Two operas by Cavalli.
Francesco Cavalli. Artemisia: Dramma per musica by Nicolo Minato. Edited by Hendrik Schulze (score), Sara Elisa Stangalino (libretto). (Francesco Cavalli Opere.) Kassel: Barenreiter, 2013. [Pref. in Eng., p. vii-viii; introd. in Eng., p. ix-xxxii; libretto in It., Eng., p. xxxiii-xci; plates, p. xcii-xcviii; characters' ranges/instruments, p. ; index of scenes, p. [3-5]; score, p. 7-188; crit. report, p. 191-212. ISMN 979-0-006-55666-3; pub. no. BA 8906. 294 [euro].]
Resurgence of interest in the operas of Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) began in the late 1960s, spearheaded by the fanciful realizations by Raymond Leppard of several works. "Fanciful" is not used as much as a criticism--indeed, he did bring these forgotten gems onto the stage after many centuries of neglect--as it is a description of his thought process in doing so. Many alterations were made to the scores--reduction in the number of acts, abrupt transpositions of vocal parts, and overlapping of recitatives creating duets not in the original--so that the resultant work bore little resemblance to Cavalli's intention, and what seventeenth-century audiences may have experienced in live performance (for a more detailed account of some of these changes, see Carl Schmidt's review of a recording of Cavalli's L'Ormindo and L'Erismena, in Journal of the American Musicological Society 24, no. 2 [Summer 1971]: 313-17).
Opera in Venice as public entertainment came about in 1637 with the opening of the Teatro di San Cassiano. Traditionally these works were performed during the Carnival season (a period before the more introspective time of Lent), which lent itself to wild abandon, lascivious intrigues, and hidden desires unmasked. Carnival revelers were hungry for melodramatic works, filled with bawdy humor, and comic collisions of high and low culture. Opera, of course, was the perfect vehicle to provide all of these attributes in a single evening's entertainment. Dramas that featured mythological characters, fantastical scenes made possible by sophisticated stage machinery, and music that incited the passions were required to satisfy the paying public and to be successful. Fickle in their tastes, audiences would quickly turn their backs on a particular production if it did not rise to the level of their expectations. Cavalli was the most prolific and successful composer of this period, producing some forty operas, fourteen of which are now lost, before his death in 1676. Composers of opera in previous generations--Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), and Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)--focused more on the ideals of the Florentine Camerata, where the emphasis was placed on the text, the vocal music performed as if it were spoken, and the appearance of lyrical movements was rare. Cavalli's greatest contribution to the genre was perhaps the transformation from recitative as the main mode of communication in baroque opera, to include sections of arias and ariettas that moved seamlessly from one to the other.
Recent scholarly work on Cavalli and opera in seventeenth-century Venice has brought the composer's works back to center stage through performance and critical inquiry. Chief among this literature is Readying Cavalli's Operas for the Stage: Manuscript, Edition, Production (ed. Ellen Rosand, Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera [Farnham, Surrey, Eng.; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013]). Several editions of Cavalli operas outside of Leppard's realizations have appeared, some in facsimile publications, others in performing and critical editions. For facsimile editions, Cavalli's works were prominent in the Garland series Italian Opera 1640-1770, with several works for which Howard Mayer Brown provided an introduction (Scipione Africano [New York: Garland, 1978]; Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne ; and L'Oristeo ). Recently, a facsimile of Il novello Giasone, a 1671 adaptation by Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) of Cavalli's Giasone (1646) appeared as no. 3 in the series Drammaturgia musicale veneta (Milan: Ricordi, 2013). Critical editions of Cavalli operas have also appeared over the past several years, including La Doriclea, edited by Christopher J. Mossey (Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 132 [Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2004]); La Calisto, edited by Jennifer Williams Brown (Collegium musicum [Yale University], 2d ser., vol. 16 [A-R Editions, 2007]); and Il Giasone, edited by Jane Glover (performed London, 2010; unpublished, but see Glover's "Cavalli's Operas: Notes from a Performing Edition," in Readying Cavalli's Operas for the Stage, 13-16)], as well as those under review in this article.
