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

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