Italian playwright, composer, librettist, theatre manager, machine designer and poet. Scion of a noble Florentine family, Filippo Acciaiuoli applied his great talent, enriched by the study of mathematics and by extensive travels, to theatrical inventions which made him a famous and sought-after man in Italy in the second half of the 17th century. He is the author of Il girello (The Baby Carriage), set to music by Jacopo Melani and staged in several Italian theatres: in Rome, with the aid of puppets, as an interlude of the Comica del cielo, ovvero la Baltassara (The Heavenly Comedy, or La Baltassara), with music by Antonio Maria Abbattini and libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi (Pope Clement IX); and in Venice, in the Teatro San Moisè, music attributed to Antonio Pistocchi. In 1680 and 1681, he staged his dramas Damira placata (Damira Appeased) and Ulisse in Feaccia (Ulysses in Phaeacia) in Venice, set to music by Marc’Antonio Ziani and Antonio del Gaudio, respectively, with puppets, “figures of natural wood, the result of an extraordinary artistic labour”, while the singers performed their pieces backstage.
Acciaiuoli maintained that he preferred “comedy to tragedy, farce to comedy, and puppets to everything else”. He created machines and invented devices to stage, in private Roman theatres and in that of the Tor di Nona, always with puppets “moved by very fine iron threads”, comedies that he himself had written: I Campi Elisi (The Elysian Fields), L’inferno (Hell) and Il noce di Benevento (Benevento’s Nut). For Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand II, Acciaiuoli constructed a puppet theatre with one hundred twenty-four characters and twenty-four set changes, for which he wrote and set to music a text that he himself performed in Florence, without any assistance. In addition, in Rome at different periods between 1669 and 1682, and with various musicians, Acciaiuoli staged several works for which he had written the libretto: L’empio punito (The Wicked Man Punished), the first opera on the story of Don Juan; Il Novello Giasone (The New Jason); Chi è causa del suo mal pianga se stesso (roughly, What Goes Around Comes Around).
- Ademollo, Alessandro. I teatri di Roma nel secolo XVII [The Theatres of Rome in the Seventeenth Century]. Rome, 1888; rpt. 1969.
- Fuà, Franco. L’opera di Filippo Acciaioli. Fossombrone, 1921.
- Jurkowski, Henryk. Écrivains et marionnettes. Quatre siècles de littérature dramatique [Writers and Puppets. Four Centuries of Dramatic Literature]. Charleville-Mézières: Éditions de l’Institut international de la marionnette, 1991.
- Malamari, Vittorio. “Il teatro drammatico, le marionette e i burattini a Venezia nel secolo XVII” [The dramatic theatre, marionettes and burattini in Venice in the seventeenth century]. Nuova antologia. No. 1. March 1897.
- McCormick, John, with Alfonso Cipolla and Alessandro Napoli. The Italian Puppet Theater – A History. Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Co., 2010.