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Pier Francesco Cavalli: 'Erismena', opera in a prologue and 3 acts

 Single Item
MS. Mus. d. 282

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'Erismena', opera in a prologue and 3 acts, by Pier Francesco Cavalli. Original Italian libretto by Aurelio Aureli. Full score, copied in England by Robert Bargrave between 1656 and 1660, with the words in an anonymous English translation only.

The music of the prologue is known only from this manuscript, the text for which is an English translation of Cavalli's 'new' prologue of 1656. The music is skillfully adapted to the English words and the score appears to have been made with performance in mind. However, no production of an Italian opera in England has been recorded from the 17th century, although John Evelyn's diary for 5 Jan 1674 notes that "I saw an Italian opera in musique, the first that had been in England of this kind", which may possibly refer to Erismena. Although no title-page is now present (and in consequence no name of the opera, its composer or librettist), there are preliminaries with the 'Argument', and lists of the dramatis personae and scenes. Together with the fact that there are only three out of the expected four leaves to these preliminaries, this suggests that there was originally a title-page, which was already missing when the manuscript was bound. A later hand has added the supposed title 'Erimante' (one of the characters) at the head of fol. 3 (the list of dramatis personae). The contemporary binding has a red label on the spine (probably added or renewed in the 18th century) stating merely 'An opera in English'.

For an extensive discussion of this source and its history, see the introduction to the Bärenreiter edition of 2018, edited by Beth Glixon and Michael Burden.


  • Creation: c 1670


180 Leaves

Language of Materials

  • Italian
  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Mus. d. 282, fols. 1-2].

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MS. Mus. d. 282

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15986


'Erismena', opera in a prologue and 3 acts, by Pier Francesco Cavalli. Full score with English words, copied in England c 1670.

Biographical / Historical

Pier Francesco Cavalli (1602-76) was a composer. See Grove Music Online for further details.

Custodial History

The score may have passed, through Robert Bargrave's cousin, John Bargrave, to John Gostling in Canterbury, since it was sold at his son William Gostling's auction in 1777; sale catalogue (non-auction) of the library of William and Philip Hayes, 1797/8, item 378 ('Eresmene, an old English opera, MS'); bookplate of Robert Smith (1741-1810), 3 St Paul's Churchyard; sale of Smith's library by the auctioneer White, 18 May 1813, lot 24 ('Erimante, an old English opera, in MS'); James Stevens Cox, c 1960 (bought from a bookshop in the south-west of England); inherited, 1997, by his son, Dr Gregory Stevens Cox.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased with the assistance of the Friends of the Bodleian, the Friends of the National Libraries, the V & A Purchase Grant Fund, All Souls College, St John's College, New Chamber Opera, West Green Opera Trust and private donors, 2009.


F. Cavalli, L’Erismena: drama per musica by Aurelio Aureli (Venice, 1655/56), with scores of the original Italian version and a contemporary English version. Edited by Beth Glixon … [and] Michael Burden. (Francesco Cavalli: Opere; BA 8908-01) Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2018.

Physical Facet

180 leaves (179-80 blank); 10 staves to a page. Watermark: Strasbourg bend and lily (similar to Heywood nos. 63 and 66); countermark undetectable. Binding: English, second half of the 17th century, full goatskin with gilt tooling.


Oblong quarto (220 × 290 mm)

'Erismena', opera by Pier Francesco Cavalli
EAD version 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom