RINUCCINI, Ottavio

(1562-1621)
Ottavio Rinuccini, born in Florence and active there for most of his life, was a librettist, poet, and courtier. He was of a noble Florentine family and received a good classical education. At an early age he became a member of the Acca-demia Fiorentina and also of the Accademia degli Alterati, in which he took the name "Il Sonnacchioso" (The Somnolent One). The speculative discussions at the latter academy centered around the relations of dramatic theory and music, especially the adaptation of pastoral drama to a musical setting. It was thought that music was natural to shepherds, who lived close to nature and whose poetic utterances were reechoed by woods and mountains.
Rinuccini experimented first in the composition of intermedi, or interludes, which glorified the power of ancient music. Out of one of these, which depicted the struggle between Apollo and the python taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Rinuccini drew the opening scene of his first operatic text, Dafne. It is indebted in its subject matter to the plots of the great pastoral dramas of the period, especially Il pastor fido of Giovanni Battista Guarini.*
The originality of Rinuccini consisted in his fashioning of a new verse form that was well adapted to the new style of singing, the recitativo, or recitation on musical tones. Rather than the blank verse of spoken tragedy or the strict metrical units of traditional lyric forms, he used a combination of seven- and eleven-syllable verses, versi a selva (woodland verses). The rhetorical style of his poetry lent itself to the heightened declamatory style of the new music. This first opera, for which Jacopo Peri* wrote the music, was performed in the Pal­azzo Corsi in Florence in the pre-Lenten carnival of 1598. The text is divided into a prologue and six scenes or tableaux. The text was published in 1600 and therefore survives, but Peri's music, save for the prologue and one aria, is no longer extant.
The next collaboration with Peri was Euridice, taken once again from Ovid's Metamorphoses, but also with borrowings from Virgil's famous narration of the tale of Orpheus in the fourth Georgic and Politian's Orfeo, accounted as the first verse drama on a secular theme. The opera was performed in the Boboli gardens in Palazzo Pitti in Florence on 6 October 1600 to celebrate the wedding of Maria de' Medici and Henri IV of France. In the preface Rinuccini apologizes for the lieto fine (happy ending), which he introduced in view of the joyous occasion.
The dramatic organization of this opera lies behind the more famous Favola d'Orfeo, with the libretto by Alessandro Striggio and the music by composer Claudio Monteverdi.* Rinuccini later collaborated with Monteverdi for the opera Arianna, but unfortunately it is lost save for the wonderful lament of Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus, expressing her outrage, despair, and obsession with death, "Lasciatemi monre" (Let me die). It became one of the most popular operatic excerpts of the century and gave rise to a specific type of aria in count­less operas.
Rinuccini is thus the creator of the first operatic libretto. He was an able versifier, if not a great poet, and a creative man of the theater.
Bibliography
N. Pirrotta, Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, 1984.
Charles Fantazzi

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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