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12—Il lamento : The Fusion of Music and Drama
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Il lamento :
The Fusion of Music and Drama

The lament was different from the other operatic conventions. It came to opera as an entity in its own right, with distinct definition and a generic integrity of its own, first purely literary, then musical as well. Its pre-operatic existence was an exceptionally long one, stretching from Greek tragedy and Ovid's Heroides to Orlando furioso and Gerusalemme liberata ; its context was narrative, its function dramatic. Throughout its history the lament asserted its independence, standing somewhat apart from its situation. An emotional climax followed by resolution of whatever action was involved, it was a soliloquy, a moment of particularly intense expression for the protagonist, the affective crux of a narrative structure. Poets called special attention to laments, distinguishing them from their narrative contexts by special formal means combined with particularly expressive rhetoric and affective imagery.

As a result of its affective intensity and formal distinction, the lament had also acquired a musical identity by the time it was appropriated for the operatic stage. Lament texts had especially attracted composers of the sixteenth century who were preoccupied with the translation of poetic affect into musical language; the strongest emotions cried out most loudly for musical expression. And the response is reflected in numerous polyphonic and monodic settings of laments from epic poetry.[1]

As a clear demonstration of music's power to move the affections, the lament embodied the operatic ideal; and it found its proper place as the emo-


tional core of opera early in the history of the new genre, in fact, in the very first operas in Florence.[2] But it was Monteverdi in Mantua who realized its full implications. Specifically, his "Lament of Arianna" and the later "Lament of the Nymph" articulate the poles of its development. The latter was never operatic and the former was best known out of its operatic context—an indication of the generic independence of the lament in comparison to other operatic conventions.

The Recitative Model

The lament from Monteverdi's Arianna attracted particular attention the very first time it was heard, at the inaugural performance of the opera in 1608.[3] Not only did it elicit special mention in descriptions of the performance, it evoked the compliment of emulation by a number of composers in their own laments of Arianna printed in monody books beginning in 1613.[4] Monteverdi himself encouraged circulation of the lament, which he regarded highly, by extracting it from the opera for publication in three different forms: as a five-voice madrigal in 1614, as a monody in 1623, and as a contrafactum of the madrigal in 1640.[5]

In its parallel operatic and monodic contexts, Arianna's lament was a dimostrazione of Monteverdi's art, offering him the ideal vehicle for the expression of emotions too intense to be merely spoken. Monteverdi's music, perfectly matching the rhetoric of Rinuccini's 79-line text, responds with creative sympathy to the vicissitudes of Arianna's passion.[6] Five unequal but increasingly


intense musical sections, separated by choral commentary (not present in either the monodic or madrigal arrangements), chart the abandoned heroine's jagged emotional shifts from desperation to anger to fear to self-pity to attempts at understanding, and finally to desolation and recognition of the excesses, and futility, of her own emotion.

Arianna's lament derives its structure from a variety of elements, both textual and musical: refrains, recurrent rising and falling of intensity, shifting between sections of opposition and coordination of voice and bass line, and sequences and other literary and musical patterns. The principal source of its extraordinary affective power lies in Monteverdi's projection of Arianna's thoughts through flexible control of these elements in unpredictable combinations of contrast and recurrence. The lament is self-contained, but it is not closed: it is not an aria. Arias, being fixed, predetermined musical structures, were inappropriate to the expression of the uncontrolled passion of a lament. The structure of Arianna's lament develops out of the internal exigencies of its text; no superimposed form determines its shape.

The Arianna lament operated as a paradigm for close to half a century. Its impact extended south to Rome and north to Venice, where it continued to affect the composition of laments in both monody books and operas into the 1650S.[7] Operatic laments, perhaps influenced by the wide circulation of monody books with their laments clearly labeled, were identified as such quite early in Venetian scores and librettos. Scenarios mention them frequently by name; scores indicate them with rubrics. Apparently everyone knew what was meant by lamento . Always a response to unrequited love, whether the cause was death or merely infidelity, a lament could occur anywhere in an opera. Operas usually contained several, often for different characters, dispersed freely through the three acts, although one was invariably reserved for the protagonist, to be sung at the climactic moment just before the denouement. Like the lament of Arianna, most operatic laments were much more than individual numbers; they usually comprised entire scenes in which the protagonist confronted both the crux of the drama and the audience with all of her/his musical and dramatic powers.[8]


In writing their laments, librettists and composers in Venice were clearly responding to the model of Arianna . This is evident from Monteverdi's own Venetian laments—notably those of Ottavia in Poppea —but it is especially striking in the early laments of Cavalli.[9] His first opera, Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo (1639), on a libretto by Orazio Persiani, contains three lament monologues for Teti, the first two in response to Peleo's apparent drowning (2.2 and 2.7), the third to his presumed infidelity (3.6). Typically, the texts are long—ninety, fifty, and fifty-seven lines respectively—and cast in the standard meters of recitative. Also typically, they share certain features that distinguish them from their recitative context. The versi sciolti are interrupted in various ways, by extended blocks of settenari or versi sdruccioli , for example, or successions of rhymed couplets, or, as in the act 3 lament, by a recurrent refrain. Furthermore, in addition to particularly vivid, often violent, imagery, they all make use of standard rhetorical devices for intensification: alliteration ("il tuo morbo é mortale irremediabile"), enumeration ("muta, languente, e pallida"), anaphora ("ai sospiri, ai singhiozzi, á gli urli, ai gemiti"; "qual furia, qual tormento, qual fierezza"). Finally, they all fall Arianna -like into multiple sections that mark the vicissitudes typical of a lamenting heroine in extremis.

Cavalli's settings of these texts reveal the expressive power of his recitative style, in part perhaps learned from Monteverdi, but in greater part uniquely his own. Of Teti's three laments, the text of the last is the most tightly structured, a structure provided by a varied refrain ("Pietá, misericordia, . . .") that recurs irregularly four times, and by a lengthy succession of endecasillabi sdruccioli filling the four central sections (thirty- four lines) of the monologue, which are framed by two sections of versi piani .[10]


Pure orecchi sentiste, occhi vedeste,
Quel che mirare, & ascoltar mi calse,
Tetide or più non lice,
A1 tuo buon genitore,
Negar credenza, & adular te stessa,
Il tuo Consorte infido,
Quel che per nume adori,
D'altra Amante gioisce,
E tù gelosa ti distruggi, e mori!

Yet you have heard, ears, you have seen, eyes,
That which I had to see and hear.
Thetis, now may you no longer
Deny credence to your good father,
Nor deceive yourself:
Your faithless consort,
Whom you worship as a god,
Rejoices in another lover,
And you, jealous, destroy yourself and die!


Il tuo morbo é mortale irremediabile!
Già ti senti mancar gli ultimi spiriti,

Your illness is mortal, irremediable!
Already you feel your last spirits failing.


Ecco già muta, e già languente, e pallida,

Spiri dal freddo sen gli estremi aneliti,

Prima, che tragittare il varco orribile,
All'officio primier richiama l'anima,
E per attimo breve, e momentaneo,
Sciogli misera omai, sciogli le redine,
Ai sospiri ai singhiozzi, à gli urli, ai gemiti,

Pietà, misericordia amor terribile ,

Behold, already mute, and already
   languishing and pale,
You exhale your last breath from your cold
Before traveling across the dread passage,
Recall your soul to its first office,
And for a brief and transient moment
Loosen, unhappy one, loosen the reins
Of your sighs, your sobs, your shouts, your
Pity, mercy, O terrible love!


