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10—Il diletto : Aria, Drama, and the Emergence of Formal Conventions
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Tripartite Forms

But progress toward resolution was not always dramatically appropriate or necessary. Situations characterized by obsession or indecision, where conflict remained unresolved, were often more effectively portrayed by formal backtracking than by movement toward a goal. Accordingly, some non-strophic forms, as well as the individual stanzas of strophic ones, were enclosed by refrains. In non-strophic contexts, such refrains, whether long or short, epigrammatic quatrains or single-line exclamations, tended to promote closure merely by marking off the segments of text between them.

Far from automatically signaling arias, though, such refrains in operas of the 1640s and early 1650s were utilized primarily and most effectively as intensification of recitative, interrupting passages of free dialogue unpredictably with emotional outbursts. It was only after the middle of the century that they became regularly associated with more tightly structured poetry, and that lyrical setting of the whole became standard procedure. The refrain per se, like the


aphoristic tag line, was essentially an affective device inspired by the drama. Stimulated by an excess of feeling—why else would a character say the same thing more than once?—its very recurrence invited musical emphasis, and, in the context of recitative, this emphasis involved a change or contrast in musical style, usually a lyrical expansion—or else, if the context was already lyrical, a recitative outburst. Such refrains gained special power from their unpredictability; usually unprepared by the intervening recitative, they gave the impression of arising naturally out of a character's emotional overflow. Composers were free to expand upon refrains in a recitative context precisely because the refrains seemed to spring directly from feelings rather than reason. In arias, however, refrains could have a stultifying effect. Predictability compromised or diluted their dramatic immediacy, artifice weakened their direct link to the emotions of the character. The difficulty was compounded, of course, by strophic form. Accordingly, until the middle of the century the ABA form was less common for arias than the ABB'. Afterwards, particularly in their non-strophic guise, ABA forms increased in frequency and size, eventually supplanting bipartite structure as well as strophicism itself to become the dominant form for opera for the next hundred years: the da capo aria.[22]

Like the bipartite aria, then, the da capo aria had its roots in the recitative style, specifically in the use of the enclosing refrain.[23] The kinship as well as the contrast between the two procedures—refrain in recitative and refrain-enclosed arias—is clearly illustrated in the early collaborations between Faustini and Cavalli. More than any other works of the period, theirs exploited the refrain as an affective-structural device in aria and recitative alike.

Refrain in Recitative

Faustini's lengthy recitative passages were periodically marked by refrains of one or more lines that stood apart from the rest because of their meter or rhyme, and also, usually, because of their affective intensity. Their impact, however, depended primarily on their recurrence, sometimes as many as three or four times in a scene, which Cavalli enhanced through the usual means: shift of meter, repetition of text, musical expansion, change of musical style, addition of string accompaniment, and often the attachment of a ritornello based on the same material.

A number of speeches in Ormindo (1644) are articulated by refrains. In Nerillo's monologue in act 1, scene 3, a symmetrical, three-line moralizing


refrain encloses a lengthy passage of recitative in versi sciolti that develops the moral of the refrain: "Oh, wise is he who knows how to flee woman's beauty" (example 27):

O sagace chi sà
Fuggir, come il suo peggio
La donnesca beltà.
Beltà mentita, e vana,
Che per far lacci à cori
Và rubando i capelli
A teschi infraciditi entro gl'avelli:
Ma che parlo de' morti,
Se con vezzi lascivi
Pela spietatamente insino i vivi?
O sagace chi sà . . .

Oh, wise is he who knows how

To flee, as his bane,

Woman's beauty.

A beauty false and vain

That to tie hearts

Goes around stealing hair

From moldering skulls in their tombs.

But why am I speaking of dead men,

When, with lascivious simpering,

It robs without pity even the living?

Oh, wise is he . . .

Cavalli distinguished the refrain by setting it in a highly elaborate aria style, expanding and reworking the text by repeating individual words and lines and finally going through the whole text a second time with varied music. Melismatic sixteenth-note scale passages interpret fuggir each time it occurs; strings briefly echo various vocal phrases, concluding the refrain with a more substantial echolike ritornello based on the fuggir motive. The second refrain statement, exactly like the first, ushers in the first of two arias in the scene in a sequence of escalating lyricism of the kind we have already remarked upon in connection with the sententious arioso. This increasingly lyrical organization was characteristic first of comic monologues and later of serious ones.[24]

It was a function of comic characters to make moralistic generalizations on behalf of their masters, directed as much to the audience as to the characters on stage. The very artificiality of repetition helped to distance the remarks from the immediacy of the drama and focused them more directly toward the audience. It was different for serious characters, who needed special license to repeat themselves or express themselves formally. Excessive passion was virtually their only justification. For them, refrains within recitative offered an opportunity for lyrical expression without the limitations of formal aria. Indeed, Cavalli and Faustini seem to have been particularly interested in the refrain as an affective device in serious contexts, in the power of refrains to project passion.

In Ormindo they exploited that power in conjunction with one character in particular: the abandoned princess Sicle, whose feigned death stimulates the reawakening of her lover's affection and the symmetrical resolution of the plot.


Unlike the other main characters, Sicle sings no arias (she is the most serious of all the lovers, the most steadfast in her faith); but her passionate recitatives are frequently punctuated by refrains, some of them quite lengthy. Her extended speeches in 1.5 are interrupted at various junctures by three successive refrains of differing length and intensity. In the previous chapter we saw how Cavalli specially emphasized the last of them, a quatrain itself enclosed by a refrain, by means of a lyrical setting that involved word repetition, dissonance, syncopation, sequence, and other standard affective techniques (cf. example 8):

Chi, chi mi toglie al die
Carnefice pietoso
De le sciagure mie?
Chi, chi mi toglie al die .
Angoscie aspre, ed acerbe,
Se tanto fiere siete,
Perche non m'uccidete?
De la sua vita priva
Non viva più la misera, non viva.
Chi, chi mi toglie al die  . . .[25]

The five lines that separate the two appearances of the refrain are treated as straight recitative, but do not stand apart musically from the refrain. On the contrary, as Cavalli set them, they lead powerfully to its return, their close on the dominant awaiting the refrain to reassert the tonic. The effect of the whole is cumulative; the second cry of despair, "Who, who will deliver me from this existence!" is the culmination of the entire passage. Forward motion rather than retrospection is promoted by the recurrence; the second statement of the refrain seems more powerful than the first for having been anticipated by it.

What is more, each of these individual refrains might almost be thought of as a miniature ABA aria. In fact, the structure of this "refrain within a refrain" exemplifies the affective inspiration of refrains in general. It also illustrates an important distinction between two refrain types: the passionate exclamatory line and the more expansive multiple-line statement, a distinction to which we shall return. It seems quite natural, given the emotional temperature of the refrain text to begin with, that it should inspire its own single-line refrain, which itself is required to resolve a half-cadence. Sicle's four-line refrain does not seem artificially structured or dramatically stagnant. It forms a single, emotionally inspired lyrical gesture.

