You are on page 1of 50
American Musicological Society "Imitar col canto chi parla": Monteverdi and the Creation of a Language fory : Universit y of California Press on behalf of the American Musicological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/831883 Accessed: 21/09/2010 14:12 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the p ublisher re g ardin g an y further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucal . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of California Press and American Musicological Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the American Musicological Society. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">

American Musicological Society

"Imitar col canto chi parla": Monteverdi and the Creation of a Language for Musical Theater Author(s): Mauro Calcagno

Source: Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Autumn, 2002), pp.

383-431

Accessed: 21/09/2010 14:12

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless

you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucal.

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

American Musicological Society "Imitar col canto chi parla": Monteverdi and the Creation of a Language fory : Universit y of California Press on behalf of the American Musicological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/831883 Accessed: 21/09/2010 14:12 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the p ublisher re g ardin g an y further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucal . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of California Press and American Musicological Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the American Musicological Society. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-61" src="pdf-obj-0-61.jpg">

University of California Press and American Musicological Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the American Musicological Society.

http://www.jstor.org

"Imitar col canto chi parla":

Monteverdi and the Creation of

a Language for Musical Theater

MAURO CALCAGNO

n his 1581 Dialogue on Ancient and Modern

Vincenzo

urges composers to go to the theater and listen to the characterson Galilei stage,

Music,

particularly

when one

quietgentleman speaks with another, in whatmanner he speaks...

whenone of them speaks withone of his servants, or one of thesewith another;

[when] the prince ...

[converses] withone of his subjects and vassals; when

...

with the

petitioner who is entreating his favor; how the man infuriated or ex-

cited speaks; the married woman, the girl, the mere child, the clever harlot, the

lover speaking to his mistressas he seeksto

persuade herto grant his wishes, the

manwho laments, the one who cries out, the timid man, andthe manexultant

with joy.'

According to Galilei,composers who set textsto musicshould not

only

imi-

tate affects abstractly, but shouldalso take into accountthe concretecontext

in which words are uttered, as

characters naturally do in

communicating

witheach other on stage.2Musicians, in Galilei'sview, should "[consider]very

Preliminary versionsof this paper were presented at the InternationalConference on EarlyOpera

and Monody "In Armonia Favellare," held at October 2000, and at the Sixty-sixth Annual

Toronto, November

the University of Illinois,

Urbana-Champaign, in

 

Society,

History, rev. ed., ed.

Principe

discorrendo con un

disporla alle sue voglie;

come

di essi parla con un suo servo,

Meeting of the American Musicological

2000. I am very grateful to Ellen Rosand for her comments.

  • 1. The passage is translatedin Oliver Strunk, Source Readings in Music

Leo Treitler (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), 465-66.

musici] per lor diporto vanno alle Tragedie e Comedie ...

parla ...

l'uno con l'altro quieto gentilhuomo ...

The original Italianreads: "Quando [i osservino di gratia in qual maniera

quando uno

overo l'uno con l'altro di questi; considerino quando ci6 accade al

suo suddito e vassallo;quando al supplicante nel raccomandarsi; come ci6 faccia l'infuriato, o

concitato; come la donna maritata; come la fanciulla; come il semplice putto; come l'astutamere-

trice; come l'innamoratonel parlare con la sua amata mentre cerca

quelli che si lamenta; come quelli che grida; come il timoroso; e come quelli che esulta d'alle-

grezza" (Vincenzo Galilei,Dialogo ...

della musica antica et della moderna [Florence:Marescotti,

1581], 89, section "Da chi possano i moderni

pratticiimparare l'imitazione delle parole"["From

whom the modern practitioners can learnthe imitation of words"]).

  • 2. Galilei'ssuggestion is part of his critique of

contemporarymadrigals. The watershed be-

tween his innovativeview of a broadly intended realistic imitazione delle parole and the approach,

[Journalof theAmerican Musicological Society 2002, vol. 55, no. 3]
C

2002 by the American MusicologicalSociety. All rights reserved. 0003-0139/02/5503-0001$2.00

  • 384 Journal of the American Musicological

Society

diligently the

characterof the person speaking: his age, his sex, with whom he

[is] speaking, and the effect he [seeks] to produce by this means."3 Probably

inspiredby watching actors improvise in comically realisticcommedie dell'arte,

Galilei in his vivid description of the variety of speech on stage blurs the

distinctionbetween ordinary and dramatic language.

