NERO Your sound advice shall always be my guide, mother. Straightway arrange the scheme my love has hatched. One moment lost can destroy a great undertaking. Less an emperor than a son, you, mother, I will adore. Well do I know that Narcissus and Pallas, whether from inclination or self-interest, harbour a hidden desire to conquer my heart; let that which I despised now be artfully welcomed. Ho there, send for Pallas! A page sets off. May cunning and deceit assist me now. She seats herself in a melancholy attitude.
She sadly hides her lovely face, and lost in thought replies not to me? You have proof, Augusta, of my heart's obedience to your decrees, and well you know how faithful it is, and how constant. I would it were in my power to ease your suffering. It must be bold! I must be cunning. Further discussion must be deferred until a later time. Pallas, you shall know that which is hidden from all others. Claudius is dead. Go you to the Capitol, gather our supporters, and at the moment when Caesar's death is made known, acclaim Nero immediately. If my son comes to power, Pallas will reign with Agrippina.
For through you alone, my lovely adored one. He leaves. Ho there, call Narcissus!
Georg Friedrich Händel
He who knows how to pretend obtains what he wants. To impart a dark secret I call Narcissus aside; you alone do I appoint today to be the doer of a great deed, and to your confidence entrust what I have hid until now. Go straightway to where the populace and soldiers are gathered; there wait till I have revealed the fateful news, then subtly introduce the name of Nero amongst the crowd. If heaven today allots the throne to Nero.
Narcissus shall reign with Agrippina. I shall fly from place to place on the wings of love, and with passionate fervour shall do your bidding. Let nothing be overlooked. To work, to work! All praise to him who deceives in order to reign. So well have I armed my breast with constancy, that with fair land in sight, even the most baleful storms seem objects of comfort. Arioso NERO Yet it grieves me to see that amidst all these crowds you have no zealous supporter to commiserate your state.
May cunning and deceit serve my ends! It pans me that miserly fate constrains my wishes. I would help all those in need - for compassion is the virtue most pleasing to the gods. Mother, I hold to your precepts, dissembling in order to become emperor. NERO This is the day on which my destiny will be decided. You who with love, wisdom and strength direct the I fortunes of lofty Rome, to you I am come, the unhappy bearer of dread tidings. My friends. Claudius is dead; the treacherous sea, envious that such a treasure should be left onland, has snatched it from us, and of the throne of Rome has made a widow.
She comes down from the throne. Lei the authority residing in you choose another emperor for the throne, and let him be just, merciful and pious, as Rome deserves, and as my heart desires. Come, my son, ascend the throne. Come, o emperor of Rome! NERO My soul rejoices within me. Now I shall reign, now I shall wreathe my locks with laurel. Agrippina and Nero ascend the throne. Claudius is arrived at the port of Anzio; Otho subdued the vaunting pride of the ocean, that wished him drowned. If ever cunning were needed, let it now be employed. Oh what contentment, my friends, is born within my afflicted heart: Claudius is risen from the dead, and risen with him are the fortunes of Rome.
At such happy news let general joy spring gladly forth! NERO Pitiless heaven, do you betray me thus? No sooner had the Britains been defeated, and while the sea yet bore our great and swollen triumph, than, still envious, the ocean tried with storms to plunder it from Rome. Too weak to bear their loaded cargoes, our ships gave way before the storm clouds that shattered us between rocks, and submerged us beneath the waves; nor did the treacherous billows respect the emperor more than the common plebeian, but dragged him down into themselves, till all believed him dead.
But, thanks to kindly fate, in the general wreck, my strong arm brought him forth from death. OTHO Already has a grateful monarch's reward surpassed my deservings; Caesar's benevolence appoints me to the throne. NERO Alas, what anguish! OTHO At break of day Rome will marvel at her Claudius triumphant, and he will then make known to the people and the Senate the honour he bestows upon me.
OTHO to Agrippina If you will permit, my lady, I would reveal to you a weighty secret, on which alone depends all that is most dear to my heart. And you others may leave. Confide in me, tell me what is your heart's desire? NERO Alas, treacherous fate! Nero, Narcissus and Pallas leave. My heart meanwhile is aflame with anger. For the one who inspires your love a gentle flame burns in your breast. To make me blessed, love today unites the gift of the throne with that of a countenance both god-like and beloved.
Smiling fate, do not change your countenance! Increase the rarity of my beauty. To awaken love in men's hearts I have in mine a ready desire. Each one is flattered by his own ardour; they no longer know whether I speak the truth, or deceive. O faithful servant, what comfort the sight of you brings me! And what happy news do you bring me from Claudius? Each one called on his gods for help; he called on Poppea. Not a moment went by but he was in my thoughts.
My heart, well you know what a liar my tongue is. But what about Agrippina? I shall keep careful watch all around. A single moment's delay is painful to a loving heart. POPPEA Then let Claudias come, but he must understand that my heart, even if it is his, is ever constant in its purity: I welcome him as sovereign, not as lover. He would be more welcome to the heart that loves him; but what one longs for is always slow in arriving. But how? No one knows. It ignites very slowly, but then grows larger and burns you up completely.
Whatever shall I do if Claudius arrives. Ah, what a problem! Tell me without blushing, are you in love with Otho? Giving way to the stirrings of secret ambition in his heart, he gives you up to Claudius, in order that, as enthroned Caesar, the joyous Capitol may today acclaim him. To keep Claudius off, use flattery and tricks, and if he declares his love, promise love in return, weep, sigh, and beg. Concede nothing, however, until he first bow to your wishes. Either it no longer listens, or due to the mind's trickery the heart perhaps believes them. Otho, Otho, are these your promises, your vows?
Do you thus deceive the heart which in well-bred resignation bore for you the pangs of love? Do you thus betray for vain splendour's sake the sincere loyalty you owed me, and, rashly, to satisfy your ambitious presumption, offer me in sacrifice to your wishes? Within my breast I shall awaken scorn and vengeance. My lady, Claudius is here. Fear not, you shall be safe: silence lies all around, not even the sighing of the breeze can be heard here; and I, Argus-like, will stand guard over your pleasures.
What thought troubles you? You have already witnessed sincere proofs of my love. Then why hide your heart's sorrow from me? Speak, my dear, speak! POPPEA If you want me to uncover the reason for the suffering within me, then know … But, o god, She pretends to weep these heartfelt sobs, intermingled with weeping, scarcely allow the words to form on lips that have known bitterness. Revenge teaches me to lie thus. Then ask what you will, all shall be granted to you by my love. Tell me, my dear! The traitor! POPPEA A long time ago he revealed his secret desires to me, but to no avail: my constancy in loving you obliged me to reject him, until at last he learnt to his annoyance the reason of my firmness.
Now proud and haughty. Boldly he commands, impudently he threatens me, if I cast a single glance on you, my dearest. Is not this reason enough for my great sorrow? POPPEA Deprive, Caesar, deprive an overweening man of the hope of reigning, and then you will see the proud one sufficiently humbled never to dare lift his gaze to me again. Don't cry, dear heart! This very night I wish to show you the proofs of my faith and love. Come, let me take you in my arms; joined in a sweet embrace, our love promises us yet sweeter pleasures. Delay no longer in bringing consolation to my love! Guarded by the faithful Lesbus are the royal thresholds.
Come then, my dear, assuage my desire! Ah, what torment! She turns and looks around again. A chaste woman sometimes wants the excuse that she is taken by force. Do not fight me off, my heart! Here comes your wife Agrippina. Leave, sir, if you love me!
Claudius and Lesbus leave. This very day my happy heart will see the traitor punished. Today we shall be two happy companions witnessing our, rather than Caesar's triumph. I embrace you, my dear.
