Music and digital humanism in Venice

"Il Bellerofonte drama musicale del Sig.r Vicenzo Nolfi da F. rappresentato nel teatro Novissimo in Venetia da Giacomo Torelli da Fano inventore delli apparati dedicato al Ferdinando II Granduca di Toscana", 1642, tav. I (Giovanni Giorgi intagliò) (photo by Luca Pierre Melinon, photo editing by Alice Martignon)

The music sources of the «Benedetto Marcello» Conservatory

Welcome to the site where a marriage that should be more frequent is celebrated: the most up-to-date technology is placed at the service of the musical heritage, to safeguard it and circulate it in all possible forms. This project is the result of scientific cooperation between Ca’ Foscari University’s Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage and the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Venice, conceived after the exceptional high tide that on 12 November 2019 unfortunately also damaged a large number of very precious documents in the Torrefranca, Giustiniani, Correr and Liceo Music collections, held in the Conservatory library.
The fundraising campaign promoted by Ca’ Foscari has been very successful and, with the addition of departmental co-financing, it has been possible to announce a post-doctoral research grant, with the initial aim of safeguarding the extraordinary damaged heritage by digitisation of the documents, their virtual restoration and study of the materials (supports, inks, pigments and dyes) with a view to their physical restoration, also with the help of companies in the sector.
Subsequently, thanks to additional private funding, it has been possible to extend the scope of the project to other music documents held in the Conservatory’s collections, a veritable treasure trove of known and yet-to-be-discovered treasures. The recent discovery of a large number of handwritten scores attributed to Galuppi will revolutionise current knowledge of this Burano composer.
The future aim is to create in this domain a hub and point of reference for other Venetian institutions with music archives, allowing scholars and enthusiasts to access the largest possible number of scanned documents (for example, the Fondo Contarini at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana), to be further increased in various ways, for example by digitising the numerous librettos scattered through the various collections in Venice, city of theatres.

ARMID@Venezia [ARCHIVIO MUSICALE E ICONOGRAFICO DIGITALE A VENEZIA] (DIGITAL ICONOGRAPHIC AND MUSIC ARCHIVE IN VENICE) brings together for the first time specialists in different disciplines, such as art history, non-invasive diagnostics, restoration chemistry, archive systems, as well as history of music and music philology. It encourages the cooperation of students from both institutions as a venue for internships, often culminating in degree, doctoral and diploma theses.


The collections of the «Benedetto Marcello» Conservatory

The library of the Conservatory Benedetto Marcello, in addition to being a teaching resource and support for musical and scientific projects, holds numerous historical collections. These were donated or acquired by the management over the years, showing a far-sighted artistic and intellectual vision.

The Torrefranca Collection was added to the library in 1973, as a result of the efforts of librarian Mario Messinis and the scholar Giancarlo Rostirolla. Originally, the collection was part of the private library of the famed musicologist Fausto Torrefranca and contains precious ancient musical documents, both handwritten and printed. Of special note among the manuscripts is the presence of a beautiful codex, of Roman origin, entitled Grilanda musicale di arie di diversi eccellentissimi autori, which contains one of the very rare copies of the Lamento di Arianna by Claudio Monteverdi. The printed material includes numerous examples of cinquecentine (collections of frottole and madrigals) and a rich collection of theoretical treatises.

Many opera librettos are present in the collection. Among these are over four thousand examples of melodrama dating from the 17th to the 19th century. These rare items often include elegant frontispieces and plates, and have been invaluable to the documentation of the history of melodrama from this period.

The catalogue of this collection can be consulted online at, while the librettos will soon be fully available online at,

In 1949, as a result of the initiative of the institute's director Gianfrancesco Malipiero and Count Alvise Giustinani, the library acquired the Giustiniani Collection. This rich collection belonged to the Giustiniani Recanati or 'delle Zattere', which was a branch of a well-known aristocratic venetian family. This took over the management of the S. Moisè theatre which had previously been managed by another branch of the family. The collection reflects the wide variety of repertoire practised in the city in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The works include theatre music (complete scores and individual arias), music for keyboard, chamber music and vocal music intended for entertainment in private and academic contexts, sacred music and copies of theoretical of didactic musical treatises, some of which are excepts, while others are complete. Many of these are attributed to masters working at St. Mark's, at other churches and at the four Venetian hospitals.

A large part of the material (672 manuscripts and 60 printed editions) have been recorded in the printed catalogue edited by Maria Giovanna Miggiani (Florence, Olschki, 1990). There remain over 360 manuscripts and printed items - recently discovered - including over 70 autographs by Baldassare Galuppi - which are currently under study and which are being catalogued.

Since 1940, the Conservatory has housed three collections - belonging to the Correr Museum - the Legato Martinengo, the Collection Carminati and the Collection Esposti and Provenienze diverse, which contains the actual music archive of the Ospedale della Pietà.

The Martinengo and Carminati sections preserve manuscripts of both instrumental and vocal music, symphonies, concerts, sonatas, variations, dances, arias and entire dramas, precious printed editions from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as an example of the Suonate a tre op. 1 by Arcangelo Corelli, published in Venice by Giuseppe Sala in 1684, and that of the Concerti a cinque op. 5 by Tomaso Albinoni, (G. Sala 1707).

