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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

The role of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) in the Italian opera development in London in the early 18th century

Xinhang Tsui

ORCID: 0009-0001-4336-1899

Postgraduate, Vocal art Department, Kazan Zhiganov Conservatory

420015, Russia, Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, Bolshaya Krasnaya str., 38, room 207

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The subject of the research is the artistic phenomenon of Nicolo Grimaldi, an outstanding Italian operatic castrato of the early 18th century. The author examines the creative biography and focuses on the analysis of the stage skills of the singer, who set the bar high for dramatic art in England. Nicolo Grimaldi (16731732) became famous under the pseudonym Nicolini (or Nicolino). His name became widely known thanks to the legendary performances on the stage of the Royal Theater in London in 17081712 and 17151717. The reconstruction of the vocal-dramatic profile of the singer, based on reliable historical sources, required to employ a comprehensive methodology, including historical, cultural and linguistic research methods. Information about Nicolinis life and work has been still unknown to the Russian musical community and is being published in Russian for the first time. Various sources of information about Nicolini have been preserved: music-critical reviews in London newspapers, scores and librettos of operas, essays, letters and memoirs of contemporaries who testified to the character of the artists vocal and acting skills. They served as material for a historical and biographical analysis, the results of which will be of interest to both practicing singers and researchers of Italian baroque opera. The historical significance of Nicolini lies in the fact that, as an excellent singer and actor, he influenced the strengthening and development of Italian opera in the early period of its existence in London.


Nicolo Grimaldi, Nicolini, singer, London, Italian Opera, theatre, acting technique, vocal art, audience, theater criticism

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The development of the Italian opera of the XVIII century was due to the technical and aesthetic aspects of vocal and performing art. Operas were created not for posterity, but for a modern audience who came to the theater to enjoy the beauty and perfection of the voice, the persuasiveness of the actor's interpretation. The composition of the opera began with the selection of an available cast of performers, whose individual abilities played a key role in the creation of opera parts, and often when choosing a plot. This applied to all composers composing in the genre of Italian opera. The individual features of the singer's artistic appearance both vocal and acting directly influenced the musical and dramatic content of the opera. Various editions of the same opera, produced by composers and librettists for practical reasons, were associated with the change in the performing composition. Therefore, a comprehensive historical understanding of the Italian Baroque opera is impossible in isolation from the study of vocal and performing issues.

The names of outstanding singers of the XVIII century are widely known: Nicolo Grimaldi, Antonio Bernacchi, Carestini, Farinelli, Francesca Cuzzoni, Faustina Bordoni, Anna Maria Strada. Their talent inspired composers to create brilliant opera parts, "tailored" to the individual "standards" of their voices and dramatic talent. Unfortunately, there are still no special studies on these and other remarkable artists in Russian, and the works devoted to Italian opera of the XVIII century are focused on musical analysis, isolated from the study of the specifics of performing practice. Undoubtedly, revealing the role of the singer's vocal and acting personality on the development of Italian opera would make it possible to illuminate it more comprehensively and deeply.

Such an approach is applicable, first of all, to artists of such a scale as Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini). In Russian musicological studies, his name is mentioned only in connection with the names of major composers of the XVIII century A. Scarlatti, G.F. Handel, N. Porpora. Meanwhile, in the Western art criticism of recent decades, there has been a steady interest in compiling the creative profile of the most prominent Baroque singers, studying their vocal and performing style. First of all, this trend affected the castrato singers who performed in Handel's operas: Nicolini, Senesino, Cafarelli, Gioacchino Conti, Giovanni Carestini. In particular, in 1976 an article by Joseph Roach "Nicolini's Cavalier: London's First Opera Star" was published, and in 2016 an article by Anna Desler, a major specialist in the history of vocal art, "From Castrato to Bass: the Late Roles of Nicolo Grimaldi "Nicolini" appeared. Although none of them contains an analysis of Nicolini's vocal and performing style, they have an undeniable advantage - they rely on historical sources, which the author of this article also managed to thoroughly study. The works of Colley Sieber and Charles Burney, theater reviews by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison in The Tatler and The Spectator editions open a panorama of the bright, rich and complex opera and theater life of London in the 1710s, in which Nicolini played one of the key roles.