Handel's Operas, 1726-1741
Confide everything to me. Trust in my heart, which loves you, dear. This tangled web unwinds to a happy ending. With pure and sincere affection I bind myself to your breast: may trickery, deception and cunning never come between us. He who offends neither loves, nor follows Cupid; so the heart defends itself from a momentary passion. NARCISSUS Yes, yes, our pretence shall uncover her deception, and whatever she asks of you, do you tell me straightway, just as I promise to reveal to you truly whatever she asks of me.
But greater still is my desire for the beauty I adore than for either crown or throne. OTHO I would wish to own virtue and valour enough to see Lazio's dominions happy, her enemies overthrown. OTHO The goddess and queen of my heart is come! NERO I behold my rival, and feel my heart fill with anger. OTHO That which Agrippna has revealed is my heart's desire, and you will understand that without you the pleasures of the throne would be a penance. Rome cheers on its great ruler. Long live triumphant Claudius! He descends from his chariot. For what a happy realm is that subject to the Capitol!
And these arms which, when denied your embrace, brought me such suffering, make now a sweet chain of love. As a consort I embrace you, and as a lover. NERO I offer tribute from faithful devotion. OTHO I a traitor? Who braved mortal dangers fearlessly to pluck you from death? I a traitor? For your transgression death is the proper reward. OTHO Agrippina, come to my aid! Dazzled by splendour, was your vicious crime not apparent to you? She leaves. Therein lies your happiness, and, for my part, I am very happy for you!
Even the thunderbolt respects the foliage which today is chosen to adorn your head. Narcissus, my friend, do you share the grief that encompasses my breast? OTHO Will you at least take pity onmy tormented soul! Ah, ungrateful Caesar, faithless friends, unjust heaven! Yet how much more unjust, ungrateful and unfaithful than heaven, Caesar or friends, is Poppea!
I, a traitor? I, a monster of unfaithfulness? Ah, heavens, ah, wicked fate! Could any suffering be worse than mine? I lose a throne, which I despise, but my beloved, whom I prize so greatly, ah! I feel an urge within me to be merciful. But here he comes, sad and thoughtful, perhaps to unburden his heart's bitter pain. Unseen by Otho, she seats herself by a fountain, pretending to be asleep. He sees Poppea. Poppea takes her rest amid the flowers, while I find no respite from my dreadful suffering … Arioso OTHO You sleep, o lovely eyes, and peace refreshes your heart. OTHO Even sleep, o god!
OTHO Tell me, at least, what fault engenders your coldness? She appears to wake up. OTHO She wakes; let me hear what she says! He withdraws to one side. O illusions, still you disturb my peace? You present to me as suppliant the image of that unworthy traitor? What could he say in his own defence? Could he perchance deny that he had ceded his love, all his promised faith, to Claudius, so that Rome might see him a Caesar on the Capitol's throne this day? OTHO I can hear no more. Behold at your feet … Poppea makes as if to leave, Otho holding her back.
You run from me? Stay, my dearest! Ah, what anguish! At least hear me! OTHO Stop! OTHO Listen! Take this dagger I place in your right hand, and if you find me guilty, then kill me, and I will be content. Speak, then, but be warned that the punishment for your crime is already ordained. If you have betrayed me, you shall fall a mortal victim on this very spot. OTHO Unknown to me, yet understood is the appalling accusation that provokes you to anger. That I would give you up to another? That I would let you go, my very sun, for a single ray of blind ambition?
Who could ever believe this, who maintain it? For sceptre and laurel I care not: my heart has always been turned towards you, for your lovely face is worth a thousand worlds. What I know was revealed to me by Agrippina. That treacherous, wicked woman, the cause of my suffering! Hear, o Poppea, how black her heart is. Come to my apartments; I shall lay aside my coldness.
If you are guilty, I shall he merciless: but if innocent, you will find me compassionate. I am completely innocent: if then you find my heart has lied, I shall forgive your condemnation.
Now at last do I perceive your impostures, Agrippina! To snatch from Otho Caesar's laurels, you deceived me. The overweening scheme that tempts you to advantage Nero is uncovered. I shall not give way to grief. If I don't have revenge, I am not Poppea! When it trusts, the heart listens; but once deception is uncovered it makes itself deaf, and no longer hearkens to the one who lied the day before.
Claudius, impatient to see you again, sends me to you, requesting a private interview with you in your apartments. I accept Caesar's favour. The desire to pursue it inspires me to a daring plan. Now I would wish Nero here. Listen, Nero! You have sworn to me the merit of your love and your faith thousands of times. I was doubtful of your sincerity, since men are wont to deceive women, and esteem our frailty only to treat it with disdain. NERO Have no fear, my dearest! Come alone to my apartments; there, if you can persuade my heart, as love's reward, you may expect love.
NERO Oh, my adored one! Do what I say, but be discreet: love made public brings cares instead of pleasure.
I hope my little scheme comes off. If you heart is faithful, it hopes for pleasure, and your hope is well founded. Today I hope to kiss that lovely face! When she says: "Come straightaway,'' it's a way of saying: ''Come and enjoy yourself! May heaven aid my plans! Let my son reign, smile upon him, you gods! Believing Claudius dead, too much I confided in Narcissus and Pallas. If my stratagem is uncovered, Otho has the mettle and Poppea the courage to undo the damage.
Surrounded as I am by so many enemies, now is the moment, my cunning wiles, to summon you up. Ah, do not abandon me! Command me, my lovely one! I wish to see both of them dead. You understand what a risk I expose you to. But what will become of my love? So my heart seeks no more than her faith and compassion. But is this Narcissus? Let's be bold! United, Pallas and Otho are our joint enemies. If you feel love for me, and if you are courageous, our outlook is secure. And if I hope to he happy, such hope is reasonable.
In Claudius lies the end of my labours. Here he comes. Prepare to deceive him, my, heart! But, o god, an inner pain stirs within my breast, tormenting me, and bringing perturbation to my soul. Reveal it, my dearest! If one does not with all despatch stifle a small flame, a mighty, ruinous blaze will be born. Confound his schemes, forestall his subterfuges, acclaim a new Caesar; at a stroke shall Otho be abandoned. For jealousy is the companion of authority. He will be ever obedient to your wishes. His respect for me, his mother, will make his heart submissive to you, as a father.
We're close to our goal. Then do not delay. Another matter calls me away. As soon as I see you, my heart is lost, my pretty cheeks. If my son reign, my one hope, let the stars show however dismal an aspect, yet will I look on unconcerned. Recitative POPPEA I pushed dear Otho to the very brink, but premeditated trickery, planted within me a desire to avenge myself by outwitting her who outwitted me.
I pray you, do not think me guilty of this vile betrayal.
That wicked woman tricked me, when, at my pleas, she offered sympathetic protection to my faithful love. I am love's follower, heeding naught else, and to you, my beloved, I swear eternal faith. I have made ready the means of our revenge, and if I was the cause of harm, it is meet for me to repair it. Now hide yourselfl here, and stay silent. Doubt not my faith, nor be jealous of what I may say or do.
For a little while you must suffer grievous torment, which shall result in another's punishment, and your content. I will endure, though your coldness towards me be cruel. He hides in a doorway behind a curtain. My, spirit has become impatient to avenge the offence. That happy time appointed you is already past; it is necessary to delay the suffering heart's cure. But, o god. She looks around.
NERO My mother may come here? But so that you may discern my feelings, see what proofs of them I give you: I want you to hide yourself here, and wait till she leaves. Then you will see how much Poppea, her fears once set aside, loves and adores you. For my love is already quite ravenous for its satisfaction.
