Opera was born in Florence at the end of the sixteenth century. It derived almost seamlessly from its immediate precursor, the intermedio, or lavish between-the-acts spectacle presented in conjunction with a play on festive occasions. Plays were spoken, and their stage settings were simple: a street backed by palace facades for tragedies, by lower-class houses for comedies; for satyr plays or pastorals, the setting was a woodland or country scene. Meanwhile the ever-growing magnificence of state celebrations in Medici Florence on occasions such as dynastic weddings gave rise to a variety of spectacles involving exuberant scenic displays: naval battles in the flooded courtyard of the Pitti Palace, tournaments in the squares, triumphal entries into the city. These all called upon the services of architects, machinists, costume designers, instrumental and vocal artists. Such visual and aural delights also found their way into the theater—not in plays, with their traditional, sober settings, but between the acts of plays. Intermedi had everything the plays had not: miraculous transformations of scenery, flying creatures (both natural and supernatural), dancing, singing. The plays satisfied Renaissance intellects imbued with classical culture; the intermedi fed the new Baroque craving for the marvelous, the incredible, the impossible. By all accounts, no Medici festivities were as grand and lavish as those held through much of the month of May 1589 in conjunction with the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinand I and Christine of Lorraine. The intermedi produced between the acts of a comedy on the evening of May 2 were considered to be the highlight of the entire occasion and were repeated, with different plays, on May 6 and 13. Nearly all the main figures we will read about in connection with the birth of opera took part in the extravagant production, which was many months in the making: Emilio de' Cavalieri acted as intermediary between the court and the theater besides being responsible for the actors and musicians and composing some of the music; Giovanni Bardi conceived the scenarios for the six intermedi and saw to it that his highly allegorical allusions were made clear in the realization. Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini were among the featured singers, as was the madrigal composer Luca Marenzio, who wrote the music for Intermedio 3, described below. The poet responsible for the musical texts, finally, was Ottavio Rinuccini, who wrote the poetry for the earliest operas...