Can a critical edition of an opera be made? Scholars have long debated this question, noting that the text of an opera may be constantly in flux, dependent on the needs of local performing forces, revisions made by the composer (or others), and the tendency of singers to interpolate arias unrelated to the drama at hand. For the nineteenth century and the works of Gaetano Donizetti in particular, Roger Parker makes a critical point that editors have the uneasy task of balancing the needs of performers with the responsibility of the textual critic. While the composer's autograph may be the point of departure, several aspects of Donizetti's compositional and notational practices warrant special treatment (see Roger Parker, "A Donizetti Critical Edition in the Postmodern World," in L'opera teatrale di Gaetano Donizetti: Atti del Convegno intemazionale di studio, Bergamo, 17-20 setiembre 1992, ed. Francesco Bellotto, 57-68 [Bergamo: Comune di Bergamo, 1993]). For the editing of earlier operatic works, both Michael Talbot and Jennifer Williams Brown make compelling arguments for creating editions that can serve both performer and scholar. Talbot argues that an edition that identifies the various historical layers of the opera's creation, and segregates them in the presentation of the text, may be the most logical to the performer, as it may allow for the reconstruction of the work's form at its premiere or in subsequent performances (see Michael Talbot, "What Does One Expect from a Critical Edition of a Baroque Opera?" Philornusica on-line 5, no. 2 , http://riviste.paviauniversitypress.it/index .php/phi/article/view/05-02-INT02/42 [accessed 25 February 2015]). He further argues that "some scholars and musicians would argue against such an eclectic approach ... on principle," stating "the problem ... of such an approach ... is that it departs radically from one of the most authentic features of all Seicento and Settecento opera: pragmatism.... [T]he optium version of an opera was the one that pleased the public best. Given the choice of three available versions of a given aria ... the one to select was the one most likely to please: strongest musically, dramatically most apt, [and] best suited to the singer...." Talbot's preference, then, is to group these alternative readings together in the score, satisfying both the performer and the scholar. Jennifer Williams Brown, writing in particular on Cavalli's operas, essays two methods for editing these works: (1) a traditional method, which compares the extant manuscript sources (whether autograph or copyist), and produces an edition based on what the editor deems the composer's intention, in an effort to solidify a single definitive version of the work; or (2) takes a postmodern approach which "elucidates the complex and fragmented process of transmission rather than reconstruct an author's definitive text" (see Jennifer Williams Brown, "Out of the 'Dark Ages': Editing Cavalli's Operas in the Postmodern World," in Francesco Cavalli: La circolazione dell'opera veneziana nel seicento, I Turchini saggi, ed. Dinko Fabris [Naples: Turchini Edizioni, 2002], 23). For Williams Brown, a postmodern approach employing a methodology "aimed at exposing layers of revision, will yield a more realistic view of how an opera achieved its historical influence [over that which] aimed at eradicating 'corruptions'" (Ibid., p. 25).
So with this background we approach the creation of a new edition of Cavalli's operas published by Barenreiter. The editorial board is comprised of some of the most distinguished scholars of seventeenth-century music in general, including Lorenzo Bianconi (text editor), Robert Holzer, Mauro Calcagno, Alan Curtis, and Dinko Fabris, among others; and of the music of Cavalli in particular, including Ellen Rosand (general editor), Jennifer Williams Brown, Wendy Heller, and Beth and Jonathan Glixon, et al. Each volume will have both a music editor and a text editor. The first phase of the edition "will be comprised of fourteen operas, half of those for which scores have survived" (p. vii, both volumes). General editorial principles for the edition are given in a preface in each volume, and are fairly clear. Rosand states in the preface that although some editions of the operas had appeared in the last decades of the twentieth century, they "were not in keeping with present day performance standards for early music," and that this new edition "will attempt to fill the need for reliable source-based editions as well as dependable performance materials" (p. vii, both volumes). She further outlines in general the state of sources for the operas--most of the primary sources are found in the Contarini Collection in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice--as well as the editorial challenges faced due to the brevity of the musical notation (often on two staves, with a sparsely figured bass line, with some passages for strings), as well as the importance of various librettos to the editorial process. Two editions have appeared to date: La Calisto in 2012, edited by Alvaro Torrente (score) and Nicola Badolato (libretto); and Artemisia in 2013, edited by Hendrik Schluze (score) and Sara Elisa Stangalino (libretto). As with other Barenreiter editions, these Cavalli volumes are elegantly laid out on die page, with ample gutters and margins, all case-bound in dark red (blood red?) linen.