He hides in a curtain-draped doorway opposite to the one in which Otho is hidden. I'm sure that Otho' heart is bursting with anger: but he who loves must always suffer. Can you still doubt my love? My dear, you saw what I did for you! More brazen and daring than ever is he who disturbs my peace. What are you talking about, my lord? Ah, Claudius, at last I comprehend my fatal ill-luck and my misfortune.
She pretends to weep. Tell me, what must I do! Give me your orders! As I promised you before, the laurel shall he plucked from Otho's brow. OTHO I suffer this, and do not die? Of Nero I complained, who forbade me to gaze on you ever again. You said Otho! You can't have understood. And all that talk of Otho's desire to reign, to wield the sceptre and sit on the throne?
You have deceived me, Poppea! My lord, perhaps you know not that before you reached Rome at Agrippina's wish Nero was raised to the throne, and acclaimed Caesar? Or are you just pretending? NERO Oh heavens, if only he would leave! OTHO The pain is killing me! But did you not say Otho? Come on, answer me. Nero and Otho sound mach alike. Trust me, and if you like. I will prove to you that he who lays unwelcome siege to my heart is Nero alone. What will you do then, my lord? You will see whether my heart is honest or deceitful.
Come this way, my lord, and stand there. Poppea leads Claudius within the central door, and then goes over to Nero. OTHO This waiting is unbearable! NERO I'm here, my dear. NERO Heaven help me! NERO Hear me, my lord! OTHO Rejoice, my heart! As Nero leaves, Poppea approaches him. NERO Alas, cruel fate! NERO going From her imperial spirit, you wicked creature, await what comes. Agrippina knows how to have revenge. I must be cunning to rid myself of Claudius. But Agrippina, alas, will let loose all her furies.
Nero runs to his mother in a temper. Ah, I see myself beset by problems! This is not the time, o Caesar, my mind is disturbed and bent on anything but pleasure. Agrippina will soon be here: what torture! You shall obtain nothing from me. Make me safe from her fury: then ask, and you shall know what my heart feels.
Around the foot of my throne flit the ambitions of others. How sweet revenge delights the heart! Claudius has gone.
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The trick has surely worked. Now to free may darling from his unhappy vigil. She opens the door where Otho is hiding. You see Nero made a fool of, and my heart have its revenge on Agrippina. You see that I scorn the ruler of the world, and for you alone, my darling, live enveloped in love's fetters. OTHO Most lortunate fetters, that bind us together in eternal knots which, touched by love's hand, make of two hearts one single heart. OTHO I shall die a thousand times, beloved, before failing you. But without you, my own heart, I am nothing but pain and torment.
It brings the heart contentment. Beauty's splendour has no worth unless its source is a faithful heart. He was furious, she laughed, and I, terrified, came running to you, mother, to save me from Claudius's anger and the danger that threatens. After all, he is your husband, you my mother, and I your son. Rash Nero, just when I am employing every possible stratagem to raise you to the throne, you pursue a blind and foolish love to the very edge of doom? But Poppea has now uncovered your stratagems and spoils.
My son, smother this base passion within your breast. Look on Poppea as an enemy. Think no object worthy but empire alone. The fire now cold within my breast, my heart has already loosed its chain. What shall we do? Nor do I knew who is telling the truth and who lying, to punish with severity the guilty one. She availed herself of out labours - but he who acts through being tricked, should not be held at fault. What Poppea told me is here confirmed.
Within the very palace lie my secret enemies; yet fear engenders rightful suspicion in me, and it the midst of confusion they are confounded. You are loyal men, and my mighty arm shall be your shield. This arrangement will make the aria more agreeable. The dramatic tension of the recitative continually increases until it is released in the aria.
With the character off stage, the librettist could once again build up the dramatic tension. This convention was established by Zeno, who differentiated between exit arias at the end of scenes ingressi and entrance arias at the beginning of scenes escite. For example, in Metastasio's Artaserse , as set by Hasse, all of the arias are placed at the end of scenes of recitative and are followed by an exit, the only excep- 14 tion being an arietta at the beginning of Act III. While the exit convention was often dramatically effective, it could on occasion become quite ludicrous, as Benedetto Marcello satirically describes in his advice to the librettist in It teatro alia moda: One rule of prime importance is never to let a character make his exit before he has sung the usual canzonetta.
Reinhard G. Pauly, Musical Quarterly 34 Metastasio was a master at creating numerous and varied situations in which the aria could be introduced smoothly with the appropriate commentary and exit. Many of these aria situations became standardized and reappeared again in the libretti that were arranged, compiled, or written by the numerous librettists employed by the opera theatres throughout Europe.
For this reason the simile aria was often misused, especially by the librettists of lesser talents. The abuse of the simile aria was satirized by Marcello in II teatro alia moda: The aria must in no way be related to the preceding recitative but it should be full of such things as sweet little butterflies, bouquets, nightingales, quails, little boats, little huts, jasmine, violets,.
Thus the poet will demonstrate to the world his proficiency as a natural scientist. For example, Alcina compares the effects of her new love to that of the sunshine upon the roses and violets, Orlando compares the argument between Ruggiero and Bradamante to a storm at sea, Bradamante compares her joy to a flooded stream overflowing its waters into the nearby fields, Medoro compares his love for Angelica to the innocent meadow flower, and Angelica compares her absence from Medoro to a dying flower severed from its roots by a plough.
The Singers The role of the singer in the evolution of opera seria is a very important one, although it is sometimes exaggerated. The first half of the eighteenth century was the great age of singers, and opera seria became the vehicle for the display of their talents, in spite of the reforms of the librettists. At this time, the great stars were the castrati, who took not only the main male rdles, but sometimes the female roles as well.
The castrati continued in their popularity 17 ,. During the first half of the eighteenth century, when opera seria was flourishing throughout Europe, Italy was producing singers whose talents have probably never before or since been equalled. Legendary singers such as the castrati Nicolini, Farinelli, and Senesino and the sopranos Santa Stella, Cuzzoni, and Faustina could often be heard singing at the same theatres; for example between to , Senesino, Farinelli, and Cuzzoni were employed by London's Opera of the Nobility.
Because of their great popularity, the singers had a considerable amount of power and prestige. The great singers were paid enormous sal aries while the composers would receive "less pay than the least of 20 them.
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The prestigious position of the singers allowed them to enjoy a far greater share in the creation and the production of 19 Heriot, Tine Castrati in Opera , pp. In the first stage of creation, the composer and often the librettist would compose each role with a particular singer in mind, adapting the music and the words to suit the individual characteristics of the singer's voice. Pietro Francesco Tosi in his Opinioni de'cantori explains the rationale behind the ornamentation of the da capo aria: In the first they require nothing but the simplest Ornaments, of a good Taste and few, that the Composition may remain simple, plain, and pure; in the second they expect, that to this Purity some artful Graces be added, by which the Judicious may hear, that the Ability 22 Marcello, II teatro alia moda 3 Likewise, the exit convention was probably standardized because it allowed the singer to exit amid the applause of the audience, and to take a rest before his next aria.
Abuses by the Singers Singers of the eighteenth century were renowned for their vanity, their jealousy, and their overt concern for protocol. Most libretti were written for a specific theatre and cast, and librettists allotted the roles in the opera according to the talents of the singers.
Not only was it required that the most talented singers have the most important roles and the greatest number of arias, but the arias should be shared between these superior singers regardless of the dramatic needs. London: J. Wilcox, , pp. The ultime parti, or cadet singers, who were often altos, tenors, or basses, received the minor roles and the least number of arias. The second actress and second soprano can only have three, and the inferior characters must be satisfied with a single air each or two at most. During the 's and 's, when there were generally more arias in a given opera, each singer would have one or two additional arias.
