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8.660187-88 - CAVALLI: Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne
Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Opera in a Prologue and Three Acts • Edition by Federico Agostinelli
Apollo / Titone - Mario Zeffiri, Tenor
Orquesta Joven de la Sinfónica de Galicia
First staged at the Teatro S. Cassiano in Venice in 1640, Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne (The Loves of Apollo and Daphne) was Francesco Cavalli's second opera and signalled the start of his partnership with librettist Giovanni Francesco Busenello, author of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea). Cavalli would go on to set Busenello's words to music in Didone (1641), Statira (1656) and La prosperità infelice di Giulio Cesare dittatore, the music for which is now lost.
Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne belongs to that early phase of opera in which the majority of plots were drawn from classical mythology, and the nature of the new musical genre was still in the process of being defined. Its authors' incredible creative imagination is given free rein here, not yet trammelled by the dramatic and musical clichés that before long would bring conformity to the opera world. Within twenty years operas would contain none of the noble declamati so central in Gli Amori to the rôles of Giove (Zeus) and Peneo (Peneus), nor the wonderful ariosos that punctuate Apollo's lengthy speeches, nor the dramatic episodes of such originality and creative freedom that they defy classification, Procris's lament at the end of Act One being one of the most intense and moving examples in the history of music. Aurora, Daphne, Amore (Cupid) and Cefalo (Cephalus) are given long, unexpectedly asymmetrical phrases in which their words flow and take on magical nuances of light and shade; this kind of writing would soon be replaced by shorter, more regular ariettas, easily memorised by audiences.
The mythological world of gods and demigods was often seen as an almost uniquely suitable setting for dramatic works whose characters expressed themselves by singing rather than speaking. In this masterpiece the characters seem to have conferred their supernatural, almost magical nature on the opera itself, with its wonderful fusion of word and music, human and divine, the dreamworld (as referred to in the prologue) and the physical, sensual world (as in Apollo's lament after Daphne's transformation into a laurel tree, Ohimè, che miro (Act III, Scene 3). Comic relief, meanwhile, is provided in the shape of the elderly female Cirilla, a travesti rôle sung, as was usual at the time, by a male voice exaggeratedly forced into its upper falsetto range.
There are various contrasting strands to the complex plot of the opera: first there is the central story of Daphne who, to escape Apollo's lust, is turned into a laurel tree by her father, the river-god Peneus. Alongside this is the story of Aurora who is deceiving her elderly husband, Titone (Tithonus), having been seduced by the charms of the mortal Cephalus. There are also a number of scenes for secondary characters whose earthly humanity acts as a counterbalance to the divine / semidivine nature of the main protagonists. One such scene is a lament for Procris, Cephalus's abandoned wife; others introduce figures who have nothing to do with the two central story-lines, such as the learned Alphesibeus and old Cirilla who, in a moralising vein, call on us to reflect upon the fragility of Man and the unpredictability of his fate.
The only surviving musical source for Gli Amori di Apollo e di Dafne is a manuscript copy held in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice. Four scenes are missing from this copy - the final two scenes from both Act I and Act II - but it is impossible to know whether these have been lost or whether they were never set to music. Like all opera manuscripts of the period, this one provides only the vocal parts and the bass line, with some figuring given here and there. Other instrumental lines (sometimes two, in the treble clef - sometimes four, two in the treble clef, one in the alto and one in the tenor), none of which indicates any specific instrument, appear in the sinfonias, balli and ritornellos. In line with the aesthetic and technical dictates of most approaches to performance practice today, and based on my reading of the manuscript version, I have written some new instrumental parts for my edition of Gli Amori (used for this recording). These work in dialogue with the vocal line and appear mainly in the arias, but also in some of the ariosos and more expressive recitatives. They were composed in the style of the day, and I think it is legitimate to say that they could have been written by Cavalli himself or perhaps, more modestly, by one of his trusted collaborators. I have suggested a specific instrument for each part (and for those given in the manuscript), thereby creating a chamber ensemble which includes woodwind and brass, as well as strings. These are, however, purely suggestions, and the orchestral material is written in such a way as to enable conductors to choose different instrumental combinations to suit their own ideas, or the players available. Indeed each melodic line was composed with a strict eye on the technical limits of authentic instruments, meaning that the score can be performed, in accordance with seventeenth-century practice, "con ogni sorta d'istromenti" (on all kinds of instruments), ancient or modern, including the original ensemble, which would have comprised only two violins and two violas. As can be heard here, Alberto Zedda's great musical sensitivity and experience have enabled him to take full advantage of this flexibility.