In L'Orfeo (1607) and, to a greater extent, I1 ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

(1640) and L'incoronazionedi Poppea(1643), Claudio Monteverdi met the

realistic goals suggested by Galilei by musicallyimitating featuresof ordinary

language, thereby creating a language suited to theater.4 In

filfilling

the hu-

manisticideal of "imitatingin song a person speaking"("imitar col canto chi

parla"),however, he did more than just develop the musical vocabulary inher-

ited from his sixteenth-centurypredecessors-a sophisticated and powerful

expressivelanguage capable of imitating human affections, one for which the

madrigal was

(and still is) so renowned.5 True, Monteverdi'smusical charac-

terizationsof

Ariannaand Orfeodeserved high praise, evenin his own time,

for their power to portray affections and move audiences.6But if the novelty

of the composer's approach to text/music relationships had consisted merely

in perfecting the humanistictradition of

imitating the affections, his contribu-

tion in creating a language for musical theater would not have been so re-

markable. Especially in recitatives, Monteverdi conveyed

other

meanings in

addition to affections,meanings dependent on the new situationin which his

music resonated-the

stage. And these meanings were embodied in texts-

the librettos-that were no longer destined in primis to readers (as most of

those set as madrigalswere) but to audiences.

typical of madrigalists, based exclusively on abstractlyimitating affectionsis illustrated by Gioseffo

Zarlino'sharsh criticism of the passagejust quoted: "O bel

he [Galilei] imagines himself to be! ...

discorso,truly worthy

of

the great man

greatly in

dig-

tragedies

and

what he actuallywishes is to reduce music

nity and reputation,when, to learn imitation, he bids us go to hear the zanies in

comedies ....

What has the musician to do with those who recite tragedies and comedies?"

(Zarlino, Sopplimenti musicali [Venice, 1588], as

quoted in Strunk, Source Readings, 466 n. 7).

  • 3. Strunk, Source Readings,466; Galilei,Dialogo, 90.

  • 4. On Galilei and Monteverdi, especiallyregarding the treatment of dissonance, see Claude

Palisca, "Vincenzo Galilei's Counterpoint Treatise:A Code for the

seconda pratica,"

in his Studies

1994),

in the Historyof Italian Musicand Music Theory(Oxford and New York:Clarendon Press,

32-33. The importance of Galilei in establishing a new realisticstandard for the musicalimitation

of speech is

highlighted in Claudio Marazzini, II secondo Cinquecento e il Seicento (Bologna: II

Mulino, 1993), 129-31.

  • 5. The expression"imitar col canto chi parla"appears in Jacopo Pern'spreface to his Le mu- sopra l'Euridice (Florence:Marescotti, 1600), iii (and in the English translation by Tim

Battista Doni, Pietro de'

 

d'imitar

Gagliano,

for

example,

siche ...

Carterin Strunk, Source Readings, 659). In a 1634 letter to Giovanni

Bardirecalls that Peri had "found a way of imitating familiar speech" ("trovatomodo ...

il parlarfamigliare") (included in Strunk,

Source Readings,524).

  • 6. See the contemporary reactions reported in Paolo Fabbri, Monteverdi(Cambridge and

New York: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1994), 64 and 97-98. Marco da

wrote in the preface of his Dafine(1608) that Monteverdi'sArianna "moved the whole theatreto

tears" (ibid., 98).

Monteverdiand a Language for MusicalTheater 385

The novelty of Monteverdi's text-setting techniques emerges when we

considerthe aspect of language regardedby the composer as that which music

should imitate: oratione, a term referring to spoken texts.7 Intended in such a

literal way (from orare,meaning to recite a ritual, to plead, to pray, to speak),

orationeindicates the peculiar literary status of an operatic libretto, a status

that it shareswith a spoken play. Neither the libretto nor the play is intended

to be read silently as if it were a long poem or a prose text; rather,they are

meant to be performed on stage.8In this respect the language of plays and li-

brettos, intended as performancetexts, shows a remarkable kinship to ordi-

nary language and can be associated (although not equated) with the scripts

for commediadell'arte, bare scenarios designed

to prompt spoken improvisa-

tion. A century afterthe birth of musical drama, this colloquialaspect was still

one of the featuresmost heavily criticized by the intellectualswho wanted to

reform opera, the letterati belonging to the Arcadian academy. One of them,

Giovanni Maria Crescimbeni, not finding in Cicognini's Giasone (the 1649

libretto for Cavalli) the refined Petrarchanlexicon typical of Italian poetic lan-

guage, dismissedit as "full of vulgar words," deploring that, in seventeenth-

century librettos, "words increasingly restricted themselves within the

boundariesof ordinarylanguage."9

  • 7. The composer's most cited aesthetic statement-that music should be the servant of

oratione-is reported by his brother Giulio Cesarein his preface to the

1607 Scherzi musicali; see

Strunk, Source Readings, 540. Definitions of orationeas referring to speech are found in Gioseffo

Zarlino, Istitutioni harmoniche ...