For example, Porpora's setting of Ifigenia 25 contains the following arrangement: Figure 1. Arrangement of arias in Porpora's Ifigenia. Primo uomo —Farinelli five arias C. John Black, ed. Drake London: Alfred A. Knopf, , , p. Robinson, "Porpora's Operas for London, ," Soundings 2 In addition, no two arias of the same type, or 27 two arias by the same singer were to follow in succession. Although Faustina and Senesino were renowned for their acting abilities, and Farinelli for his good manners, most singers were infamous for their bad acting and bad manners on stage.
In arias and recitatives of action she will do well to employ the same stock gestures every night, to move her head and fan in exactly the same way, and to blow her nose always at the same moment, displaying a beautiful handkerchief If the part of the oantatrioe requires her to have some other character put in chains while she is singing an aria addressed to him expressing disdain or fury, she should use the preceding ritor- nello to chat with her victim, to giggle and to point out to him some friends in one of the boxes.
She should not fail to disturb everyone else as much as possible, while they are singing, at which time she can also amuse herself with the bear or with some extra, making much noise all the time. Therefore, the popular success of an opera was often more dependent upon the quality of the cast than upon the quality of the music. The Music Baroque Opera Seria It would be misleading to consider that the librettists were solely responsible for the creation of this new type of opera.
The arioso sections became longer, more melodic, and more structured, and were sometimes provided with orchestral accompaniments; the monodic sections lost many of their expressive harmonies and melodies and were sung at a faster tempo, while retaining continuo accompaniment. Many operas of this period, especially those of Scarlatti and Steffani retain elements from seventeenth-century opera, in part conditioned by the seventeenth-century libretti they often set. Some historians regard this period as the culmination of seventeenth-century opera, reserving.
This author chooses to use the term opera seria in its broader sense, in order to avoid coining a new term for the opera of the early eighteenth century. The opera composers of Scarlatti's generation established opera, seria as the international operatic style for almost all of Europe, with the exception of France. In keeping with the objectivity and rationality of the eighteenth century, human emotions were categorized according to a rigid system known as the Doctrine of the Affections. Each aria was to express a single emotional state or affect, which was determined by the previous action recitative.
These affects were fixed and static, and could not be readily altered by combining them together or by setting them in opposition. Thus any type of realistic representation of human emotion, with its delicate feeling, continuity, complexity and individuality, was very difficult. During the aria, the character ceased to be an individual and became a symbol of a particular affection.
The Doctrine of the Affections provided the composer with a set of principles; in essence the basic premise of this doctrine was simply 34 that contrasting emotions are depicted by contrasting musical styles. For example, joy, which "is an expansion of our vital spirits," is depicted by "large and expanded intervals" and fast tempos, while sadness, which "is a 35 Hans Lenneberg, "Johann Mattheson on Affect and Rhetoric in Music," Journal of Music Theory 2 Although the form remained basically the same, progressive composers at this time were developing a new musical style.
Charles Burney singles out Leonardo Vinci as the great innovator of this new style: 39 Ibid. Vinci seems to have been the first opera composer who. Because of the inactivity of the lower voices, the rate of chordal change becomes much slower, and the harmonies become more diatonic than in the Baroque style. This new melodic style is characterized by its abundance of written-out ornaments and appoggiatu- ras, feminine cadences, lombard rhythms, syncopations, regular periodic 42 structure and overall lilting quality. This standardization is evident in most aspects of opera seria at this time, including the choice of key, tempo, and metre within the arias.
During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, the major mode became very popular, and most operas contained only two or three arias in the minor mode. The keys used in these minor-mode arias were also restricted: 43 usually G and C and sometimes D and F minor. For example, only two of the twenty-six arias from Hasse's L 1 Olimpiade are in the minor mode--G 44 and C minor. However, arias in the major mode sometimes contained modulations to the tonic minor which, in some way, compensated for this restriction.
Coupled with this preference for the major mode, composers during this period also favored fast tempos. Because of the heroic nature of opera seria 3 composers avoided certain metres that were associated with popular music. This time permitted a style with a strong, though uncomplicated, rhythmic emphasis. It allowed among other things for fast vocalizations. During this second phase of opera seria 3 the Doctrine of the Affections became so standardized and hackneyed that many composers no longer sought for inspiration in the aria text and the dramatic action, but merely wrote a certain type of aria for a certain type of situation.
Aria types in opera seria according to Goldoni and Brown. Aria brillante Goldoni or aria di portamento Brown --arias with long sustained notes to express sentiments of dignity, and to display the beauty of the voice. Aria di mezzo carattere —a serious yet pleasing aria to express sentiments between the tenderness of the first and the dignity of the second. Aria di bravura —coloratura arias to show off the technique of the singer. This musical standardization gives most operas of this period a greater degree of uniformity than earlier opera had.
These new musical styles were simple and easy to imitate. Thus it is often less difficult to determine the date of an unknown opera, than to determine its composer. Stefano Arteaga in his Delle rivoluzioni del teatro musieale italiano complains that too many arias in contemporary opera sounded the same, and that they were being 47 used to depict "passions so different one from the other. The peculiar structure of opera seria discouraged musical unity.
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From a musical standpoint, each scene was a complete and independent unit consisting of an introductory recitative leading to an aria which is based on a single affection. Thus, musical unity was relegated to the single aria; the only relationship between the arias was that of their position within the literary framework of the libretto. Donald J. Grout finds an interesting parallel between opera seria and eighteenth- 47 Quoted in Robinson, Neapolitan Opera, Arias could be added or taken away without greatly altering the overall musical structure of the opera.
A composer could take arias from an old opera, which need not be his own, and add them to a new opera, or add new arias to an old opera. For example, Scarlatti borrowed three arias and a sinfonia from Cambise and one aria from Telemaco in his opera Marco Attilio Beg- 49 olo. These additions were often necessary during the normal run of an opera in order to satisfy the whims of the singers, and the audience's love for novelty. When these additions and deletions were taken to extremes, a pasticcio resulted. Form is relegated to setting off large sections of the recitative by prominent broken cadences in which the voice finishes, usually with an appoggiatura leap downward of a third or 53 a fourth before the cadential chords of the continuo.
All vestiges of seventeenth-century recitative, such as the lyrical arioso passages and chromaticism were banished as being crude and barbarous. Simple recitative at this time abounded in harmonic and melodic cliches, many of which had specific rhetorical functions. Tosi regarded it as "that tedious chanting which offends the ear," while De Brosse played chess in the theatre in order to "fill the vacuum of these long recitatives.
The accompanied recitative was usually reserved for scenes of intense drama, such as soliloquies, monologues, and pronouncements. While the vocal melody retains the declamatory style of simple recitative, it is intensified by the orchestral accompaniment which often exploits dissonant harmonies and bold modulations.
The orchestra provides a sustained or punctuated chordal accompaniment for the voice, and sometimes descriptive figuration between the vocal phrases that depicts the meaning and mood of the text.
Occasionally, measured arioso passages with orchestral accompaniment are inserted into the recitative to introduce the contrasting element of lyricism. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the average number of accompanied recitatives in most operas was one or two, 59 increasing to three or four by mid-century. Perhaps the reason for this restraint is explained by Metastasio in a letter to Hasse regarding his setting of Attilio Regolo Although Hasse generally followed Metasta- sio's advice and limited the accompanied recitatives to four or five in each opera, he gave them greater importance by increasing their length and by allotting a more active role to the orchestra.