Nicolo Grimaldi was born in 1673 in Naples in a poor but respectable family. His brother Antonio Maria Grimaldi also became a singer: he had a beautiful tenor voice and often performed with Nicolo on the same stage in Naples. Nicolo Grimaldi studied at the Neapolitan Conservatory Piet ? dei Turchini, in the class of Maestro Francesco Provenzale. In 1685, when he was only twelve years old, Grimaldi made his debut in Provenzale's opera The Vengeful Stellidaura in a soprano role, which the composer remade specifically for the pupil. The following year he sang the soprano part in A. Scarlatti's serenade "Olympus in Mergellina". Provenzale at that time was the head of the chapel of the Naples Cathedral Tesoro di San Gennaro, and also worked in the Royal Chapel. Grimaldi, as one of the best students of Provenzale, soon took a worthy place both among the singers of these chapels and on the Neapolitan opera stage. In particular, in the libretto of the opera by S. Stampiglia and A. Scarlatti "The Fall of the Decemvirs" by Nicolo Grimaldi (1697), for whom the composer wrote the part of Isilon, is mentioned as "virtuoso of the Royal Chapel of Naples" (Virtuoso della Real Cappella di Napoli) [1, p. 9].

Apparently, the young singer showed extraordinary musical abilities and diligence in his studies, since the castration operation, which he underwent shortly before reaching physical maturity, was carried out mainly by gifted, hardworking and promising young men. Such an operation was carried out with the consent of the young man and his parents, who were counting on a great opera career for their son. It is not known how long Grimaldi studied at the conservatory, but usually the vocal training of castrati lasted five to six years, so it can be assumed that he completed his studies at the Piet ? dei Turchini in 1690. By that time Grimaldi had accumulated considerable artistic experience as a performer of sacred and operatic music. In the 1690s, he gained success and wide fame, playing the main roles in operas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Carlo Pollarolo and Francesco Gasparini.

From 1700 to 1708, Nicola Grimaldi lived and worked in Venice, performing on opera stages and in cathedrals, where he soloed in cantatas and oratorios. His singing art was highly appreciated by the Venetian clergy, who awarded the artist the honorary Order of the Cavalier of St. Mark (Cavaliere della Croce di San Marco). This gave rise to the stage name "Cavalier Nicolini", under which Grimaldi continued his career in London.

The Italian opera in London was just beginning its development, and the first productions aroused, on the one hand, great interest from the public, on the other hand, sharp criticism for the low level of staging and poor performance. In addition, they were performed partly in English: local singers sang their arias and recitatives in their native language, Italians in Italian. English actor and playwright Colley Cibber in his famous "Apology" ridiculed the first productions of Italian operas in 1705: "Arsinoe" by Thomas Clayton, "Love Ergasto" by Jacob Greber. According to him, they were "performed with the wrong number of syllables or a meter across the beat in comparison with the original, sung with our inept voices, with decorations incorrectly applied to almost every feeling, with a game lifeless and expressing nothing in each character" [2, p. 175].

The Royal Haymarket Theatre, which became the first London stage for Italian opera, critically lacked experienced, well-trained singers from Italy. The management of the theater was entrusted to the architect and playwright John Vanbrugh, who was patronized by the Earl of Manchester, who worked as the extraordinary British ambassador to Venice. Having entered into negotiations with the Cavalier Nicolini, Manchester managed to attract him with a high fee and favorable contract terms. The first period of Nicolini's performances in London was just over three years: from 1708 to 1712. During this time, the Italian opera in London confidently embarked on the path of professional development, won the hearts of London audiences and became a significant social phenomenon in the cultural life of the British capital.

Nicolini arrived in London in the autumn of 1708, along with a group of other Italian singers and singers. By that time, the almost bankrupt Vanbrugh had handed over the management of the theater to his assistant, the experienced librettist Owen Sweeney. The work that was to change the deplorable state of Italian opera in London was Alessandro Scarlatti's opera Pyrrhus and Demetrius, first staged in Naples in 1694. Sweeney slightly shortened the libretto and partially translated it into English. Nicola Heim, an English librettist and composer, edited Scarlatti's score, adding his overture and some arias from Scarlatti's opera Rosaura. The premiere took place on December 14, 1708 with great success, which lasted for fifteen performances. The title roles were played by the castrati Nicolini (Pyrrhus) and Valentini Urbani (Demetrius). The production was also attended by local artists who sang their parts in English, while the leading soloists in Italian.

The next production was Giovanni Bononcini's opera Camilla. She brought new success to the singer and the theater, and ticket prices began to grow steadily. Realizing that Nicolini was the main magnet for the London public, Sweeney offered him a three-year contract. The terms of the contract are known: Nicolini was not supposed to perform anywhere other than the Haymarket, but retained the right to benefit performances; he was obliged to perform three roles in new operas every year, but had the right to choose them. In addition, for a fee, Nicolini was commissioned to adapt the text and music of one Italian opera for each season for the English stage [3, p. 14]. Joseph Roach suggests that, taking into account the income from the benefits and editing of Italian operas, Nicolino could earn 5,490 pounds in three seasons, which was an impressive amount [4, p. 196]. At the same time, for three years, the artist received five months of vacation from June 1 to the end of October, during which he performed in Dublin. These were favorable conditions and an excellent fee for an opera singer in those years.

