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11—Le convenienze teatrali : The Conventions of Dramma Per Musica
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The Trumpet Aria

Other arias in Giasone are conventional in a different sense; rather than portraying character, they exploit conventional topics or textual imagery. Act 2, scene 12, between Alinda and Besso (who happen also to be comic characters), illustrates several important and long-lasting conventions of this kind. One of them, the so-called trumpet aria, is invoked twice in the same scene, first in Alinda's aria "Quanti soldati" and later in her duet with Besso, "Non più guerra."[11] Both aria and duet exploit the literal imitation of text characteristic of comic arias, but the imitation is more specific and it leads to an aria type that transcends social class (examples 52 and 53).

Although the trumpet aria established itself as an operatic type sometime during the 1640s, its roots go back much further. It derived from a madrigalistic attitude toward poetry inherited from the sixteenth century and dramatically developed by Monteverdi; in particular, it grew directly out of Monteverdi's stile concitato , his legendary excited or warlike style.[12] Clearly demonstrated in


operas of the 1640s by Sacrati and Cavalli as well as those by Monteverdi himself, the madrigalistic origins of the trumpet aria found their fullest realization in the eighteenth century, in such arias as that opening Handel's Orlando , Zoroastro's stirring "Lascia Amore segui Matte."

In the earliest Venetian operas, even the most fleeting references to war within recitative dialogue were usually marked by brief, but obvious, trumpet imitations. Trumpets themselves were occasionally mentioned, as in a passage from La finta pazza , "Suona d'intorno la fiera tromba," a reference to the Trojan War that is central to the plot—although any word alluding to armed conflict would have done as well, such as battaglia or guerra (example 54). But the war was just as likely to be metaphorical as actual, amorous as military, especially in Monteverdi's operas. In L'incoronazione di Poppea , for example, the stile concitato is inspired in one instance by a figurative reference to the war of love[13] and in another by an actual conflict, but one of wills rather than armies.[14]

In Il ritorno d'Ulisse the references to war are more literal. One of them, in the mock-serious duel between Iro and Ulisse (3.10), culminates in a battle symphony (called "La Lotta") based on a much more extended, and literal, trumpet imitation that accompanies the duel itself.[15] Imitative battle music like this was quite common in Cavalli's operas too, often written in the trumpet key of D.[16] Other operas included literal alarums (all'armi ). At the end of act 1 of Doriclea (Faustini/Cavalli, 1645), for example, Venus calls her Cupids to arms in an extended refrain aria based on a trumpet theme, a theme echoed by them in their subsequent four-part chorus (example 55).[17]

Without much apparent fanfare, the brief, transient trumpet imitations soon developed into full-fledged arias. By the time of Giasone , at least one such aria was de rigueur in every opera. But although actual battles became increasingly thematic in opera plots, especially those based on history, Monteverdian ambiguity continued to affect later trumpet arias as well: war was interpreted in its broadest sense. In Giasone , a war of love provoked Alinda's and Besso's military


duet, although Alinda's initial trumpet aria was inspired by Besso's appearance as a member of Giasone's army.

During the second half of the century, in fact, trumpet style was adopted for the expression of an even greater variety of emotions, from joy, where the pomp of trumpet figuration would add to the celebratory effect, to revenge, which often evoked images of combat. Rodope's vengeance aria in Le fortune di Rodope e Damira (Aureli/Ziani, 1657) 2.15, for example, an expression of her aggressive feelings toward Creonte, makes extensive use of the trumpet style (example 56). Some operas, especially those featuring repeated battles, contained numerous trumpet imitations, in recitatives as well as arias and instrumental movements. In Medoro (Aureli/Lucio, 1658), which revolves around the theme of military conquest, there are trumpet imitations in several sinfonie , one aria, and throughout the recitative, setting every military allusion. And there are four different trumpet arias in addition to recitative trumpet imitations in Totila (Noris/Legrenzi, 1677), a military drama of a different, more conventional, kind.[18]

As with comic arias, the stylistic distinctions between composers' settings of trumpet arias were overshadowed by their similarities. But developments within the trumpet aria tended to reflect developments within operatic style in general. Thus, in contrast to the somewhat shapeless refrain-aria from Doriclea already mentioned (example 55), a trumpet aria of the 1660s or 1670s was likely to be accompanied by strings and cast in highly expanded da capo form, with a contrasting B section. The contrast usually involved silence of the accompanying instruments and a change from triadic to stepwise motion in the voice part. The opening aria of Adelaide is a typical instance (example 57).

The presence of trumpet-style arias in so many early operas might seem difficult to reconcile with the historical fact that the trumpet itself did not appear regularly in opera orchestras until the early 1670s. However, the imitation of trumpets by strings was very much in keeping with the aesthetic of Venetian opera. Such imitation was an illusion that would have been appreciated as such by an audience, like any other illusion.[19] Indeed, the introduction of the trumpet


itself seems to have had little substantial effect on either the frequency or structure of the arias. Nor did it affect the choice of key, since most trumpet arias were in D major in any case. This suggests that-the tonal association may have been important, whether or not a trumpet was actually involved. In some later arias, however, composers exploited the trumpet more fully by pitting it against the voice in concertato style.[20]

The trumpet aria embodies a particular kind of relationship between music and text that had broad implications for the future development of opera. It exemplifies the transformation of a pictorial approach to words developed in the sixteenth-century madrigal into the baroque aria of the affections. Although more easily identified as a type than other arias, because it exploited a well-established equation of an external image and internal feeling, the trumpet aria was only one of an increasing number of arias on various topics, expressing distinct affects that were prompted by specific textual images.

Those images, which emerge from even a cursory look at any single opera of the 1650s, 1660s, or 1670s, were the same ones that had attracted the attention of the madrigalists and that had inspired earlier opera composers to flights of arioso fancy when they occurred in recitative dialogue. They included highly charged words that invite some kind of literal interpretation (or representation) in music, either by means of sound itself or by some sort of visual equivalent: verbs describing physical action or emotional expression, like fermare, fuggire, rubare, sospirare, piangere, volare, vibrate, cantare, ballare ; nouns like gelosia, vendetta, speranza, catene, lacci, aurette, zeffiretti ; and adjectives like costante, variabile, miserabile —all of them with strong affective resonance. These words called forth conventional or predictable musical images or representations, rhythmic, melodic, and textural, which were developed to infuse entire arias with their affect. This eventually produced arias expressing such varied emotions as jealousy, fear, anger, happiness, uncertainty, constancy, confusion, and despair—in short, arias of the affections.[21]

Few of the arias in any single affective category were quite as similar to one another as trumpet arias. Other kinds of arias left greater leeway for individual


composers to assert their own personal styles. Some composers, too, were more skilled than others at capturing the affect of a particular text or developing a single motive into a full aria; and some made more forceful distinctions between aria types than others. By the 1670s, however, most arias in any one affective category bore a sufficient family resemblance to be easily identified by an audience; and affective counterparts for most arias in any one opera could be found in any other. A particularly striking illustration is provided by two jealousy arias, one from Sartorio's Orfeo , the other from Legrenzi's Totila (examples 35 and 58). In both arias gelosia is the operative concept; that emotion, or, rather, the undermining and pervasive effect of that emotion on the peace of mind of the character, is embodied in a running bass against a slower-moving vocal line; it is a bass whose steady progress in short, harmonically articulated but uninterrupted phrases never falters; which never confirms the phrase structure of the voice part, but consistently overlaps it, persisting steadily from the beginning to the end of the aria. Jealousy is ever present; it is permanent.[22]

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