L'orrida gelosia rimanda all'erebo,
Non voler, che mi strazi, e che m'estermini
Il suo veneno gelido, e pestifero,
Non basta, che m'uccida, e che m'esanimi,

Il tuo si fero inusitato incendio!
Pietà, misericordia amor terribile ;

This horrid jealousy send back to Erebus:
Ask not its icy, pestiferous venom
To rack and exterminate me.
Is it not enough that your fierce, unwonted
Kills me and robs me of my soul!
Pity, mercy, O terrible love!


Mà qual furia d'Averno ora inabissami!
Qual tormento d'abisso ora imperversami!
Qual fierezza m'inaspera, e m'invipera!
Sento intorno al mio cor serpenti, & aspidi!
A stracciarmi, a sbranarmi, aprir le fauci
Oimé veggio cento Idre, e cento Cerberi,

Pietà, misericordia o mostri indomiti .

But what Fury of Avernus now engulfs me!
What abysmal torment now rages at me!
What savagery embitters me, enrages me!
I feel round my heart serpents and asps!
Rending me, devouring me, their jaws agape,
Alas, I see a hundred Hydras, a hundred
Pity, mercy, O untamed monsters!


[Un portento fierissimo mi sviscera,
Un flagello durissimo mi lacera,
Mà quanti in un sol punto il cor mi
Oimè con cento sferze, e cento fulmini,

Le man di Briareo l'alma m'opprimono,
Il grave sasso à me rinunzia Sisifo,
Perch'io m'aggiri con dolor perpetuo,
Non più vuole Ission la rota volgere;
Et è l'Augel vorace, e spietatissimo,
Di Titio nò, mà del mio cot famelico,
Pietà misericordia, o Pluto, o Demoni .]

[A most cruel portent eviscerates me,
A scourge most harsh lacerates me.
But how many together tear at my heart!

Alas, with a hundred whips and a hundred
   lightning bolts
Briareus's hands oppress my soul.
His weighty stone Sisyphus yields to me.
That I may circle in perpetual grief,
Ixion desists from turning the wheel.
And the voracious, most unpitying bird
Hungers not after Tityus, but after my heart.
Pity, mercy, O Pluto, O Demons !]


Mà folle io pietà spero,
Dalla stessa impietade,
Perche da ferro la mercè, ch'io bramo
Timida non ricerco!
Si si ferro letale,
Termini de miei giorni il fil vitale;
Mà che l'aspro martoro:
Che vivendo sopporto,
Non finirà s'invendicata io moro:
Convien, che pera in dispietata guisa,

But I am mad to hope for pity
From pitilessness itself.
Why not timidly seek from the sword
The mercy I crave?
Yes, yes, let the lethal sword
Cut the vital thread of my days.
But the harsh martyrdom
I bear while living
Will not end if I die unavenged.
It is meet that in pitiless fashion


L'uccisore, e l'uccisa,
Mirerà questa riva
Lagrimevole, e mesta,
Tragedia miserabile, e funesta.

The slayer and the slain should perish.
This tearful, sorrowful
Shore shall witness
A pitiable, dolorous tragedy.

Although the dramatic progression in the text is not as clear as that in Arianna's lament, the individual sections articulate distinctly contrasting moods. Teti moves from jealous disbelief through self-pity, minimizing of the offense, and violent anger, to a desire for death—and revenge—which follows a sudden about-face that occurs during a moment of sober self-reflection ("Ma folle io pietà spero"), the traditional signal for closure of a lament.[11]

Cavalli's setting projects Teti's changing moods through contrasts in harmony, rhythm, and melody reflecting the text on levels of syntax and meaning. His music matches the rhetoric of individual poetic lines and phrases as well as the dramatic shape of the monologue as a whole, Teti's progression from irrational fury to reasoned (if desperate) calm (example 77). That progression is anchored and sealed by Cavalli's use of a single unifying tonality to bind the entire monologue, which begins and ends firmly on C. And, although it moves elsewhere—never too far—during its course, to G, D, and El, it touches the tonic periodically, at the outset of each refrain and at other important junctures. Further large-scale formal and expressive articulation is provided by Cavalli's distinctive setting of the refrain, a setting whose strong profile, with its motivic rhythm, specially jagged melody, and central dissonance reinforces the sense of obsession underscored by the refrain idea (mm. 38-42, 54-58, 67-71).

Cavalli's matching of music to the affective form and content of the poetry involves flexible control and coordination of all of the musical elements at his disposal. His melody varies from virtually none at all (successions of repeated notes, at the top, bottom, or middle of the range, as in mm. 15-16 or 62-63), through extreme linearity (ascending or descending, as in mm. 22-29), to intense disjuncture (mm. 59-60). Rhythm, too, runs the gamut from smooth, speechlike successions to obsessive patterning and rapid, percussive accentuation. And harmony ranges from smoothly consonant and functional to erratic, unpredictable (though always text-inspired) juxtapositions and dissonance.

This represents Cavalli's prototypical recitative-lament style and the style of his Venetian contemporaries as well. Librettists tended to supply such lament monologues consistently, at least during the 1640s. And composers continued to set them in a similar manner, emphasizing the sectionality and the refrain (if there was one) by similar musical means.[12]


The Strophic Lament

Not all lament texts were constructed of irregular versi sciolti , however. From 1640 on an increasing number were strophic, calling for musical treatment that was more highly organized. Although they did not yet necessarily imply lyrical setting, neither did strophic texts lend themselves to the kind of unrestrained passionate freedom that characterizes Arianna's lament; they made more specific formal demands. On the surface, at least, they seem an inappropriate vehicle for the kind of expressive intensity generated by a lament.

Nevertheless, Cavalli's second opera, Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne (1640), contains one such text—comprising nine four-line strophes—for Apollo's lament, which occurs in the expected place, just before the denouement (3.3), after Dafne's transformation. It is one of more than thirty strophic texts in Busenello's libretto, but its setting is unique.[13] Like Procri's recitative lament earlier in the opera, it—or part of it (strophes 3-5)—bears a generic designation in the score.

If strophic structure itself seems a limitation on expression, this is compounded in the poetry of Apollo's lament by the absence of the kind of rhetorical intensity that characterized lament monologues like Arianna's and Teti's—the patterns, enumerations, alliterations. Nevertheless, Cavalli managed to create an extremely effective lament from this text. Rather than restricting him, the strophic structure seems actually to have inspired him to discover a style that would serve him well, and his followers also, for the remainder of his career. Instead of treating the entire text strophically or ignoring the structure altogether, two obvious options, Cavalli chose to vary his treatment of the individual strophes. He set the first two in recitative style, the next three as a strophic aria based on the descending tetrachord ostinato (to be discussed presently), strophes 6-8 in recitative again, and strophe 9 as a new aria, the stylistic distinctions reflecting distinctions in expressive content among the strophes (example 78):


Ohimè, che miro? ohimè dunque in alloro
Ti cangi, ò Dafne, e mentre in rami,
    e in frondi
Le belle membra oltredivine ascondi,
Povero tronco chiude il mio thesoro.

Qual senso humano, ò qual Celeste ingegno
A' sì profondo arcano arrivì mai?
Veggo d'un viso arboreggiare i rai,
Trovo il mio foco trasformato in legno.