(Venice: Francesco de i Franceschi Senese, 1573), 84: "la

Oratione:cio' ii Parlare,il quale esprime costumi col mezzo della narrationedi alcuna historia,o

favola"("Oration, that is, speaking, which expresses attitudesvia the narrationof some story, or

tale"); Giovanni Maria Artusi, Discorsosecondo musicale di Antonio Braccino da Todi [pseud.]

(Venice: G. Vincenti, 1608), 3: "l'Oratione, che e la perfezione e la

bellezza del parlare"

Vocabolariodegli

("Oration, which is the perfection and beauty of speaking"); and finally, the

Accademici della Crusca...

(Venice: Iacopo Turrini,1680), 562: "Oratione: per lo favellare sem-

plicemente" ("Oration:simply speaking"); translationsmine. A similar concept informs Peri's the-

oretical statements about recitative as

(ordinaryspeaking). See the preface of

Readings,660).

being based on favella (speech) and parlare ordinario

his Le musiche ...

sopra l'Euridice, iii (in Strunk, Source

  • 8. LibrettistBernardo Morando, introducing the readerto his "fantasticand musicaldrama"

Le vicendedel tempo(Parma: E. Viotti, 1652), refersto the

saying: "[it seems more] to have spilled from

performance status of his libretto by

my pen than matured from my imagination.Barely

by the music: under the groans of the press, I had

born, the verseswere kidnapped from my hands

to add, to leave out, and to vary many things, to accommodate myself to the scenes, to the ma-

chines, to

the necessities. So that the opera was first,

one may say, sung rather than

written;

printed ratherthan finished" ("prima uscita dalla penna che

maturata dall'ingegno. Nati appenai

gemiti

della

stampami

e

versi, mi sono stati dalla musica di mano in mano rapiti: e sotto gli stessi

convenuto aggiungere, diminuire, e variarmolte cose, per accomodarmialle scene, alle macchine,

alle occasioni. Si che

l'opera 6 stata prima, si pu6 dir, cantata che scritta;stampata che finita")

tempo[Bari: Palomar, 1997], 28; translation mine).

si riempi d'idiotismi ....

L'oratione si restrinseentro il parlarproprio e

bellezza della volgarpoesia[Rome, 1700]; quoted in

vol. 6 of

(Morando, Le vicendedel

9.

"[La locuzione] ...

famigliare" (Giovanni Maria Crescimbeni, La

Renato di

Benedetto, "Poetiche e polemiche," in Teoriee tecniche,immagini efantasmi,

Storia dell'operaitaliana, ed. Lorenzo Bianconiand Giorgio Pestelli (Turin:EDT, 1988), 20.

  • 386 Journal of the American Musicological

Society

But that was, in a sense, the point. Seventeenth-century Italian librettists

were awarethat they were not writing highbrow poetry. Some of those active

in the Venice of

Monteverdiwere lawyersby profession and poets only in their

spare time. But they knew how to create highly communicativeand successful

theatricaltexts which, by

types of audiences, from

bridging prose and poetry, could cater to different

the more to the less cultivated. The extraordinary

commercialsuccess of opera, as it was spreading from Venice throughout all of

Italy, also depended on this wide appeal of its librettos, written more for the

common ear than for the sophisticatedeye.'0

As both linguists studying ordinarylanguage and literary scholars focusing

on oral traditions explain in contrasting the semanticstatus of written and spo-

ken texts, very different meanings emerge when we declaim a text-when

we

treat it as oratione, to use Monteverdi'sterm." Representing and communi-

cating these meanings through music was the challenge faced by operatic

composers. For the first time in the

Western art tradition, musicians wrote

music for singers who were acting on

a stage for an extensive and continuous

stretch of time-Venetian

operas were of quasi-Wagnerianlength-in

plots

akinto thoseof spokentheater, the stage artwith which operainitially hadto

compete.12 The Venetian public of the 1630s and 1640s, in the habit of at-

tending pastoralplays, comedies, and tragedies, must have perceived music as

a strikingly new feature, indeed no longer a simple addition or temporary di-

version, but a constitutive element of the performances. In this competitive

phase, theatricalmusic

guistic characteristics

was forced to appropriate and imitate some of the lin-

of

spokenplays by developingtechniques that later on,

  • 10. For a comprehensivestudy of the

genre, including the relationships between composers

Sevenentnth-Century

Venice: The Creation of a Genre

thorough investigation of the

una storia del li-

and librettists, see Ellen Rosand, Opera in

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of CaliforniaPress, 1991). A

Italianlibretto in the seventeenth century is Paolo Fabbri,II secolo cantante:Per

bretto d'opera nel Seicento (Bologna: II Mulino, 1990).

