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GRESHAM COLLEGE 2005 Operatic crises and reforms in the 18th century The path to Gluck’s Orfeo A lecture by Roderick Swanston.

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Presentation on theme: "GRESHAM COLLEGE 2005 Operatic crises and reforms in the 18th century The path to Gluck’s Orfeo A lecture by Roderick Swanston."— Presentation transcript:

1 GRESHAM COLLEGE 2005 Operatic crises and reforms in the 18th century The path to Gluck’s Orfeo A lecture by Roderick Swanston

2 François Raguenet 1702 A Comparison between the French and Italian Music and Operas Operas are the compositions that admit of the greatest variety and extent……Our [French] operas are writ much better than the Italian; they are regular, coherent designs; and, if repeated without the music, they are as entertaining as any of our other pieces that are purely dramatick. Nothing can be more natural and lively than their dialogues; the gods are made to speak with a dignity suitable to their character; kings with all the majesty their rank requires, and the nymphs and shepherds with a softness and innocent mirth, peculiar to the plains. Love, jealousie, anger, and the rest of the passions, are touch’d with the greatest art and nicety.

3 Raguenet goes on to add As the Italians are naturally more lively than the French, so are they more sensible of the passions, and constantly express ‘em more lively in all their productions. If a storm, or rage, is to be describ’d in a symphony, their notes give us so natural an idea of it, that our souls can hardly receive a stronger impression from the reality than they do from the description; every thing is so brisk and piercing, so impetuous and affecting, that the imagination, the senses, the soul, and the body itself are all betray’d into a general transport; ‘tis impossible not to be borne down with the rapidity of these movements. A symphony of furies shakes the soul; it undermines and overthrows it in spite of all; the violinist himself, whilst he is performing it, is seiz’d with an unavoidable agony; he tortures his violin; he racks his body’ he is no longer master of himself but is agitated like one possessed with an irresistible motion

4 Handel in 1726/7

5 Ariosti Bononcini Handel’s rival composers in the Royal Academy of Music

6 Da tempeste (Cleopatra) Da tempeste il legno infranto, se poi salvo giunge in porto, non sa più che desiar. Così il cor tra pene e pianto, or che trova il suo conforto, torna l’anima a bear. Da tempeste &c When the ship When the ship, broken by the storms,Succeeds at last in making it to port, It no longer knows what it desires. Thus the heart, after torments and woes, Once it has recovered its solace, Is beside itself with bliss. When the ship & Da tempeste from Giulio Cesare Handel 1724

7 Engraving of Handel’s Giulio Cesare on stage

8 Faustina Bordoni

9 Senesino

10 Pietro Metastasio ( ) - wrote 27 drammi per musica - most influential librettist of his, perhaps any day - student of Niccola Porpora he - wrote his first dramma per musica in succeeded Apostolo Zeno as Imperial Court Poet in Vienna, where he remained till his death - he wrote the libretto of La Clemenza di Tito in he considered his libretti as plays and as literature, and he roundly denounced the growing operatic abuses he perceived - He disliked composers who treated singers as though they were violinists

11 The execution of a play is an extremely difficult undertaking in which all the arts participate; and they, in order to assure the best possible success of their venture, appoint a dictator. Does the music perhaps aspire this high office? It will occupy it on occasion, but in that case it will slight the subject and the economy of the plot; will determine the moments of the individuals’ entrances as well as the characters and the situations; will imagine the decorations, invent the songs, and commission the poetry to furnish suitable verses. And if it refuses to do all this, because of the many qualities necessary for the creation of a play, it possesses only the science of sounds, it leaves the rule to that art which has them all and, imitating the repentant Minucius in admitting that it cannot command, obeys. In other words, if by the grace of its venerable patron it did not carry the name of fugitive slave, it could not avoid being called a Republican rebel. Letter to Francesco Giovanni di Chastellux, 1766

12 Vidi io stessa, oh Dei! lo sposo, Dagli amplessi miei rapito, Esser vittima, tradito, Do un' amico traditor. Nel mirarmi in fin costretta Domandar a te vendetta, Puoi veder al vivo espresso Quel dolor, che mi trafigge Nel più tenere del cor. Even as I, 0 gods, you beheld my spouse Torn from my embraces, And I the victim, betrayed By a treacherous friend Now you see me constrained To beseech you for vengeance; Most vividly may you see What suffering pierces me To the depths of my heart. Tra le procelle assorto Se resta il passeggiero, Colpa non a il nocchiero, Ma solo il vento, e il mar. Colpa non à, se il frutto Perde l'agricoltore, Ma il nembo, che sui fiore. Lo venne a dissipar. If in the midst of the tempest The passenger is drowned, The steersman is not to blame, But only the gale and the sea. If the fruit is lost, The farmer is not to blame, But the squall that has come To squander the blossom. Cornelia - Act 1 Sc 2 Cleopatra - Act 1 Sc 8 CH Graun - Cleopatra e Cesare

