Con Che Soavita: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580-1740

Con Che Soavita: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580-1740

Con Che Soavita: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580-1740

Con Che Soavita: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580-1740

Synopsis

This collection of essays by European, British, and American musicologists seeks to consolidate the recent growth of interest in seventeenth century studies. It includes discussions of leading composers, repertories, geographical issues, institutional contexts, and iconography.

Excerpt

In his celebrated Paralèle des italiens et des françois, en ce qui regarde la musique et les opéra (Paris, 1702), François Raguenet made strong claims for Italian music as being superior to French. The secret of Italian achievements, he said, lay above all in the skills brought to the task of fusing words and music so as to realize exhaustively and effectively the sentiments of the poetry. But there was surely another feature of the Italian style that Raguenet, like many of his predecessors, recognized in music from south of the Alps: its delicate combination of sweetness, subtlety, charm, and grace that the Italians called soavità. The notion of soavità became a benchmark of aesthetic quality and artistic craft in seventeenth-century commentaries on Italian music; it was also a quality deliberately invoked by contemporary poets and composers. Not for nothing did Monteverdi include a setting of Guarini 'Con che soavità labbra adorate' in his Concerto:
settimo libro de madrigali
(Venice, 1619). And not for nothing did he set the poem for a striking combination of solo voice and nine instruments. As with the Seventh Book as a whole, it seems clear that Monteverdi was making some kind of statement about the new styles of Italian music that had emerged so significantly, and so surprisingly, during his own lifetime.

Whatever the merits of contemporary comparisons of French and Italian music, or the objectivity of the arguments they entailed, our choice of Italy as the central theme of these essays needs no apology. Although the country itself should be thought of more as a series of centres, each with distinct and changing traditions, rather than as a single entity, there can be no doubt that throughout the period covered by these studies the peninsula was of fundamental and lasting importance for the history of European music. It was in Italy that opera was established for the first time in the competitive and impresarial conditions that were to make it the dominant form of theatrical entertainment throughout the Continent for some 250 years. Equally, it was also in Italy that the concept of 'concerto', provocatively incorporated into the title-page of Monteverdi's Seventh Book, was first adopted and developed. And here, too, the new styles of the early decades of the century for solo voice(s) and basso continuo forged new paradigms of musical structure and expression of profound significance for years to come. The results inaugurated a wider trend that was to bring the Musiche ofSigismondo d'India . . .

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