New York: Da Capo Press, , pp. The Da Capo Aria Although the three-part da capo aria had been used frequently by earlier composers, in the operas of Scarlatti and his contemporaries, it assumed its position as the predominant aria form. The da capo aria provided composers with a balanced symmetrical form in which music could expand in a free but organized manner according to musical rather than dramatic principles.
The popularity of this form was such that in many operas of the period the da capo aria is the exclusive aria form; for example all forty-one arias and ensembles in Scarlatti's GriselcLa are in da capo form. Like most aspects of opera seria 3 the form of the da capo aria was highly standardized with regard to key scheme, text-setting, coloratura, and the relationship between the voice and the orchestra.
During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, it became almost mandatory for the da capo aria to begin with an orchestral ritornello. For example, while only twenty-seven of the forty-one da capo arias and ensembles in Griselda begin with ritornellos, all twenty-three da capo arias in Arminio begin with extensive ritornellos for orchestra. Besides serving as an introduction, the opening ritornello usually presents the main theme or motives which will be taken up by the singer. This may reflect the influence of seventeenth-century opera in which the ritornello was often an independent piece separate from the aria.
By the time of Hasse and his contemporaries, the thematic opening ritornello became the norm as is the case in twenty of the twenty-three da capo arias in Hasse's Arminio.
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Donald Jay Grout, vol. Rudolf Gerber, vols. Schott's Sohne, While the opening ritornellos in the arias of Scarlatti seldom exceed ten measures, those in the arias of Hasse often exceed thirty measures. The ritornello usually remains in the tonic, regardless of its length, and cadences before the vocal entry in order to give prominence to the soloist's opening phrase. The entire first section of the da capo aria is set to the first strophe of the aria text. Perhaps the reason for this arrangement "was so that the music could expand without unorganized proliferation of 64 word repeats.
Scarlatti adopted this binary structure in most of the arias in his late operas. For example, thirty-three of the forty-one arias in Griselda contain two settings of the first strophe separated by an intermediate orchestral ritornello. As the century progressed, the division of the A section into binary form became so pronounced that the da capo aria became a five- part form.
For example, all of the da capo arias in Arminio are in this five-part form. This decrease in the number of arias is demonstrated by comparing the forty-one arias and ensembles in Scarlatti's Griselda to the twenty-three arias and ensembles in Hasse's Arminio. Although these ordered text-settings greatly contributed to the expansion of the da capo aria as a musical form, the four settings of the first strophe tend to distort the da capo aria as a literary form.
King Frederick II of Prussia complained about this situation in a letter to his sister: "il me semble que, d'ailleurs, il y a de l'abus a repeter quatre fois la meme chose. Vos comediens, ma chere soeur, n'ont jamais ete mis a si ,,67 mauvais sauce. Bach continued to use the Devise in the da capo arias of his cantatas long after it had disappeared from opera. These figures indicate that there is definitely a regular key scheme, but it is not always followed. During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, the key scheme of the da capo aria became even more predictable.
For example, all twenty-two da capo arias in the major mode in Arminio cadence in the dominant at the end of the first vocal paragraph, while the single da capo aria in the minor mode cadences in the relative major at the end of the first vocal paragraph. The first text-setting is usually followed by an intermediate rit- ornello, which often remains in the same key as the previous cadence this is the case in all but two of the arias in Griselda with regular dominant or relative major modulations and all of the da capo arias in Arminio. In contrast to the opening ritornello, the intermediate rit- ornello remains rather short, usually between one to six measures in length.
The intermediate ritornello is usually based on material from the opening. Coloratura is an important element in the da capo aria of opera seria. Not only is it a virtuoso device to display the talents of the great singers, but it is also a structural one which contributes to the expansion of the da capo form. In the arias of Scarlatti, the use of coloratura can vary greatly from long passages of more than ten measures, as in the aria "Come presto nel porto," to short melismas of one or two measures, as in the aria "Nell'aspro mio dolor" from Griselda, Some arias in the operas of Scarlatti contain no coloratura passages as is the case in nineteen arias from Griselda.
However, most of these arias are rather short, and seem to have more kinship with the tripartite aria of seventeenth- century opera than with the da capo aria of opera seria. In the arias of most later composers, it became standard for each vocal paragraph to contain a coloratura passage as is the case in eighteen arias from Arminio.
As the century progressed, the coloratura passages continually increased in size, subsequently increasing the length of the aria. While coloratura passages in Scarlatti's arias are usually only two to four measures in length, in the arias of Hasse, they usually average between eight to sixteen measures in length. The second text-setting of the first section modulates back to the tonic, usually through sequences; rarely is a new key established before 36 the return of the tonic. The second vocal paragraph can be considered as an expansion of the first, or as a developmental section.
Usually melodic and rhythmic fragments are expanded by sequential treatment, and are varied by rearrangement and combination in the same manner that the second setting of the first strophe is varied and expanded by repetitions and combinations of various words and phrases. In addition, the second coloratura passage often can be regarded as a varied expansion of the first. Composers such as Giovanni and Marc Antonio Bononcini were 68 famous for the concise development of material in their arias. Usually the development is restricted to the upper melody, while the bass remains a non-thematic accompaniment.
For example, twenty-one arias in Arminio contain a shortened statement of the main theme at the beginning of the second vocal paragraph, eighteen of which are in the dominant. Although it became standard to begin the second vocal paragraph with a shortened statement of the main theme, a final restatement of the theme in the tonic never became a common feature of the da capo aria.
The reason for this is that the A section concludes with a return of the opening ritor- nello in the tonic, which can be regarded as the restatement. Rarely was this ritornello an exact repeat of the opening one, but rather a 68 Wolff, "Italian Opera ," pp. This ritornello was shortened by the omission and rearrangement 69 of the various motives and sequential passages.
The first of three improvised cadenzas occurs on the final caden- tial phrase of the second vocal paragraph. These cadenzas could be long and of extreme virtuosity, such as those of Farinelli which were written down for Empress Maria Theresa. However, these cadenzas were restricted in their length by being sung in a single breath. Tosi describes in critical terms the use of cadenzas in the da capo aria: Every Air has at least three Cadences, that are all three final.
Generally speaking, the Study of the Singers of the present Times consists in terminating the Cadence of the first Part with an overflowing of Passages and Divisions at Pleasure, and the Orchestre waits; in that of the second the Dose is encreased, and the Orchestre grows tired; but on the last Cadence, the Throat is set a going, like a Weather-cock in a Whirlwind, and the Orchestre yawns. These two types of cadenza indications are described by Quantz in his Versuch:.
Fer- matas, in which one pauses ad libitum in the middle of a piece, may well have a somewhat earlier origin. Edward R. For example, in twenty of the arias from Arminio the cadenzas in either one or both sections are indicated by fermatas over the six-four chord of the cadential phrase. The number of text-settings does not greatly affect the form of this section.
The reason for this is that the B section never developed an independent formal structure as did the binary A section. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the B section developed a modulatory scheme. The B section of arias in the major mode usually begins on the submediant and modulates to the mediant as in nineteen of the twenty-five arias in the major mode from Griselda. In arias in the minor mode, there is a tendency to modulate to the dominant at the end of the B section as in twelve of the sixteen arias in the minor mode from Griselda.
Seldom was any attempt made to create a transition between the contrasting tonal areas of the A and B sections. Perhaps composers felt that a transition would lessen the effect of contrast. During the middle of the eighteenth century, this modulatory scheme, rather than becoming more standardized as is usually the case, became more flexible. For example, the B sections in the major-mode arias of Arminio begin on either the tonic minor or major or the submediant, and modulate to either the mediant, the submediant, the subdominant, or the dominant. Coloratura tends to be avoided in the B section of most arias only ten arias in Griselda and eight arias in Arminio contain coloratura passages in the B section.
