The Unexplored Giant: Use histories of Italian oratorio around 1700
Title: The Unexplored Giant: Use histories of Italian oratorio around 1700
Author: VAN DER LINDEN, Huub
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
The musical genre of Italian oratorio—unacted, sung drama in two parts on a hagiographic, biblical, or moral plot—witnessed a great boom of interest in the priod around years around 1900 and the decades around 1700. During the first of these two periods the roots of its modern historiography were laid. One of the characteristics that emerge from both the historiography and performance tradition of Italian oratorio is its ambiguous position between the sacred and the secular spheres. The thesis argues that this was a defining characteristic of the genre as such, and that it was among the things that contributed to the popularity of the genre in the decades around in 1700. Its perceived ambiguities as a genre allowed it to be employed in and adapted to widely different performance contexts. It is further argued that the signification, function, and adaptability of the genre best emerge from studying how one and the same work was used in various differences places and circumstances. The thesis takes therefore as its basis the study of what it calls the use histories of a corpus of six librettos. By tracing how these six texts and the musical settings they engendered functioned in different contexts, a more precise picture emerges of these works’ (and the genre’s) versatility. Simultaneously, the use histories of these works highlight the relative importance of the ‘musical work’ compared to the specifics of performances, as well as add an element to a broader history of the circulation of objects in early modern Europe.
Defence date: 5 September 2012; Examining Board: Professor Antonella Romano (EUI); Professor Martin Van Gelderen (EUI); Professor Renata Ago (Universita degli studi di Roma La Sapienza); Professor Robert L. Kendrick (The University of Chicago).
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