It was a small step from the lyrical refrain in recitative to the da capo aria. All that was still missing was the formal integration of the intervening text and music. But composers had to work harder in arias to match the intensity that


could be achieved by refrains in a recitative context. They had to infuse the aria form with progressive energy to counteract the static effect of return.

Da Capo Refrain Arias

The earliest ABA arias, most of them comic, were not unlike their bipartite counterparts in their proximity to the recitative style. Their texts were generally set syllabically, straight through from beginning to end; their refrains, usually of the single-line exclamatory variety, rarely received special musical treatment. Any musical distinctions between A and B were usually inspired by textual distinctions, such as a shift in meter. In fact, librettists often assured musical continuity by linking the refrain to either or both ends of the intervening text by rhyme as well as meter. Frequently only the presence of a ritornello based on the refrain material served to emphasize the refrain above the rest of the text. Occasionally, though, the return of the refrain was amplified through repetition, resulting in an ABA' rather than ABA form.

A characteristic early example is Mercurio's aria from act 3, scene 9 of La virtù de' strali d'Amore (example 28):

Donne, s'amar volete
Venite quì, correte,
Con gli strali d'amor v'impiagherò;
Ma da chi più vezzosa
Hà la bocca amorosa
In premio del mio colpo un bacio io vuò.
Donne s'amar volete
Venite quì, correte.

Da colei, che più belle
Le luci ha de le stelle
Un lascivetto sguardo io chiedo sol;
Ma s'alcuna donare
Mi vuol cose più rare
Acceterò ciò, che donar me vuol;
Donne, s'amar volete
Venite quì, correte .
[+ one more strophe]

Ladies, if love is your desire ,
Come hither, run :
I will wound you with Love's darts;
But she who has the fairest,
Most loving lips
Must reward my deed with a kiss.
Ladies, if love is your desire ,
Come hither, run .

From her, whose eyes
Are lovelier than the stars,
I only demand a lascivious glance;
But if any of you will give
Something more rare,
I shall accept whatever you wish to give me;
Ladies, if love is your desire . . .

In this ditty, addressed directly to the ladies in the audience, and distinctly outside the dramatic action, the text is set straight through like recitative, syllabic and unheightened. The refrain is continuous with the rest, lacking any thematic, harmonic, or metric distinction. Although an abrupt harmonic juxtaposition signals its return, only a single extra word repetition, a slight bow in the direction of closure, differentiates the second statement from the first. The stanza is followed by a ritornello loosely based on a motive taken from the refrain, specifically that setting the words Venite quì , the climax of the text; but


even this relationship serves no particularly emphatic function, since the refrain itself is so little distinguished from the rest of the music.

The breezy, recitative-like rapidity with which Cavalli dispatched this text, refrain and all, is appropriate because it contributes to the comic effect of the aria. The musical setting promotes verbal intelligibility and makes only limited vocal demands on the singer, who was probably chosen as much for his histrionic as for his vocal abilities.[26] Further, it responds directly to the poetry, which makes no metric distinction between the refrain and the rest of the text. The composer did little more than transcribe the poetic structure into musical notation. The text virtually sings (= speaks) itself.

Other early da capo refrain arias are more complicated (and more interesting). Some display greater contrast between sections and greater emphasis on the refrain. In Melloe's aria "Voglio provar anch'io, che cosa é Amor" from Doriclea (Faustini/Cavalli, 1645) 3.4, a distinction between the refrain and the B section is suggested by the meter of the text (example 29):

Voglio provat anch'io, che cosa è Amor
Ogni donzella
Sciocca m'appella,
Perch'à un sembiante
Di vago amante
Mai diedi il cot.
Voglio provar anch'io, che cosa è Amor .

Ciascuna ama mi dice, arnare io vò ,
Voglio, che sia
L'anima mia,
Il mio diletto
Un giovanetto,
Che scieglierò.
Ciascuna ama mi dice, amare io vò .
[+ one more strophe][27]

I, too, wish to experience what love is .
Every damsel
Says I'm silly
Because I never gave my heart
To the countenance
Of a fair lover.
I, too, wish to experience what love is .

Everyone loves, the), tell me, and I wish to too .
I wish that
My soul,
My delight
Be a youth
Whom I will choose.
Everyone loves, they tell me . . .

The composer marked the librettist's distinction through a change of meter and by the imposition in the B section of sequential patterning in response to the repeated accents of the five short lines; B is further developed in the ritornello, a relationship that, although it inverts the standard da capo connection between ritornello and refrain, is at least musically appropriate for this particular aria, the B material being more distinctive than that of the refrain. As in Mercurio's aria, undifferentiated syllabic treatment is appropriate here because of the nature of


the text—the humorous musings of the amorous servant girl Melloe shared with the audience.

Given the importance of the words and the possibility that they were sung by actors rather than singers, it is perhaps not surprising that comic da capo arias, like comic arias in general, continued to be musically modest well into the second half of the century. Often, however, composers' attention to the words yielded more distinctive musical material as they attempted more actively to translate the text into musical imagery. In Eumene's "La bellezza è un don fugace" from Xerse (Minato/Cavalli, 1654) 2.8, the "fleetingness of beauty" is portrayed by a sixteenth-note refrain motive that seems to spirit the words away (example 30):

La bellezza è un don fugace ,
Che si perde in pochi dì
Il suo sereno,
Come baleno
Tosto fuggì.
Chi s'accese, e ne languì
Speri pur nel tempo edace.
La bellezza è un don fugace .

L'alterezza d'un bel volto
Si castiga con l'età,
Il fresco, il verde
Tosto disperde
Flor di beltà.
E struggendo ogn'hor si và
Come al vento esposta face
La bellezza è un don fugace .

Beauty is a fleeting gift ,
Which is lost in a few days.
Its clear sky
As in a flash
Has come and gone.
Whoever was ignited by it, and languished of it
May as well place his hopes in ravenous time.
Beauty is a fleeting gift .

The haughtiness of a lovely face
Is punished by age;
All that's fresh and green
Soon loses
The bloom of beauty
And is ever consuming itself,
Like a torch exposed to the wind.
Beauty is a fleeting gift .

Beginning with two sixteenth notes to a syllable, increasing to four and finally to twelve, the refrain material spills over into the B section for four of its six lines, following the sentence structure. The two final lines of B are set separately, to new, more appropriate, slower-moving material geared to the word languì , finally coming to a stop on a half-note. The return of the refrain reasserts the message of the text all the more forcefully after the slowdown. The refrain material, which is the message of the text translated into music, permeates the entire aria: strophe, accompaniment, and, of course, ritornello. Despite the greater musical interest of Eumene's aria, it shares with Mercurio's and Melloe's the straight-through setting and the small dimensions that help to project the words clearly and are appropriate to the economical, matter-of-fact expression of a comic character.