Rarely does the B section contain an intermediate ritor- nello, even when there are two settings of the aria's second strophe of the fifteen arias from Griselda in which the B section contains two text settings, only in five are brief intermediate ritornellos employed. Usually motivic fragments or rhythmic figures from the A section are developed at greater length in the B section, but in a more casual manner. The B section concludes with the second improvised vocal cadenza. This is followed by either a full da capo repeat of the A section, or by a shortened version of the opening ritornello with a dal segno indication leading to the first vocal entry of the A section nine of the twenty-seven arias in Griselda with opening ritornellos are shortened in the da capo with dual segno cuts in the opening ritornellos.
In spite of certain modifications, the form of the da capo aria remained basically the same. During the first half of the eighteenth century, it was used by all composers of Italian opera, oratorio, and cantata. The da capo form also found its way into French opera, English oratorio, and the German church cantata. However, the great imbalance 73 See Freeman, "Opera without Drama," pp. Because Caldara's operas span the era between Scarlatti and Hasse, the author traces the development of Caldara's arias from a three-part to a five-part form. In the opera Montezuma. Graun a fait un chef-d'oeuvre, il est tout en cava- tines.
Scarlatti is usually given credit for expanding the role of the orchestra, both in its interaction with the voice and in its greater use of woodwind and brass instruments. It was he who clothed their nakedness with the splendid attire of noble accompaniments, but they were dealt out by him in a sober and judicious manner. They were by no means intricate or obscure, but open and obvious; highly finished, yet free from all minuteness of affectation; and that not so much on account of the vastness of the theatres, by means of which many of the minor excellencies in musical performances may be lost, as in regard to the voices, to which alone they should be made subservient.
The basso oontinuo consists of cellos and basses doubled in octaves accompanied by the harpsichord. The string orchestra could be divided into three parts--violins, violas and basses, as in six arias in Griselda --or into two parts--violins and basses as in four arias in Griselda. In Scarlatti's earlier operas, two- and three- part accompaniments are the norm rather than the usual four; of the thirty-nine arias in Odoardo , there are fifteen continuo arias, seventeen arias with two-part accompaniment, eleven with three-part 78 accompaniment, and only six with four-part accompaniment.
But by the 's, it was standard to divide the orchestra into four parts as in twenty-one arias in Griselda. Very rarely are there four real parts, because of the great amount of doubling. At this time, it became common practice for the first violins to double the voice, the second violins to play the inner harmonies and the violas to double the basses at an 79 octave above. If the violas were given an independent part, then both first and second violins double the voice. Thus a three-part texture of melody, and two-part accompaniment is normally maintained.
Marcello criticizes this practice: "In any four-part compositions the modern 77 Freeman, "Opera without Drama," pp. While this type of aria was used effectively by certain composers, it was often misused by less talented ones. Marcello refers to this abuse in his II teatro allamoda : The modern composer must also write canzonettas for alto or mezzo soprano in which the bass instruments play the melody exactly as rendered by the singer, only that they transpose it down several octaves. The violins, on the other hand, will double it in the higher octave.
In the score the composer will write out all of these voices and he will call his aria a three-part composition. Oboes and flutes are often employed separately because in many opera orchestras they were played by the same persons. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, both recorders and transverse flutes were used, but by the 's, recorders had been replaced by their more modern counterpart. The oboes were often treated in the latter manner in order to strengthen the violins.
In general, the oboes are employed with greater frequency than are the flutes. Steffani was especially fond of the 80 Marcello, II teatvo alia moda , In his opera Tas - silone , oboes and bassoons are employed in twenty-three of the twenty-five arias with instrumental accompaniments; in another eight con- tinuo arias, oboes and bassoons are introduced in the final ritornello for tutti orchestra.
While the oboes and bassoons merely double the strings in eight of these arias, the oboes are given independent parts in thirteen arias and the bassoons in three. The trumpets are reserved for martial or ceremonial scenes, where they are sometimes doubled by the horns. The comi da oaeoia were first introduced into the opera orchestra by Scarlatti in Tigvane , and they appear in most of his subsequent operas.
Griselda, for example, employs the horns in three arias and two sinfonias. Thus as the century progressed, composers, following the example of Scarlatti, made greater use of the horns in their arias for example, nine of the twenty-five arias and ensembles in Arminio are scored for horns. Besides the addition of woodwind and brass instruments, the basic orchestra could be varied in several other ways.
One means of creating variety was to dispense with the continuo, either the harpsichord alone, or else the entire continuo group. The absence of the continuo created a light airy texture more characteristic of the Pre-Classical than of the Baroque style. Occasionally pizzicato or mutes are used for special effects. The aria "Della misera germana" from Act I of Arminio employs a muted string orchestra of first and second violins divisij first and second violas, and continuo with doubling flutes; and the aria "Augelletti, zefiretti" from Caldara's Dafne employs pizzicato strings senza cembalo.
Constantin Schneider, vol. The division of the orchestra into tutti and solo 3 which is the basis of the Baroque concerto, was probably first developed in the opera aria. Most later operas do not employ the concerto principle with the same consistency and clarity as this early example does. This not only introduced more variety in the scoring and dynamics, but had the practical advantage of avoiding conflict with the voice.
The payroll sheets of many opera houses, such as San Carlo in Naples, prove that most opera orchestras employed two harpsichords, one for the concertino and one Composers were not precise in their indica- for the concerto grosso. The most common solo instruments were the violin, oboe, flute, cello, and trumpet, although other instruments and instrumental combinations are possible. Some of the arias are scored for only obbligato instruments and continuo without any orchestral accompaniment. For example, Tassilone contains five concerted arias scored 86 Robinson, Neapolitan Opera 3 p. During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, arias with obbligato instruments became less common.
This practice was continued into the late Baroque opera seria. Orchestral music was usually restricted to the overture, which was used to quiet the audience before the opera, and to one or two brief sinfonias, which were used to introduce an act or a scene or to accompany some type of action on stage. This type of overture was characterized by its movement sequence of fast-slow-fast, its light homophonic textures, and its concise triadic themes; in form, texture, and thematic structure, the sinfonia was the o 7 Ibid.
Claire Shores, Michigan: Scholarly Press, , pp. The French ouverture was often employed by certain Italian or Italianate composers working in northern Europe. For example, while the operas Porpora wrote for Naples begin with sinfonias, those written for 89 London begin with French ouvertures, Ballet music in opera serza was very uncommon until mid-century, when it was sometimes placed at the end of an act to serve as an intermezzo; usually another composer provided the music for these ballets.
Even when a chorus was employed, choral music was relegated to the occasional choral interjection during crowd scenes and the traditional ooro finale. The ooro is usually a short homophonic piece, with prominent dance rhythms, in either binary or ternary form. When there was no chorus, the ooro was sung by the combined members of the cast. The perfunctory treatment of orchestral and choral music in opera seria contrasts with the lavish use of ballet, descriptive symphonies , and choral music in the French operas of Lully, Campra, and Rameau.
An exception to this is the festa teatrale s a type of opera seria which was written for certain princely courts on festive occasions. One of the most famous examples of the festa teatrale is Johann Joseph Fux's Costanza e Fortezza, which was lavishly produced at Prague in for the corona- 90 tion of Emperor Charles VI.