Alas, what do I see? Alas, into a laurel
You are transformed, O Daphne, and as in
    branches and leaves
You hide your more than divine limbs,
A poor trunk encloses my treasure.

What human sense, or what celestial mind
Ever imagined so deep a mystery?
I see the rays of a face arbored,
I find my beloved transformed into wood.


Misero Apollo i tuoi trionfi hor vanta
Di crear giorno, ove le luci girl,
Puoi sol cangiato in vento de' sospiri
Bacciar le foglie all'odorata pianta.

Sgorghino homai con dolorosi uffici
Dai languid'occhi miei lagrime amare,
Vadino in doppio fonte ad irrigate
D'un Lauro le dolcissime radici.

Era meglio per me, che fuggitiva,
Ma bella oltre le belle io ti vedessi,
Che con sciapiti, e non giocondi amplessi
Un'arbore abbracciar sù questa riva.

Glove, crea novo lume, io più non voglio
Esser chiamato il Sole, e dentro all'onde
Delle lagrime mie calde, e profonde
Immergo il cato, e de miei rai mi spoglio.

Spezza tu la mia sfera, ò tu l'aggira,
Al Zodiaco per me puoi dir à Dio;
De pianti in Mar novo Nettun son'io,
Suona agonie la mia lugubre lira.

A' te ricorro omnipotente Amore,
Al mio gran mal le medicine appresta;
Di questo alloro un ramoscello inesta
Con incalmo divin sopra il mio core.

Così, lauro mio bello, e peregrino,
Horto sarà il mio petto ai rami tuoi,
Sara con union dolce tra noi,
La mia divinitade il tuo giardino.

Miserable Apollo, now vaunt your triumphs
Of creating day by turning the lights.
Only changed into the breeze of sighs
Can you kiss the leaves of the perfumed plant.

Let bitter tears gush forth with doleful office
From my languid eyes,
Let them in a double stream irrigate
The sweet roots of a laurel.

It was better for me that fleeing,
But surpassingly beautiful, I had seen you,
Than with numb and unjoyous arms
To embrace a tree on this shore.

Jove, you create new light. I no longer wish
To be called the Sun, and in the waves
Of my warm, deep tears
I immerse my chariot and abandon my rays.

Break my sphere, or you turn it.
To the Zodiac you can say farewell for me.
Of laments in the sea am I the new Neptune.
My lugubrious lyre sounds my agonies.

To you I turn, omnipotent Cupid,
Lend medicine for my great illness;
Attach a branch of this laurel
With divine graft to my heart.

Thus, my beautiful and rare laurel,
My heart will be orchard to your branches.
With sweet union between us
My divinity will be your garden.

Strophes 1 and 2 present Apollo's initial startled reaction to Dafne's transformation. By strophe 3 the original shock has worn off. He becomes more introspective and self-pitying, concerned with his own feelings and fate; and the abrupt change from highly emotional recitative to the lyrical aria underscores the change in focus of his concern. His mood then remains constant through strophe 4, self-involved and pitying. In the fifth strophe he finally reaches an awareness of his own responsibility: his unrelenting advances drove Dafne to her fate. He would be better off had he not pursued her but rather admired her from afar. At least she would still be alive. The change in direction of Apollo's address, from outward railing against fate to introspective self-pity, is typical of laments—we noted a similar change in Teti's. But the association of that change with a change in musical style, from recitative to aria, is new here. And


it will persist in subsequent laments. The lyricism provides a kind of parenthesis, a cushion or shelter for Apollo's externalization of his inner emotions or thoughts; it allows him to speak to himself. Significantly, the designation la-mento is reserved for this most introspective portion of the text.

After the fifth strophe, Apollo becomes more excited again, his thoughts more desperate, less rational; he looks toward the future, passionately vowing to renounce his identity as sun god; and Cavalli once again turned to the more erratic, excited recitative language of strophes 1 and 2. But Apollo's excitement is spent by the end of the eighth strophe; in strophe 9 he expresses his final acceptance of his fate, resolving to place his relationship with Dafne on a spiritual level. Cavalli set this last strophe apart from the rest of the text in a lively, measured style. Moreover, he increased its weight in proportion to that of the other strophes by repeating its entire text and music, thereby providing a suitably stable conclusion for the changing, unstable aria-recitative.

Cavalli's treatment of this text is remarkable for a number of things, in particular for the abandonment of strophicism for dramatic purposes: of the nine strophes, only the third through fifth—the ostinato-aria strophes—are treated strophically; nor did he even mark a division between the recitative strophes. But the composer's most significant decision was to use the descending tetrachord as the organizing principle of the aria setting strophes 3-5, the section identified as the lamento in the score.

The Descending Tetrachord: An Emblem of Lament

And here we return once again to Monteverdi, the inevitable eminence,grise , and to his second lament-paradigm, the "Lament of the Nymph." Just as Cavalli modeled his recitative laments on the Monteverdi-Rinuccini "Lament of Arianna," so, too, he must have had that other Monteverdi-Rinuccini model in mind—published only two years before, in Monteverdi's Eighth Book of madrigals—when he chose to use the descending tetrachord in connection with Busenello's strophic lament of Apollo. Monteverdi's madrigal displays several distinctive features that may have suggested it as a model to Cavalli. Not only is it built on the descending tetrachord ostinato, but it is based on a strophic text whose formal outlines are virtually obliterated by Monteverdi's setting.

The "Lament of the Nymph," in genere rappresentativo , is a dramatic scene in which a shepherds' chorus frames and comments on the nymph's plaint— they sing four strophes in all, while she sings six, to completely different music.[14] Although the formal outlines of their strophes are marked by cadences,


hers are obscured by Monteverdi's setting, specifically through his use of the minor descending tetrachord ostinato as a means of organization. Possessed of a strongly articulated shape and affect, the ostinato substitutes for or superimposes itself on Rinuccini's strophes. As a result, the strophic structure of the text yields to the musical structure of its setting, a musical structure that by its special nature encourages free expression rather than inhibiting it, and thus contributes directly to the affective intensity of the piece.

Monteverdi's lament was only one of a number of works of the period based on the descending minor tetrachord ostinato. Various aria books published during the 1630s contain pieces that utilize the pattern, at least one of them specifically called a lament.[15] Whether the association of affect and pattern was Monteverdi's idea in the first place—which would be difficult to prove, however attractive the notion—the eloquence of his setting helps to reveal those features inherent in the tetrachord pattern that rendered it particularly suitable for laments.

Its most significant, potentially affective features are its strength and perceptibility. Unlike other, older ostinato basses such as the romanesca or ruggiero, the descending tetrachord is short; and it is strongly directional harmonically, moving inexorably, with stepwise melody and steady, unarticulated rhythm, from tonic to dominant, either through a modal succession of root position triads or a more tonal progression involving two first inversion triads. The tonic itself is structurally ambiguous, functioning either as the beginning of a new pattern or the ending of an old one. The powerful harmonic direction and structural ambiguity of the pattern encourage contradiction in the voice part. Denial of its tonal implications through suspensions, or of its formal structure by phrase overlap and syncopation, creates tension appropriate to the affect of lament. Two other features of the tetrachord contribute to its expressive potential. Its strongly minor configuration, emphasizing two of the most crucial degrees of the mode, invokes the full range of somber affects traditionally associated with minor since the Renaissance; and in its unremitting descent, its gravity, the pattern offers an analogue of obsession and depression— perceptible as the expression of unrelieved suffering.