On January 10, 1710, the premiere of John Heidegger's pasticcio "Almaid", based on the operas by A. Ariosti and J. P., took place at the Haymarket. Bononcini. The next premiere was the opera "The Faithful Idasp" by Francesco Mancini, staged on March 23 of the same year. Nicolini, who performed the title role, chose this composition himself and edited it according to the needs of the London stage. Initially, the text of the libretto "Idaspa" was composed by Giovanni Candi and Giulio Convo, but in 1705 it was revised by Silvio Stampiglia for the production of Mancini's opera in Naples under the title "Noble Lovers". Nicolini brought this score to London and turned to it when the question arose about choosing a new opera. Mancini 's music was edited by I. K. Pepusch, and Nicolini reworked the text, shortening and simplifying it. "The Faithful Idasp" is the first London opera entirely in Italian, and the merit in its selection, adaptation and production belonged mainly to Nicolini.

The opera "Faithful Idasp" was a resounding success, and in the period from 1710 to 1716 it was performed forty-six times. In addition to Nicolini, Giovanni Cassani (Artaxerxes, King of Persia), Valentino Urbani (Dario, brother of Artaxerxes), Margherita de L'epin (Berenice, Persian Princess), Isabella Girardot (Mandana, Princess of Mussels) sang in the main male role at the premiere. The scenery was designed by the Venetian painter Marco Ricci. He also owns the painting "Rehearsal of the Opera", in the center of which Nicolini is depicted (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Marco Ricci. Opera rehearsal. 1708 1709.

All the soloists received vocal training in Italy, and the orchestra was played mainly by Italian and French musicians. This made it possible to achieve a high level of performance that the London opera scene had not known before. Both the audience and the critics were inspired by the prospects opening up for Italian opera. But many were excited not only by the music and beautiful singing. The plot is tied to the rivalry between Artaxerxes and his brother Idaspes for the love of Berenice. In a fit of jealousy, Artaxerxes sentences Idaspes to fight a lion in the presence of Berenice. In the third act of the opera, this scene takes place in an amphitheater. Idasp's tender duet with Berenice, in which he expresses his love and devotion, is unexpectedly interrupted by trumpet fanfare, marking the entrance to the arena of the beast. Idasp addresses the lion in a long, richly ornamented aria Mo n stro crudel che fai? and rushes into battle. In a difficult battle, Idasp kills a lion, causing a stormy delight of the audience [See: 5, p. 201-202].

At the same time, Nicolini was dressed in a flesh-colored doublet imitating nudity, which shocked the London audience. So, Lady Mary Montague wrote: "Last Thursday I was at the new Opera and saw how bravely Nicolini strangles the lion. He portrayed nudity so plausibly that I was surprised to see how those ladies who pretend to be shocked stared at him without any embarrassment if there are one or two harmless puns in the play" [6, P. 22-23]. The fact that this scene made a splash was written by many witnesses: some in a condemning tone, others in a joking tone. She was often asked to perform an encore, then the lion "came to life", and the battle began all over again. Later, the playwright and publicist Joseph Addison noted in an inimitable humorous manner that the role of the lion that Idasp killed had already been played by three actors: a man removing carbon from candles, who was fired for refusing to die on stage, a theatrical tailor with a modest and reserved disposition, who was removed from the role for dying too much dutifully and without a fight, and, finally, one country gentleman who died so magnificently that he "attracted more spectators than has ever been possible in the memory of mankind" [7].

The admiration that the scene of the fight with the lion evoked testifies to Nicolini's dramatically convincing interpretation. Many critics noted his acting talent, some commented on the emotional expressiveness of singing. For example, publicist and biographer Roger North drew attention to the singer's deeply felt performance of the aria "The Unfortunate Prisoner" from the third act, noting "a soft, sonorous, realistic representation, thanks to which one can understand part of the plot... and also the state of a lonely or unhappy person when Nicolini sings Infelice prigionero" [8, p. 128-129].