Unlike the choral and instrumental music, the duet was not treated perfunctorily but was given a great 91 amount of attention by both the composer and the audience. Certain composers, such as Scarlatti and Vivaldi, following the innovations of opera buff a, made greater use of ensembles. Like the duets, most of these ensembles are lyrical arias in which the main melodic line is shared among the soloists.
When the characters are given different texts, a true ensemble was sometimes created by giving each character or group 90 Johann Joseph Fux, Costanza e Fortezza, ed. Egon Wellesz, vol. Vienna: Osterreichischer Bundesverlag, The most common non-da capo aria is the arietta; the arietta is usually a short through- composed or binary air that lies stylistically between the aria and the accompanied recitative, partaking of the lyricism of the former and the flexibility of the latter.
In contrast to the da capo aria, the arietta is usually found at the beginning of a scene and is not followed by an exit the esoite of Zeno. For example. Act I, scene 5 and Act IV, scene 5 of Steffani's TassiZone begin with ariettas for Theodata and Geroldo respectively, who remain on stage until their subsequent exit da 93 capo arias. Porpora frequently employed the arietta in his London operas; Arianna and Polifemo contain eight and nine ariettas respec-.
On rare occasions, other aria forms are used to replace the da capo aria. Gerhard Croll, vol. This structure was probably suggested by the irregular aria text that is addressed to two characters, both together and separately, rather than to the audience, and is based on two contrasting affections. Many of these irregularities in form are conditioned by the libretto. Because the aria text is twelve rather than the usual eight lines in length, it is set by most composers as a non-da capo aria usually in 95 some type of two-part form.
It is rather peculiar that these few non- da capo arias, which are considered by the twentieth century as "more dramatic" than the da capo form dramatic in the sense that the shorter more varied forms are better able to follow the pace of the drama , were used regularly by these same operatic composers in their church music where the da capo aria would have been considered too theatrical; for example, the arias in the Stabat Mater settings of Scarlatti, Pergolesi, and Vivaldi are short through-composed airs which would be admirably suited to an operatic context. Thus composers seemed to associate the da capo aria form with the theatre and dramatic music.
Most operas contain one or two arias in which the B section is set in complete contrast to the A section. For example, the aria text to "Scelga il dardo" from Act II of Steffani's Tassilone expresses revenge and violence in the first strophe and death and despair in the second strophe. Additional contrast is created by the contrapuntal texture of the B section, which is rather uncommon in opera seria.
Occasionally, contrasting sections are introduced in either the A or B sections. Another slightly different treatment of this technique occurs in the aria "Dentro al seno" from Tassilone. This type of alteration creates a surprising effect similar to a false recapitulation in a Haydn symphony. On rare occasions, the da capo aria is interrupted by the dramatic action. Set amidst the formal regularity of opera seria 3 this type of verisimilitude could be very unexpected, and sometimes shocking. Four of the ten interruptions occur in the comic intermezzos at the end of Acts I and II and in the middle of Act III where they are less conspicuous because of the realistic nature of opera buffa.
The other six interrupted arias, with one exception, are found in the serious scenes of Act II. Four of these interruptions occur in arias that are clearly in da capo form, although there is no da capo. In these examples, Scarlatti exploits the formal regularity of the da capo aria by writing a very regular A section which creates the expectation of the B section and the da capo. When the interruption does occur--at the end of the final ritornello of the A section as in "Tutta sdegna ho l'alma" and "Ombre chieche orror di morte" , or at the beginning of the B section as in "Va il mio cor" , or even at the beginning of the second vocal paragraph as in "Vieni in sogno amato bene" --it is all the more surprising.
There seems to be no way to determine whether the librettist or the composer was responsible for these irregularities. All of the arias consist of a single strophe. This type of formal irregularity often occurs when the opening phrase of the aria is a continuation of the preceding recitative dialogue. For example, there are four arias in Scarlatti's Marco Attilio Regolo in which the voice enters before the orchestra. In all four arias, the soloist's opening phrase is a continuation of the preceding recitative, being either the conclusion of a speech as in "Spera un di per tuo riposa" and "Vanne infida" or a question as in "Non la vuoi?
The aria text to "Non la vuoi? It is curious that these four arias occur consecutively at the beginning of Act II and are followed by the interrupted arias mentioned above. Thus in the first twelve of the seventeen serious scenes in Act II, there are only two arias and a trio in regular da capo form. Perhaps Scarlatti or his librettist was trying to achieve some type of dramatic continuity and musical flexibility in the second act of this opera. Musical quotation or recapitulation is not a characteristic of opera seria. When the same or a similar text occurs at another point in the opera, it was usually accompanied by the same or similar music.
A celebrated example of quotation occurs in Metastasio's Alessandro nell 'Indie, There is a strong similarity in the texts to the arias "Se mai piu saro geloso" in which Poro assures Cleofide that he will never be a jealous lover and "Se mai turbo il tuo reposo" in which Cleofide assures Poro of her fidelity. In a duet, they each sarcastically quote the other's previous vows: The text invited some musical connection between one or both solos and the duet, and composers for fifty years or more commonly related them regardless of the fact that once the work had been set two or three times it was no longer original to do so.
In Handel's setting of the same libretto under the title of loro , these repetitions are given the same treatment except that Poro's music is in E-flat and Cleofide's music is in B-flat major. Porpora's Arianna contains several striking examples of musical quotation. The words of the message carved by Antiope upon a tree to cause dissension between Arianna and Teseo are given the same arioso setting each time they recur: first sung by Antiope in F, then twice by Arianna in G and F, and finally by Teseo in C.
This creates dramatic irony because as she sleeps, 98 assured of Teseo's love, Teseo abandons her on the island of Naxos. The grand soena often occurs in operas with a lengthy monologue in which violent emotions are expressed, such as a mad scene. As Fausta visits the tomb of her husband, Attilio, who supposedly has been murdered by her captor and suitor Ami- licare, her grief and desire for revenge cause her to see visions of Amilicare being punished by the furies.
The accompanied recitative is an extended piece, fifty-six measures in length, but is occasionally interrupted by passages of simple recitative in which Attilio, who is actually alive and hiding in his crypt, makes several asides. In the following aria, Fausta, believing she is still in the underworld, searches for her husband. Thus the accompanied recitative serves as the B section of the da capo aria. After the aria and a brief aside by Attilio, Fausta resumes her madness in an accompanied recitative of sixteen measures, until Attilio brings her back to her senses and to simple recitative.
A short dialogue of simple recitative leads to a duet in which they rejoice in their reunion. Although these irregular forms are both musically and historically interesting, they are almost always a small minority. Most oyeve sevie consist of a series of alternating da capo arias and simple recitatives. The occasional irregular form does stand out amid this formally rigid background, but it does not greatly effect the overall structure of an opera consisting of between twenty and thirty da capo arias. While employed as a violinist at the Hamburg opera house, Handel composed his first operas: Almira , Nero , and Florindo und Dafne Although only the first opera survives, it shows that Handel modelled his early operas on those of Reinhard Keiser with their polyglot libretti and their eclectic mixture of German, Italian, and French musical styles.
In , Handel left Hamburg for Italy in order to study the Italian opera first hand. In addition, these cantatas provided him with a storehouse of musical material that he was to re-use continually in his operas and oratorios. Agrippina, Handel's second Italian opera, was written specifically for Venice, and was produced with great success at the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo in One of the reasons for the extraordinary success of Agrippina was that Handel and his librettist.
The next opportunity for operatic activity came in London, where Handel produced Rinaldo in In Rinaldo, the librettists Aaron Hill and Giacomo Rossi made "a conscious attempt to establish a local variety of opera seria," which combined the magical subjects and elaborate scenic display of French opera with opera serial This attempt was repeated in Teseo and Amadigi , both of which are based on French libretti, in hopes of repeating the great success of Rinaldo.
