This article sheds new light onto the process of transformation of the figure of the opera patron in Rome during the mid-seventeenth century. Following the travels of Giovanni Filippo Apolloni's libretto Amor per vendetta, ovvero L'Alcasta, I trace the dissolution of the ubiquitous individual court patron of the earlier part of the century into a network of agents behind opera production in commercial contexts. In every phase of the story of L'Alcasta—its commission, plans for production, staging, dedication, and subsequent revivals—we can detect diverse agencies shaping the libretto and score, which accommodated different needs and tastes and conveyed multiple social and political meanings.
Showing how the Roman aristocracy experimented with new systems of production that would radically change the history of opera, L'Alcasta also raises broader questions concerning the presence and functions of “patronage” in commercial opera theaters. The trajectory that emerges in the history of opera patronage in the papal city during the second half of the century begins with collective forms of sponsorship during the 1660s and develops further, giving rise to Rome's first commercial opera theater during the 1670s, the Teatro Tordinona. In this context, at a time in which opera in Rome did not find full institutional support, Queen Christina of Sweden represented, at least nominally, the missing patron, a highly representative figure who stood in as guarantor of the new theater on behalf of the aristocratic class that produced and conspicuously consumed opera.
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