Le nozze degli dei favola Dell’ Ab’ Gio. Carlo....Coppola, Giovanni Carlo. 1637, First Edition
Coppola, Giovanni Carlo.
Le nozze degli dei favola Dell’ Ab’ Gio. Carlo Coppola Rappresentata in Musica in Firenzenelle reali nozze De Serenis.mi Gran Duchi di Toschana Ferdinando II. e Vittoria Principessa d’Urbino.
Florence: Amadore Massi and Lorenzo Landi, 1637. First edition.
[Rondinelli, Francesco]. Relazione delle nozze degli dei favola dell’Abaate Gio: Carlo Coppola Rappresentata nelle reali Nozze de’Sereniss. Gran Duchi di Toscana Ferdinando II. E Vittoria Principessa d’Urbino. Alla Medesima Gran Duchessa di Toscana. Florence: [Amadore] Massi and [Lorenzo] Landi, 1637. First edition.
Quarto (9 5/8” x 6 ¾”, 236mm x 172mm): †4 A-N4, 2A-F4 2G2 [$2 signed; –†1, 2A1]. 82 leaves (56, 26), pp.  (title, blank, 2pp. dedication, 2pp. to the reader, 2pp. dramatis personae), 1-104; 21-2 23-50,  (privilege and colophon, blank). With an engraved title-page integral to the text, and 7 folding engraved plates by Stefano della Bella after designs of Alfonso Parigi.
Bound in contemporary limp laced vellum. Author and title ink manuscript to the spine.
Soiling to the edges of the binding, with some loss to the front upper fore-corner. Text-block loose although not precarious, split at H1. A little worming to the paste-downs and to the first free end-paper, not affecting text. F4 laid in, and a dampstain to the lower fore-corner of 2E-F2. A totally unsophisticated copy, with the long stubs of the plates. With the bookplate of Paul and Marianne Gourary (from their sale) on the front paste-down. (Ownership?) signature twice of “Sig.r Gio(rgio) Pavoli” on the verso of the final free end-paper.
Ferdinando II de’ Medici (1610–1670) became Grand Duke of Tuscany at the age of 10, and his mother and grandmother served as his regents and matchmakers. They arranged a marriage in 1634 to his first cousin, Vittoria della Rovere, granddaughter of the last Duke of Urbino. The aim of the union was to merge the Duchy of Urbino into that of Tuscany, but the gambit ultimately failed; Urbino was absorbed by the Papal States.
The “products” of the marriage, therefore, were their two children who lived to adulthood and the account of the splendid wedding celebrations. As befitted the union of two of Italy’s great noble families, the wedding was a multi-day spectacle at the Palazzo Pitti. In these early days of opera, the totality of the art-form (Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk) was perfectly suited to these grand occasions.
Giovanni Carlo Coppola (1599–1651) was the librettist of a tale (favola) of the marriage of the gods Venus and Vulcan (which was perhaps prescient; Venus famously cheated on her husband with Mars; conversely, Vittoria is said to have found her husband in bed with his pageboy), Jupiter and Juno (in heaven), Neptune and Amphitrite (in the sea) and Pluto and Proserpino (in the underworld). The music was overseen by Marco da Gagliano, maestro di capella of the Medici court, but there were in fact five composers commissioned to contribute (p. 27), with Ferdinando Saracinelli conducting. Agnolo Ricci was choreographer of the several balli bracketing the drama, and Alfonso Parigi designed the sets (including the elaborate stage machines). These sets are reproduced in the folding plates, and give a sense of the grandeur of the production.
Coppola’s libretto is the first portion of the work, and the second part is a description, attributed to Rondinelli, of the production as a whole, a rather rare account of early operatic stagecraft. We learn, for instance, that there were around 150 singers and at least 25 dancers in the production. In addition, this appears to be the earliest recorded usage of the word “opera” to mean a musical drama, rather than “works,” which is its literal translation; the Oxford English Dictionary places the earliest usage in this sense two years later in 1639.
Most intriguing is the double signature to the verso of the final free end-paper of Giorgio Pavoni, who was gonfaloniere (mayor) of Livorno, the great port of Tuscany, in 1631. Ferdinando oversaw a major modernization of the city from 1629, and in the year of Pavoni’s mayoralty the Chiesa di Sant’Anna was opened, doubtless a major event. It is possible that Pavoni was invited to the wedding, and bought the book three years later as a souvenir.
Centuries later, the present item joined the great collection of “fête books,” as they are known, amassed by Paul (principally) and Marianne Gourary. After Paul’s death in 2007, the collection — “Splendid Ceremonies” — was sold by Christie’s New York (12 June 2009), in which the present item was lot 512.
Berlin Ornamentstichsammlung 4116; Brunet II.262; Nagler, Theater Festivals of the Medici, pp. 162–174; Watanabe 1285.