The Economics of “Meraviglia”: Theatre, Music, and Money at the Medici court
Francesca Fantappiè is an historian of Theatre and Performing Arts, and her research takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining theatre and music. Her published work includes studies of performers, theatre architecture, stage machinery and designs, as well as the editing of texts. Her book Per i teatri non è Bergamo sito (2010) explores the society of Bergamo through the process of building theatres in the city. She discovered and published the first version of Dafne by Ottavio Rinuccini and was curator of the exhibition Florence and the Birth of Opera: Documents and virtual reconstructions (Casa Buonarroti, 2019). She is completing the book Staging “Euridice” (1600): Theatre, Sets, and Music in Late Renaissance Florence (co-author Tim Carter).
While the multiple connections between artistic and economic activity have largely been explored for the business of opera in Venice, a study of the financing of Medici festivities, where opera found fertile ground for its birth, is still lacking. The subject has been neglected by scholars on the basis of a widespread if unjustified prejudice that the Grand Duke simply made lavish expenditures. Drawing on new archival documentation, this project makes multiple connections between artistic and economic activity in Florence, investigating the economic aspects of Medici festivals from 1586 to 1628 (the years when the Uffizi theatre was active), and reconsidering the position of spectacle in the social and political history of the city. Understanding the priorities of the Grand Duke and the relationship of festival expenses to their perceived dividends will produce a much needed analysis of the elaborate civic and courtly celebrations and the needs and desires of Florentine citizens. Why were some costs considered necessary and others a profligate waste? When was it considered opportune to conceal costs and when to publicize or inflate them? This work will demonstrate how the economics of “meraviglia” were tightly tied to a calculated assessment of their appropriateness, reassessing long-standing claims about the costs and political consequences of Medici festivals, and proving useful for all scholars of Medici cultural patronage—including art, architecture, music and theater.