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Fusaroli Pedrielli, Laura, Gloria Giordano, und Silvia Rambaldi. "Perception and Reception in the Reconstruction of the Ballet Martel d'Amore; from Lione Tolosa to Barbara Sparti."

Fusaroli Pedrielli, Laura, Gloria Giordano, und Silvia Rambaldi. "Perception and Reception in the Reconstruction of the Ballet Martel d'Amore; from Lione Tolosa to Barbara Sparti." In Perception and Reception of Early Dance [Proceedings of the Early Dance Circle Conference held on 18-20 May 2018], edited by Barbara Segal and Sharon Butler, 7-26. Cambridge: Early Dance Circle, 2020.


The purpose of this paper is to set forth our analysis of the Perception and Reception procedure followed by Barbara Sparti during the genesis, development and conclusion of one of her last works of reconstruction, interpretation and revival of a ballet of the end of the XVI century: Martel d’Amore Baletto di Lione Tolosa hebreo. The manuscript containing the description of the Baletto is preserved at the Biblioteca Estense of Modena and was brought to light by the musicologist Kathryn Bosi, author of the essay Leone Tolosa and Martel d’amore: a balletto della duchessa discovered, published in 2005 («Recercare: rivista per lo studio e la pratica della musica antica», XVII, Lucca, LIM, 2005, p. 5-70), the source of Barbara Sparti’s inspiration.

Performed on the 21st of January, 1582 at the Estense Court of Ferrara, the Martel d’Amore was danced by eight noble ladies, including Margherita Gonzaga, the wife of Alfonso II d’Este, to whom Fabritio Caroso had dedicated the Ballet Este Gonzaga.

Although the manuscript gives no indication of the music, the Baletto is however extremely rich from a choreographic point of view and all details are accurately described. The combination of steps draws on the typical vocabulary of the second half of the XVI century, in the style of the first Caroso (Ballarino) and of Cesare Negri, and the choreographic figures are very like those of the “theatrical” dances of the Milanese maestro.

The title of Martel d’Amore: ballo a due chori di quattro Pastori e quattro Ninfe is also that of a literary document of the same period as the Baletto, attributed to the Italian dramatist and poet Giovanni Battista Guarini. It is thought that Guarini’s text was presumably set to music in the form of a madrigal (as in the similar case of Pastor fido) and, very probably, in this form accompanies Tolosa’s choreography.

In the absence of any original musical scores – either of the Baletto, or of the text – the choreographic reconstruction of Martel d’Amore required a further complex procedure of perception and reception, taking into account both the choreography and the literary text, in order to compose a musical score in style, a procedure already accomplished by Barbara in collaboration with musicians for several Italian dances of the XV century.

The Perception/Reception was necessary to understand how the step sequences relate to the choreographic figures and to the dramatic meaning given them by Tolosa, in order to establish a plausible rhythmic proposal, probably connected with the meaning of the text, suited to the syllabication of the words and the setting to music. Composition of the music score required close collaboration with the harpsichordist Silvia Rambaldi who, together with Barbara, thrashed out the new composition beat by beat.

The music was composed for one and two sopranos and basso continuo, following a practice that started at the end of the XVI century. Of great inspiration were the madrigals for one, two and three sopranos by Luzzaschi, the Balletti by Gastoldi, the Frottole by Tromboncino and, generally speaking, the melodies and rhythms of the dance music of the time. Each section of the choreography features a specific theme, with alternating major and minor tones, binary and ternary rhythms, solo voice and polyphony.

The reconstruction, worked out with the collaboration of a group of advanced-level students and teachers of the Musica Antica course at Urbino, and subsequently completed by the group of “Curiosi”, to which the authors of this paper belong, was conducted alternately over a five-year period, from 2006 to 2011.

In Italy, the reconstructed Baletto has had two performances: the first at Urbino, directed by Barbara herself, and the second at Ferrara directed by Laura Fusaroli Pedrielli. Retracing the reconstruction procedure for Martel d’Amore after several years, on the lines proposed by the Conference, will allow us to assess other aspects, not originally examined, such as the socio- political value of Tolosa’s dance at that time, that of Ladies performing male roles, the spatial perception of the dance when it was performed and nowadays… in brief, about the choreographic project of Lione Tolosa’s, what kind of Perception and Reception we experienced during our reconstruction process? What kind of Perception and Reception is possible today through our reconstruction guided by Barbara Sparti?

Year of publication: 2020

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