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To sleep perchance to sing: the suspension of disbelief in the prologue to Francesco Cavalli's Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne (1640)

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In the newly popularized genre of opera during the seventeenth century, the allegorical prologue was commonly used as a preface from about 1600 to 1670, with no fewer than 98 opera prologues composed throughout Venice during this period. These prologues, often sung by allegories and/or characters from myth, set the stage for the proceeding drama. In the prologue to Francesco Cavalli's 1640 opera Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne, its characters, the gods of sleep and dreams, set the stage for an opera that revolves around a dream. This article explores the act of wishing the audience peaceful and pleasant dreams by using oratory as a method that the allegorical figures use to sing the audience a lullaby. The purpose of this lullaby is to instigate the suspension of disbelief required to allow the story to gain the audience's credibility. This article will show how Cavalli's opera does so uniquely by spatially extending its effects outwards onto the audience rather than only onto the characters onstage.
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Keywords: Francesco Cavalli; early music; linguistics; prologue; semiotics; seventeenth-century opera

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Brandeis University.

Publication date: 01 August 2010

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