Published February 2017
The subject of this month’s Treasure is Univ’s musical manuscripts. MS 210 is a group of five volumes which contain copies of music composed by various seventeenth century Italian composers.
Three of these volumes, MS 210/1-3, contain a copy of the opera Il Giasone (see right). The music was composed by Frederico Cavalli (1602-76) and Giacinto Andrea Cicognini (1606-51) wrote the libretto.
The plot of Il Giasone was loosely based on the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. It was first produced in 1649 at the Venetian opera house Teatro San Cassiano. Most seventeenth century operas ran for just a single season. But Cavalli’s Il Giasone proved to be a hit and was revived an unrivalled 24 times in opera houses all over Italy, making it the most popular Italian opera of the seventeenth century.
For each production, performing parts and scores had to be copied out. Very often commemorative editions were also made. Before the advent of audio recording, this was how musical works were promoted and disseminated. The
This particular copy is thought to have been made in Rome around the time of the 1671 revival. The production was billed as Il novello Giasone as it was an updated version with musical alterations by the composer Alessandro Stradella (1639-82), and other changes to the libretto and structure. MS210/1-3, however, represents the earlier version Il Giasone. Perhaps it was made to allow for comparison with Il novello Giasone.
This is the only seventeenth century copy of Il Giasone known to be in the United Kingdom, and it is one of twelve sources for the opera known to exist in libraries around Europe.
In the event they landed up at the latter and remained there until 1995 when the Music Faculty Library sent its manuscript collection to the Bodleian. This is when it was discovered that MS 210 had bookplates and shelfmarks marking it as belonging to Univ. It was deposited in the Bodleian Library where it is now held on permanent loan with Univ's other manuscripts.
So we know about MS 210’s creation and its history from 1942, but not of its life between 1671 and 1942. How and why it came to England and Univ remains unsolved.
Glover, Jane, Cavalli (London: Batsford, 1978).
Rosand, Ellen (ed.), Readying Cavalli’s Operas for the Stage: Manuscript, Edition, Production (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013).