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


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