In the "Lament of the Nymph," the descending tetrachord ostinato supplants the effect of strophic repetition with its own formal implications, implications that contribute to the affect of lament rather than detracting from it. The strength of the earlier lament texts, the Arianna -style recitatives, was their


passionate unpredictability and irregularity, their independence of formal indications or strictures, their openness of rhyme and meter, and their concentration of rhetorical expression. Monteverdi, and Cavalli after him, replaced these features with a musical technique that allowed freedom and unpredictability even in a strophic context, even in an aria. Musico-textual rhetoric was replaced by a purely musical sign.

Monteverdi masked the textual symmetries in the nymph's plaint essentially by rewriting Rinuccini's poetry, breaking it up and rearranging it. He then subjected it to musical manipulation by exploiting the ambiguities of the ostinato and its potential for creating tension against a freely moving voice part. Cavalli's methods in Apollo's lament (strophes 3-5) are similar but less radical. He, too, rewrote his librettist's poetry to supply the rhetorical intensification missing in the original, but without seriously disturbing its strophic form. In fact, judging from his treatment of the text alone, he seems to have emphasized its strophicism by treating all three strophes similarly: he added an affective repetition in the first line and repeated the entire fourth line, providing the occasion for musical repetition at the end of each strophe. But his expansion of the text actually enabled him to create a surprisingly asymmetrical structure for each strophe, one that is dramatic and progressive: line 1 is broken up into two unequal phrases (of four and five measures respectively)—facilitated by internal word repetitions; line 2 is set to a six-measure phrase, line 3 to seven measures, line 4 to eight measures (3 + 5), and its repetition to nine measures (3 + 6). This expressive expansion is achieved through the judicious use of melismas within a generally syllabic context, most of them text-inspired, combined with free treatment of the descending tetrachord. Indeed, unlike Monteverdi, who treated it as an unwavering ostinato throughout his piece, Cavalli played with the tetrachord, extending it, modulating with it to the relative major, and finally abandoning it completely after its fourth statement.

The unpredictably expanded phrases of the vocal line combine with the unexpected, gradual departure from the ostinato to create a sense of instability well suited to lamentation. Furthermore, rather than sacrificing the power inherent in the ostinato, its abandonment actually intensifies the effect of its return at the beginning of each new strophe, a return that emphasizes its emblematic obsessiveness: it is always there and cannot be forgotten. By his treatment of the tetrachord, Cavalli managed to create highly expressive individual strophes. At the same time, the bass pattern enabled him to turn to his advantage the seemingly recalcitrant strophic succession of the poetry.

According to the rubric in Cavalli's score, Apollo's lament actually begins only with the third stanza of Busenello's text and presumably ends after the fifth; that is, it is a strophic aria based on the descending tetrachord. The change


in textual expression that marks the onset of the lament, Apollo's shift from spontaneous outward reaction to more considered, inward self-pity, similar to the more fleeting vicissitudes within recitative laments, is equivalent to the standard (later) distinction between active recitative and contemplative aria. In this respect, Apollo's lament is quite forward-looking; it offers an early instance of the conventional lament-aria based on the tetrachord. It is forward-looking in another respect as well: although the lament ends with the final tetrachord strophe, Apollo's monologue continues, with two more strophes of recitative followed by what is essentially a second (non-strophic) aria that contrasts emphatically with the earlier one. Apollo's monologue, then, is also an early instance of the pairing of two contrasting arias bridged by recitative. Despite its continuous strophic coherence, this is in effect a scena of the type that was to become more common as increasing weight was given to the arias.

Through his use of the descending tetrachord in Apollo's lament, Cavalli found a means of maintaining expressive openness within the confines of a strophic text. It was a discovery well suited to his temperament as a musical dramatist, and one that he continued to exploit. Given the prevailing attitude toward dramatic verisimilitude in opera of the 1640s, of which he was the leading advocate, Cavalli must have found it difficult to set laments as formal arias. Even though the extreme emotional state of the character might have justified some artificiality of expression, the superimposition of a closed, predetermined musical structure on such an essentially spontaneous situation would have hindered the communication of emotion. The descending tetra-chord ostinato provided an ideal means for setting the lament apart from its context and at the same time maintaining its intense emotional power. Whatever loss of spontaneity such patterning entailed was more than compensated for by the affective implications of the tetrachord itself: by its intrinsic, emblematic meaning.

The most convincing evidence for that meaning, however, comes not from arias like Apollo's lament or the "Lament of the Nymph," where the pattern clearly served an important structural function, but from recitative laments where the pattern was structurally gratuitous. An early instance, perhaps the earliest, occurs in Sacrati's standard-setting La finta pazza (2.6), where Deidamia sings a recitative lament with a refrain based on the descending tetra-chord (example 79). The text of her lament is much shorter than those we have discussed, a mere twenty lines; and it does not present a succession of contrasting moods, but rather a single angry and ironic mood that culminates twice in a climactic cry of self-exhortation: "Sù, sù senno ingegnoso, Rendimi il caro sposo."


Ardisci, animo, ardisci:
Osa, mio cor, che temi?
Temi quel, che di grande,
Di grande, e d'impensato,
Ne' tuoi perigli estremi,
Ti suggerisce un consiglier fidato?
S'il precipitio miri,
Se la ruina aspetti,
Sgombra, sgombra i rispetti,
Adempi i tuoi desiri,
Vergogna non t'arresti,
Troppo udisti, e vedesti;
Sù sù senno ingegnoso ,
Rendimi il cato sposo .
Arti, industrie, discorsi, oh Dio, che spero,
Fissatevi quì meco,
Per destar à pietade, un crudo, un fiero,
Un fuggitivo Greco;
Sù, sù senno ingegnoso ,
Rendimi il caro sposo .

Be bold, my soul, be bold:
Be daring, my heart, what do you fear?
Do you fear that which so great,
So great and unexpected,
In your extreme danger
A trusted counselor advises you?
If you are looking at the precipice,
If' you are awaiting ruin,
Banish, banish all respect,
Fulfill your desires,
Let shame not stop you.
You heard and saw too much.
Come, come resourceful spirit ,
Return to me my beloved husband .
Arts, diligence, discourses, O God, let me hope,
Join with me here
To arouse to pity a cruel, a proud man,
A Greek fugitive.
Come, come resourceful spirit ,
Return to me my beloved husband .

The single mood is portrayed musically with some of the same techniques Cavalli had used in Teti's lament. Many repeated notes followed by sudden large leaps, arpeggios, accented dissonance between bass and voice, exploitation of extremes of range within a single phrase, and syncopation are all closely geared to the expression of the text. All musical contrasts are subsumed, however, under the single most striking one, ushered in by the refrain; involving a change from duple to triple meter for its second line and a movement into aria style, the intensity of the refrain is heightened by repetition of the text and by the presence of the descending tetrachord in the bass, heard twice, with which the voice part, dissonant in itself, conflicts, rhythmically and harmonically. Although two statements hardly constitute an ostinato, the expressive intention of the tetrachord refrain is unmistakable. Subsequent practice confirms what is only hinted at here.

