastone, brother of the late protector and heir to the grand ducal title, that avoided the most pessimistic predictions and decreed the academy's theatrical activity would continue, under the official patronage of the Medici. Gian Gastone was crowned Grand Duke in 1723 at his fathers death. Under this rule, up to 1737, the Infuocati experienced their most prosperous period, especially in terms of the freedom of action granted by the grand ducal government. This liberal policy allowed the academy considerable incomes, which ensured it a more than comfortable survival and, above all, the right to decide on theatrical management with a fair degree of discretion towards the impresarios and comedians companies.
It is no coincidence that precisely under the rule of Gian Gastone, the Infuocati decided to embark an experience of direct management, that for the 1730-1731 carnival, which jointly involved all the academicians in collaboration with the impresario Antonio Guerretti. The account books of the Academy accurately record the details of each individual expenses.
In 1737 the death of Gian Gastone, the last Grand Duke of the house of Medici, marked the extinction of the dynasty and, following the treaties resulting from the War of the Polish Succession, the inheritance of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany into the hands of Francis Stephen of Lorraine. The transition to the new foreign dynasty was initially traumatic for the city of Florence, also because Frances Stephen was unfortunately for his citizens an “invisible” Grand Duke. He was engaged in much more complicated imperial affairs, especially after his election in 1745 to the imperial throne as consort of Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter of Emperor Charles VI; the government of the Grand Duchy was thus delegated to a Council of Regency, chaired first by Marc de Beauvau, Prince of Craon, and then by the Count of Richecourt.
The Infuocati, despite legitimate fears, were immediately reconfirmed as a public state entity thanks to the protection granted by Grand Duke and continued their theatrical activities under the strict control of the Regency Council. Although limiting compared to the wide range of movement granted by the more condescending Medici protection, the Lorraine programme helped to guide the Teatro del Cocomero over the years towards its precise identity within the city's theatrical production.
3. The “life behind the curtain”: four key examples
Having briefly introduced the history of the Cocomero in the 18th century, here are some examples which are indicative of its life behind the scenes; stories about the material nature of the theatre, in which the managerial capacity of the Infuocati and the contingent necessities of adaptation behind the theatrical production are revealed.
1) The Cocomero scenic apparatus extracted from the academys inventories
Thanks to the discovery of the academys inventories, it has been possible to reconstruct the stage equipment of the Cocomero, in its various theatrical phases and over the long period of its management activity.
The following manuscript document, transcribed by me and relating to the 1703 inventory, lists all the types of scenes owned by the theatre and the various stage materials.
Al nome di Dio, della gloriosa sempre Vergine Maria e di S. Andrea Corsini nostro Avvocato.
In questo Quaderno intitolato Inventarj si registreranno tutti gl'Inventarj de Mobili e Masserizie dell'Accademia degl'Infuocati di via del Cocomero sotto la protezione del Serenissimo Principe di Toscana; tanto spettanti all'Illustrissimo Signor Carlo Lorenzo Ughi Padrone della casa e teatro di detta Accademia, quanto spettanti in proprio alla medesima. Al quale si dà principio del mese di marzo 1702 ab Incarnatione.
Adì 16 di marzo 1702 ab Incarnatione in Firenze.
Inventario delle robe che sono questo presente giorno nello stanzone dell'Illustrissimo Signor Carlo Lorenzo Ughi in via del Cocomero detto deglInfuocati, e prima.
[…] Nel palco delle scene.
Un palco per i comici, ove si recita, lungo braccia 15 e largo braccia 15; N. sei pezzi di scene che rappresentano Bosco; N. sei pezzi che rappresentano Giardino; N. sei pezzi che rappresentano Sala, con suoi capitelli dorati; N. sei pezzi che rappresentano Camera, con due guarnizioni dorate; N. sei pezzi, che rappresentano Civile; N. sei pezzi, che rappresentano Cortile; N. sei pezzi che rappresentano Prigione; Un foro grande che rappresenta Civile; Altro simile che rappresenta Cortile; Altro grande, che rappresenta l'Arcova della Camera; Altro simile, che rappresenta Sala con due porte aperte; Un forino in fondo della Prigione; Altro avanti che rappresenta volta della Prigione; N. sei soffitte, che rappresentano Cieli; N. sei soffitte, che servono alla Sala e alla Camera; Le soffitte per la Prigione; Una tenda intelaiata dipinta, che copre per davanti il palco; N. sei canali di legno fino al tetto, dove corrono le scene; N. dodici cassette dietro alle scene, che servono per illuminarle; Un foro mastiettato in due luoghi, che rappresenta il fondo del giardino, lungo braccia 6 e alto braccia 5; Due mostre lunghe braccia 6 luna, che rappresentano vasi e figure del giardino; Una fonte, che serve al medesimo giardino con statua sopra; Due canali di legno, che servono per i fori grandi, mozzati all'altezza di braccia 5; Due canaletti di legno che servono per i forini piccoli mozzati come sopra; Un foro piccolo che rappresenta Bosco […].