Finally, as far as the text is concerned, a few cuts have been made for this recording: in the longer recitative sections and in those arias for which the libretto indicated the repetition of a number of different verses to the same music.
The Musical Baroque: Beyond Historicism
Various historical techniques and practices have been revived over the years in order to return the early-Baroque repertoire to a position of prominence and these have led musicians to re-create a musical context for which no direct tradition any longer exists. At the beginning of this process it was right that, where possible, historicist criteria were applied, so as to find the least arbitrary starting-point. Now, however, it is essential that we move away from the learned but restrictive bounds of historicism and seek out a freer interpretation of Baroque music, one more in tune with the sensibilities of today's audiences, as we would with music from any other period.
If we follow the most intransigent line of argument through to its logical conclusion, we would have to conclude that symphonies performed by the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic, or sonatas played on a Steinway, sounding so different from the way they would have done to contemporary audiences, give a false and diminished impression of Mozart and Beethoven. In fact, however, the power of a Steinway can convey the great energy and the longing for the infinite of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106, written for an instrument whose subsequent transformation was inspired by that composer's prophetic genius.
A faithful reconstruction of the seventeenth-century operatic world is both illusory and pointless: even if such a thing were achievable, there is no reason to believe it would please modern audiences, who have acquired many more layers of musical knowledge and new insights into interpretation. The same is true for the visual aspect of opera. It is equally unlikely that the innovative stage machinery of the great engineer and designer Giacomo Torelli (1608-78), and its seemingly miraculous transformations of paper backdrops and wings badly lit by guttering candles could compete with modern cinematographic wizardry when it comes to thrilling audiences in conjuring up heavenly bodies, enchanted woodlands, fantastic mythological creatures, and so on.
The manuscripts that survive of early-seventeenth-century operas are all that remain of scores that were never fully realised, and often contained only the vocal parts and the accompanying bass line. Three-, four- and five-part instrumental realisations are only to be found in ritornellos and sinfonias, and even then no particular instruments are specified, as such details were seen as secondary or complementary, and therefore not part of the composer's remit. Judging these manuscripts by the same standards as we do today's orchestral scores, as authoritative reference works, is a mistake, and can result in performances that sound over-academic in comparison with those that follow the thinking of, among others, composer and musician Agostino Agazzari, author of an influential treatise entitled Del Sonare sopra 'l Basso con tutti li stromenti e dell'uso loro nel Conserto (On Playing Upon the Thoroughbass with All the Instruments and Their Use in an Ensemble; Domenico Falcini, Siena, 1607).
Such manuscripts are "open texts", therefore, like the scores of much twentieth-century avant-garde aleatory music (to which the revolutionary and innovative early-Baroque is, surprisingly, related) which require the performer to intervene and exercise choice in deciphering and integrating the symbols of indeterminate notation. We must then revisit them, keeping a musicologically open mind about the contribution of fantasy and creativity anticipated by the composer, and making every effort to understand his wishes. Wishes that were summed up as follows by Emilio de' Cavalieri: "and Signor Emilio would commend changing the instruments employed so as to suit the affects of the recitatives" (preface to his Rappresentazione di anima e di corpo, 1600), and exemplified by Monteverdi in Orfeo (1609), the Eighth Book of Madrigals (Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi) and the Selva morale e spirituale, as well as colourfully set forth in his letters to Alessandro Striggio and Ferdinando Gonzaga. The description Monteverdi gives of the ideal orchestration for portraying the sea, the wind, heaven and earth in a planned but never completed Intermedio for the Mantovan court is most illuminating in this respect.