The tetrachord ostinato plays a much greater role within some of Cavalli's recitative laments as a means of emphasizing a characteristic change of mood. Doriclea's lengthy, multipartite recitative lament, for example (in Doriclea 3. 1), contains at its center a brief, but weighty, lyrical section based on the tetra-chord, marking her shift from impatient anger at herself to a plea to the heavens that her prayers be carried to her imprisoned husband. Although its text consists of only four lines (out of a total of forty-eight), the lyrical section is both emphatic and self-contained. In addition to beginning and ending firmly on the tonic, D minor, it is distinguished from its recitative surroundings by an instrumental frame: statements of the tetrachord in the strings provide an intro-


duction and epilogue. It is thus essentially an aria, prepared expressively and tonally by the recitative that precedes it (example 80).

Despite the expressive weight of this aria, there is no letdown in the remainder of the monologue. On the contrary, intensity is maintained as Doriclea angrily resorts to stile concitato recitative—a favorite technique familiar from the laments of Arianna and Sacrati's Deidamia—at first accompanied by continuo alone, but then intensified by strings as it gains momentum with Doriclea's vision of her imprisoned husband. Her return to reality ("che vaneggio")—the conventional reversal—is marked by a cessation of the string accompaniment, but it comes back again, calmer now, in sustained tones, as she sinks exhaustedly—and typically, for a lamenting character—into a deep sleep.[16]

In this scene, temporary tetrachord-aria style is just part of the panoply of expressive techniques used for the development of the internal psychological drama of the character. But it stands alone as a calm center of stability, setting up or preparing the way for the more active, excited outbursts to follow. It thus lends shape to the soliloquy as a whole. The structure of the text is very different, but the effect is analogous to that of Apollo's monologue: a recitative lament that encloses an independent tetrachord aria. Doriclea's lament, like Apollo's, gains expressive power from a fusion of two very different, originally separate, affective modes or techniques: unbridled recitative and ostinato aria style. And their juxtaposition increases the effect of each. The intensity of recitative becomes all the more expressive as it breaks free from the restraints of measured aria style, and the restraint of aria style in turn earns tension from having succeeded in reining in an emotional outburst. In some of the most powerful laments of the period, the two styles thus work with and against one another.

In Giasone , the paradigmatic midcentury opera and model of convention, this kind of stylistic compromise reached its climax. The text of the last of Isifile's three laments (3.21), like that of other recitative laments, consists of an extended series of seven-and eleven-syllable verses, sixty-seven in all, very few of them rhymed. It has fewer sections than usual, however—only three. In the first (thirty-seven lines), Isifile hurls an accusatory, angry, ironic diatribe at Giasone, her betrayer; in the second (only eight lines), she pleads with the


assembled company—the queen and her companions—to come to her aid against Giasone; and in the final section (twenty-two lines), she bids them all farewell (example 81).

Like Doriclea's aria oasis, Isifile's (mm. 71-121) coincides with a shift in the object of her attention, in this case from Giasone to the assembled company. And likewise, a change of key and an instrumental declaration of the tetrachord announce that change of focus, insulating Isifile's new remarks from the heat of her previous passion (if only temporarily), as if setting them in quotation marks or in another voice. The sense of formality provided by the tetrachord bass, particularly its heavy accentuation, lends an appropriately solemn tone to her address to the queen as well as a sense of self-control to Isifile's words. But the self-control quickly dissipates; the aria is short-lived. Unlike Doriclea's, it is incomplete, interrupted for no obvious formal reason nine lines before the end of the textual unit; there Cavalli's setting takes on a life of its own, suddenly breaking into highly charged, affective recitative style, a change that effectively captures the overflowing violence of Isifile's imagery:


Assistino à i martiri
Della madre Tradita,
E che ad ogni ferita
Che imprimerà nel mio pudico petto
Bevino quelli il sangue mio stillante,
Acciò ch'ei trapassando
Nelle lor pure vene, in lor s'incarni,
Onde il lor seno in qualche parte sia
Tomba Innocente, all'Innocenza mia.

Let the children witness
Their betrayed mother's martyrdom,
Let them drink the blood
From every wound
Inflicted on my chaste bosom
So that it will course
In their veins,
And they will be
The innocent tomb of my innocence.

By her sudden burst of recitative, Isifile emphatically frees herself from the constraints of the descending tetrachord, which had been holding her in check, helping her to maintain decorum. She is now carried away by her own rhetoric, in an excess of emotion that the music portrays even more emphatically than the text.

After Isifile's unexpected recitative outburst, another significant musical contrast initiates the final section (mm. 137-72), a contrast suggested by yet another change in the focus of her attention, from passionate self-justification to a generalized leave-taking. Following her calm farewell, the lament concludes with one further passionate outburst as Isifile admits she still loves Giasone.

Within Isifile's lament, as in Doriclea's, the lyrical section (or aria) stands out as the affective center, the musical focus, providing the springboard for the dramatic climax. And it is prepared, like an aria, by the preceding recitative. But whereas Doriclea's aria is self-contained, Isifile's does not end; rather, it explodes suddenly and unpredictably into the climax. The use of the tetrachord


aria style in Giasone is the more effective; it reveals a composer self-confidently striking out on his own rather than strictly following the librettist's structure. But in both cases the effect is predicated on the musical weight and contrast provided by the tetrachord pattern, and on its innate affective implications.

Isifile's monologue was among the last of Cavalli's great recitative-laments. Stylistic developments in opera after the middle of the century, in particular the increasing dichotomy of aria and recitative, rendered such fluid compromise obsolete. The multiple, kaleidoscopic contrasts that so eloquently portrayed the vicissitudes of the lamenting Arianna and her successors were gradually reduced to one, the contrast between preparatory recitative and lengthy, weighty aria. By the mid 1650s, virtually all laments were arias, many of them strophic. Lyricism had gradually absorbed all of the expressive responsibility it had formerly shared, via the tetrachord, with recitative.

Graphic documentation of the process of reduction is provided by a series of revisions of Isifile's lament. Giasone , as we know, enjoyed an unusually long life, being revived quite regularly until the end of the century. Each time it was edited or modernized for a new performance, arias were added and recitative was cut. Although the lament endured as long as the opera itself, the opening recitative portion underwent a succession of cuts until, in the Novello Giasone , a version edited by Antonio Stradella for a production in Rome in 1671, it was radically reduced, from seventy-one to a mere eleven measures. The original proportions were reversed; from an extended recitative with a central lyrical section, it had become essentially a tetrachord aria prefaced by a brief, standard recitative introduction and followed by an expressive recitative epilogue, reduced from fifty to nineteen measures (the sections marked VI = DE, mm. 12-70, 115-36, and 147-63 in example 81, were cut).[17]

By virtue of its formal and affective implications, the descending tetrachord ostinato facilitated the transition from lament recitative to lament aria as the conventional operatic procedure. Being infinitely expandable, the pattern was suitable for lyrical passages of various lengths, brief inserts within recitative or full aria strophes. Whether in the context of recitative or aria, the tetrachord lent to the lament a sharp, distinctive profile, particularly when reinforced by the host of secondary attributes associated with it: triple meter, slow tempo, and string accompaniment (in addition to syncopation, suspensions, and phrase overlap encouraged by the ostinato pattern itself). These were all independently expressive techniques whose special effect depended in part on their being used only rarely—though always together—at particularly dramatic moments dur-


ing the course of an opera. String accompaniment, in fact, had a particular association with lament that extended at least as far back as Arianna .[18] The combined use of these secondary features in conjunction with the tetrachord helped to mark the lament as the most important moment in the opera.

