Orpheus in the Marketplace: Jacopo Peri and the Economy of Late Renaissance Florence

Overview

The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. A large collection of recently discovered account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done much more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes...

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Orpheus in the Marketplace

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Overview

The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. A large collection of recently discovered account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done much more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes the remarkable value of such financial documents as a primary source for an entire period.

This record of Peri's wide-ranging investments and activities in the marketplace enables the first detailed account of the Florentine economy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and also opens a completely new perspective on one of Europe's principal centers of capitalism. His economic circumstances reflect continuities and transformations in Florentine society, and the strategies for negotiating them, under the Medici grand dukes. At the same time they allow a reevaluation of Peri the singer and composer that elucidates the cultural life of a major artistic center even in changing times, providing a quite different view of what it meant to be a musician in late Renaissance Italy.

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Editorial Reviews

Suzanne B. Butters
How did Renaissance musicians balance their creative and practical lives? Drawing on Peri's many unpublished account books and letters, this exemplary collaborative study explores how one famous Florentine composer-performer successfully combined business, finance, and family management with a musical career at the Medici court. Fascinating and original, it will delight social and cultural historians as well as those of music and the economy.
Suzanne G. Cusick
In this bravura example of interdisciplinary history at its finest, two scholars of matchless erudition use the remarkably well-preserved traces of one man's life to provide a fascinating account of economic and musical practice in Florence at the turn of the seventeenth century. Through Jacopo Peri's story, Carter and Goldthwaite indispensably show how social status and wealth might contribute to a musician's aesthetic stance, reputation, and, eventually, canonicity.
Iain Fenlon
What is known about the circumstances of composers living and working in Italy during this period is often disarmingly skeletal. Through their detailed exploration of the 'Peri Archive' from different historical perspectives--musical, social, and, above all, economic--the authors have fascinatingly illuminated the interlocking spheres of the complex existence of one of the most significant composers of the time.
New York Times - Zachary Woolfe
Quietly thrilling…[Carter and Goldthwaite] offer a sustained analysis of a recently discovered trove of account books belonging to Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), one of the earliest opera composers. What they reveal has implications for both music history and our understanding of an economy and society in transition, and is a model of interdisciplinary collaboration in the humanities…Even ordinary music lovers will find the exploration of the still underrated Peri intriguing.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Tim Carter is David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Richard A. Goldthwaite is Professor Emeritus of History at Johns Hopkins University.

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