2) An example of use and reuse or different use of scenic equipment in accordance with the spaces of the Cocomero
A case study in this sense can be found in the Preface (Lo stampatore a chi legge) to the printed edition of Apostolo Zenos Vincislao concerning the performance at the Teatro del Cocomero in 1704, a revival of the Venetian debut in 1703 at the San Giovanni Grisostomo.
For the Florentine production, the score was adjusted considering the vocal qualities of the new “actors”, which led to the modification of some arias; similarly, the staging was completely rethought for the space of the Cocomero, which was very small compared to the wide stage of the Grimani theatre:
È bensì necessario a sapersi che il teatro di Firenze, non essendo capace delle magnificenze che si praticano in quelli di Venezia, è indispensabile ridurre li drami allesigenza di esso. Gli attori pure essendo diversi, e ciò che torna bene alluno non accomodandosi allaltro, particolarmente nellarie, è stato forza ammettervi qualche piccola mutazione, a cui molto ancora hanno cooperato gli accidenti impensati occorsi in questanno nel maneggio dellopere. Peraltro, vi fu disegno di rappresentarsi interamente allintenzione del Signor Apostolo, e nel distribuire le parti, venuta la necessità dal lontanarsene in alcuna piccola circostanza, fu praticato tutto il rispetto che si doveva alla sua perfettissima composizione.
3) A case of reduction for translation
An interesting example of dramaturgical-representative practice is offered by the opera La Stratonica, staged in the autumn of 1707, arguably by Antonio Salvi and unknown composer. The Avvertenza to the reader suggests that this was a first Italian performance, thus a debut on the stage of the Cocomero; the anonymous author warned the audience of possible discrepancies in the opera compared to the French edition. These concerned both the text, translated, and modified for the Italian audience, the score, evidently by a different author from the one of the French debuts, and the stage adaptation, made necessary by the peculiar structure of the Florentine theatre:
Lopera nel suo idioma francese ha già ricevuti i suoi applausi. Nella traduzione non so se avrà questa fortuna, tanto più che dovendo servire alla musica ed alla brevità è convenuto restringere e lasciare molti di quei bellissimi sentimenti de quali lha vestita lautore. Qualche personaggio e qualche scena vi troverai differente dalloriginale, e ciò per meglio accomodarsi al costume italiano ed agli attori. Quello che troverai segnati con questo asterisco ,,, [sic] son versi non miei avendo lasciato la libertà delle contrascene agli attori stessi che dovevano rappresentarle.
4) The necessity of the enlargement of the theatre to serve the needs of the staging and the audience
In the summer of 1725, the vice-patron Camillo Vitelli submitted to the Accademia a proposal for an extension of the theatre: a radical renovation project designed by the engineer Alessandro Saller to lower the level of the audience to obtain a new order of boxes for the theatre.
At the end of the works, the new hall would house three tiers of boxes for a total of 55, with the proscenium advanced and all the mutations restored.
LIllustrissimo Signor Cavalier Pietro Ughi riduce in altro posto il teatro con aggiungere un altro ordine di palchetti alla sua persuasione, si è contentato che lor Signori Accademici possino far fare una porta nella loggia della sua casa [di Jacopo Medici] che di presente tengono a pigione che corrisponde nel detto teatro, si come gli permette quando gli occorra di far fare due altre porte nellandito della medesima casa per comodo delle stanze che si servono per il gioco.
The analysis of the academic papers relating to the productions of operas and comedies performed at the Cocomero throughout the Eighteenth Century have highlighted the undisputed centrality of the Infuocatis Theatre in the context of the city's theatrical proposal.
One of the major productive realities of the public scene, the Accademia degli Infuocati would demonstrate, over the very long period of its activity, an extraordinary vitality and survival, but above all a willingness and managerial ability that would see it as protagonists of many transformations, confirming from decade to decade the validity of its motto, “a tempo Infuocati”.
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