The other two operas of this period, II Pastor Fido and Silla also can be considered as variants of opera seria', the former is a pastoral opera, while the latter is a chamber opera 2 Wolff, "Italian Opera ," p. Opera fell temporarily into disfavor between and , and at this time Handel found employment at Canons providing anthems for the Duke of Chandos.
Although the company had princely patronage, like the operatic establishments on the Continent, it was also a commercial venture with stocks that were bought and sold like those of the contemporary South Sea Company. Handel, Giovanni Bononcini, and later Attilio Ariosti were appointed as the composers for the Academy, and an impressive troupe of singers was employed which eventually included the castrato Senesino, the sopranos Cuzzoni and Faustina, the altos Durastanti and Anastasia Robinson, the tenor Borosini and the bass Boschi.
The formation of the Royal Academy marks the beginning of Handel's greatest period of operatic activity. In contrast to Handel's early London operas, all of the operas of this period are based on historical subjects and are of the heroic-dynastic type favored by Zeno and Metastasio. During the first five years of the Royal Academy period, Handel created some of his finest operas, in particular Radamisto , Giulio Cesare , Rodelinda, and Tamerlano. His later operas, while not musically inferior to these works, are 64 dramatically flawed because the libretti were adapted in order to appease the jealousy of two rival prime donned The Royal Academy attempted to exploit rivalries in order to arouse public interest.
At first the Academy pitted the talents of the two major composers, Handel and Bononcini against each other. This rivalry ended in a fight on stage between the two ladies which scandalized and delighted London social circles. However, the public was beginning to lose interest in this alien art form.
This lack of interest combined with the high costs of production and the sudden popularity of the English ballad operas caused the Royal Academy to fold in After a trip to the Continent to recruit new singers and to familiarize himself with the latest developments in Italian opera, Handel formed a partnership with the impresario Heidegger, and under the partial patronage of King George II, founded a second Royal Academy of Music.
In the Metastasian operas Poro and Ezio , Handel experimented with the new Neapolitan style he had encountered during his recent trip to Italy, 4 Ibid. Interest in opera partially revived, and the Prince of Wales formed a rival opera company in At the end of the season, Heidegger broke off the partnership with Handel and allowed the rival company access to the Haymarket Theatre. Undaunted by these setbacks, Handel moved the remnants of his company to the Theatre Royale at Covent Garden, and continued the competition for several years until both companies went bankrupt in Because of the presence of a ballet troupe and a chorus at Covent Garden during the season, both Alcina and Ariodante employ ballet and choral divertissements similar to French opera.
These operas contain elements of comedy and parody and are freer in their formal structure than opera seria is. By , Handel had finally realized that the English oratorio, the form he had developed during the last decade, was financially more profitable than Italian opera. In addition, Athalia and Saul had proved to Handel that the flexible form of the English oratorio was more conducive to creating dramatic music than was the rigid form of opera seria.
Although Handel abandoned opera after the failure of Deidamia, g he continued to compose dramatic music in his English oratorios. Streatfeild, Handel, 2nd ed.
There were two types of revisions. The first involved the modification of these old libretti to conform to Metastasian ideals, by clarifying a standard pattern of alternating recitative and da capo exit arias, reducing the number of characters, the number of subplots, and the number of arias, and removing comic scenes, unnecessary intrigue, and immorality. The second revision involved the adaptation of these libretti to suit the particular tastes of the London audiences.
Because the London audience did not understand Italian, opera was essentially a musical entertainment. Thus the dramatically important but musically barren recitative was greatly reduced in Handel's libretti, often to the detriment of the drama, in order to allow for less of a time lapse between the all-important arias. With a few exceptions, most of Handel's opera libretti came to him second- or third-hand. Other libretti have a more complex history; Serse is based on a libretto by Nicolo Minato which was originally setbyCavalli in , and was later adapted by Silvio Stampiglia for Giovanni Bononcini in before being set by Handel in While literary quality did not matter in London, where few in the audience understood the language, it is nevertheless curious that Handel was so uncritical of the libretti he set.
Although Handel was certainly sensitive to good poetry, as is proven by his settings Hj. His contemporary Rameau was plagued by the same lack of literary discernment. Because the main function of the opera seria libretto was to provide the composer with a series of aria situations, the libretti with the strongest, most varied, and most natural situations were best suited for musical setting regardless of their literary merits.
In these older libretti, the regular alternation of exit da capo aria and simple recitative is sometimes broken, the characters are less idealized, and the plots sometimes contain mythological and comic elements. Handel and his Singers During Handel's career as an opera composer in London, he had at his command some of the greatest singers of the eighteenth- century: the castratos Nicolini, Senesino, Carestini, Caffarelli, and Conti, the sopranos Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Strada, the altos Durastanti and Anastasia Robinson, the tenors Borosini and Fabri, and the basses Boschi and Montagnana.
He was one of the few composers of the eighteenth century to achieve some type of control over his singers and to curb some of their more flagrant abuses. He was able to achieve this control through his advantageous position as composer and manager, coupled with an "extra- 70 ordinary combination of tact, patience, humor, personal force, and even threats of physical violence. For example, Handel's half-humorous warning to the great Cuzzoni when she joined the Royal Academy in Oh, Madame, je sais bien que vous etes une veritable diablesse, mais je vous ferai savoir, moi, que je suis Beelzebub, le chef des diables.
But Handel silenced her complaints by threatening to throw her out of an open window. In a similar way, Handel used verbal threats and abuse to coerce Carestini into singing the aria "Verdi prati" from Alcina. Another aspect of Handel's relationship with the singers which is perhaps more revolutionary than his threats of defenestration was the influence he exerted upon them.
For example, Burney stated that 15 Grout, History of Opera , p. London: Cassell and Co. Handel had an even greater influence on the soprano Strada del Po who was his prima donna throughout the 's. Burney states that Strada was a singer formed by himself, and modelled on his own melodies. She came hither a coarse and aukward [sic] singer with improvable talents, and he at last polished her into reputation and favour. Between and , when the Opera of the Nobility employed most of the Italian singers in London, Handel began to rely on native and non-Italian singers.
These singers later were to achieve fame in Handel's oratorios. While Handel was often in conflict with his singers, it would be wrong to assume that he regarded them as a necessary evil. The opera scores from the 's and the early 's would seem to indicate 19 Burney, A Genevat History of Music , p. Most of the bravura arias written for the castrati — in particular Senesino — contain a certain type of coloratura, rapid passages in a narrow range and a low register which displayed the castrato vocal quality to its best advantage: Example 1.
Handel, Giulio Cesare , "Quel Torrente, che cade dal monte," meas. Bononcini and Ariosti also provided a similar type of coloratura in their castrato arias, which Burney amusingly described as the "furbelows. Burney, A General History of Music , p. These revisions were necessitated by the changes in the cast and entailed the transposition—and sometimes the modification—of certain arias to suit the ranges of the new singers.
In some cases, old arias were replaced by new ones. Each singer usually received at least one aria di bravura. Handel usually reserved this type of aria for moments of rejoicing, where the coloratura would be more appropriate, or for simile arias, where it could be exploited for descriptive purposes.
The aria di bravura is also employed in heroic situations where the virtuoso coloratura, of the type described above, is used to create an impression of strength as is the case in the title role of Giulio Cesare. However, in most dramatic situations, Handel generally avoided virtuoso coloratura.
Because the main characters are usually involved in the most dramatic situations, their roles sometimes contain less virtuosity than the roles of the secondary characters.