In serious contexts, however, it was often more appropriate for the composer to linger over the whole text, particularly the refrain, and to distinguish


it even more strongly from the rest of the text. Such treatment was especially suitable when the message was more affective than literal, when the purpose of the aria was to communicate feeling rather than information or opinion, and when the text was an integral part of the drama rather than external to it, sung by a protagonist rather than a stock figure. In such situations, the music remains closely tied to the words, but asserts its own momentum. The composer used the text more expressively; rather than transcribing the poetic structure or translating the words, he now interpreted the feelings behind them. In these cases, the dimensions of the music far exceed those suggested by the text. Words are repeated, emphasized, dwelled upon, and heightened to convey the emotion that generated them.

Eurinda's "Udite amanti, udite" from Doriclea 1.5 is one of the most fully developed, musically satisfying da capo refrain arias of the period.[28] Eurinda is not a comic character, but one of the noble protagonists, a member of the standard amorous quartet. Although she directs her song to the audience (or to those of it who are lovers), she does not preach to them, but, rather, describes her own feelings. Overcome by her love, she bursts into formal lyricism, an unusual mode of expression for a protagonist in 1645; but her passion justifies the arioso-style expansion of the text (example 31):

Udite amanti, udite,
Trà le schiere d'amor
Non si trova del mio più lieto cor?
Dolce fiamma il sen m'accende,
É diletto il mio martoro,
Cieco Dio co' strali d'oro
Mi saetta, e non m'offende.
Che dite voi, che dite
Trà le schiere d'amor
Si può trovar del mio più lieto cor?
Del mio foco io son l'ardore,
Chi m'avvinse avvinto giace,
Non mi rode il duol vorace,
Tutto manna assaggio amore.
Che dite voi . . .

Hear, lovers, hear:
In Love's ranks
No heart is happier than mine.
A sweet flame kindles my bosom,
My martyrdom is sheer delight;
The blind god with his golden darts
Pierces me, yet hurts me not.
What say you, what do you say,
In love's ranks
Can there be a happier heart than mine?
I am the love of my lover,
My captor captured lies,
Devouring pain gnaws not at me,
Love is manna to my taste.
What say you . . .

This text is actually somewhat irregular for a da capo refrain aria; it fails to conform to any of the standard modifications of da capo refrain form. The opening tercet does not return, but is replaced by a variant, which concludes both stanzas. The composer confirmed the poetic structure, the contrast between the seven- and eleven-syllable refrain and the ottonario B sections, with his own metric contrast, a shift from triple to duple meter. Beyond that, how-


ever, refrain and B sections are closely linked, by harmonic structure and thematic material. Both are generated by the same opening interval, the descending fifth, E to A, and both are expanded musically. In addition to elaborate, lengthy melismas, on cor in the refrain and strali and saetta in the first B section— none of them particularly expressive of the words—expansion is achieved through repetition of varying textual units: words, phrases, whole lines.

The unusual musical expansion is a function of the composer's long-range dramatic plan, an aspect of characterization. In contrast to Doriclea, the other female lead, Eurinda, is easily carried away by her emotions. She frequently expresses herself in aria style, whereas Doriclea hardly ever does.[29] This particular aria acts as a kind of presentation piece for Eurinda; its elaboration exemplifies her flighty, fickle character. It is, furthermore, ironically appropriate. The unrestrained passion for Farnace expressed here sets into ironic relief her behavior in the very next scene, when, with no preparation whatsoever, she becomes enamored of another man. The musical abundance seems to serve multiple dramatic functions in addition to providing satisfaction for its own sake.

Da capo refrain arias for comic characters did not undergo much development during the century. The features that characterized their earliest manifestations—economical, syllabic setting to ensure text clarity, and minimal musical expansion—remained as appropriate after 1650 as before. Whatever musical expansion such arias displayed, as a result of exaggeration of musical gestures or excessively literal representation of text, tended to enhance their comic effect. The conditions under which comic characters sang their arias did not change either, since they persisted in performing their conventional functions of commentary on and parody of the action.

Da capo refrain arias for serious characters, on the other hand, developed considerably. They became more frequent as librettists found new excuses for them, and they became more-standardized in form. In creating additional aria situations, serious or dramatic, librettists nevertheless continued to ensure minimal disruption of dramatic flow. Formal structures continued to support dramatic function. And composers developed new techniques to enhance drama within the increasingly conventionalized formal schemes. In some instances, greater musical coherence between refrain and enclosed text helped to minimize


the artificiality of return. In others, return itself assumed a specific dramatic function, which an increased contrast between sections helped to emphasize.

Coherence in Da Capo and Da Capo Refrain Arias

In the librettos of both Minato and Aureli, da capo arias for serious characters were of two distinct types, largely determined by their dramatic function.[30] The more common type initially featured single-line refrains associated with multiple stanzas (modified in one of the standard ways), with which they were often linked by meter or rhyme. Less frequently, until later in the century, the refrains were longer and enclosed single stanzas, from which they were usually poetically more distinct, creating a form that resembled the prototypical baroque da capo aria in most important respects.[31] The two types occasionally overlapped; that is, some arias with short refrains were not strophic, and some strophic arias had long refrains.

The length of the refrain, however, was directly related to the dramatic function of the aria. By and large, those with short refrains were more immediately responsive to, and more deeply imbedded in, the ongoing action. The refrains themselves were usually highly impassioned, indignant or angry outbursts, or rhetorical questions, whether addressed outward to other characters or inward by the characters to themselves. They resembled Faustini's recitative (arioso) refrains in their affective intensity and apparent spontaneity, but were associated with more formalized texts.[32] Such arias usually began abruptly in response to a specific action or event; they often concluded a scene or action-segment and were followed by the character's exit. Or else they opened solo scenes that presented a character responding to an action that had recently taken place. Xerse has a number of such arias with opening lines like "Che barbara pietà" (immediate response to an action), "Và, speranza" (self-exhortation), "Morirò volete più," "Lasciatemi morire" (more considered response), or "Dammi, Amor, la libertà." Arias with longer refrains were usually associated with more static situations, where emotions were more controlled or had not yet been ignited. Declarative rather than participatory, they were more likely to initiate or set the stage for an action than to respond to one, and they often marked entrances rather than exits.[33]

In both types of aria the return of the refrain might strain verisimilitude. The risk, however, was attenuated in the longer refrain arias by their more


external function, while the shorter refrains were often dramatically justified by their affect, which could well be intensified by return, as long as it did not seem programmed or artificial. Composers and librettists could intensify the affective impact of return by making it seem natural. One way of achieving this was to integrate the returning refrain with the B section so that it seemed necessary, even inevitable, rather than redundant.

Integration is achieved quite effectively in most of the abovementioned arias from Xerse . In Amastre's "Morirò: volete più" (2.13). she reacts to the accumulated frustration of being repeatedly ignored by her beloved Xerse. Integration is encouraged by the meter and rhyme scheme of the text (example 32):


Morirò: volete più?
Stelle crude al mio martir
S'il mio duolo a raddolcir
Vostri rai non han virtù.
Morirò: volere più?
Se tradita è la mia fè
Se non posso hayer mercè
Di costante servitù
Morirò: volete più?