The culmination of Nicolini's London career was G. F. Handel's opera Rinaldo, staged at the Haymarket on February 24, 1711. By that time, Sweeney had handed over the management of the theater to playwright Aaron Hill, whose artistic ambitions had raised Italian opera in London to a new level. Together with the Italian librettist Giacomo Rossi, he wrote the libretto "Rinaldo", based on T. Tasso's poem "Liberated Jerusalem", and invited G. F. Handel to cooperate. The result of this creative union was the opera "Rinaldo", the title role of which the composer composed for Nicolini. In dedicating the libretto to Queen Anne, Hill stated his ambition "to see English opera more luxurious than her Italian mother" [9, Dedication].

The opera brought unprecedented success to the theater and withstood fifteen performances in the first season. For the premiere, luxurious costumes, scenery were prepared and excellent singers were invited. The role of primo uomo was performed by Nicolo Grimaldi, Armida by soprano Elizabeth PilottiSchiavonetti, Almirena by soprano Isabella Girardot, the travesty role of Goffredo by contralto Francesca Vanini Boschi, and Arganta by her husband, bass Giuseppe Maria Boschi. Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, being as playwrights more interested in the development of the English drama theater and usually criticized the Italian opera for the absurdity of the plots, nevertheless admired the excellent acting of Nicolini [10; 7].

Handel composed a brilliant part for Grimaldi, full of melodic beauties and complex passages, trying to emphasize the singer's ability for dramatic expressiveness and at the same time giving an opportunity to demonstrate vocal technicality. As for the first component of his talent, it was most clearly manifested in the aria Cara sposa, amante cara, which Handel loved more than his other compositions. In it, Orlando expresses his deep sorrow over the disappearance of his beloved Almirena. In the middle part of da capo, grief gives way to the hero's rage. The aria is sustained at the pace of largo, there are no complicated passages in it, but its performance requires deep expressiveness. The same can be said about Rinaldo's aria Ogni indugio d'un amante, touching with its gentle, thoughtful character.

There are also bravura passages in Rinaldo's part, which were supposed to show the fluency, flexibility and intonational accuracy of his voice. For example, the first vocal phrase of the allegro aria at the end of the first act of Venti, turbini, prestate begins and ends with prolonged vocalizations. An even higher technical level is required of the singer by the obligate aria with trumpets Or la tromba in suon festante. In addition to vocalizations of sixteenth notes, trills and jumps, this aria presents a special performing complexity. It assumes a very strong and piercing voice that will withstand a competition with four trumpets, two oboes and a drum and at the same time will not lose mobility in the "concert" dialogue of voice and wind instruments. Regarding these two arias, Charles Burney, known for the accuracy of his characteristics, noted that they were "designed to show Nicolini's abilities in performance and acting" [11, p. 674].

The following season, Nicolini prepared a pasticcio based on Francesco Gasparini's opera Hamlet (Ambleto) for the production. This opera was first staged in Venice at the Teatro San Cassiano (1706), and Nicolini played the title role in it. The libretto of the opera belonged to Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Pariati, who relied on the same historical source as Shakespeare when working on Hamlet The Deeds of the Danes by Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish chronicler of the XII century. Pasticcio Nicolini's score has not been preserved, but soon a collection of arias "Songs in the opera Hamlet as they are performed at ye Queens theatre" (1712) was published in London, confirming interest in the production. Although the opera did not last long, critics noted the depth of Nicolini's interpretation of the role of Hamlet and compared him with the best English dramatic actors.

After finishing this season, Nicolini left for Italy, but returned in 1714. Cibber attributed this break to the weakening of the singer's voice: "His voice during his first stay with us (when he paid us a second visit, it was weakened) had all that strength, clarity, sweetness that Senesino admired so recently" [2, p. 211]. Charles Burney mentioned that Nicolini's problem was the loss of two or three high notes [11, p. 679]. Considering that Nicolini turned 39 in 1712, the lowering and some weakening of the voice looks like a natural consequence of aging and fatigue of the voice. However, returning to London at the end of the 1714 season, Nicolini again performed in the operas "Idasp", "Feast and Demetrius", "Rinaldo".

In 1715, Handel composed the opera Amadis Galsky to a libretto by N. F. Khaimah and J. Rossi, based on the tragedy of Antoine de la Motte "Amadis the Greek". The primo uomo party was intended for Nicolini, Princess Oriana for Anastasia Robinson, the sorceress Melissa for PilottiSchiavonetti, the Thracian Prince Dardano for contralto-travesty Diana Vico. The small number of characters and the matrimonial orientation of the plot reflected the trend of the formation of the classical canon of the opera seria. A love triangle or two pairs of lovers with not always matching love interests will become the basis of most opera plots.