Interestingly, these attributes were considered as much a part of the lament convention as the tetrachord itself, and even sometimes served as substitutes for it. Generic designations for laments in Venetian scores often included reference to one or more of them. Lamento con violini occurs more than once; and sometimes the attributes alone were sufficient to signify the genre—laments often bear the indication adagio or just con viole or con violini . In one exceptional instance the rubric con le viole even appears in a libretto, next to what was obviously intended as a lament text.[19]

The Lament Aria: Variations on a Theme

Although the association between the descending tetrachord and the lament was based on expressive qualities intrinsic to the tetrachord itself, it was only through repeated use, primarily in the operas of Cavalli, that the combination became thoroughly conventionalized. But that repeated use was far from mechanical. Cavalli's treatment of the tetrachord remained extremely varied throughout his career—a testimony both to his compositional skill and to the power of the convention (example 82). As we have noticed, he tended to treat the tetrachord more freely than Monteverdi did in the "Lament of the Nymph." Only Rosinda's lament in Rosinda , 3.5 utilizes the basic descending tetrachord in a single key throughout. Usually, if he chose the simple pattern, he varied it through modulation or combined it with another related pattern; or else he completely abandoned it during the course of the lament (as in that of Apollo). More commonly, the pattern itself underwent modification: it was inverted (Hiperrnestra 3.12), chromaticized (Egisto 2.6), arpeggiated (Eliogabalo 1.16), or otherwise embellished melodically or rhythmically. Occasionally Cavalli treated the tetrachord with even greater freedom, utilizing its aura, its implications, rather than the pattern itself: in some laments he exploited the harmony or the possibilities of phrase overlap suggested by the tetrachord, or the affective language, the suspensions and syncopations associated with it, but without any discernible bass configuration (Arternisia 2. 12). Finally, in a few instances,


specific tetrachord reference was relegated solely to the ominous announcement of the opening ritornello (Artemisia 3. 19).

Cavalli's varied treatments of the pattern often highlight one of its affective attributes in particular: the obscuring of formal boundaries by means of ambiguities between phrase and strophe endings (Ciro 2.9), the ambiguity of the cadence (Statira 3.4 and 3.10), or the potential for extremely extended vocal phrases (Rosinda 3.5). The specific relevance of all of these features to the lament affect is demonstrated by Ciro's lament from Ciro (3.15), "Negatemi respiri" (example 83). Here syncopation, phrase extension, and a repeatedly interrupted vocal line converge to portray Ciro's labored breathing under emotional stress, a translation of the central image of the text. The tetrachord enables Cavalli to imitate an action.[20]

Monteverdi's two laments may have defined the stylistic boundaries of the convention, but it was Cavalli's repeated, continuous exploration, extension, and refinement of that definition over the course of his 25-year career that assured its permanent status in opera. Cavalli's natural inclination toward variety and toward realizing the implications of the tetrachord, in recitative as well as in aria, kept the convention alive as the climactic moment that audiences repeatedly anticipated. Their anticipation was rewarded not by something tired and predictable but by something always new.

The laments of Cavalli's contemporaries and immediate successors tended to show continuing variety. Although most were now arias, they remained distinctive in text form as well as musical setting. Many were non-strophic, in contrast to the growing number of strophic forms that characterized all other kinds of arias. And most, strophic and non-strophic alike, were treated more freely than other arias. They were usually more sectional, incorporating recitative passages or some other kind of contrast; they usually involved more repetition of text and more melismas—that is, greater musical expansion; and they were often integrated within a larger musical-dramatic context. Whether introduced by recitatives, linked to other arias, or just very long in themselves, many laments continued to comprise entire scenes. Most significant, they continued to represent the musico-dramatic high point of the opera.

In their use of the tetrachord, these laments run the gamut from unwavering strictness to a flexibility in which the merest allusion to the pattern is a sufficient reminder of its original function and meaning. Nor does the style of the moment seem to have especially influenced the choice. Selino's lament from Cesti's Argia (1669) 3. 18 offers a particularly effective example of the strict type.


Here a chromatic version of the tetrachord recurs twenty-one times under a constantly unfolding, repeatedly overlapping, seemingly unfettered, and consequently highly expressive vocal line (example 84).[21] Other, somewhat less effective examples of strict tetrachord use occur in two works by Carlo Grossi, Romilda (1659; 3.15, diatonic tetrachord) and Artaxerse (1669; 3.11, a chromatic tetrachord) (examples 85 and 86).[22]

Freer treatment of the tetrachord, however—or at least strict treatment of a freer paraphrase of the pattern—was more common during this period. Nigrane's lament from Ziani's Le fortune di Rodope e Damira (1657) 3.4, for example, is strictly based on a version of the pattern that is so varied and extended that its repetitions are barely perceptible, leaving Ziani to rely on rather small-scale rhythmic and harmonic conflicts of bass and voice rather than the more forceful structural overlaps that derive from opposition to a strongly articulated—and strongly perceptible—pattern (example 87). The conflict is weakened by the particular structure of the bass itself, which consists of twelve measures divided into two similar, but unequal, sections, the first of which seems to end too early and the second too late. The forward motion of the bass is impeded also by too many cadences—three: a half-cadence in m. 4 and full cadences in mm. 8 and 12, all of them confirmed by the violin parts above. Its tonal impact, overemphasized by the too-frequent cadences, is nevertheless contradictory and ambiguous in its combination of strong F major with several insistent chromatic inflections. Rather than somehow compensating for or counteracting the awkwardly sectional bass, the vocal line confirms the short subphrases with subphrases of its own. These are created by a very rigid, undramatic treatment of the text, in which nearly all clauses are repeated, some of them several times, to sequential music, whether they are particularly expressive or not. As a result, affective emphasis is completely lacking, both in the presentation of the text and in the piece as a whole. The effect can be appreciated by reading the text as presented in Ziani's setting (in brackets):

Rodope dove sei [dove sei, dove sei],
Pria ch'alla morte [pria ch'alla morte]
    io vada,
E svenato [e svenato] al suol cada
[E svenato, e svenato al suol cada]

Rodope, where are you [where are you, where are you]
Ere I to death [ere I to death] do go,

And gored [and gored] to the ground do fall
[And gored, and gored to the ground do fall],


Almen quest'occhi [almen quest'occhi] miei

Ti poressero dar [ti potessero dar] l'ultimo
   guardo [l'ultimo guardo]
Per bearmi nel foco [per bearmi nel foco]
   in cui [in cui] tutt'ardo

Che contento o mia vita [contento o mia vita]
   all'hor [all'hor] morrei
Rodope dove sei? [dove sei, dove sei, Rodope,
   dove sei?]

May these eyes at least [these eyes at least] of
Upon you cast [upon you cast] their last gaze
   [their last gaze],
That I may rejoice in the flame [that I may
   rejoice in the flame] in which [in which] I
For happy, O my life [happy, O my life],
   I then [I then] should die.
Rodope, where are you? [where are you, where
   are you, Rodope, where are you?]

With only a few exceptions—the refrain line, perhaps, and "all'hor" in line 7—the repetitions fail to heighten the natural rhetorical emphasis in the text. The result is a lament that seems aimless, short-breathed, and ineffectual.

