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Giacomo Badoaro

Biography

Giacomo Badoaro (1602–52) was an Italian librettist, best remembered today for his libretto for Claudio Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria.

Badoaro was a member of the Venetian nobility and a figure of considerable standing in Venice. He was a leading member of a distinguished patrician family, and served several terms in the Doge’s advisory body, the Collegio, and as one of the Capi (leaders) of Venice’s Council of Ten. Apart from Monteverdi’s Ulisse (his first substantial literary effort), he wrote the libretto for Francesco Sacrati’s Ulisse errante, which also drew on the Odyssey, this time on Ulysses’ adventures on his way home from Troy. He may also have written the libretto for the opera Elena rapita da Teseo (1653, composer unknown), which has not survived. As a member of the nobility, Badoaro did not need to make a living from literature and was relatively unambitious – he claimed that his only aim in writing the libretto for Ulisse was to coax Monteverdi out of operatic retirement and thus enrich Venetian opera.

Along with many other Venetian noblemen of his day, Badoaro was a member of the Accademia degli Incogniti, a learned society of freethinking intellectuals, who were active in promoting musical theatre in Venice from the 1930s. The group has been described as one of ‘sceptical libertines extolling a peculiarly Venetian brand of immorality’.