  • 11. A partial list of studies dealing with the distinctions between oral and written texts in-

cludes Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizingof the

Word (London and

New

York: Methuen, 1982); Michael A. K. Halliday,Spoken and Written Language (Oxford and New

York: Oxford UniversityPress, 1989); Deborah Tannen, TalkingVoices: Repetition, Dialogue, and

Imagery in

ConversationalDiscourse (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,

Poetry: An Introduction, trans. KathrynMurphy-Judy (Minneapolis:

1990); and Andrea Bernardelli and Roberto Pellerey,Ilparlato e lo

1989); Paul Zumthor, Oral

University of Minnesota Press,

scritto (Milan:Bompiani, 1999).

  • 12. The importance of the shared elements between RenaissanceItalian theater and early

opera has been known to scholars since the pioneering studies of Nino Pirrotta, especially

his

Music and Theatrefrom Poliziano to Monteverdi, with Elena Povoledo, trans. Karen Eales

(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1982).

were also professionalactors, such as the protagonist in the first

Some of the first opera singers

performance

of Monteverdi's

Arianna (1608), Virginia Andreini Ramponi. Her stage name, "la Florinda," was derived from

the title of a play written by her husband, Giovan Battista, who was an

besides being the son of two famous commediadell'arte players. The first

actor, dramatist, and poet,

opera

theatersin Venice

were previously used for commedie dell'arte, as Lorenzo Bianconi observes in Music in the

Seventeenth Century, trans. David Bryant (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University

Press, 1987), 183.

Monteverdiand a Language for MusicalTheater

387

when opera established itself as a genre, became less prominent but that

nonetheless remained present to varyingdegrees. On the phonetic level, early

theatrical music strove to replicate the sound patterns of spoken language

mainly through the new style of recitative.'3 On the syntacticlevel, composers

followed strategiesalready developed in quasi-monodic madrigalisticsettings

in which a large-scale musicalrhetoric mirrored that of the verbaltext through

repetitions, tonal parallelisms, and careful handling of melodic contour.'4

Finally, on the semanticlevel-that with which we are most concerned here-

theatricalmusic aimed at representing those meanings of verbal language that

can be defined as discourse meanings.

Discourse meanings are studied today in linguisticpragmatics, the field

that

deals with the concrete

use of language ratherthan its abstract structure, with

language as communication and as transformed by

context: in

sum, with lan-

guage as discourse.'5 In this respect, it is today considered the

counterpart of

ancient rhetoric. Given drama'snatural emphasis, as a

staged art, on context

  • 13. But much more than this, as John Walter Hill explains in

his "Beyond Isomorphism:

Toward a Better Theory of Recitative" (forthcoming in Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music 8,

no. 1 [2003], at <http://sscm-jscm.org>; this volume includes the proceedings of the conference

on early opera and monody held in October 2000

at the University of Illinois, Urbana-

Champaign, to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the Italian music dramas of

1600). Through an analysis of

ing intonational phonology in

passages from Peri's Euridice, Hill shows the potential of consider-

creating tools with which we can interpret the meaning communi-

cated by speech intonation, tools that allow us to interpret musical settings of text that are not

merely isomorphic with speech but that represent the key elements of speech intonation

by vari-

ous means. I see Hill's researchas complementary to mine, since, by using contemporarylinguis-

tic theories, both aim at understanding the discourse meanings conveyed by texted music.

  • 14. See especially Giaches de Wert's and Monteverdi's settings of Tasso and Ariosto as dis-

cussed in GaryTomlinson, Monteverdiand theEnd of theRenaissance (Berkeley and Los Angeles:

University of California Press, 1987), chaps. 2, 3, and 5.