Nicolini's part maintains a balance of cantilence and brilliant virtuosity. For example, in the first act, the aria largo Notte amica dei reposi is sustained mainly in a syllabic cantilevered style, and the next Vado, vado corro al mio Tesoro a bravura aria at a rapid pace, contains multi-act vocalizations of sixteenth notes. The range of the Amadis part is one and a half octaves: lami11, and the working tessitura is exactly an octave to1 to11. In general, in the first two decades of the XVIII century, castrati singers still sang in rather low tessitures [See: 12, p. 81], and the dignity of the voice was considered not a wide range and high notes, but expressiveness of singing.The music of Amadis of Gaul bears the stamp of inspiration and mature skill of Handel, whose brilliance was enhanced by the magnificent performance of Nicolini. New costumes, decorations and lighting fixtures were made for the premiere of the opera, and in the second act a real colored fountain was installed on the stage, which amazed the audience no less than music and singing.

Nicolini performed in London until 1717, and then continued his stage career at the opera houses of Naples and Venice. His repertoire included operas by Albinoni, Bononcini, Gasparini, Vinci, Sarro. From 1727 to 1730, he often sang with Farinelli. Nicolini performed on stage until the age of 54. This was an incredible rarity in those years when singers usually left the opera stage at about forty. The Italian writer and philosopher Antonio Skinella Conti wrote that the reason for Nicolini's demand in the theater was his incomparable acting charisma, which allowed him even at an advanced age to compete with young virtuosos of Farinelli's level: "He keeps himself at the expense of his acting. In fact, he is the greatest actor for our theaters... he is loudly applauded, for he expresses all passions unsurpassably" [Cit. by: 13, p. 63].

Nikolino's acting talent aroused unanimous recognition and admiration. Addison considered his performance a model even for English dramatic actors: "I often wanted our tragic actors to imitate this great master of the stage. If they used their hands and feet in the same way and could give their faces the same meaningful looks and expressions of passion, then how famous English tragedy would be with the help of a game that can give dignity even to the exaggerated thoughts, cold vanity and unnatural expressions of Italian opera!" [7].

These comments lead to the idea that Nicolini's long performing career was due to his incomparable stage skills. The impact of Nicolini's artistic charm could not weaken even the obesity of the figure in the later years of his performances. But A. Dessler attributes Nicolini's long-term success to his rational approach to choosing roles: starting in the mid-1720s, "instead of retiring, Nicolini began to play the roles of characters whose age was approximately equal to his own" [13, p. 68]. Indeed, starting in 1723, the roles of middle-aged heroes appeared in Nicolini's repertoire, which was quite accurately indicated in the libretto of operas: Sifak in the opera of the same name by F.Feo (Naples, 1723), Aeneas in The Abandoned Dido by D. Sarro (Naples, 1724), Siroi in the opera by L. Vinci (Venice, 1726), Aetius in the opera by N. Porpora (Venice, 1728). Nicolini took an even more decisive step in 1727, when he began to play the roles of fathers, giving up the role of the hero-lover to young castrati or tenors, whose age corresponded much more to the age of the characters. So, in the opera by J. Orlandini's "Antigone", staged in Venice in 1723, Nicolini still sang the part of Osmen's primo uomo, and in the production of the same opera in Bologna in 1727, he already sang the part of Creon, Osmen's father.

The change in the role, which the artist consciously went to in the late period of his career, speaks of his ability of introspection, which gave freedom from narcissistic illusions inherent in many great singers. Clearly understanding the tastes of the audience, on which his stage and financial success depended, Nicolini conducted a continuous artistic search for stage realism, was able to accurately assess his performing abilities and emotional impact on the audience. Therefore, Antonio Conti's comment that Nicolini "keeps himself at the expense of his acting" can be supplemented with the thesis that Nicolini owed his long stage career not only to his acting and vocal talent, but also to his astute, far-sighted mind, which allowed him to find the perfect balance between what his audience heard and what she heard. I saw it.

Nicolini's acting skills were not just a natural gift, but the result of a lot of work on stage behavior. Studying at the Neapolitan conservatories included daily classes in front of a mirror, which were aimed at achieving complete control over facial expressions and gestures. Judging by the estimates of his contemporaries, Nicolini brilliantly mastered this art and brought a huge personal contribution to it. Richard Steele, who was present at the performances of Pyrrhus and Demetrius, admired the precision of Nicolini's gestures, "who expresses the character of the opera with his acting as well as with his voice expresses words. Each limb and each of his fingers contribute to the role he plays, because even a deaf person can follow him. An ancient statue hardly has a beautiful pose in which he would not stand, because the reason for this is the various circumstances of history. He performs the most ordinary action in a manner appropriate to the greatness of his character, and retains the image of the ruler, even passing a letter or sending a messenger ..." [14].