The way we hear sound today would be unrecognisable to post-Renaissance man, surrounded by a silence only ever disturbed by the sounds of nature and of other living beings: we therefore have to think carefully about how best to present the Baroque repertoire in modern concert halls and theatres.
Vocal accompaniment was conditioned by the considerable intonation problems present in ensembles made up of instruments constructed with no reference to a pitch standard: the prevalence of strings and flutes was in part due to the ability of these instruments to adapt to the intonation of both continuo and voices.
There is little point in arguing over preferences for original or modern instruments, specialist ensembles or mainstream orchestras. The use of period instruments does not in itself automatically make a performance "authentic" - the essence of authenticity is primarily to be found elsewhere. Modern reconstructions designed to play in equal temperament and with an extended compass, have, in any case, profoundly altered original Baroque instrumental technique. Players of modern instruments who understand the sound production of their Baroque equivalents as well as the basic principles of contemporary performance practice can achieve results just as valid as those of a good player of a reconstructed period instrument.
In Baroque vocal music, everything has to work around the voice: the instruments can play only a secondary rôle and must always allow any textual nuances to shine through. The composer, so imprecise when specifying instrumentation, is absolutely rigorous about detailing vocal movement and range, the cornerstones of the composition. The singers must be able to draw out of the text the light and shade that make it live and breathe; they must be able to master the prosody of the language, and bring strength and dramatic weight to the words where necessary, expressing their full evocative value and symbolism. Decisions about instrumental accompaniment and, more generally, the methodology of textual reconstruction, are determined by any vocal problems and the solutions chosen.
An editor's quest for authenticity when adding instrumental parts to a score containing only vocal and bass lines should take as its starting-point not tonal subtleties but the structural characteristics of the quite numerous examples that have survived over the centuries. In most cases these are fragments in contrapuntal-imitative style that therefore progress horizontally rather than vertically (harmonically). Musicians might have improvised on these in dialogue with the voice, or read them from parts notated during rehearsals, in concert with the conductor on the harpsichord and with the cello, viol or viola da gamba that in turn would have supported the basso continuo.
These days only a few backward-looking zealots limit the use of melodic instruments to the rare moments where they are actually specified in a manuscript. On the whole current performance practice places more emphasis on the number, nature and scope of such interventions, rather than on their advisability per se. The focus of research has shifted to areas such as the choice of performers; structural and dramatic problems arising from the text (cuts, deletions, parodies, borrowings from other works, etc.); the addition or repetition of ritornellos and sinfonias; transpositions; or choosing a particular "authentic" version when several may exist, reflecting later amendments, or alterations made for revivals in changed circumstances.
In the minefield of taste and the unknown, philological and historiographical concerns have to go hand in hand with the common sense of musicologists and working musicians. Rather than attempting to improve existing works, editors should focus on finding the best way of translating them for new audiences who are rediscovering them in such a different world. Sometimes answers that seem far-removed from the letter of the manuscript are those that best capture its spirit, that are the most faithful to the original intentions, and the closest to the miracle of creation.
[CD 1 / Track 1] Prologue. Sonno (Sleep), his power augmented by the breezes that herald dawn, sees that human eyelids cannot resist the gentle god of sleep. At this hour he enjoys seeing nature suppressed in deep sleep. Not far away is the goddess who scatters pearls of dew. Not far away is the light of day. He calls on his attendant ministers, Panto, Itaton and Morfeo (Morpheus), to assist, as dreams come forth, appearing in many forms. Morfeo answers the god of repose, giver of quiet and peace, obeying his command. Itaton too will appear in various guises, birds and wild animals, and Panto will assume more abstract forms and go among the sleepers. Together they will assume strange forms and bring happy dreams, a thousand changes, a thousand signs to the sleeping world. The Prologue ends with a dance of fantastic figures.
