In the 1580s Ruggero Giovannelli and Luca Marenzio published a series of madrigals drawn from the pastoral book Arcadia (1504) by the Neapolitan poet Jacopo Sannazaro. There was something unusual about this choice. The texts featured sdrucciolo lines, a verse type that was traditionally excluded from the Petrarchist canon and, consequently, from the repertory of the musical madrigal. In the dedication of his first book for four voices to Ferrante Penna, Giovannelli justified his decision to publish an entire collection of sdrucciolo as an homage to Sannazaro, to whom he referred as the pride of the kingdom of Naples. He clearly meant to capitalize on a distinctively southern sense of cultural identity that took pride in Sannazaro's poetic legacy. Why, in Rome in the 1580s, did it become so important, and potentially remunerative, to reaffirm the glory of a Neapolitan poet of the caliber and popularity of Sannazaro? Why did this celebratory act focus on such a specific aspect of his poetic output (namely the cultivation of sdrucciolo lines)? And above all, why did it take the form of a musical offering? By tracing the musical reception of Sannazaro's Arcadia in the 16th century, this article investigates the relationship between deviation from the norm and regional pride in the musical culture of the 1580s. Concomitantly, it aims at demonstrating that the study of the musical fortunes and misfortunes of Sannazaro's text has something distinctive to contribute to an understanding of the rhetoric of stylistic selection that surrounded the development of the Italian madrigal.
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