The departure of Nicolini, "the greatest performer of dramatic music who is alive now or, perhaps, has ever appeared on stage" [15], was perceived by the artistic elite of London as a loss. In 1720, Handel, who headed the troupe of the Royal Academy, managed to invite the Italian castrato singer Francesco Bernardi (Senesino) as primo uomo, for whom he wrote the main male roles in eighteen of his operas. Senesino has maintained the high level of vocal and acting skills set by Nicolini, whose performances Senesino has seen with his own eyes more than once. Even in adulthood, he differed favorably from his competitors with his acting temperament. Theater critic Roger Pickering, comparing Senesino with Farinelli, called the manner of the latter's stage behavior "melodically swinging clumsiness", and wrote about Senesino with undisguised admiration: "At the same time, on the same stage and in the same operas, Senesino's elegant, thoughtful, diverse manner of playing shone in full perfection of scenic expressiveness."[Cit.according to: 16, p. 20].

A study of Handel's London opera scores showed that Nicolini had an undeniable influence on the composer's vocal style. Since Rinaldo, Handel has always composed the main male role in his operas for the castrato viola. Moreover, Handel's vocal parts for Nicolini are representative material reflecting the steady complication of vocal technique, which was outlined in the 1710s. The bravura vocal style, which culminated in the 1720s in the performances of Farinelli and Faustina, originated precisely with Nicolini, which was manifested even in his Venetian opera parts. However, the singer's vocal and technical perfection was combined with the possession of a "pathetic" style that required deep expressiveness of singing. This skill of Nicolini is confirmed not only by the diverse arias, but also by the predominance of accompanied recitatives, suggesting subtle intonation nuances. The quantitative preponderance of accompagnato recitatives over secco distinguishes all of Nicolini's operatic parts. There is another trend in them an increase in the range and tessitura. The working tessitura in the parts of his older colleagues, for example, castrati Baltassare Ferri and Giovanni Grossi, was usually limited to the la of the first octave.

Undoubtedly, Nicolini's talent, which recently illuminated the London stage, was one of the most important factors of attraction for the young and full of creative energy Handel, who came to London in 1811 and stayed here for the rest of his life. The composer sensitively reflected Nicolini's vocal talent, maintaining a balance between the brilliance of bravura style and the pathetic expressiveness of cantabile. Later, Handel relied on this principle in primo uomo parts written for Senesino, Antonio Bernacchi, Giovanni Carestini, Gioacchino Conti, Domenico Annibali, and even the acrobatic vocal virtuosity of prima donna Anna Maria Strada did not become a reason to retreat from him.

The most important component of the artistic phenomenon of Nicolini was his acting skills. This conclusion is made possible by acquaintance with historical materials: the works of Charles Burney, Colley Cibber, Roger North, the memoirs of George Hogarth, the journalistic works of Richard Steele and Joseph Addison. The pages devoted to the events of the operatic life of London in the 1710s always contain a mention of Nicolini, and more often - enthusiastic statements about his dramatic talent. No Italian singer before Nicolini had aroused such interest and recognition among the London public, which has valued the traditions of the drama theater above all else since Shakespeare. The control of stage behavior, including detailed study of poses, gestures, gait, facial expressions, was all the more important for British viewers because the vast majority of them did not know the Italian language in which operas were performed. Hence the grateful comments that the plot of the operas could be understood only by watching Nicolini.

His performances in London, which began at the end of 1708, strengthened the status of Italian opera and radically changed the opinion of skeptics. In this regard, the trajectory of the assessment of Addison and Steele is indicative harsh critics of Italian opera, who began with reproaches for its implausibility and absurdity, but became sincere admirers of Nicolini's artistry. His acting skills and vocal virtuosity were so attractive and convincing that they made him forget about genre conventions. Nicolini was a man of the theater: he had a keen sense of the laws of the stage and was always in a relentless search for truthful expressiveness corresponding to the idea of the drama and the characters of its characters.