I will die: do you want more?
Cruel stars, if your rays
Don't have the power
To soothe my torment's pain,
I will die: do you want more?
If my faith is betrayed,
If I can't have mercy
From loyal servitude,
I will die: do you want more?

Cavalli set it straight through, linking the refrain to the B section through phrase structure (the first phrase spans lines 1-2), harmony (the refrain lands on the dominant, which is resolved to the tonic only at the end of the first phrase), and motivic material (the rhythm of the refrain, with its initial upbeat, persists throughout the strophe). The link between the end of the B section and the returning refrain is, if anything, even tighter. An expanded and transposed variant of the refrain completes a rising sequence of upbeat phrases that began in the strophe with line 3 on G#, proceeded to line 4 on B, and finally to the refrain on high G, which provides the climax of the aria, ending strongly on the relative major. The refrain in fact does not return at its original pitch until a phrase later, where, acting as the fourth and final member of the sequence begun with line 3, it resolves the aria to the tonic. Cavalli followed the librettist's lead by treating the entire text of five strictly rhymed ottonari tronchi as a unit. The refrain provides both the generative idea and the climax of the aria.[34]

Meter and rhyme scheme were not the only inducements to musical continuity. Sometimes the meaning of a text actually depended on the incorporation of the refrain at the end as well as the beginning, so that its recurrence did not seem like a repeat at all, but rather the culmination of the aria. Such is the effect of Romilda's self-exhorting "Amante non è," which she sings at her exit


in 2.15. Minato integrated the refrain line into the strophe by inverting the syntax at the end: "He is not a [true] lover, / Who yields to the fury. . . . He who fears pain / Is not a [true] lover" (example 33):


Amante non è
Chi cede al furor
D'irata Fortuna,
Tutto quel, che Pluto aduna
Più perfido rigor
Non vince il mio core,
Non turba mia fè,
Chi teme il dolore,
Amante non è.[35]

He is not a lover
Who yields to the fury
Of irate Fortune:
The most perfidious punishment
That Pluto assembles
Cannot conquer my heart,
Nor disturb my faith.
He who fears pain
Is not a lover .

The composer brilliantly paralleled this integration with his own musical anastrophe. Prefaced by an independent ritornello, as befits its rather considered, philosophical tone, the brief refrain presents a motive (strictly derived from the text rhythm) that, although repeated sequentially at the outset of line 2, quickly disintegrates into more varied rhythmic and melodic patterns inspired by individual words. The text and music of the two final lines, the refrain and its predecessor—which form a paired couplet with the two preceding lines—are heard twice, as in a typical ABB' expansion, first beginning and ending on the dominant, then beginning on the dominant and reaching the tonic with a slight flourish that restores the music of the original refrain as the inevitable, sequential climax of the line. The musical development of the aria is linear; it moves naturally and inexorably from refrain to refrain without doubling back.

The integration of refrain and B section illustrated in these two examples from Xerse helps to counteract the natural regressiveness of the da capo. In both instances, musical integration was encouraged by the librettist, although the particular means of achieving it was up to the composer. There are numerous examples, however, in which the composer's contribution stands out because it seems to go beyond the librettist's indications, using them merely as a starting point for much greater integration and expansion.


In Miralba's aria "Non dovevi innamorarti" from Medoro (Aureli/Lucio, 1658) 2.14, the musical coherence far exceeds that of the text, whose sole suggestion of integration is the (conventional) rhyme between the final line of the strophe and the returning refrain (example 34):


Non dovevi innamorarti ,
Infelice mio cor, se non volevi
Sentir d'Amor le pene:
Stolto sei, se le catene
Credi sciorti e liberarti:
Non dovevi innamorarti!

Soffri in pace i tuoi martiri ,
Che sei nato al penar, e di Cupido
Fatto sei scherzo, e gioco:
Tormentati in mezo al foco
Saran sempre i tuoi respiri.
Soffri in pace i tuoi martiri .

You should not have fallen in love ,
O my unhappy heart, if you were unwilling
To feel the pangs of Love:
Foolish are you, if you think
You can loosen your bonds and free yourself:
You should not have fallen in love .

Suffer in peace your martyrdom ,
For you were born to suffer, and to Cupid
You are but a whim, a toy.
Your breath shall ever be
Tormented amidst the flames.
Suffer in peace your martyrdom .

Musical integration is achieved initially by the persistence into the B section of the refrain's initial, steady eighth-note motion and upbeat phrase beginnings. This general connection is reinforced by a specific one, a kind of musical rhyme emphasizing the textual rhyme between the end of B and the refrain. The composer set the two rhyming syllables (the rar in innamorarti and liberarti ) to elaborate, highly rhythmic, and very similar melismas. The relationship is highlighted in several ways. To begin with, the last two lines of the strophe are repeated in a second key (E-A, A-D), which entails repetition of the melisma on liberarti . Then the refrain is also repeated, first in the dominant, then in the tonic. Not only is the melisma thus also heard twice in the refrain, but each time it is expanded to double its original length. By returning first on the dominant and then on the tonic, and by expanding the original melisma, the refrain sounds less like a repetition than a new development of earlier material: its own and that of the B section. It is worth noting that a second statement of the refrain was not required by the tonal structure of the B section, which ended firmly in the tonic. But a preliminary statement in the dominant sets up the final statement in the tonic as a bigger climax; the refrain acts like a large authentic cadence. In Miralba's aria, Lucio went beyond the normal means of integrating refrain and B section to establish a strong thematic relationship between the sections. Although that relationship may have been suggested by the closing rhyme of Aureli's text, it was the composer's choice to exploit it as the source of forward momentum in the aria.

There are some da capo arias in which integration is so complete that the distinction between refrain and B section is virtually obliterated, the refrain supplying all of the musical material for the aria (we observed something like


this in example 31 above). The technique is particularly appropriate when the refrain line actually provides the subject matter for the whole text.

Orfeo's "Cerco pace e mi fà guerra" from Orfeo (Aureli/Sartorio, 1673) 1.13 is an effective example of what might be called the monothematic da capo. It literally demonstrates the permeation of a whole aria by the affect of its refrain (example 35):


Cerco pace e mira guerra
Gelosia co 'l Dio d'Amor .
Cinto l'un d'acceso telo
Porta il foco, e l'altra il gelo,
Per far breccia in questo cor.
Cerco pace . . .

La bellezza à far rapine
Si à Giove anco insegnò .
Non han freno accese voglie,
E più bella, ch'è la moglie
Il sospetto anco è maggior.
Cerco pace . . .

I seek peace but am warred against
By jealousy and the god of Love .
The one, armed with a burning dart,
Carries fire, the other frost,
To make a breach in my heart.
I seek peace . . .

Beauty taught even
Jove to be a ravisher .
Once enflamed, cupidity is unbridled,
And the lovelier the wife,
The greater the suspicion.
I seek peace . . .

