A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Musical Feasts

1717877A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Musical FeastsCatherine Mary Phillimore

MUSICAL FEASTS. The Musical Feasts which preceded the Musical Drama were so called because it was the custom in Italy to celebrate any joyful occasion, such as the marriage of princes, with feasts, and games, and melodramatic poetry, accompanied with theatrical representations. Feats of arms, jousts and tournaments, also made part of the entertainment, which was in Italy of much the same character as the masques and pageants in England in the time, of Elizabeth and James I. So much were these Musical Feasts in request that the most celebrated poets and musicians of the day were employed to arrange the scheme, celebrated architects devised the extraordinary and elaborate machinery brought in to enhance the effect, and great painters—in one instance a pupil of Perugino, Bastiano di san Gallo—condescended to paint the scenery.

'Like the musical feasts,' says Burney (Hist, ii. 50), 'the first Italian operas were performed in the palaces of princes, for the celebration of marriages, or on some particular occasion of joy and festivity, at the expense of the Sovereign or the Republic, and not in theatres supported by general contribution.' (See Il Quadrio, vol. v. p. 500)