Far more expressive is Polemone's lament from Cesti's Tito (1666) 3.8, which, however, is built on a bass whose relationship to the tetrachord is virtually nonexistent (example 88). Cesti did not tie himself down to an ostinato as Ziani did; his bass is much freer and more generative than Ziani's. Differences are immediately apparent in the opening ritornello, which is the same length as Ziani's. In contrast to Ziani's three cadences within twelve measures, Cesti has only one, at the end. Until then, Cesti studiously avoids cadences with the help of the string parts, whose continuously overlapping suspensions maintain harmonic intensity throughout.

Cesti's voice part enters before the cadence rather than coinciding with it as Ziani's does. Although Cesti's voice and bass phrases do not dovetail any more than Ziani's do, the string parts overlap them both, urging the piece forward. Furthermore, because they work together, voice and bass produce strong, propulsive syncopations against the strings, particularly toward the end of the lament (mm. 55-64). Cesti's vocal line is more singable than Ziani's, too, moving primarily by step, with an occasional expressive leap. Although its subphrases are equally short, they build syntactically to climaxes. Despite the absence of affective opposition between voice and bass, phrase extension is made possible by the freer bass—voice and bass together stretch phrases through syncopation and by invoking the deceptive cadence (mm. 67-80).

The difference between these two laments is epitomized by a comparison of the text presentation of the two composers. Cesti also repeated text, but in a manner that underscores rather than distorting its natural emphasis. And when his repetition creates melodic patterns, they are shorter, more motivic, and used for affective reiteration rather than sequence, as building blocks to a climax rather than going nowhere:


Berenice [Berenice] ove [ove, ove] sei,

Dove, dove t'ascondi?
Luce de gl'occhi miei
[Berenice ove sei?]
Marmi o voi che nel candore
Pareggiate la mia fè
Palesate [palesate, palesate] il mio sol, dite
   dov'è [dite dov'è, dov'è,
   dov'è, dite dov'è].
[Palesate il mio sol, dire dov'è, dire dov'è,
dov'è, dov'è, dite dov'è.]

Berenice [Berenice], where [where, where] are
Where, where do you hide,
Light of my eyes?
[Berenice, where are you?]
O ye marbles that in candor
Match my faith,
Reveal [reveal, reveal] my sun, say where it is [say
   where it is, where it is,
   where it is, say where it is].
[Reveal my sun, say where it is, say where it is,
   where it is, where it is, say where it is.]

Clearly the success of these endeavors depended on the composer, not on the lament convention itself. The convention was flexible enough to allow a composer to make his own decisions. His choices were still numerous. A free adaptation of the tetrachord pattern, while sacrificing the obsessive impact of ostinato repetition, allowed him greater flexibility of expression. He could, of course, still depend on the value of the implied, underlying (but absent) tetra-chord as a sign, while drawing freely upon its conventional affective concomitants, syncopation, suspensions, and phrase overlap.

But sometimes composers used the stylistic conventions of the lament too superficially, in combination with other features that tended to counteract them, producing a conflict that seriously weakened the identity of the genre. Some of the laments that utilize the tetrachord merely as a vague point of reference rather than a structural feature fail to project the intended affect. That is, despite the use of individual conventional accoutrements (such as string accompaniment and tetrachord reference), they display a misunderstanding or misuse of the convention itself.

In Leucotoe's lament from Rovettino's Gli amori d' Apollo e di Leucotoe (1663) 3.11, duple meter, excessive rhythmic activity and melodic sequence, and predominantly major tonality undermine the expressive intention of the text and contradict the tetrachord and string accompaniment references (example 89). A similar miscalculation weakens the impact of Domitiano's lament from Boretti's Eliogabalo (1668) 2.11, where repeated allusions to the chromatic tetrachord, string accompaniment, and the minor key are insufficient to counteract the trivial effect of rapid rhythmic activity and short patterned phrases, both in the opening section in duple meter and the closing triple-meter section (example 90). These examples fail to fulfill their potential as laments because of conflicting affects. Reference to the tetrachord and string accompaniment may have been necessary, but obviously they were not sufficient to constitute a lament.


They needed the confirmation of a slow tempo, minor key, suspensions, and expansive text-setting.

The convention was exploited in a variety of ways throughout the century, with more or less full understanding of its implications. For a final affirmation of the power of the convention, we return once more to Cavalli: to one of his late operas, Scipione affricano (1664). One of the most moving scenes, Sofonisba's soliloquy (2.8), consisting of a recitative and an aria, derives its power precisely from not being a lament.[23] In fact, that is its point: it is intentionally a non-lament that can be understood only against the background of pieces that are laments (example 91).

In her opening recitative, a highly affective discourse that makes use of the usual expressive techniques of repeated notes, dissonance against the bass, and a gradually ascending line interrupted by a few extreme leaps against descending chromatic motion in the bass, Sofonisba, the wife of the imprisoned Sirace, explains that she must keep her sorrows to herself lest her situation deteriorate even further. She begins very much as Ottavia does in her first lament in Poppea , with the words "Di misera regina. . . . "The recitative concludes in an arioso that makes the same point, though with added emphasis through lyricism, affective harmony and melody, and repetition of text.

The following aria, then, is not a lament but an invocation of nature, of the "verdi herbette rugiadose" ("green dewy grass"), which Sofonisba calls upon to lament in her stead: "S'io non possò dir ohimè, lagrimate voi per me." The continuo aria (not string-accompanied) in duple meter (not triple), with a walking bass and syllabic, stepwise melody, contrasts strongly with what a lament would be—intentionally. But the walking bass (which subtly refers to the tetrachord in its descending stepwise motion), the melody (which creates dissonance against the bass through a series of accented appoggiaturas), and the harmony (particularly the cross relation in the refrain, heard twice, and the overall minor tonality) lend a poignant mood to the piece that tends to counteract the lively tempo and syllabic text-setting. In not being a lament, and in emphatically abjuring its most obvious conventional associations, this aria nonetheless draws upon all of the affective power of the lament. Denied on the surface, the lament affect animates this aria from within, peering out from behind Sofonisba's mask.

As an operatic convention, the lament combines features of all of the conventions we have discussed so far. Like madness and sleep, and often associated


with them, it was a theatrical device that enhanced the verisimilitude essential to opera. Lamenting characters, only slightly more responsible than mad or sleeping ones, were released from the bonds of decorous behavior by the intensity of their feelings, which verged on—and often culminated in—madness. Like the trumpet aria or the sdrucciolo aria, too, the lament was associated with a particular musical technique. And like the love duet it developed a precise structural and dramatic function, usually occurring at the point of maximum complication, just before the resolution of the plot. But the lament surpassed all the other conventions in its impact. From the very outset it had a stronger identity, one that was both musical and dramatic, and, indeed, was actually defined by the combination of those two elements. And its identity was reaffirmed and solidified, not only in opera but in the monody and aria books that developed symbiotically alongside, influencing and in turn being influenced by operatic developments. The lament did not require a context in order to be recognized—it could (and did) exist independently of opera.

We have traced the evolution of the operatic lament from one Monteverdian archetype to the other, from the Arianna -type sectional recitative to the "Lament of the Nymph"-type tetrachord-aria (with or without recitative introduction); but the evolution was not strictly linear. Aria and recitative laments coexist in many operas of the 1640s and 1650s, and an occasional recitative lament may be found as late as the 1660s.[24] However erratic its evolution from recitative to aria, the lament was a microcosm of operatic developments in general, of the growing preference for static summary and distillation of feelings over action. The increasing proportion of aria to recitative displayed by Isifile's lament from 1650 to 1671 reflects, succinctly, the change of proportion in opera as a whole during the same period.