Orfeo's unremitting jealousy generates an incessant running sixteenth-note continuo accompaniment, which, pitted against a smoother, slower-moving vocal line, gives concrete expression to jealousy's power to undermine Orfeo's peace. It is the meaning of the two-line refrain ("I seek peace but am warred against by jealousy") that is embodied throughout the aria by the bass motion, which never stops. The refrain and B section are separated by half-note pauses at either end, but the return of the refrain is nonetheless heard rather as a continuation of the B section than a reprise of earlier material.

Although the methods and results differed, integration of refrain and B section in all of the preceding examples entailed some recomposition and expansion at the recurrence of the refrain. Sometimes it was minimal, just an extra cadential repetition, either to provide closing punctuation or to restore the tonic if the refrain had originally ended elsewhere (as in examples 28 and 32, respectively). Sometimes it involved more extensive repetition of the whole refrain, rendered necessary by its own initial instability (examples 30 and 33). The refrain itself might return in a new key and then be repeated in its original key, sometimes additionally extended to produce a more satisfactory cadence (example 34). In the most effective examples, the final repetition of the refrain gained expressive power—and finality—for having been anticipated by such a transposed statement of itself: that is, by seeming to resolve or stabilize its preceding statement or acting as the culminating member of a sequence (examples 32 and 33).


Sometimes, however, as we have seen, recomposition was much more extensive—and more gratuitous. In Miralba's aria, Lucio's expansion of the refrain went well beyond harmonic or structural necessity into the realm of expression. A number of refrains in other arias from Medoro are similarly expanded. In Miralba's final aria in the opera, "Respira mio core" (3.16), the extensive elaboration of A' is clearly justified by affective considerations. Expansion in both of Miralba's arias, like that in an increasing number of others, smacks as well of deference to the singer. Virtuosic display is not the least of its justifications.[36]

While recomposition through expansion was one effective means of overcoming the static effects of da capo return, composers explored a number of other paths to the same end. Sometimes they ignored the presence of the textual refrain altogether, as in Amastre's "Speranze fermate" from Xerse 2.1 (example 36):


Speranze fermate ;
Sì tosto fuggite?
Ancora non sete
Speranze tradite.
Voi dunque m'havete
Si poca pietate?
Speranze fermate .

Pensieri sperate ;
Sì presto temete?
Ancora ingannati
Pensieri non sete.
Già d'esser sprezzati
A torto giurate.
Pensieri sperate .

Ye hopes, remain!
So soon do you flee?
You are not yet
Hopes betrayed.
Do you then harbor
So little pity toward me?
Ye hopes, remain!

Ye thoughts, have hope!
So quickly you fear?
You are not yet
Thoughts deceived.
You are wrong to swear
You are disdained,
Ye thoughts, have hope!

Here Cavalli altered the form of Minato's text by bringing back the refrain, not with its original music, but attached to the preceding line and set to entirely new music, which he repeated, thereby actually transforming a da capo text into a bipartite aria. The hopes have indeed fled![37]

In Seleuco's "Tardanza noiosa" from Seleuco (Minato/Sartorio, 1666) 1.7, the musical return of the refrain is postponed by transposed reiteration of interior lines of the strophe involving some new musical material (example 37):


Tardanza noiosa
Molesta dimora.
A un alma ch'adora
Sei sempre penosa.
Tardanza noiosa .

Non gode non posa
Chi aspetta il suo bene,
Rinforzi le pene
Con sferza dogliosa
Tardanza noiosa .

Troublesome lateness ,
Annoying delay:
To a soul in love
You are always painful,
Troublesome lateness .

Unable to enjoy or to rest
Is he who awaits his beloved;
You aggravate his pain
With your hurtful rebuke,
Troublesome lateness .

When the "tardy" refrain text finally does return, it is set to new music that elaborates material introduced in the expanded B section, only with its final cadence, an open descending fifth, recapitulating the opening refrain.

The return of a refrain could also be disguised by beginning it differently or recapitulating it only in part, starting from within the refrain rather than at the beginning.[38] Most often, however, returning refrains were embellished or re-composed at the end, for the reasons outlined above: to fulfill large-dimension harmonic requirements and for purely expressive or formal ones. The expansion of A' in da capo arias is of course analogous to that of B' in bipartite arias, and, despite the difference in form, the results were similar. In both, the expansion lent the aria as a whole a sense of forward propulsion, often culminating in the character's exit from the stage.

Contrast in Da Capo Forms

We have emphasized composers' and librettists' efforts to integrate the da capo refrain into an ongoing, overarching structure. On the other hand, as we have already observed, the da capo form was often chosen expressly for its naturally static effect, for dramatic situations that required backtracking. Such situations benefited from emphasis on the refrain's independence rather than integration, and from its exact repetition rather than its progressive, climactic expansion. The large, static da capo arias almost never involved elaboration of the refrain, but merely called for its repetition by means of the rubric da capo . In such cases, musical contrast was more appropriate than integration because it focused greater attention on the returning refrain. We are coming closer to the textbook da capo form.

In Aldimira's aria from Erismena 3.12, musical contrast, inspired by the meaning of the poetry, intensifies the impact of the refrain's return. Aldimira is responding to an order to leave. She refuses emphatically and directly: "Ch'io


parta? non posso," a line that initiates and then concludes a non-strophic aria consisting of eight senari (example 38):


Ch'io parta? non posso .
In prima conviene
Il nodo spezzar
Di quelle catene,
Che mi fan restar
In vano à l'andar
Il piede vien mosso,
Ch'io parta? non posso .

That I depart? I cannot .
First it would be necessary
To break the knot
Of those chains
That make me stay.
The foot is moved
In vain to leave.
That I depart? I cannot .

In response to its emphatic suddenness, Cavalli set the refrain line as recitative, changing to triple meter for the six lines that follow, during which Aldimira explains why it is she cannot leave. The contrast between the refrain and the rest of the text—and the naturalness of the aria style here—is heightened by their harmonic relationship. The refrain is in harmonic limbo; it stops suddenly on a C triad, which becomes, only in retrospect, the dominant of the aria's key. The middle section is itself rather unstable, moving from F to C minor and finally to Bb, where the refrain comes in, again concluding on the dominant, leaving the continuo to effect a quick resolution to the tonic. Not only is the relationship of refrain to B section exceedingly natural and appropriate to the text, but the central section itself, with its breathlessly repeated sequences, overlapped cadences, and intensifying momentum, communicates Aldimira's overwrought emotional state admirably, creating momentum that strengthens her resolution not to leave. Here the contrast of the refrain clearly functions as a dramatic element.[39]

Aldimira's affirmation of her unwillingness to depart is essential to the action; her refrain gains conviction from the emphasis conferred by a distinctive, contrasting setting. But the decision was largely the composer's. Nothing in the text requires contrast. On the contrary, it is structurally continuous. Often, however, the text of a da capo aria insists upon musical contrast between refrain and B section. One of the most obvious instances involves the portrayal of a character's indecision or internal conflict.