[1/2] Titone (Tithonus), beloved of Aurora (Dawn), addresses the goddess, lamenting his plight, granted eternal life without the gift of eternal youth, and now white-haired and wrinkled. Aurora proposes an answer to his state. Titone complains of his fate, but Aurora declares that a young girl, her senses filled with love, would shun the attentions of an old man who can only cough his kisses and mumble his declarations of love; the shaking hand believes it can bring back buried strength but soon realises that the one who lacks vigour cannot compete; songs suffice in playing for time, but combat calls for arms. She tells him, however, that she loves him, but she is summoned by the god of light and will fly with him in his golden carriage, leaving Titone in happy repose and herself obeying the Sun's command. Titone warns her to remember the fate of Phaethon, but she reassures him.
[1/3] The old woman Cirilla tells how poverty does not quarrel, and is to be welcomed; she sleeps in innocent feathers of swallows and doves or has her sweetest repose on straw, to the shame of those with great, ornate beds. The river that runs nearby seems a sweet drink and fitting washing-place. She feels no envy nor ambition, knows no treachery nor concern, and declares that those who forcibly chase sleep away shake and yawn and their eyes are tired and weak. She has had a disturbing dream in which she seemed to see a beautiful damsel transformed into a rough tree. At this point she sees Alfesibeo (Alphesiboeus) approaching, one who understands the deep and hidden reasons of nature and of Heaven; he will be able to reveal the meaning of her dream. Alfesibeo starts by describing the rising of the sun, the rebirth of the world from the bosom of night, a glorious world much happier, no longer lying under dark shades. He addresses Cirilla, asking why she is not sleeping. She tells him she wants to know the meaning of her dream of a gentle nymph transformed into a tree. Alfesibeo had had the same dream, which he resolves to use his art to interpret. Cirilla follows after him, as fast as she is able.
[1/4] Giove (Jove) appears, with Venere (Venus) and Amore (Cupid). He asks Venere, whose beauty lights the Heavens and the Stars, what grieves her and brings tears to her eyes, promising to do all he can to help her. She complains that bold Apollo, who had disgraced her before her lame husband (Hephaestus) when she was with Mars, is causing her trouble. She begs her father and lord for justice. Giove tells her that Apollo's actions are in jest, but she replies that such boldness must be punished. Giove tells her that her son, Amore, has the means to avenge her wrongs, and Amore asks her what she commands, against the Sun's outrages. She trusts Amore's bravery in this. Giove tells Amore to use weapons against insolent Apollo, and he sets out, in obedience, to find the Sun in Thessaly amid the woods and rocks.
[1/5] The scene changes to reveal Dafne (Daphne), with nymphs and shepherds. She finds the freedom of her heart from love more precious than any riches; hearts that do not yield to love have happiness. She is secure in her freedom from love, and rejoices in the beauty of the countryside. She bids a nymph fetch her her lyre that she may sing the true praises of fair liberty, the balsam of life that keeps the heart from the infection of love. This is the sole good that sustains the soul, the sole peace in a fleeting life. She tells the nymphs and shepherds to dance, which they do, two nymphs and two shepherds singing of their happiness. Dafne finds their song sweet, bringing Heaven to the forests and delighting the gods; she bids them continue, which they do.
[1/6] Dafne is joined by Filena, who warns her of the passing nature of beauty, which will perish and fade. Dafne rebukes her; if she has nothing else to say Dafne will go. Filena pleads the cause of love; the one who does not know love has an idle heart in her bosom. She pities Dafne's foolish obstinacy; she only lives once and should have pleasure while the day lasts. Dafne, however, leaves Filena with her songs of love.
[1/7] Left alone, Filena muses on the pride and stubbornness of youth; the rosy apple on a high branch disdains a man's touch, but falling to the ground from weak branches ends as food for worms, and a foolish girl may suffer a similar fate. What loses its foliage in October flowers again in April, but in the very short human journey May is only enjoyed once.