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2. Cibber, C. (1968). An apology for the life of Colley Cibber, with an historical view of the stage during his own time. Ed. B. R. S. Fone. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
3. Agreement between Owen Swiny and Nicolini. (2012). In A selection of letters from the Broadley albums at City of Westminster Archives Centre, with biographical notes. Compiled by David Evans and Judith Bottomley. Westminster City Archives, April 2012. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/annals-of-the-haymarket.pdf
4. Roach, J. R. (1976). Cavaliere Nicolini: London’s First Opera Star. Educational Theatre Journal, 2, 189–205.
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7 The Spectator (1711). 15 March.
8. North, R. (1959). Roger North on Music: Being a selection from his essays written during the years c. 1695–1728. Ed. John Wilson. London: Novello and Company.
9. Handel, G. Frideric., Hill, A., Rossi, G. (1711). Rinaldo: an Opera. London: Printed by Tho. Howlatt.
10 The Spectator (1711). 6 March.
11. Burney, Ch. (1935). A General History of Music, from the earliest ages to the present period (1789). Ed. Frank Mercer. Vol. 2. London: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
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13. Desler, A. (2016). From Castrato to Bass: The Late Roles of Nicolo Grimaldi “Nicolini”. In C. Haworth, L. Colton (Eds.), Gender, Age and Musical Creativity (pp. 61–80). London and New York: Routledge.
14 The Tatler (1710). 3 January.
15 The Spectator (1712). 14 June.
16. Yang, T. (2022). Voice of Senesino (Francesco Bernardi): eyewitness accounts. Journal of science. Lyon, 37, 16–21. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7409664 

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The subject of the study, as its author outlined in the title ("The role of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) in the development of Italian opera in London at the beginning of the XVIII century"), is disclosed in a popular scientific manner: the article is not scientifically and methodically provided (there is no research program, the scientific problem is not identified and there is no author's assessment of its degree of study, the only a link to recent literature in the Journal of Science. Lyon" is not readable because it is incorrectly described in the bibliography, and does not relate to the subject of research indicated in the title). The reader has to guess what kind of scientific problem the author is interested in. Meanwhile, it would be quite appropriate to identify at least one of the significant problems of Russian musicology: for example, the excessive concentration of attention of domestic scientists on the role of composer schools in the musical culture of Europe in the practical absence of systematic studies of the role of outstanding singers and performers. In particular, despite the wide popularity in European art criticism of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) and his role in the formation of public musical theater in England (A. Desler, R. Celletti, Ch. Burney, R. North, J. R. Roach, etc.), in Russian literature his name is mentioned sporadically only insofar as it is associated with the names outstanding composers (T. Albinoni, A. Scarlatti, N. Porpora, G. F. Handel, etc.). Without the author's opinion on the existing scientific problem, to the resolution of which the author is trying to make his feasible contribution, it is extremely difficult to talk about the scientific nature of the article, about filling the author's little-studied lacunae of historical musicology. According to the reviewer, the author should significantly refine the introductory section of the article (it is missing), in which to assess the degree of study of the problem raised in the scientific literature, and strengthen the final conclusion, in which to evaluate the research conducted by the author. Even if the author adheres to the genre of a biographical sketch, its relevance should be briefly formulated for the reader before biographical information from the life of an outstanding castrato viola follows. The methodology of the research is based solely on the historical and biographical description of the contribution of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) to the development of Italian opera in London at the beginning of the XVIII century. In this connection, the author's final conclusion about the special high standard of performing skills of the castrato viola set by Nicolini does not look convincing enough. There are indeed grounds for such a judgment, but there is not enough detailed analysis of the Nicolini standard and its comparisons with other standards, there is not enough consolidation in the final conclusion of the result of the research conducted by the author, and therefore its scientific novelty remains in doubt. The author's research itself in the final conclusion should confirm the validity of Nicolini's assessment by Addison (1672-1719), and not vice versa. Otherwise, it looks as if the author has not added anything new since the beginning of the XVIII century. The relevance of addressing the topic of the role of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) in the development of Italian opera in London at the beginning of the XVIII century is not justified by the author, as if all readers, even without the research presented to their court, know all possible arguments for its justification in this case. If so, then the presented research does not have scientific novelty, which does not allow it to be published in a scientific journal. Therefore, the reviewer strongly recommends that the author at least briefly substantiate the relevance of the research topic in the introduction. Perhaps the author is interested in the role of opera soloists in the formation of musical theater, which is relevant today, when the lack of bright artists on the academic stage causes a crisis of modern academic art. Perhaps the author is only interested in the history of the formation of the English musical theater, and then the role of Nicolini goes beyond the popularization of Italian opera of the XVII-XVIII centuries, the significant role of continental Europe in the development of musical culture in England up to the XX century becomes obvious. In any case, without the author's opinion on the degree of relevance of his own research, it is extremely difficult for the reader to judge it. The scientific novelty of the presented material remains unclear due to the above circumstances. Although the author's selection of scientific literature and sources can be seen as valuable. The most acceptable solution would be an independent author's assessment of the new knowledge achieved as a result of the research. When the author justifiably declares that in this and that he has revealed a previously unknown to science texture that allows him to come to non-trivial conclusions, then only the possibility of verification of art criticism research appears: confirmation or refutation of the author's judgment. The style of the text is generally scientific, although the editorial requirements for the style of shortening dates and pointing to sources and literature in the text are not maintained. The structure of the article, as noted above, needs to be improved (an introduction is needed, which, in turn, will strengthen the final conclusion). The bibliography as a whole reveals the problematic area of research, but is designed without taking into account the requirements of the editorial board and GOST. The appeal to the opponents is sufficient and correct. Without a doubt, after completion, the interest of the readership of "PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal" the article will be guaranteed.