In Rodope's "Rendetemi il mio ben stelle fatali" (Le fortune di Rodope e Damira 3.8), another non-strophic text, musical contrast effectively portrays her ambivalence toward her lover, Nigrane. That ambivalence is built into the text. Rodope's love for Nigrane conflicts with her desire for vengeance. She wishes to harden her heart against him, but, as the return of the refrain tells us, she cannot (example 39):


Rendetemi il mio ben stelle fatali :
Fate che l'impietà
D'un Rè barbaro e amante,
Alimenti in un istante
Nelle viscere mie la crudeltà,
Sin che morte gli tronchi i dì vitali.
Rendetemi il mio ben stelle fatali .[40]

Return to me my love, O fateful stars!
Cause the impiousness
Of a barbarous and loving king
To nourish instantly,
Cruelty within my viscera
Until death cut short his living days.
Return to me my love . . .

In the refrain, triple meter, minor tonality, heavily accented appoggiaturas, string echoes, melismatic extensions, and affective text repetition all help to portray the intensity of Rodope's longing for Nigrane, while in the B section a shift to duple meter, D major, steady eighth-note motion, syllabic text-setting, and short, symmetrical phrases attempt to communicate her anger. Although the effect of B is perhaps a little too bright and jaunty to portray anger, it nevertheless communicates a different mood from that of A.[41]

Sectional contrast is inspired in other instances more by the imagery of a da capo text than by its dramatic function. In Elisa's strophic aria from Mutio Scevola (Minato/Cavalli, 1664) 1.13, poetic structure and imagery dictated the distinctive musical setting of the refrain. In this statement of principle, inspired by repeated attempts on her honor, Elisa asserts her steadfastness in metaphoric terms that suggested a series of pictorial images to the composer (example 40):


Fermo scoglio è la mia fede ,
Dal furor d'onda spurnante
Più costante nulla cede:
Fermo scoglio è la mia fede .

Vivo alloro è la mia fede ,
Ch'il suo verde
Mai non perde
D'Aquilon al fiato acuto,
Nè canuto
Mai si vede.
Vivo alloro è la mia fede .

A firm rock is my faith ,
By the fury of frothy wave,
Yet more constant, nothing yields:
A firm rock is my faith .

A living laurel is my faith ,
Whose green
Never fades
In the face of northern blast,
Nor is seen
Ever hoary.
A living laurel is my faith .

The refrain is set to a syncopated, falling fourth motive, depicting the fermo scoglio by its rocklike reiterated rhythm and gravitational motion. The second and third lines inspire agitated, ascending eighth-note patterns, furor in the


fourth line a descending sixteenth-note figure, onda spurnante a syncopation, and costante the conventional long notes in the voice part accompanied by a running bass. The return of the refrain with its pictorial motive reinforces the message of the aria; the refrain is self-referential, embodying its own meaning. It both states and represents the imperviousness of Elisa's faith to the furious assaults of her enemies.

A madrigalistic response to text yielded an even greater distinction between the poetically continuous refrain and B section of Angelica's much more elaborate non-strophic aria "La mia mente è un vasto Egeo" from Medoro (3.11). As in Elisa's aria, the text is a metaphoric distillation of intense emotion delivered while the character is alone on stage, but the refrain and B section stand in sharper opposition: the refrain depicts an untroubled, peaceful seascape that is threatened in the B section by the pirate, Fortune (example 41):


La mia mente è un vasto Egeo
Dove ondeggiano i pensieri;
E, Pirata, la Fortuna
Contro me sventure aduna
Acciò resti vil troffeo
De' suoi colpi crudi, e fieri.
La mia mente è un vasto Egeo . . .

My mind is a vast Aegean
Wherein my thoughts toss about like waves;
And the pirate Fortune
Rallies misfortunes against me,
That I may be the vile trophy
Of her rude, fierce blows.
My mind is a vast Aegean . . .

Sixteenth-note melismas repeated at the same pitch level initially portray the vast calm of the Aegean of Angelica's mind; the melismas are then literally transformed into the waves of that sea, dissipating into a more concrete, sequential three-note figure (eighth plus two sixteenths) in a two-beat pattern that breaks irregularly against the prevailing three-beat meter before culminating in a final sixteenth-note flourish at the cadence. The B section, marked by a shift to duple meter, is equally pictorial, its contrasting material beginning with an angular, syncopated, broken-chord figure representing piratical Fortune, whose cruel blows have destroyed Angelica's innocent, floating thoughts. The entire B section is repeated and varied before closing in the relative minor, which leads to a literal reprise of the refrain, indicated by the rubric da capo . Unlike Elisa's refrain, however, whose return emphasized its own meaning, Angelica's seems gratuitous, unmotivated except by the contrasting mood and imagery of the text.

Musical contrast in these last two arias was generated not by the dramatic function of their texts but by their imagery. The metaphoric nature of both texts removes them from the realm of action to that of contemplation—or self-contemplation. Unlike Aldimira and Rodope, Elisa and Angelica are not even expressing their emotion directly, but describing their feelings, commenting on them with a certain aesthetic detachment. This kind of distillation of emotion becomes commonplace in later da capo arias. Indeed, both Elisa's and


Angelica's texts, refined somewhat, might easily have come from a libretto by Metastasio.

These two arias affirm the connection between the single-line refrain aria and the more fully developed da capo. The form of Elisa's aria is like many of the refrain forms discussed earlier: it is strophic, it has a single-line refrain, its dimensions are small, and the A material is not repeated exactly—there is an extra cadential flourish at the end.[42] But like Angelica's aria, a full da capo with identifying rubric, Elisa's contrasting textual imagery inspired musical contrast rather than continuity between refrain and B section, and as a result the sections are clearly distinguished from one another. What links Elisa's and Angelica's arias is their sense of standing outside the action, whereas, as we have seen, so many da capo refrain arias are fully integrated within it.

In none of the four arias with contrasting refrains that we have considered, from Erismena, Rodope, Mutio , and Medoro , does the poetic form alone determine the contrast. Rather, their imagery and dramatic function, far more compelling than their structure, dictate the musical setting. Composers' choices, prompted by the librettists, were, as always, motivated by the need to integrate the arias within the dramatic fabric, to make the music serve the drama.

Static Da Capo Arias

Poetic form had a more exclusive and abstract impact on musical form in da capo arias with longer refrains. For one thing, the longer refrains were always metrically distinct from their surrounding text and thus did not lend themselves to musical integration. For another, these arias did not usually require integration within a dramatic fabric because they were designed to function outside it. Arias with longer refrains were reserved for situations in which formality was appropriate. The refrains merely emphasized their formality. The form of these arias matched their function. Statuesque, objective, they offered the composer greater freedom of expression than was available to him in the more dramatically relevant arias with short refrains, freedom to indulge in musical expansion and development of various kinds. Not incidentally, nearly all of these arias were non-strophic. Rare before 1650, they increased in number during the second half of the century, as librettists developed more occasions for them. Eventually, every protagonist was introduced by one, a presentation aria. And others found their way into librettos disguised as songs of one kind or another.