  • 15. The standardtextbook in pragmatics is Stephen C. Levinson's Pragmatics, in which the

discipline is divided into four main areas: speech-acts,deixis, presuppositions, and conversational

implicatures(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983). According to the

definition given in Hadumod Bussmann's Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics,

pragmatics "dealswith the function of linguistic utterancesand the propositions that are expressed

by them, depending upon their use in specific situations" (trans. Gregory Trauth and Kerstin

Kazzazi [London and New York: Routledge, 1996], s.v. "pragmatics"). Useful and comprehen-

sive surveys of the field are Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Ostman, and Jan Blommaert, eds.,

Handbook of Pragmatics: Manual (Amsterdam and Philadelphia:John Benjamins, 1995); and

Jacob L. Mey, ed., Concise EncyclopediaofPragmatics (Amsterdam and

In the Handbook,pragmatics is defined as "the cognitive, social, and

and communication" (p. ix).

Lausanne: Elsevier,1998).

cultural study of language

"Discourse," in Emile Benveniste's definition, is "in its

widest sense every utterance assuming

a speaker and a hearer,and, in the speaker, the intention of influencing the other in some way ....

It is every variety of oral discourseof every nature from trivialconversation to the most elaborate

oration ...

but it is also the mass of writing that reproduces oral discourse or that borrows its

manner of expression and its purposes:correspondence, memoirs, plays, didactic works, in short,

all genres in which someone

addresseshimself as the speaker, and organizes what he

says

in the

category of person." See his Problemsin General Linguistics,trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek (Coral

Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1971), 110, 208. See also the entrieson discoursein both

the Handbook of Pragmatics and the Concise EncyclopediaofPragmatics.

  • 388 Journal of the American Musicological

Society

and communication,

pragmatics

hasbecome a

it is no

surprise thatin theselast decades the

discipline of

natural ally of theater studies, also affecting thatarea

beenthe

most dependent on linguistics

of the humanitieswhich has historically

--semiotics.16 Pragmatics,semiotics, and theaterstudies have fruitfilly inter-

acted to

produce several interpretations,

especially of early modern plays.'7

The interactionof theseareas of

inquiry-as I showin this essay-can benefit

of how an

opera com-

opera studies by contributing to a better understanding

poser suchas

Monteverdi emphasizes discourse meaningsby musically imitat-

ing speech in allof its multifarious

aspects.'8

  • 16. Already in 1966, Roland Barthes predicted the evolution of linguistics from semiotics to

pragmatics and pointed out the link of the latterwith rhetoric: "Discourse

...

must naturally form

the object of a second linguistics. For a long time indeed, such a linguistics of discourse bore a

glorious name, that of Rhetoric.As a result of a complex historical movement, however, in which

Rhetoricwent over

to belles-lettresand the latterwas divorced from the study

of language, it has

recently become necessary to take the problem afresh." See Barthes, "Introduction to the

Structural Analysis of Narratives," in his Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York:Hill

and Wang, 1977), 82. For the relationships between semiotics and pragmatics, see also Umberto

Eco, The Limits ofInterpretation(Bloomington: Indiana UniversityPress, 1990), 212. I use inter-

changeablyterminology and methods from both pragmatics and rhetoric, given the kinship be-

tween the two disciplines, both of which are concerned with the study of discourse, as Barthes

observed. For rhetoric and pragmatics, see Levinson, Pragmatics, 376; Federico Albano Leoni

and Maria Rosaria Pigliasco, eds., Retorica e scienzedel linguaggio: Atti del X Congresso inter-

nazionale di studi. Pisa, 31 maggio-2giugno 1976 (Rome: Bulzoni, 1979); and the entries on

rhetoric in both the Handbook of Pragmatics and the Concise Encyclopediaof Pragmatics. A so-

phisticatedapplication of both pragmatics and rhetoric to dramais Alessandro Serpieri's On the

Language of Drama, trans.Anna MariaCarusi (Pretoria:University of South Africa,1989).

  • 17. "Pragmatics" is a word derivedfrom the

Greek pragma, which in turn derivesfrom

prat-

tein, "to do," a verb that sharesits meaning with the etymology of "drama," dran (also "to do").

I would like to thank David Cohen for his suggestions regarding this and other matters.For prag-

matic and semiotic approaches to theater, see Patrice Pavis, Dictionary of the Theatre:Terms,

Concepts, and Analysis, trans. Christine Shantz (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto

Press, 1998), s.v. "pragmatics"; Keir Elam, The Semiotics of Theatreand Drama (London and

New York: Methuen, 1980); Alessandro Serpieri et al., "Towarda Segmentation of the Dramatic

Text," Poetics Today 2 (1981): 163-200;

idem,

drammi, 4 vols. (Parma:Pratiche, 1988), esp. vol.