13 Niccolo Jomelli

14 Jomelli Vologeso recitative Berenice, dove sei? qual lugubre apparato di spavento e di lutto? Qual di tenebre e d'ombre, regia dolente e fiera? forse qui di Fieste di rinuovan Ie cene? O langue iol giorno fugitivo così, perché tra queste soglie funeste, oh Dio! trucidato mori I'idolo mio? ahimè! Sogno o son desta? odo... o parmi di udir... la voce, il pianto del moribondo sposo. Ahi, son pur questi gemiti di chi langue, singulti di chi spira. E quella oscura caligine profonda che là s'innalza e mostra non so qual simulacro agli occhi miei, quella, si quella, oh Dei! già la ravviso, è del mio Vologeso l'ombra mesta e dolente... ah barbaro tiranno, il mio sposo uccidesti, io non m'inganno. Berenice, where are you? What sombre display of terror and grief is this? What sorrowful and cruel play of darkness and shadows? Are the Fieste banquets perhaps to be repeated here? Or does the fleeting day end like this because on these fatal thresholds, O God, my idol was slaughtered and died? Alas! Am I dreaming or waking? I hear... or seem to hear... the voice, the tears of my dying husband. Ah, those are indeed the groans of one who is languishing, the sobs of the dying. And this deep dark mist that rises there and shows I know not what illusion to my eyes - that, yes that, O gods, I recognise. It is the mournful and grieving shadow of my Vologeso... Ah, barbarous tyrant, you have killed my husband, I am not deceived.

15 Jomelli aria Ombra che pallida fai qui soggiorno. Larva che squallida mi giri intorno, perché mi chiami? Che vuoi da me? Che giri? Se pace brami, ombra infelice, in Berenice pace non v'è. Pale shadow that tarries here, bleak ghost that circles round me, why do you call me? What do you want of me? If you long for peace, unhappy shade, in Berenice there is no peace.

16 Traetta

17 Traetta - Antigona Act 2 - recit Ombra cara (Antigona) Ombra cara, amorosa, ah perchè Mai Tu corri al tuo riposo, ed io qui resto? Tu tranquilla Godrai Nelle sedi beate, ove non guinge Nè sdegno, nè dolor; dove ricopre Ogni cura mortale eterno oblio; Nè più rammenterai Fra gli amplessi paterni Il pianto mio Nè questo di dolor soggiorno infesto. Ombra cara, amorosa, ah, perchè mai Tu corri al tuo riposo, ed io qui resto? Dear, beloved shade Dear beloved shade, ah, why Do you hasten to your rest while I remain here? You will enjoy peace in those happy regions Untouched by hatred and by pain; Where every mortal care Is covered in eternal oblivion; And in the embrace of your ancestors You will no longer remember My lament Nor this abode full of sorrow. Dear beloved shade, ah, why Do you hasten to your rest while I remain here

18 Traetta - Antigona Act 2 - aria Io resto (Antigona) Io resto sempre a piangere, Dove mi guida ognor, D’uno in un altro orror, La cruda sorte. E a terminar le lacrime Pietosa al mio dolor, Ahi, chè non giunge ancor Per me la morte. Io resto sempre &c. I shall remain I shall remain to weep forever Where cruel destiny Leads me ever on To further horrors. Why will not death Show mercy to my sorrow And come to me To put an end to my tears? I shall remain &c

19 Christoph Willibald Gluck ( ) - bn Germany studied Prague University Vienna with Prince Lobkowitz in Italy to study with Sammartini - then directed opera in Denmark & London (1746- met Handel) Naples - La Clemenza di Tito appointed by Empress Maria Theresa opera Kapellmeister to Viennese Court

20 Gluck’s Parnaso confuso a performance at the Sch ö nbrunn Palace

21 Painting of the first performance of Gluck’s La Clemenza di Tito - in Teatro San Carlo, Naples 1752

22 Gluck/ MetastasioLa Clemenza di Tito Vitellia’s aria at the end of Act 2 Tremo fra’ dubbi miei Pavento i rai del giorno; L’aure, che ascolto intorno, Mi fanno palpitar. Nascondermi vorrei, Vorrei scoprir l’errore; Nè di celarmi ho core, Nè core ho di parlar I tremble in my uncertainty; I fear the daylight; The breezes I hear around me Make my heart beat fast. I would hide away, I would reveal the error; But I lack courage either to hide Or to speak out.