Second Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

To the journal "PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal" the author presented his article "The role of Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) in the development of Italian opera in London at the beginning of the XVIII century" in which a study of the influence of personal and creative qualities of the performer on opera art was conducted. The author proceeds in the study of this issue from the fact that the development of Italian opera in the XVIII century was due to the technical and aesthetic aspects of vocal performance art. Operas were created not for posterity, but for a modern audience who came to the theater to enjoy the beauty and perfection of the voice, the persuasiveness of the actor's interpretation. The individual features of the singer's artistic appearance both vocal and acting directly influenced the musical and dramatic content of the opera. Consequently, the author assumes a comprehensive historical understanding of Italian Baroque opera exclusively in conjunction with the study of vocal and performing issues. The relevance of the research is due to the interest of both the scientific community and the general public in the phenomenon of Baroque opera. Having analyzed the degree of scientific elaboration of the studied issues, the author notes the lack of special research on individual opera performers in Russian, and the works devoted to Italian opera of the XVIII century are focused on musical analysis isolated from the study of the specifics of performing practice. The author comes to the conclusion that in Russian musicological studies, the name of Nicolo Nrimaldi is mentioned only in connection with the names of major composers of the XVIII century A. Scarlatti, G.F. Handel, N. Porpora. Meanwhile, in the Western art criticism of recent decades, there has been a steady interest in compiling a creative profile of the most prominent Baroque singers, studying their vocal and performing style. The aim of the study is to identify the influence of the singer's vocal and acting personality on the development of Italian Baroque opera. The methodological basis of the research was historical, cultural, biographical and art criticism analysis. The theoretical basis was the work of Collie Sieber and Charles Berney. As an empirical basis, the author has worked out theater reviews by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison in the publications The Tatler and The Spectator. In his research, the author pays attention to both the creative and life biography of the performer, exploring the factors that influenced his creative path. As noted by the author, Grimaldi made his debut in Provenzale's opera The Vengeful Stellidaura in a soprano role, which the composer remade specifically for the student. The following year, he sang the soprano role in A. Scarlatti's serenade "Olympus in Mergellina". At that time, Provenzale was the head of the chapel of the Naples Cathedral Tesoro di San Gennaro, and also worked in the Royal Chapel. Grimaldi, as one of the best students of Provenzale, soon took his rightful place both among the singers of these chapels and on the Neapolitan opera stage. The first period of Nicolini's performances in London was just over three years: from 1708 to 1712. During this time, the Italian Opera in London confidently embarked on the path of professional development, won the hearts of London audiences and became a significant social phenomenon in the cultural life of the British capital. In his research, the author identifies the key periods of N. Grimaldi's creative biography. He also analyzed the most significant opera parts for the singer's career. The author notes the significant role of the singer's collaboration with the experienced librettist Owen Sweeney and composer Handel in the successful development of his opera career on the stage of the London Haymarket. In conclusion, the author presents a conclusion on the conducted research, which contains all the key provisions of the presented material. It seems that the author in his material touched upon relevant and interesting issues for modern socio-humanitarian knowledge, choosing a topic for analysis, consideration of which in scientific research discourse will entail certain changes in the established approaches and directions of analysis of the problem addressed in the presented article. The results obtained allow us to assert that the study of the dynamics of the creative path, the formation of a unique style, the influence of certain factors on the creative career of a certain performer is of undoubted scientific and practical cultural interest and deserves further study. The material presented in the work has a clear, logically structured structure that contributes to a more complete assimilation of the material. This is also facilitated by an adequate choice of an appropriate methodological framework. The bibliography of the study consisted of 16 foreign sources, which seems sufficient for the generalization and analysis of scientific discourse on the subject under study. The author fulfilled his goal, received certain scientific results that allowed him to summarize the material. It should be noted that the article may be of interest to readers and deserves to be published in a reputable scientific publication.
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