Nel laboratoriodi

Shakespeare: Dalle fonti ai

1 (II quadroteorico); Anne Ubersfeld, Reading

Theatre, trans. Frank Collins (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1999); and

Vimala Herman, Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays (London and New York:

Routledge, 1995). These studies all point to

the relevanceof linguistic theories to the study of

influential interpretations that make use of prag-

drama. Regarding the seventeenth century, three

matic theories, particularly in the subfield of speech-act theory, are Stanley Fish, "How to Do

Things with Austin and Searle: Speech-Act Theory and LiteraryCriticism," in his Is Therea Text

in This Class? TheAuthority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge:

1980), 197-245;

Seduction in Two

Harvard UniversityPress,

Shoshana Felman, The Literary Speech Act: Don Juan with J. L. Austin, or

Languages, trans. Catherine Porter (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,

1983); and Elias Rivers, Things Done with Words:Speech Acts in Hispanic Drama (Newark, Del.:

Juan de la Cuesta, 1986).

  • 18. Two studies that approachopera from a pragmaticperspective are Marco Beghelli, "Per-

Signification:Essays in the Semiotic

formativeMusical Acts: The Verdian Achievement," in Musical

Theory and AnalysisofMusic, ed. Eero Tarasti (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter,1995), 393-412; and

Monteverdiand a Language for MusicalTheater

389

Considering operatic music such as that by Monteverdi as merelyembody-

ing affects and concepts-as if his operas were staged madrigals or cantatas-

limits our interpretation of it, since affects and concepts are only two of the

meanings that the language of dramatictexts (whether spoken or sung) en-

codes.'9 If a madrigal and a cantatacan be certainly and

fiuitfully

thought of

as embodying the composer's "privatereading" of a poetic text--silent read-

ings made sonorous-the

same cannot be said of opera, a public genre that

represents dramatic speech through music.20 At the very moment in which

characters speak or

sing on a stage, other meanings are conveyed as well, those

meanings that also emerge in ordinarylanguage and are defined by linguists as

"utterance-meanings."21

In ordinarylanguage, as John Lyons writes, sentences may be considered

as, on the one hand, having a propositionalcontent, or "sentence-meaning,"

that is, a descriptivemeaning by which they can be said, on paper, to be true

or false. On the other hand, the same sentences may be examined according to

their usein specific contexts of communication,gaining the status of utterance

Philip Rupprecht, Britten'sMusical Language (Cambridge and New York: CambridgeUniversity

Press, 2001). For an application of pragmatic theories to the analysis of jazz, see Ingrid Monson,

Saying Something:Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago and London: University of

Chicago Press, 1996), chap. 5.

  • 19. Analyses of Monteverdi's operas usually focus on how his settings subtly reflect affects,

concepts, or allegoriespresent in the text (for example, Ellen Rosand, "Monteverdi'sMimetic

Art: L'incoronazionedi Poppea,"Cambridge Opera Journal 1 [1989]: 113-37; and Eric Chafe,

Monteverdi'sTonal Language [New York: Schirmer, 1992]). My approach is complementary to

these. However, my assumption is that in

operaticsettings composers such as Monteverdi project

not only the referential meanings of their texts (such as affects, concepts, and allegories), but also,

and at the same time, pragmatic(or discourse) meanings. In this respect I agree with Rupprecht,

who

advocatesfor opera studies an

"emphasis...

on language as act or performance[which] will

help define a new set of questions for the role of words in music" (italics in original). His ap-

proach to Britten'smusic "as the site of a

the "critical practice that would restrictan

fused musical utterance"is similarto mine in resisting

account of music's engagement with

language only to

the matter of 'expressing' or 'reflecting' a referential meaning originating in single words or

phrases." See Rupprecht, Britten'sMusical Language, 3 and 30.

  • 20. The somewhat rigid distinction I hold here between the status of poetic and theatrical

texts-and

thus between the meanings of texts addressed to readers and those addressed to

listeners-does not parallel that between madrigal and opera, since

madrigalisticsettings, like op-

eratic ones, are intended for listeners.In contrastto madrigalisticsettings, however, operatic ones

are affected by a different performance context and must convey a wider range of meanings to a

largerpublic. For a carefully nuanced view of the relationships between the musical language of

the late sixteenth-centurymadrigal and that

of opera, see James Haar's

chapter

"The Rise of

Baroque Aesthetic," in his Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance, 1350-1600

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press,

1986), 125-47. I borrow from Haar

the idea of a distinction between Renaissance polyphony as private, intimate reading of a text and

Baroquemonody as "public, dramatic speech making in music" (p. 147).

  • 21. Although there is no consensus among linguists on such terminologicalmatters, in the

following summary"utterance-meaning" corresponds to pragmatic and discourse meaning.