Possibly the most memorable of all presentation arias from this period is Xerse's "Ombra mai fù," which opens Xerse .[43] The text, made famous by


Handel's subsequent setting, comprises a four-line refrain in quinari , which encloses two six-line strophes of settenari and endecasillabi .[44] The refrain extols the plane tree, whose special qualities are appreciated more specifically in the two strophes (example 42):

Ombra mai fù
Di vegetabile
Cara, & areabile,
Soave più.

Bei smeraldi crescenti,
Frondi tenere, e belle,
Di turbini, ò procelle,
Importuni tormenti.
Non v'affligano mai la cara pace,
Ne giunga a profanarvi Austro rapace.

Mai con rustica scure
Bifolco ingiurioso
Tronchi ramo frondoso,
E se reciso pure
Fia, che ne resti alcuno, in stral cangiato,
O lo scocchi Diana, ò 'l Dio bendato.

Ombra mai fù . . .

Never was shade
Of vegetable
More dear & amiable,
More sweet.

Lovely growing emeralds,
Tender, beautiful branches,
May the importunate torments
Of whirlwinds or storms
Never afflict your precious peace,
Nor rapacious southern gale profane you.

May injurious peasant
Never cut a leafy branch
With his crude axe;
And if one should be severed,
May it remain, changed into a dart,
To be hurled by Diana, or by the
   blindfolded god.
Never was shade . . .

Cavalli's music is appropriately formal and expansive. He set the refrain (A) twice, basically straight through, first moving to the dominant, then back to the tonic, D major, with string accompaniment throughout; and he followed it with an instrumental ritornello. Although their scoring is different—continuo instead of strings—and they are generally more elaborate, with more expressive text interpretation involving word repetitions and melismatic extensions, the strophes (B) resemble the refrain in a number of ways: in their tonality (D major), meter (triple), and general melodic motion. Likewise harmonically self-sufficient, they do not require the refrain for closure. Indeed, the independence of the two sections seems to be confirmed by the rubric aria at the head of the first strophe in the Venice score, suggesting that Cavalli (or his copyist) thought of the refrain and strophes as two separate pieces. On the other hand, their relationship is also stressed by a linking ritornello, based on the refrain, which appears at the end of A and after the first strophe of B, though perhaps not after the second.[45] The refrain then returns, exactly as it was, followed by its ritornello.[46]


Many presentation arias are cast in similarly expansive da capo form, with lengthy refrains, but "Ombra mai fù" is atypical in several respects. The formal boundaries between its refrain and strophe(s) are more clearly articulated than most, by a ritornello and by the harmonic self-sufficiency of each of them. Yet the two sections are quite similar in character, so much so that the same ritornello can be used after each. Usually composers tended to emphasize the formal distinction between refrain and strophe more strongly by contrasting their musical material, but they made them harmonically interdependent so that the return of the refrain is at least tonally necessary for the completion of the aria. The special qualities of Xerse's aria are undoubtedly the result of its special dramatic function. It not only presents him as the hero of this opera, but by associating him indelibly with one of his best-known attributes—the plane tree—it identifies him as the historical Xerxes. The stiltedness of the expanded da capo form perfectly matches the iconic situation.

Medoro's non-strophic aria "O luce serena" in Medoro (1.8) is more typical of the formal da capos used for the presentation of protagonists.[47] Angelica has been anxiously awaiting Medoro's return from battle; in this aria, he presents himself to his beloved. The four-line refrain is distinguished by meter and closed rhyme scheme from the rest of the text, although it does share its rhyme (not its meter) with the line preceding its return. And there is also a distinction in tone. The refrain is more abstract, an apostrophe, whereas the middle section is more urgent, an active engagement of the beloved (a contrast that parallels the one in "Ombra mai fù") (example 43):

O luce serena
Del cielo d'amor,
O dolce mia pena,
O luminoso ardor.

Fuor di mè,
Tutto in tè,
Trasformato in un respiro,
Volo, ò bella in un sospiro
A bearmi nel tuo cor.

O luce serena . . .

O serene light
Of the heaven of love,
O my sweet sorrow,
O luminous ardor.

Beside myself,
Wholly in you,
Transformed into a breath,
I fly, O beauty, in a sigh
To bless myself in your heart.

O serene light . . .

Lucio emphasized the contrast in structure and tone between the sections with highly contrasting music. The refrain unfolds slowly, line by line, in a stately manner, hovering over the D-major tonic chord for the first twenty measures; leisurely repetition of words, phrases, and lines of text and the string echoes of each vocal phrase help to prolong the ethereal effect of harmonic stasis. A single


move to the dominant, as the final line concludes, provides the harmonic climax; the refrain resolves to the tonic during the repetition of its final phrase, which links the two formerly separated phrases setting lines 3 and 4, the whole falling into characteristic ABB' form.

A shift to duple meter and an implied modulation to the dominant mark the onset of the B section, which is, characteristically, accompanied only by continuo.[48] In contrast to the harmonic stasis of the refrain, the B section avoids asserting any key at all until its final cadence in G (IV), although its steady eighth-note motion does let up briefly to cadence on E minor before resuming its sequential propulsion toward the end. (It immediately transforms the refrain tonic, D, into the dominant of G, though postponing confirmation of G as its tonic until the end.) Like the refrain, the B section is also a miniature ABB' form; its final phrase, which sets the last three lines of text, undergoes the usual transposed repetition. The return of the refrain is necessary from a harmonic point of view, and it restores the placidity of the scene as well as the tonic, grounding the emotional intensity expressed in the middle section. This aria is a presentation of Medoro and an extravagant declaration of his love for Angelica—to which she responds in kind. It stands as an appropriately static portal to the ensuing action, during which their love will undergo severe testing before its final reaffirmation at the happy end.[49]

Aside from presentation, there were numerous individual situations in which the static, elaborate da capo aria functioned with particular efficacy. Usually, the preparation of an action rather than a response is involved. Aldimira's "Vaghe stelle" in Erismena (2.7) has a specific purpose, which its elaborate da capo structure helps to fulfill. Like Xerse's "Ombra mai fù" and Medoro's "O luce serena," it serves as a prelude to a dramatic action and thus stands apart. But it goes farther than either of those arias in being designed to initiate that action: to rouse the sleeping Erismena, disguised as Erineo, with whom Aldimira has fallen in love. As such it benefits from musical elaboration, which can only increase its impact on the sleeper. The composer, evidently relishing the opportunity for expansion encouraged by its dramatic purpose, filled the aria with some of the most expressive music in the opera. As in "Ombra mai fù," the refrain is metrically distinct from the B section. In sense, too, the two sections parallel those of "Ombra mai fù." The refrain is an apostrophe, an abstract, metaphoric invocation, while the central section is more


direct, more urgent and more mundane, abandoning metaphor for literalism: Erismena's "stars" become mere "eyes" (example 44):


Vaghe stelle,
Luci belle
Non dormite.
Aprite il sereno
De vostri begli occhi,
Lasciate, che scocchi
In questo mio seno
Amore i suoi dardi,

Bei lucidi sguardi
I lumi deh aprite.
Vaghe stelle . . .

