Fit for a Queen: The “Festa” in the Riccardi Gardens, 8 October 1600
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Among the various entertainments for the festivities celebrating the wedding of Maria de’ Medici and Henri IV of France, Ottavio Rinuccini and Jacopo Peri’s Euridice (sponsored by the Florentine patrician, Jacopo Corsi, and the first “opera” to survive complete) and Gabriello Chiabrera and Giulio Caccini’s Il rapimento di Cefalo have tended to gain the most scholarly attention. However, these two music-theatrical works formed part of a coherent and carefully planned series of events that took as its model the Classical epithalamic tradition and its early modern counterparts. Each element of the series had a separate purpose in terms of nuptial ritual and the political and other points to made from it. The (ac)cumulative effect, however, was even more important in terms of which specific messages were conveyed when and how.
The festa held in the lavish Riccardi gardens during the 1600 festivities is a case in point. It was the second “entertainment” provided by a Florentine patrician, and the penultimate one in the overall sequence (which ended with Il rapimento di Cefalo on Monday 9 October). The poetic texts (probably by Gabriello Chiabrera) delivered during the festa were printed; the music to which they were set (by Piero Strozzi) does not survive. However, even just the texts offer a clear sense of how the music and “staging” worked in addition, of course, to the propaganda inherent in their content. A careful reading between their lines also presents a somewhat different perspective on the various political and other agendas lying behind the marriage of a Medici princess with the King of France.