[1/8] Cefalo (Cephalus, husband of the jealous Procris) is in love with Aurora (Dawn). He does not know how to hope more, nor can he resist further in his sighs of love, seeking an end to his anguish. He calls on her to descend from the pure Heaven into the arms of her faithful lover. He knows that to love a goddess is far beyond human weakness. Aurora appears, finding Titone blind if he thinks she cannot control the golden carriage of the greater Planet; she is resolved to show the world that she can take the place of the rays of the Sun in Heaven. She has made up an excuse of the descent of Apollo down to these shores, but on earth her sole desire has been to see her lover, Cefalo. He sees her, now relieved of sorrow, admiring her dear face and sweetest smile. She greets him, and he her, and she tells him how she has pretended to Titone that she was to take the Sun's place and he had believed her. Cefalo does not want to hear the name of Titone, but she tells him that he should not be jealous of such an old man. Titone, however, can sleep with Aurora, but she tells him that a young lover need not fear a harmless old man. Love can give rewards and payment to all, but he cannot make a grey-haired man lovable; old men are ridiculous if they think their wrinkled faces are better than those of the young, old Narcissuses and Adonises in their dotage. Cefalo need not fear Titone; it is him that she loves. Cefalo seeks her oath on this, and she swears that the blind God has written on her heart that Cefalo is her beloved, her idol. They leave together.
[1/9] Procri (Procris), alone, seeks the return of her faithless husband to that Procri whom once he loved, but she is no longer that Procri; Cefalo has betrayed her. Why should the gods seek lovers on earth, she asks; can Olympus be so lacking in the lovable? She pleads for Cefalo to return to her, as jealousy leads her to curses and anger. Her laments go out to the woods and the desert places; sorrow is too much when it is silent.
[2/2] Apollo descends to this favoured region, which he would choose, if he were tired of Heaven; Thessaly could deceive a god into thinking it very Paradise. The brook murmurs, the breezes whisper, the countryside is bright, birds sing, and men are blind if they cannot see the beauty that reigns here below. Apollo calls on his beloved Muses from Helicon, loved for their pure and immortal beauty. Three Muses sing how on the banks of the Hippocrene under the shade of the trees a cloud passes; they ask Apollo to stay with them, for without him they have nothing.
[2/3] Alfesibeo has exercised his arts again to understand the dream in which a nymph is changed into a tree, a vision that bodes ill. Heaven speaks to mortals in various guises, through lightning and comets, earthquakes and dreams, with miracles of nature. The nymph transformed into a green plant indicates that human stubbornness is in the end punished by Heaven, changed into stone or a hard tree trunk. He laments that Thessaly may that day suffer such a disaster, and goes to seek out the old woman to tell her what he has found.
[2/4] Amore (Cupid) seeks to avenge his mother's wrongs. With his arrows he wants Apollo to feel in his heart the power of Love. Apollo, for his sport, visits these woods and Amore will strike him with a sharp arrow and make a fool of him, so that he changes his ways. Apollo mocks Amore, with his arrow, shooting at shadows and winds, a naked warrior, a childish Mars, an unweaned champion, great knight that behaves like a baby in a cradle, pygmy spirit and god of nothing. He, Apollo, paints his divinity with fair works, vivid shining colours. Amore replies, vowing to make Apollo sorry for insulting him. Apollo bids him go back to his mother. At this Amore shoots Apollo and takes flight.
[2/5] Apollo seems to see a fair ray of beauty. He addresses Dafne, the fairest sight, the loveliest gentle nymph. He recognises her as Dafne, the star of the woods, the new goddess, fairer than all the other nymphs. He feels himself suddenly wounded in the heart, through the action of Amore's revenge. He begs Dafne to turn her eyes towards him and by her look imprint a new paradise on his eyes. Dafne will not listen to protestations of love and makes to escape him. Apollo asks who tells her to run from him, a god. He is Apollo, that fair God, gilder of the days, father of the seasons, monarch of the planets, master of harmonies, spirit of songs, and begs her to console him, seeking a kiss to restore him, ready to sacrifice his immortality for her. He continues to plead with her, but she tells him to abandon all hope and return to Heaven, if he is a god; he must not tempt her constancy, since she will not listen to him. She is resolved to die a virgin, and if he is the light of days, the star of nature, he must not wish her honour buried in dark night, he who is born to light. He is the high spirit of the virgin Muses and should not treat her so cruelly.
[2/6] She makes off, and Apollo resolves to follow her.