  • 390 Journal of the American Musicological

Society

and acquiring additional layers of

context-dependent

communicative

situations

of

ordinarylanguage. For

meaning("utterance-meanings").22

These

meanings arewhat concern us here, since theyemerge in

such as

stagedperformances,

whichresemble those

go

example, the meaning of the sentence"I will

therelater today," intendedas an utterance, wouldbe understood very differ-

entlyaccording

to,

ogy,

the

first, whetherthe context is a

promise, a threat, or an apol-

and,second, according to the who, when, andwhere of the utterance.In

first instance,meaning derivesfrom the particularspeech-act performed by

threat, apology). In the second, othercontextual

factors

"I," "today," and

specific time

the speaker(promise,

encodedin the sentencecome into play. Wordssuch as

"there"have the functionof situating the speaker's utterancein a

and

the contextof the

something, but "point to" a person, an

Biihler studiedthem

extensively in the 1930s,

namedin various ways, the

place.They are semantically"empty" wordsthat are totallydependent on

utterance;they

do not characterizeor qualify someoneor

object, a time. Since

linguist Karl

these "empty" wordshave been

mostcommon term beingdeictics, fromthe Greek

point to."23

spokenlanguage than in

word meaning "to show," "to

Linguists find deicticsto be more common in

written, withthe notable exception of the type

of textsthat concern us here-

dramatictexts. Followinglinguists in the fieldof

regard the high

pragmatics, theaterscholars

being one of the main

poetry.

incidenceof deicticsin dramatictexts as

factors distinguishing

the

language of theaterfrom that of narrativeor

Theater texts, unlike poetry and prose(but like ordinarylanguage), "produce

meaning in

relationto

a pragmaticcontext," that of

the stage and the actors

inhabiting it.24Theater, as KeirElam wrote, "consistsfirst and foremostin

  • 22. See John Lyons, Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction (Cambridge and New York:

Cambridge University Press, 1995), a textbook organized according to the

tripartite

division

pragmatics" in

of word-, sentence-, and utterance-meaning. See also John Saeed, Semantics (Oxford and

Cambridge:Blackwell, 1997), 94; and AndreasH. Jucker's entry "semanticsand

the Concise Encyclopediaof Pragmatics, in which a distinction is made between semanticsas "a

term used for the study of meaning in natural language (word meaning, sentence meaning)" and

pragmatics as "used for the study of

meaning in interaction, which includes speakermeaning and

considerationof the wider context" (p. 830).

  • 23. Karl Biihler, Sprachtheorie:

Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache(Jena: G. Fischer, 1934),

from the English trans-

chap. 2, "Das Zeigfeld der Sprache und die Zeigwbrter," 79-148. I quote

lation by Donald Fraser Goodwin, entitled Theoryof Language: TheRepresentational Function of

Language (Amsterdam and Philadelphia:J. Benjamins, 1990). Other terms for "deictics" are

"shifters" (Roman Jakobson), "indexicals" (Charles S. Pierce), and "embrayeurs" (Emile

Benveniste). For a recent survey of deixis, see Alan Cruse,

Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics (Oxford and

Meaning in Language: An

University Press,

Tipidifrase,

New York: Oxford

2000), 305-27. For deicticsin the Italian language, see Laura Vanelli, "La deissi," in

deissi, formazione delle parole, vol. 3 of Grandegrammatica italiana di consultazione, ed. Lorenzo

Renzi et al. (Bologna: I1 Mulino,

1995), 261-375.

  • 24. See Serpieri, "Toward a

Segmentation," 162. The first application of deictic theory to

Prague school of semiotics. See Jindfich

Honzl,

theater occurred in the context of the so-called

"The Hierarchy of Dramatic Devices," in Semiotics of Art: Prague School Contributions, ed.

Monteverdi and a Language for MusicalTheater

391

this, an I addressing a you

to

axis of

language. The

spaces, and

hereand now."25 It is becausetheater is an arttied

actor/performers(as subjects of enunciation), the stage (space), and the

the present(time)

that deicticsmake

up

the

quintessential dramatic

performers,

additionof music-i.e., the

other art also tied to

can

only

reinforcethe contextual

presentness-to dramatictexts

elementscommon to

spoken and musical theater,particularly

temporal deictics--suchas

at the moment

"I," "here," and

in which personal,spatial, and

"now"-resonate on stage in a compound of musicand words.26

scholarsin thatI borrowfrom pragmatic theoriesto showhow

emphasizes in his librettosthe contextualelements embodied in

particularly in

deictics. Pragmatics studiesthe semanticsof

texts addressedto

librettos,

My approach to Monteverdi's operaticsettings is similarto that of drama

the composer

language,

"performance"

listeners (discourse,pragmatic, or utterance meanings). If

"performance" texts-that is,

like theater plays, are considered

meaningsprominent in

discourses-thenthe

-need

thesetexts-discourse meanings

to be takeninto

account by operacomposers such as Monteverdi.