La Calisto, Cavalli's fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651), premiered at the Teatro Sant'Apollinaire in Venice on 28 November 1651. The surviving account books for the production indicate that the opera was not very successful, with only eleven performances given (see Beth L. Glixon, and Jonathan E. Glixon, "Marco Faustini and Venetian Opera Production in the 1650s: Recent Archival Discoveries," Journal of Musicology 10, no. 1 [Winter 1992]: 48-73). Unlike other collaborations with Cavalli, Faustini takes a mythological subject as the basis of this opera, centering the drama on two leading pairs of characters: Callisto (as she is called in Greek mythology) and Giove, and Endymion and Diana, with several others--Linfea, Pane, Silvano, Saturino, Giunone, and Mercurio, et al.--added as subplots and to create ensembles. The prologue to the three acts of die opera feature the typical archetypes that represent universal patterns: Natura (Nature), Eternita (Eternity), and Destino (Destiny), who frame the work by projecting the nymph Callisto's fate: to be elevated to the stars as a constellation.
The impetus for Alvaro Torrente's critical edition of La Calisto was a 2005 performance at the Bayerischer Staatsoper, led by Ivor Bolton. While Torrente's edition stands firmly on its own, it is interesting to juxtapose his approach with that of Jennifer Williams Brown's edition cited above. The editions are parallel in many ways, and in others, very different. Each presents the plot, background of the production, instrumental and vocal requirements, as well as scenic and costume needs, and both provide the entire text of the libretto in the original Italian, with an English translation. The necessary critical apparatus appears in both. One of the strengths of Torrente's edition is his in-depth discussion of the mythological and literary background of the work, as well as Faustini's transformation of the story for the operatic stage. In addition, Torrente's discussion of aria types in the opera is given in the context of how the various characters are developed musically. In discussion of instrumentation, I feel that Williams Brown makes clear that in what Torrente calls "concerted arias," instruments play mostly between vocal utterances (with the exception, as Torrente points out, of several of Endymion's arias in which instruments do indeed play in counterpoint to the voice). Spectacle figures greatly in productions of seventeenth-century opera, where if the audience was not aurally and visually stimulated, the work would not be well received. Both Torrente and Williams Brown discuss the spectacle involved, but the approach that Williams Brown takes--a table of all the scenic requirements, along with painter and carpenter work needed--seems to provide better context. Costuming for the production is also covered by the two editors. Torrente, however, discusses this issue in the context of the costs involved to construct the costumes, while Williams Brown provides evidence for what was actually worn onstage.
Editorial guidelines, and the clear statement of them are the core of any critical edition. It is here that Torrente's and Williams Brown's editions vary the most. In both editions, the critical apparatus appears after the score. Might it be easier for the user of these editions to have this information upfront before the musical text begins, so that a clear understanding of how the sources were translated into modern notation was accomplished? Where the editions diverge is basically in barring, bass figures, clefs, and meter signs. In Williams Brown, the original barring of measures in the source are indicated by dotted barlines throughout the score, while Torrente employs a Strich, a stroke through the top staff line to indicate the original barring. Both editions also differ in the bass figures given for the continuo line, and how to indicate what is in the original and what is editorial. Indeed, I found several instances in the score where one editor indicated a figure was editorial, while the other indicated that it was original. Original meter signs in both editions are given above the top staff of any given piece where it is necessary. But there is no indication in the musical score of either edition as to original vocal clefs. In Torrente's approach, these are noted in the editorial policy section of the critical apparatus (p. 144), whereas in Williams Brown, they are included in the table of vocal ranges for each character that precedes the score. It might be clearer for the user, who needs to flip back and forth for this information, if the original clefs were indicated before each vocal piece (this is typical of other editions of early music).
To be clear, both of these editions are scholarly, well researched and presented, and useful for study and performance. It is not my intention in this review to elevate one over the other. Yet, they do underscore beautifully the different approaches to textual criticism that each editor uses, and as discussed above. Torrente's approach seems to be that of presenting a text guided by the principle of "composer's intention," that is, providing a clear reading of the musical text that may have corresponded to any performance of the work; while Williams Brown takes the postmodern approach by uncovering the historical layers of the work. In her approach, she includes the scores to later revisions by Cavalli, as well as music by other composers--Salvador Gandini and Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1678)--that can be substituted for dance music in the score (appendix 4). Especially useful, is the concordance of Williams Brown's edition to that of Raymond Leppard's edition (appendix 3).