With all of its development, however, the lament remained remarkably standardized for quite some time. An aria style that was viable for a lament in 1640 (in Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne ), hard on the heels of Venetian opera's beginnings, was deemed suitable for the same purpose thirty years later (in Il novello Giasone ). Although it seems to have disappeared temporarily from Venetian (or by now Italian) opera after the 1670s, the genre lasted much longer elsewhere—witness Purcell's classic setting of Dido's lament and the abundance of tetrachord laments in the dramatic music of Handel and Bach.[25] The longevity of the genre must be ascribed at least in part to the specificity of its musical characteristics, what we might call its musical formula, the descending tetrachord and its concomitants. Musical associations so much more specific


than those for any other dramatic convention undoubtedly helped to preserve the lament from stylistic change, to promote a certain conservatism. Further, the fact that the musical formula itself had an intrinsic relationship to the specific affect of the lament made the connection all the more natural, inevitable, and permanent.

In some later operas the tetrachord-aria lament seems to have assumed the role of an intentional, self-conscious archaism. This is suggested by the contrast between its characteristic white-note notation—typical meters are 3/1 or 3/2—and the increasingly pervasive quarter-note values of the music in the rest of the opera. As operatic style changed around it, the increasingly anachronistic lament served as a poignant reminder of old musico-dramatic values, of the way music had once embodied the affect of a text.

The intrinsic connection between the drama and music of the lament was certainly one reason for the longevity of the genre. Another may be its association with performers. From its origins as an operatic highpoint, the lament was associated with its singer, perhaps because it was the affective center or core of the main role(s). Singers' reputations were often connected to laments; they were praised for their skill at lamentation. And with the rise in their importance within the operatic collaboration, they may have helped to sustain the genre.[26]

Much of the reportage surrounding Arianna concerned the performance of the famous lament: "The lament that Ariadne . . . sang on the rock . . . was performed with so much feeling and in such a pathetic manner that not a single listener remained unmoved, nor did a single lady fail to shed some small tear at her plaint."[27] The singer was Virginia Andreini, a comica ordinaria known by the stage name Florinda, who at the last minute replaced the tragically deceased young singer Caterina Martinelli, for whom Monteverdi had conceived the part. Andreini's performance was immortalized by Giambattista Marino (Adone , 7.88), who compared it to those of the most famous singer of the day, Adriana Basile:


Tal forse intenerir col dolce canto
Suol la bella Adriana i duri affetti
E con la voce e con la vista intanto
Git per due strade a saettare i petti;
E in tal guisa Florinda udisti, o Manto,
Là ne' teatri de' tuoi regi tetti
D'Adrianna spiegar gli aspri martiri
E trar da mille cor mille sospiri.

Thus perhaps with her sweet song
The lovely Adriana is wont to melt harsh sentiments,
While with her voice and with her look
She takes two paths to pierce men's breasts;
Thus, Mantua, did you hear Florinda,
There in the theaters beneath your royal roofs,
Expounding Ariadne's harsh martyrdoms
And drawing from a thousand hearts a thousand sighs.


The first Venetian prima donna, Anna Renzi, too, was particularly acclaimed for her performances of laments. Several sonnets in the volume of encomiastic poetry addressed to her by Giulio Strozzi refer to her powers of persuasion in that mode:


Nella Scena Real forma sonori
I mesti accenti suoi, canoro il pianto,
E col finto languir ben desta in tanto
In noi verace duol, vivaci ardori.[28]

On the regal stage she sonorously forms
Her mournful accents, singing her plaint,
And with pretended sorrow the while awakes
In us authentic grief, living desires.

Among other roles, her lamenting Ottavia in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea elicited special praise.


Non è Ottavia, che lagrime diffonde
Esule, esposta ale spumose arene;
È un mostro, che con note alte, e profonde
Acrescer và lo stuol de le Sirene.[29]

It is not Ottavia shedding her tears,
Exiled, exposed on foamy shores;
It is a monster, who, with notes high and deep
Augments the company of the Sirens.

The most specific description of her performance of Ottavia's lament occurs in a passage from the anonymous Idillio in Strozzi's volume that provides a running commentary on all of her roles.


Poi cominciasti afflitta
Tue querele Canore
Con tua voce divina,
Disprezzata Regina,
E seguendo il lamento
Facevi di dolore
Stillar in pianto, e sospirar Amore.
Sò ben'io, che se vero
Fosse stato il cordoglio,
E l'historia funesta,
Alia tua voce mesta,
Alle dolci parole, ai carl detti.
Si come i nostri petri
Colmaro di pietade, an sò ben'io,
Neron s'havrebbe fatto humile, e pio.[30]

Then, afflicted, you intoned
Your melodious complaints
With your voice divine,
O spurned queen,
And continuing your lament
You forced Love
To burst into tears and sigh.
Well do I know that,
Had the grief been true,
And the dolorous tale,
Hearing your mournful voice,
Your sweet words, your endearing expressions,
Just as they filled our breasts
With pity, ah, well do I know that
    Nero would have been rendered humble and         compassionate.

Surely few descriptions of a lamenting protagonist, however, could rival in vividness and realism of detail this one in a letter to the duke of Brunswick from his secretary, Francesco Massi:

[The Rangoni maiden, jealous of her protector's attentions to another prima donna] . . . had resolved never to sing again, when, encouraged by friends of the marquis


[Rangoni, her protector], right in the midst of a conversation she began to sing a lament, precisely made to measure for her, of most beautiful poetry and most perfect music. Now whoever did not witness that scene cannot know what it is to transform oneself in song. She moved around, and, as the nature of the lament required, prayed, emoted, called her betrayer beloved; gently she persuaded him, looked at him, and exuded passion from her eyes, cried with tears of trust, protested that her heart was the altar where the fire of an immense affection always burned, that he was the king of the entire realm of her thoughts, that therefore he shouldn't abandon her. She followed with desperate actions, with great violence, and so much so that she seemed actually to be an enraged Fury; naming at one point her rival, she turned her eyes to heaven and exclaimed, "Ah, ah, let her be cursed!" She returned then with her heart to the beginning [a segno ], and blaming for her fate more the wrath of destiny than the inconstancy of her lover, finished the lament and fainted. (Appendix IIIB.22b)[31]

This description closely follows the narrative progress of the lament itself, through vicissitudes of passion familiar from the many laments we have examined. Text and music both can almost be reconstructed from the description. Prayers, persuasion, penetrating looks, tears, desperation, and fury (stile concitato? ) lead to the exclamatory climax ("ahi, ahi, che sia maledetta!" perhaps in recitative), which is followed by a pulling back ("dal segno," a return to the opening), an awareness of futility, and a final generalized diatribe against fate, culminating in a faint. Although this lament is surely an aria "cut to measure," the stages of feeling described are very much like those of the paradigmatic recitative lament of Arianna. The stylistic dichotomy that separated recitative and aria-laments was less important than the similarity of affect that linked them.

Massi's description not only recreates the narrative progress of the lament; it provides a vivid sense of the affective intensity of its performance. No matter that the stage for this production was a private salotto rather than one of Venice's public theaters, or that the singer-protagonist played not a fictional character in historical garb but herself. The fate she lamented was her own. Her lament declared its generic independence of opera. Its verisimilitude transcended art, asserting a powerful connection to life. No other operatic convention had the power to do so much.


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