problem that

Writing at the dawnof

is inherentin the

opera'shistory, Monteverdiconfronted a

genre, andone withwhich later composers alsohad to deal:

devising effective ways to set thoselibretto passages forwhich music needs to

approach the declamatory

quasi-parlando,

or recitative-like

levelof speech, without falling into parlando. These

recitative

effectively, a composer mustread the text

of "writing that reproduces oraldiscourse

expression andits purposes," to use lin-

discourse.In investigating how com-

imitate speech, and how

less lyricalpassages normally occurwithin sections of

style. To set them

as a "performance"text, as a piece

and thatborrows from its mannerof

guist

EmileBenveniste's definition of

posers in

differenthistorical periods find meansto

their music

projectsmeaning, musical analysismay gain from a pragmatic

reading of librettos.27

Ladislav Matejka and Irwin R. Titunik (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1976), 118-33. For deixis

in Italian theater, see Pietro Trifone, "L'italianoa teatro," in Scritto eparlato, vol. 2 of Storiadella

lingua italiana, ed. Luca Serianniand Pietro Trifone (Turin:Einaudi, 1994), 84-86.

  • 25. Elam, TheSemiotics of Theatre, 139.

  • 26. In stressing, as I do, the similaritiesbetween spoken theater and opera, one must not for-

get the differences,especially as far as opera's emphasis on "presentness" is concerned. As Carl

Dahlhaus puts it: "The

individual operatic scene tends [in contrastto what occurs in plays] to ap-

present unrelated to past and future." In this respect,

Dahlhaus, "Drammaturgiadell'opera italiana," in

(my translation).

pear to us as 'pure present,' as absolute

opera approaches the status of novels. See Carl

Storia dell'operaitaliana, ed. Bianconi and Pestelli, 6:82 and 118

  • 27. For a short example, see note 69 below. The quote by Benvenisteis from note 15 above.

The most comprehensivestudy of recitativein

seventeenth-century Italian opera

is Beth Glixon's

"Recitative in Seventeenth-Century Venetian Opera: Its Dramatic Function and Musical

Language"(Ph.D. diss., Rutgers University,1985). For a survey of the

style afterthis century, see

Elvidio Surian's entry "recitativo"in Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei mu-

  • 392 Journal of the American MusicologicalSociety

In his

operas,however, Monteverdinot only

elevatesthe imitationof

and perhaps stillunsur-

speech(what he called oratione) to an unprecedented,

passed, levelof sophistication, but in so

doing, he alsoachieves large-scale dra-

matic results, whichaffect our interpretation of the worksas a whole. Through

his settings, the composerhighlights broadissues related to the humancondi-

tion,

suchas the role of

subjectivity and temporality, issuesraised in the libret-

tos and, as I show towardthe end of this essay, also discussedin the wider

intellectualcontext of histime.

Establishing Musical-DramaticCoordinates

The textof the prologue of Orfeo featuresa notable emphasis on deixis:

Dal mio Permesso amato a voi ne vegno,

incliti eroi, sangue gentil di Regi

  • di cui

narra la Fama eccelsi pregi,

ne giunge al ver, perch'e tropp'alto il segno.

Io la Musica son, ch'ai dolci accenti

so far tranquilloogni turbato core, et hor di nobil ira, et hor d'amore

posso infiammarle piti gelate menti.

Io su cetera d'or cantando soglio

mortal orecchio lusingartalhora, e in guisa tal de l'armoniasonora de le rote del Ciel piti l'alme invoglio.

Quinci a dirvi d'ORFEO desio mi sprona

d'ORFEO che trasseal suo cantarle fere,

e servo fe l'Inferno a sue preghiere,

gloria immortal di Pindo e d'Elicona.

From my beloved Permessus I come to you, illustrious heroes, noble scions of kings,

whose glorious deeds Fame relates, though falling short of the truth, since

the target is too high.

  • I am Music, who in sweet accents can calm each troubled heart,

and now with noble

anger, now with love,

can kindle the most frigid minds.

I, with

my lyre of

gold and with my

singing, am used to sometimes charming mortal ears,

and in this way inspiresouls with a longing