23 Ah, taci, Barbaro, e del tuo fallo Non volermi accusar. Dove apprendesti A secondar di cieca donna irata, Un delirio d’amore? Ah, tu nascesti, Crudel, per mia sventura. Empio, se tun non eri, oggi di Tito La destra stringere: leggi alla terra Darei dal Campidoglio: ancor vantarmi Innocente potrei. Per tua cagione Son rea: perdo l’empero: Non spero più conforto! E Tito, ah scellerato! e Tito è morto. Come, potesti, oh Dio! Perfido traditor... Ah, che la rea son io! Sento gelarmi il cor, Mancar mi sento. Pria di tradir la fè, Perchè, crudel, perchè... Ah, che del fallo mio Tardi mi pento Gluck - La Clemenza di Tito – Act 2 Sc 6 Vitellia Ah, be silent, Villain, and do not accuse me Of your offence. Where did you learn To indulge the crazed love Of a woman blinded by anger? Ah, cruel man, You were born to bring misfortune. If it were not for you, villain, today I would be Taking Titus’s hand: I would be giving laws To the world from the Capitol: I would still be able To boast of my innocence. Because of you I am guilty: I have lost the Empire: I can no longer hope for comfort! And Titus, ah wicked man! and Titus is dead. How could you, O God! Faithless traitor.. Ah, I am the guilty one! My heart turns to ice, I feel faint. Before betraying your word, Why, cruel man, why... Ah, too late I repent Of my sin.

24 Gluck/ MetastasioLa Clemenza di Tito Sesto’s aria- Act 2 Scene 14 Se mai senti spirarti sul volto Lieve fiato che lento s’aggiri Di: son questi gli estremi sospiri Del mio fido, che muore per me Al mio spirto dal seno Disciolto La memoria di tanti martiri Sarà dolce con questa mercè. If ever you feel upon your face A soft, slowly drifting breath, Say; this is the dying breath Of my faithful love, who dies for me When my sould has left my breast The memory of so much torment Will be sweet, with this reward.

25 Gluck on his reforms - from the preface to Alceste (1767/9) "When I undertook to write the music for Alceste, I decided to rid it altogether of those abuses which introduced either by the inappropriate vanity of the singers or an exaggerated complaisance on the part of the composers, have long disgraced the Italian opera I sought to restrict music to its true function, namely to serve the poetry by means of the expression - and the situations which make up the plot - without interrupting the action or diminishing its interest by useless and superfluous ornament. I thought it should do for the poem what the vivid colours and the skilfully contrived contrasts of light and shade, which serve to animate the figures without changing their outline, do for a correct and well- proportioned drawing. Accordingly, I did not wish to stop an actor in the greatest heat of dialogue in order to let him wait for a dull ritournelle; nor did I want to interrupt a word on a suitable vowel to let him display, in an extended passage, the agility of his fine voice......I refused to let the singers glide rapidly over the second part of an aria, which may be the most passionate and important one, to have them repeat four times the words of the first part; or to end an aria when its full meaning has perhaps not yet been conveyed, in order to give the singer a chance to show how capriciously he can vary a passage in diverse manners

26 Gluck on his reforms "By a stroke of luck the libretto was admirably suited to my intentions, its famous author having constructed it according a new dramatic plan. He has replaced the flowery descriptions, superfluous similes, and cold and sententious maxims by the language of the heart, by strong passions, interesting situations, and a constantly changing spectacle” "If one seeks the truth, one must change style according to the subject, the greatest beauties of melody and harmony turning into faults and imperfections when they are out of context” - Gluck letter to Duc de Bragance (1770) - Dedication of Paride ed Elena "Whatever the composer's talent, he will compose nothing but mediocre music unless the post inspires him with that enthusiasm without which all works of art remain weak and dull Always as simple and natural as I can make it, my music stives toward the utmost expressiveness and seeks to reinforce the meaning of the underlying poetry. It is for this reason that I do not use those trills, coloraturas, and cadences the Italians employ so abundantly” - letter to Mercure de France (1773)

27 Gluck on expression I believed that the voices, the instruments, all the sounds, and even the silences, ought to have only one aim, namely that of expression, and that the union of music and words ought to be so intimate that the poem would seem to be no less closely patterned after the music than the music after the poem.

28 Orfeo production 1764, Paris

29 GRESHAM COLLEGE 2005 Operatic crises and reforms in the 18th century A lecture by Roderick Swanston Thank you for coming


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