Saturday, November 22, 2014

From Monteverdi to Mozart: Operas... with some Hamlet on top

In class, I talked about Claudio Monteverdi's development of the opera. In L'Arianna, Monteverdi sets to music the libretto by Rinuccini, who took his influence from Ovid's Heroides (epistolary poems, definitely worth reading in translation). Rinuccini's adaptation tells the story of Theseus leaving Ariadne. The death of Monteverdi's wife immediately prior to the publishing of L'Arianna most evidently add a lugubrious tone to the libretto's only surviving musical accompaniment, "Lamento d'Arianna" (the reason it alone survives is because Monteverdi published it separately in a book madrigals).

Side note: when researching, I found a new word: monody means a poem written to lament someone's death (usually using apostrophe).

Back to the opera: Notice the reliance on polyphony that Monteverdi uses in the music to this monody. This relates to his idea of merging the two spheres (namely, artistic poetry and pure music). Further, from the standpoint of his "Philosophy of Music," which followed Plato's ideals regarding emotion, this lament would most definitely fall under the "love" category, for Ariadne has lost a loved one. Here's the opera:


Jumping forward a century, Mozart also represents an integral link in the development of operatic style, among other musical styles. Instead of relying on polyphony and the voice as the sole source of music like Monteverdi did, Mozart used instrumentation to augment the voices, which themselves were involved in a dialogue. By using dialogue, Mozart is clearly shifting toward more plot-and-poetry focused music in contrast with Monteverdi's largely musical aim. The desire to have individual styles proves that the Renaissance ideal of individualism and making one's art "his/her own" carried on into the 18th century (and to the present day, for that matter). Here is a pretty famous aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni, "Or sai chi l'onore," with Donna Anna performed by soprano Renee Fleming.


Notice the subject matter ("l'onore" = honor). Donna Anna's father was killed by Don Giovanni, and she enlists Don Ottavio's help in avenging her father's death. Sound familiar? The revenge motif pervades all genres of art, from Shakespeare's tragedy to Mozart's operas.

1 comment:

Breuna Westry said...

I absolutely love music and these two pieces brought me chills. The second however you can feel the rushed tempo. To me it seemed more like planning and action. Hamlet seemed to do a lot of planning but rarely had action. She seems to know what she wants and that is revenge.