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Orpheus in the Marketplace

Orpheus in the Marketplace

Jacopo Peri and the Economy of Late Renaissance Florence

Tim Carter, Richard A. Goldthwaite

ISBN 9780674724648

Publication date: 11/04/2013

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The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. A large collection of recently discovered account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done much more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes the remarkable value of such financial documents as a primary source for an entire period.

This record of Peri's wide-ranging investments and activities in the marketplace enables the first detailed account of the Florentine economy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and also opens a completely new perspective on one of Europe's principal centers of capitalism. His economic circumstances reflect continuities and transformations in Florentine society, and the strategies for negotiating them, under the Medici grand dukes. At the same time they allow a reevaluation of Peri the singer and composer that elucidates the cultural life of a major artistic center even in changing times, providing a quite different view of what it meant to be a musician in late Renaissance Italy.


  • How did Renaissance musicians balance their creative and practical lives? Drawing on Peri's many unpublished account books and letters, this exemplary collaborative study explores how one famous Florentine composer-performer successfully combined business, finance, and family management with a musical career at the Medici court. Fascinating and original, it will delight social and cultural historians as well as those of music and the economy.

    —Suzanne B. Butters, University of Manchester


  • Tim Carter is David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Richard A. Goldthwaite is Professor Emeritus of History at Johns Hopkins University.

Book Details

  • 496 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press