Among the dramas, the score of Andromeda liberata, a "serenata-pasticcio" with music by, among others, Albinoni and Vivaldi is of particular note. The Esposti e Provenienze diversi Collection hold the musical heritage of the Ospedale della Pietà, which survived until the fall of the Serenissima. These are mainly the so-called "part-books", i.e. volumes containing the individual parts intended for the “choir daughters” and transcribed by “copyist daughters”. For example, there is the “Book of Anna Maria”, Anna Maria being perhaps the most famous of the virtuosos of the Pietà, for whom Vivaldi composed a large number of concertos for violin and viola d'amore. Among the composers contributing to the collection are Vivaldi, Porta, Porpora, Bernasconi, Latilla, Sarti and Furlanetto. The autograph manuscript of Vivaldi's aria «Sovvente il sole», a piece from Andromeda liberata, is the only one in the city by the Prete Rosso. The fragmentary nature of this collection, which is distributed over more than one hundred dossiers, has led to the reorganisation and computer cataloguing of the material. This activity is being coordinated by Dr. Chiara Pancino.

The statute of the 'Liceo Società Musicale' provided for the creation of a library from the outset of the institution.  The original nucleus was formed from donations from the founding members, musicians, professionals and amateurs, and refined connoisseurs mostly belonging to the Venetian bourgeoisie and aristocracy. The collection includes musical manuscripts, popular and rare musical editions and volumes of musicological literature. Among the rarities are the unique printed edition of the Pièces de clavessin by Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre (1666 -1729) and the Suonate da camera a tre op. I di Antonio Vivaldi (G. Sala 1705). The manuscripts, of different provenance, are copies dating from the mid-18th to the early 19th century. These include copies of some scores of operas by Cimarosa, Paisiello and Rossini, sometimes contemporary or slightly later than the principes. The Collection also includes the rich collection assembled by some members of the Venetian Pascolato family, which documents the sacred music production of the city in the 19th century, works performed by the Philharmonic Society of Santa Cecilia and of the major religious institutions of the city (Churches, Hospitals, Oratories, Schools).

The technical and scientific approach

Digitalization and virtual restoration

As already proposed by other reference institutions (University of Oxford, University of Kentucky) selected documents, both handwritten and printed, will be digitalized through high (60-200 Megapixel) photographic reproduction by using apochromatic macro lenses, polarizer filters, repro stands and professional LED lightings, with white and colour calibration (until now more than 1600 documents have been digitalized).
Various postproduction software will be jointly applied for image processing and digital restoration of certain documents, according to protocols to be specifically developed on the basis of their status.

Grilanda musicale di arie di diversi eccel.mi autori scritta da Francesco Maria Fucci romano (first half XVIIth century), before and after the virtual restoration (photo and virtual restoration by Chiara Campagnari, photo editing by Alice Martignon)

Non-invasive diagnostic investigation

Concurrently with digitalization and virtual restoration activities, a diagnostic investigation will be conducted on selected documents, in order to identify their composition (in terms of supports, inks, pigments and dyes, as well as their conservation status and degradation eventually occurring, useful to address their appropriate restoration.
Since the intrinsic value of considered documents, only non-invasive and non-destructive techniques will be employed. Imaging analysis in the visible (including macro- and micro-photographic examination), near infrared (NIR) and near ultraviolet (UV-induced fluorescence, Reflected UV) range will be performed on representative artefacts. Also non-invasive spectroscopic techniques, such as Fiber Optic Reflectance Spectroscopy (FORS), Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR, NIR, DRIFT), µ-Raman and X-Ray (XRF), will be applied.

Grilanda musicale di arie di diversi eccel.mi autori scritta da Francesco Maria Fucci romano (first half XVIIth century), false color (photo by Sara Longo, photo editing by Sara Longo and Alice Martignon)



  • Caterina Clara Antonini (trainee)
  • Maela Baldan (external collaborator)
  • Matilde Bellucci (trainee)
  • Noemi Bodini (trainee)
  • Maria Chiara Bortolot (trainee)
  • Elisabetta Brambilla (trainee)
  • Selena Buiese (trainee)
  • Giulia Busolin (trainee)
  • Chiara Campagnari (trainee and graduating student)
  • Martina Campagnaro (trainee)
  • Rachele Cannata (trainee)
  • Federica Carraro (trainee)
  • Francesco Ceretta (trainee)
  • Roberta Ciccarese (trainee)
  • Roberto Chovelon (trainee)
  • Samuel Corracin (trainee)
  • Jacopo Crivellaro (external collaborator)
  • Federico Del Moretto (trainee)
  • Mara D'Aloise (trainee)
  • Susanna Eupani (trainee)
  • Clara Faccioli (trainee)
  • Benedetta Maria Fifaco (trainee, graduating student and external collaborator)
  • Luigi Fiorindo (external collaborator)
  • Costantino Giuliano (trainee)
  • Aurora Hechenblaikner (trainee and graduating student)
  • Alessandro Lamberti (external collaborator)
  • Federica Lavorini (trainee)
  • Sara Longo (trainee and graduating student)
  • Maria Macchia (trainee)
  • Luca Pierre Melinon (trainee)
  • Emma Mietti (trainee)
  • Giovanni Milan (trainee and graduating student)
  • Martina Miorelli (external collaborator)
  • Noemi Monti (trainee)
  • Veronica Morellato (trainee and external collaborator)
  • Giovanni Pietro Podestà (trainee)
  • Elisabetta Roncoroni (external collaborator)
  • Camilla Sartor (trainee)
  • Arianna Scarpa (trainee)
  • Maria Cecilia Uliana (trainee)