When approaching the creation of a new critical edition of any music, it is always exciting to see lesser-known works take center stage. The next volume in this Cavalli operas set is the critical edition of Artemisia, the second collaboration of the composer with the librettist Nicolo Minato (ca. 1627-1698). This work is edited by Hendrik Schulze (score) and Sara Elisa Stangalino (libretto). For background, Artemisia probably premiered on 10 January 1657 at the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo--the extant libretto is dated 10 January 1657, and may have accompanied the initial performance, hence, the probability of the date--the same venue at which Xerse, the first collaboration of composer and librettist, took place in 1655. The opera is in three acts, with a prologue the music for which is now lost. While the libretto for Xerse took its inspiration from history, Minato's libretto for Artemisia was his "own pure invention" (p. xxxiv). The story is, however, based on historical accounts of the widow queen of King Mausolus as told by several authors from the first to the sixteenth centuries, among them Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79), Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), and Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533). What Minato "invented" was several subplots that center on love intrigues, and which impede the military action that comprises the main part of the drama.
Hendrik Schulze, the editor of this volume, states in his introduction "Artemisia can ... be seen as an ideal type of the genre opera at the time, standing for all that was successful in Cavalli's operas at the peak of his ability and fame" (p. ix). Indeed, Schulze has worked with the opera for almost twenty years, and knows it thoroughly (see, for example, his article on aria forms in the opera, "Plot Structure and Aria Position in Nicolo Minato and Francesco Cavalli's Artemisia (1657)," Musica e storia 12, no. 1 [April 2004]: 91-102). That familiarity shines clearly in his edition, an excellent example of an editor using his knowledge of style, compositional process, and of the various layers of revisions to fashion a credible performing edition for a work whose extant sources are both clear and confusing. Schulze's introduction to the edition covers the expected topics in a cogent manner. He essays the political background of the libretto, the character of Artemisia, and the juxtaposition of class levels in the work, as well as outlining the form and function of the interaction of each pair of lovers in the subplot. The discussion of instrumental music, recitative, dance music, and cuts and revisions flow easily one into another, providing an exciting narrative of the opera's genesis and performance (the discussion of the various layers of the extant source, a manuscript mostly in Cavalli's hand, and probably used by him to conduct rehearsals and performances, is tersely stated, but expertly handled). For any cuts to be made in modern performances of the work, Schulze makes the masterful observation that Minato cast each of his acts in twenty scenes, a number divisible by four, and urges that if cuts are made, the resulting acts should always be evenly divisible by four (i.e., twelve or sixteen scenes).
Schulze also makes some editorial decisions that affect the layout of the musical text. One of the most useful (at least to this reviewer) is the placing of recitative on individual staves when the vocal parts overlap (as opposed to the more typical method of all characters on one staff). This approach clearly illuminates the interaction of the characters, as well as suggesting to performers whether they might choose to delay an entrance or respond quickly to heighten dramatic effect. Likewise the embedding of stage directions from the libretto into the score (given in brackets above the musical score) clarifies the entrance and exit of individual characters, as well as indicating to performers what particular affect is needed to convey meaning.
While Schulze is clearly in the camp of providing a reading of the work as possibly performed in the seventeenth century--the traditional manner of textual criticism--his edition, as he states, "cannot claim the status of a 'Fassung letzter Hand' or even an Urtext" (p. xxvi). Schulze takes the postmodern approach of demonstrating the various historical layers of the sources by including a number of appendices. These additions provide the musical text to rejected openings and conclusions of various acts, scenes that were suppressed, and original versions of particular scenes (e.g., act 3, scene 19, with Alindo as soprano, rather than transposed for alto).
Whatever the criticisms of tirese editions may be, it is refreshing to see these works brought to light in such a scholarly manner, one that is also performer-friendly. The study of music of the seventeenth century was once hampered by the lack of available scores and editions necessary to undertake scholarly investigations and mount productions. Happily, the appearance of these new critical editions of Cavalli operas, along with those of music by other contemporary composers over the past two decades, have assuaged the situation.
JAMES P. CASSARO
University of Pittsburgh
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|Title Annotation:||Francesco Cavalli|
|Author:||Cassaro, James P.|
|Article Type:||Sound recording review|
|Date:||May 27, 2015|
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