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Intermedio


The intermedio [interˈmɛːdjo] (also intromessa, introdutto, tramessa, tramezzo, intermezzo), in the Italian Renaissance, was a theatrical performance or spectacle with music and often dance which was performed between the acts of a play to celebrate special occasions in Italian courts. It was one of the important predecessors to opera, and an influence on other forms like the English court masque. Weddings in ruling families and similar state occasions were the usual occasion for the most lavish intermedi, in cities such as Florence and Ferrara. Some of the best documentation of intermedi comes from weddings in the Medici family, in particular the 1589 Medici wedding (between Christina of Lorraine and Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany), which featured what was undoubtedly both the most spectacular set of intermedi, and the best known, thanks to no fewer than 18 contemporary published festival books and sets of prints that were financed by the Grand Duke.

Intermedi were written and performed from the late 15th century through the 17th century, although the peak of development of the genre was in the late 16th century. After 1600 the form merged with opera, for the most part, though intermedi continued to be used in non-musical plays in certain settings (for example in academies), and also continued to be performed between the acts of operas.

The first intermedii were not in Florence but in Ferrara at the end of the 15th century between the five acts of plays by the classical authors Plautus and Terence. Writing of the "intermezzi" at the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia in 1502, Isabella d'Este said that they were more interesting than the boring commedia, "a remark destined to be often repeated". Ferrara intermezzi at this period were short and without a unifying theme; they included choruses, recitations and moresca dances. But by 1513 there was a unifying allegory, explained at the end. It was for Florentine public celebrations that Intermedii came into their own; several were organised by Machiavelli when he was part of the government of the Republic of Florence in the early 16th century, and the returning Medici adopted a policy of keeping the aristocracy occupied by involving them in productions.



  • Warren Kirkendale, Emilio De' Cavalieri Gentiluomo Romano, (Florence, 2001).
  • Howard Mayer Brown, Sixteenth-century instrumentation: the music for the Florentine intermedii, (American Institute of Musicology, 1973).
  • J.R. Mulryne, Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly and Margaret Shewring (eds.), "Europa Triumphans": Court and Civic Festivals in Early Modern Europe, (Aldershot and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2004)
  • Alois Nagler, Theatre Festivals of the Medicis 1539-1637, 1964, Yale UP
  • Article "Intermedio", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980.
  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986.
  • Reed, Sue Welsh & Wallace, Richard (eds), Italian Etchers of the Renaissance and Baroque, 1989, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, or 304-4 (pb)
  • Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954.
  • James Saslow, The Medici Wedding of 1589, Yale University Press, 1996
  • Shearman, John. Mannerism, 1967, Pelican, London,
  • Roy Strong; Art and Power; Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650, 1984, The Boydell Press;
  • Andrew C. Minor and Bonner Mitchell, A Renaissance Entertainment, (Univ. Missouri Press, 1968).
  • Martin Grayson, George and Rosemary Bate, Music for a Medici Wedding, (Modern playing edition of 1539 Intermedio), http://www.alfredston-music.co.uk (1994).
  • D. P. Walker, Musique des Intermedes de "La Pellegrina", (CNRS, Paris), (1963, reprinted 1986).
  • Firenze 1539 - Musiche fatte nelle nozze dello illustrissimo duca di Firenze il signor Cosimo de Medici et della illustrissima consorte sua mad. Leonora da Tolletto, Centro de Musique Ancienne di Genevra / Studio di Musica Rinascimentale di Palermo / Schola "Jacopo da Bologna", conducted by Gabriel Garrido, (TACTUS TC 500301).
  • Ein Hochzeitsfest in Florenz 1539, Weser-Renaissance Bremen, conducted by Manfred Cordes, in: Tage alter Musik in Herne 2001: Allianzen - Musik und Politik in Werken vom Mittelalter bis zur Romantik. Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln / Tage alter Musik Herne, http://www.tage-alter-musik.de (2001). Only the intermedii by Corteccia.
  • La Pellegrina - Music for the Wedding of Ferdinando De Medici and Christine de Lorraine, Florence 1589, conducted by Andrew Parrot, (EMI).
  • La Pellegrina - Music for the Wedding of Ferdinando De Medici and Christine de Lorraine, Princess of France, Florence 1589, conducted by Paul Van Nevel, singers: Katelijne Van Laethem, Pascal Bertin, et al. (Sony/Columbia - 63362, 1998). 2 CDs.
  • La Pellegrina - Intermedii 1589, Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Collegium Vocale Gent conducted by Skip Sempe, singers: Dorothée Leclair, Soprano / Monika Mauch, Soprano / Pascal Bertin, Alto / Stephan van Dyck, Tenor / Jean-François Novelli, Tenor / Antoni Fajardo, Bass. (2 CDs Paradizo PA0004 - 2007)
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