ABSTRACT

At the turn of the sixteenth century the chivalric spectacle was already a strange survival of its splendid past for the European nobility, now in full crisis of identity. Nevertheless, the taste for tournois, joustes, carrousels et autres spectacles (“tournaments, jousts, and other spectacles”)—to use the title of a successful treatise published in 1669 by the French Jesuit Claude-François Ménestrier—remained strong and widely popular until the end of the baroque period. 2 But the space where a chivalric spectacle was situated during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries—within the city boundaries and frequently inside palaces and theaters—was totally different from the mediaeval tournament, which usually took place in the outskirts of a large city. Also the music, which once played at intervals to animate the combatants, changed its function structuring the jousting itself into the space. While iconographic evidence and documents associated with the multiple kinds of chivalric spectacles have been widely studied in the last four decades, the presence of music in the two basic types of baroque chivalric spectacles, giostra (a fight between two single mounted knights, or a single against a “saracino,” an inanimate target) and torneo (involving two teams of combatants), has been underestimated or reduced to short quotations from printed librettos and archival documents on the part of a few specialist historians of music. 3 This neglect might be explained by the fact that “few bits of music survive that might be connected with staged chivalric contests.” 4 Ménestrier already had warned “harmony should not be lacking from carousels, which are celebrations with appareil, and public festivities […] their harmony is of two types, one military, fierce, and belligerent, the other one sweet and pleasant.” 5 The second kind of music mentioned by Ménestrier was typically used for the torneo. But, of course, the contests themselves were only one aspect of the complex chivalric spectacle, which included many other elements, including the opening sfida (challenge) and the central performance of spoken comedies and often of a dramma per musica, culminating in an equestrian ballet. Hammond correctly defined any attempt at reconstructing a complete chivalric combat as “a jigsaw puzzle.” 6