[2/7] Cefalo is with Aurora. She is about to leave him, but he begs her to stay. She tells him to bear her absence; although she is immortal, her journey to Heaven seems like a descent to Hades. Cefalo will stay behind, lamenting, while she returns to her beloved husband. Aurora, though, will remember Cefalo in her heart; she will await Apollo here and ascend with him to Heaven; her tongue but not her heart says farewell. Cefalo repeats his pleas for her to stay, rather than leave him in his anguish.
[2/8] Filena is seen with Dafne, telling her again of her folly in rejecting the advances of a god, which would make her divine too. Dafne remains firm in her resolve, unwilling to change her life, and rejecting the tricks of Love. Filena asks whether the beauty of Apollo is nothing to her; she herself would give everything for Apollo's love, were she fit for such a thing. Dafne, still resolute, prays to her father Peneus to rise from the waters and save her from the shameless hands of Apollo.
[2/9] Dafne's father, the river Peneo (Peneus) appears, but tells her that he can do nothing against Apollo; while the Sun can dry up his waters, they cannot extinguish his light. Dafne asks if she must then fall prey to her pursuer, but Peneo has one remedy; he can transform her into a tree, the leaves of which will not fall, no longer Daphne but Laurel. Dafne agrees, preferring to save her virtue, the only treasure of great souls. Peneo sets about the metamorphosis, Dafne's leaves to be signs of triumph, the crown of poets; her branches shall not fear Jove's lightning. Now Apollo approaches and he will retire, his waters offering his daughter a mirror of her transformation; the river Peneus shall be a river of lament.
[2/10] Apollo sees the transformation of his beloved amid the branches and leaves, lamenting his own state, kissing only the foliage of the adored tree. Bitter tears fall from his eyes, adding water that will feed the roots of a Laurel. He no longer wishes to be called the Sun, but would submerge his chariot in his warm tears. He calls on omnipotent Amore for a remedy, the fair Laurel's branch to dwell in his heart, the two of them united, his divinity and her verdure. Amore asks Apollo what he has to say now of the child, the pygmy's weapons; in response to Apollo's insults now his arrow triumphs, his vengeance achieved.
[2/11] Amore leaves and Apollo is joined by Pan, who asks the reason for his tears that so disturb the Heavens. Apollo can hardly express his sorrow, but, in response to a further question, tells Pan that the cause is love. He shows Pan the tree, Dafne transformed, explaining how she repulsed him and how she avoided his kisses by turning into a laurel; he is jealous of the wood, where roots can mingle with the roots of his beloved, jealous of the breezes that kiss her evergreen leaves, and when he is in Heaven he will be jealous of his own rays that he sends down on her. He asks Pan why he does not weep, and calls on flowers, shades, caves, breezes, birds and leaves to lament. Pan tells him to take from the tree and make a garland for his fair hair, adorn his lyre and be consoled that now the memory of eternal love will live on in immortal laurels. Dafne speaks, asking why he stretches his cruel hand against an innocent nymph; Apollo was the enemy of her honour when she was a woman and breaker of her boughs now she is a tree. She begs pardon at least for the humanity entombed there and if nymphs are unwarlike, at least he should spare the tree. Apollo is distraught, having injured the precious trunk. He hears the voice of his beloved, struck by his own hands. Dafne tells him that even if her boughs do not deserve pity, it should be known to the world that she gave him no offence. Apollo seeks her pardon and tells her of the suffering love brings him. Dafne is satisfied and repents of her cruelty; she bows before him with her leaves, branches and roots, declaring, in the language of humans and of laurels, that she adores him as a lover and as the Sun. Pan thinks these words are worthy of being written in the stars. She bids friend Apollo farewell, no longer able to speak, telling the Sun not to forget her. Apollo will bind his locks with the leaves of his fair Dafne, a crown better than all, the garland of laurel. Pan tells her that every earthly, every heavenly form, bows down before her; her divine beauty will be sung through the forests, worthy of inclusion in the Zodiac. Apollo and Pan together sing of the eternal light of love, Heaven ever to resound with Amore, Pan, Dafne and Apollo. The machine descends to take Apollo up into Heaven.
The Italian libretto may be accessed at http://www.naxos.com/libretti/660187.htm
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