This Day In Information: Media Innovations

Today in 1607, the first performance of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo took place in the ducal palace in Mantua, before the members of the Accademia degli Invaghiti. Silke Leopold writes in his notes to John Eliot Gardiner’s recording (Archiv) of the opera: “It appears paradoxical that L’Orfeo, which is constantly referred to as the ‘first true opera in the history of music,’ was presented in Mantua in a way that did not correspond at all to contemporary notions of ‘theater.’ None of the surviving sources… refers to a production that was in any sense staged… But in fact it was precisely the freedom from all the usual circumstances surrounding staged performance… that gave Monteverdi the chance to draft a specifically musical concept for the new genre of opera which united its different strata–the text, the stage, the music–in that perfect synthesis. … L’Orfeo was given before a select audience of connoisseurs, not as a spectacular musical-cum-theatrical court entertainment but almost, rather, as an academic exercise, as a model for opera to follow, at a date when the genre was still wide open for discussion.”

Today in 1711,  Handel’s Rinaldo premiered, the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. Aaron Hill, the manager of the Queen’s Theatre was determined “to exploit to the full the opportunities for lavish spectacle afforded by the theatre’s machinery.” The staging was full of special effects, including thunder and lightning, sirens and a dragon. From the notes by Charles Dupechez to David Daniels’ Handel Arias CD: “Opera written on the Italian model, already fashionable in the capitals of continental Europe, was still a novelty in London, and its establishment resulted from a long struggle against the adherents of a strictly national opera.”

Today in 2010, “a day that lives in social-media history,” Conan O’Brien (at the time he was banned from TV by his separation agreement with NBC) sent his first tweet: “Today I  interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me.”

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