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Opera Composer 1590 1890 Essay

5963 words - 24 pages

Peri's Euridice (1600)Jacopo Peri's Euridice, the earliest opera to survive in its entirety, is clearly indebted to Poliziano's play. Like the Orfeo, the Euridice combines the pastoral and tragic traditions, creating a sentimental, almost "romantic" tone. Pastoral elements in the opera include the band of shepherds who form the retinue of Orpheus and Eurydice and, most importantly, the frequent use of the pathetic fallacy. For instance, at the beginning of the opera, Ottavio Rinuccini's libretto states that there is not an animal in the forest, a bird in the trees, or a fish in the streams that fails to rejoice at the news of Orpheus and Eurydice's betrothal (Che non e fera in bosco, augello ...view middle of the document...

Their opera was to be performed on October 5, 1600, the day after the marriage of Maria de' Medici and Henry IV of France. As part of these celebrations, the first performance of Euridice took place before two hundred specially invited guests in the private rooms of Antonio de' Medici on an upper floor of the Pitti Palace in Florence. Since Orfeo had been intended from its inception to be part of these marriage festivities, Peri and Rinuccini wanted its overall tone to be jubilant. The result was a mixture of Greek tragedy's profound seriousness with pastoral poetry's lighter spirit and joyous endings. (Ross 2005)Providing Euridice with an ending suitable for the celebration of a marriage meant, however, that Peri had to ignore major parts of the legend. The audience consisted of many people who had read Vergil and Ovid, people who would have been familiar with the traditional version of this story. To prepare their audience for the substantial liberties that they would take with the plot, Peri and Rinuccini began their opera with a prologue in which the personification of Tragedy renounced the horrific images of ancient drama in favour of a more joyous mood:Non sangue sparso d'innocenti veneNon ciglia spente di Tiranno insano,Spettacolo infelice al guardo humanoCanto su meste, e lacrimose scene. . . Tal per voi torno, e con sereno aspettoNe' Reali Imenei m' adoro anch'io,E su corde piu liete il canto miotempro, al nobile cor dolce diletto.No longer of blood shed by innocent veins,Nor of eyes put out by the insane Tyrant,Unhappy spectacle to human sight,Do I sing now on a gloomy and tear-filled stage?. . . Thus changed, I return; serenely, I, too,Adorn myself for the Royal wedding,And temper my song with happier notes,Sweet delight to the noble earTo achieve these "happier notes," Peri and Rinuccini simply allowed Orpheus to be successful in his efforts to return Eurydice from the underworld. (Buller 1995) In Peri's Euridice, there is no "looking back," no second parting, no need for Orpheus to wander the world distraught with grief. Although delayed, the wedding of Orpheus and Eurydice takes place as planned and the opera ends with a choral dance in honour of Orpheus's music and his heroic courage. These extraordinary changes from the traditional version of the Orpheus legend must have seemed extreme even to Peri's contemporaries. In his dedication of the work to Maria de' Medici, Rinuccini says:To some I may seem to have been too bold in altering the conclusion of the fable of Orpheus, but so it seemed fitting to me at a time of such great rejoicing, having as my justification the example of the Greek poets in other fables. Rinuccini argued, in other words, that his departure from the traditional legend of Orpheus was no more extreme than, for example, those of Euripides in Iphigenia in Aulis, where the passive victim of earlier legend had been transformed into an active heroine, or in Helen, where the poet denied that the Spartan queen had...

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