Stars transcendent,
Lights resplendent,
Why thus sleep ye?
Display the serene
Of your beauteous eyes,
Let love play his part
On this stage of my heart,
Shoot hither his shafts
   and fix here his dart.
Ye splendors so clear,
Unveil and appear.
Stars transcendent . . .

Cavalli's setting is unusually free and expressive, contributing to the passionate tone of Aldimira's address. The piece is proclaimed a formal aria by an opening ritornello, which also announces (typically) the main thematic material of the refrain, and which later returns to separate the refrain from the middle section of the aria. The three-line refrain is expanded considerably, both musically and textually, not only by means of the opening and closing ritornello (which, though textless, has the rhetorical function of emphasizing the words of the refrain), but by repetition of the text as a whole, which introduces a new motive before cadencing with the original one; the extra repetition also serves to solidify a return to the tonic, temporarily left for the dominant at the end of the first statement. (Text is repeated to increase the dimensions and weight of this aria, possibly because Aldimira was the prima donna.) The three-line refrain is thus actually heard four times, twice with and twice without words; three times with the same music, once with new music. The refrain returns verbatim, though without the introductory ritornello, at the end of the aria.

Emphasis on the refrain is predictable, but the composer's expansion of the central section of the aria is perhaps less so. Textually already twice as long as the refrain, it becomes even longer and heavier through repetition of individual lines, melismatic extension, interruption by ritornello (after the first two lines), and, finally, through threefold reiteration of its final line, each time on a different scale-degree (C, A, G), which lends urgency to Aldimira's plea. In Cavalli's setting, the text reads:

Deh, deh aprite, aprite
Deh, deh aprite, aprite
bei lucidi sguardi
i lumi deh aprite
deh lucidi sguardi
i lumi deh aprite


—the momentum increasing through modulation and through the addition of string accompaniment.

Although, as in "Ombra mai fù," the refrain and middle section are not particularly contrasting musically—they share meter, melodic style, overall harmonic structure, and even the string accompaniment—each is harmonically complete and thus independent of the other. Here, however, the composer provides an added expressive touch by unexpectedly eliding the end of the strophe with the returning refrain, thereby emphasizing the naturalness of the recurrence.

These expanded da capo arias seem to share very little with the recitative-like refrain forms with which our discussion began. From the retrospect of subsequent operatic history, the larger forms seem more "progressive": non-strophic, with longer, tonally closed refrains that were not recomposed but repeated (as indicated by rubric), and with clear formal boundaries, their distinguishing characteristics became the conventions of the mature da capo form of the early eighteenth century.

It is important to recognize, however, that the differences between the two types represented more than a chronological development from the early 1640s to the mid 1650s. This is made clear by a comparison of the expanded da capo arias with other pieces contemporary with them, even those within the same operas—for example Xerse, Medoro , and Erismena . These arias stand out as exceptionally large and fully developed even within their own specific contexts. Nor did da capo arias increase in size all at once. Musical expansion remained exceptional well into the final decades of the century, in bipartite as well as da capo arias.

As I have suggested, the elaborate da capo arias, no less than their more austere counterparts, developed in response to specific dramatic situations. The shorter refrain forms were invariably integrated within the dramatic fabric; musical continuity between sections and recomposition of the refrain often contributed to that integration. The more statuesque forms served their function by being external, outside the drama; that function was enhanced by expansive musical treatment and strong formal articulations between sections.

Elaborate arias, during which the increasingly powerful singers could command the stage for extended periods, obviously pleased them and their adoring public more than shorter, more modest ones and might have proliferated for that reason alone. But the ultimate ascendancy of the larger forms was a function as well of modifications in the dramaturgy of librettos. In addition to all of the standard justifications for arias, librettists developed clear dramaturgical conventions for their use, at entrances and, increasingly, at exits. These con-


ventions in turn absolved librettists and composers of the necessity of fitting each aria into a specific dramatic context—the general supplanted the specific— and eventually freed composers to indulge their musical inclinations.

As the total number of arias increased during the 1650s and 1660s, so did the proportion of da capo to bipartite arias, but more gradually. In operas of the 1650s, da capo arias constituted less than one-third of the total; by the 1660s the proportion was about equal; and by the late 1670s the bipartite aria was virtually obsolete.[50] The gradual disappearance of the bipartite aria and of the shorter, more spontaneous da capo refrain forms at once reflected and affected changing concepts of dramatic structure. The accumulating energy of both the bipartite and the continuous, affective da capo refrain arias, which suited them so well to integration within ongoing action, became less necessary as the dramaturgy of librettos accommodated arias through a conventionalized scene structure built expressly to contain them.

From the early recitative-like closeness of music and text, which tended to keep them functioning within a fluid dramatic framework and restricted their musical elaboration to brief, text-inspired moments, arias expanded to take up increasing amounts of operatic space and time; they eventually absorbed much of the expressive responsibility formerly exercised by recitative and arioso. Musical expansion, originally text-inspired and quite irregular, gradually settled into more conventional schemes of repetition involving whole sections of text, particularly the refrain, though not always to the same music. The conventions of formal structure as well as dramaturgy increasingly outweighed the requirements of any individual dramatic situation.

The conventional occasions for arias developed by earlier librettists and composers—the public situations that called for formal songs and comic commentary and the private ones that lent conviction to the formal expression of intense passion as thought rather than speech—remained in use throughout the century. But these were increasingly supplemented by others, most notably that of direct address between characters on stage, a mode of communication that required a real stretch of imagination to be believed; that dilemma was only partly eased by the conventions of entrance and exit that were superimposed on all of these situations.[51]

The greater number and more conventionalized placement of arias had a significant effect on their dramatic responsibility and musical treatment. In


order to fulfill the expanded role of the aria in characterization, and for purposes of musical variety, librettists and composers began to focus on a single, specific affect or emotion in each aria, portraying the multiple facets of a character seriatim, one at a time, over the course of several arias. Such distribution and concentration of affect provided substance enough for the increased number of arias sung by each character, often more than ten in a single opera.[52] Inspired by a particular word or phrase, the affect was usually embodied in the refrain, which increasingly supplied the central musical idea of the aria that was then developed in some way in the B section and emphatically reiterated in an elaborate da capo. These, of course, were the arias of the affections of late baroque opera satirized so effectively by Marcello and others.

The da capo aria not only gradually supplanted the bipartite aria. In its most fully developed and expanded form it eventually replaced the convention of strophicism, which, though often problematic from the point of view of verisimilitude, had been fundamental to the definition of aria from the very beginning of operatic history. With the da capo aria, librettists still maintained some measure of control over composers' settings. At the same time, however, the form provided the singers with an official, sanctioned opportunity to exercise their own freedom by ornamenting the returning refrain. The abandonment of the strophic structure in favor of the da capo is a final sign of the singer's arrival to claim center stage.


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