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8.554096-97 - CAVALIERI: Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo

Emilio de' Cavalieri (c. 1550-1602)
La Rappresentatione dl Anima e di Corpo

The jubilee year 1600, to the general satisfaction of music historians dealing with the usual thorny problems of periodisation, saw the sudden ripening of the first fruits of a kind of spectacle of which the first experiments had taken place during the last decade of the preceding century. In the course of a few months, between October 1600 and February 1601 three scores were published of drammi posti in masica per recitar cantanda, the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Carpo of Emilio de' Cavalieri, Giulio Caccini's Euridice and Jacopo Peri's setting of the same libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini. This sudden accumulation of performances and published scores, with long and detailed explanatory introductions, by three musicians associated with the Medici court in Florence, is evidence of the intense rivalry between these eminent figures and their claims to have originated the "marvellous invention" of dramas in music and of the recitative style. Peri, for example, though claiming for himself the introduction of a new way of singing (maniera di canto) never heard until then, had to admit that 'Signor Emilio de' Cavalieri, before every other that I know, with marvellous invention had introduced this new method of stage music' (musica sulle scene). Cavalieri, a Roman nobleman with notable musical competence, in 1588 had been appointed by Ferdinando I de' Medici as superintendent of art, costumes, celebrations, theatres and of the whole musical establishment, both of voices and of other sorts of instruments at the court in Florence. In this position, together with Giovanni de' Bardi and the architect Buontalenti, he had collaborated in the musical element of the celebrations, the Intermedi della Pellegrina, given in Florence in 1589 for the marriage of the Grand Duke and Christine of Lorraine. The marked differences and rivalry with the better musicians in Florence led to Cavalieri's gradual disassociation from the Medici court, culminating in the ending of every artistic connection there at the end of 1600, when Caccini was preferred to the Roman musician in the provision of music for the wedding of Maria de' Medici and Henri IV.

In this climate of intense rivalry among the Medici musicians was probably born the idea of staging the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo in Rome in February 1600. This took place in the Oratory of St Philip Neri of S. Maria in Vallicella, the so-called New Church, the residence of the congregation of the Oratory. Cavalieri, like other members of his family, had for some time maintained personal connections with the Oratorian fathers and even with Philip Neri himself, the founder of the congregation, to which he had introduced in 1585 the singer Vittoria Archilei. In all probability the staging of the Rappresentatione was intended as a kind of challenge by the Roman composer to the circle in Florence, that seemed now to prefer Peri and, above all, Caccini. It was no accident that there were present at the performances of the Rappresentatione several music-loving cardinals, such as Montalto and Del Monte, and 'other prelates of those that came to Florence', as Cavalieri himself underlines in a letter to the secretary of the Grand Duke, Marcello Accolti, who 'took special pleasure in the work, since the music moved them to sadness and to laughter and gave them great pleasure and this music in Florence (that is, the music of Peri and Caccini) moved them to nothing but boredom and distaste'.

The Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, unlike the first music dramas, for the most part on mythological subjects and staged at court on the occasion of celebrations of exceptional importance, has been seen in music history as an atypical and exceptional case, either through the place where it was staged or through its subject. In fact the libretto, attributed to the Oratorian Father Agostino Manni and drawn from the text of a laude dialogue between Soul and Body over twenty years old, belongs to the genre of allegory, with moralistic and didactic implications, and recalls in certain respects a type of spiritual performance belonging to the Italian Renaissance tradition, with so many luoghi deputati, such as Heaven and Hell, where the souls of the blessed and the souls of the damned respectively sing. By the side of eponymous characters, in the Rappresentatione there are positive personifications, such as Intellect and Counsel, or negative, such as Pleasure and Worldly Life; their entries, in recitative style, often alternate with entries of the chorus.

Nevertheless, if today it is now established that the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo offers no connection with the future musical oratorio, a closer examination of the documentary sources shows too that this was not an altogether exceptional event in the activities of the Oratory of Vallicella; the Rappresentatione, actually, was set in the tradition of theatrical performances that boys were accustomed to give in the Oratory during carnival, usually in prose with some musical additions; there is also no lack of evidence in the seventeenth century for dramas entirely in music. In the biography of the author of the libretto, Father Agostino Manni, written towards the middle of the century by his fellow-Oratorian Paolo Aringhi, we read, in fact, that he also (Manni) 'introduced sometimes performances in the Oratory by boys of acts of devotion providing particular comfort and enjoyment to those who heard them; and because music has the power to excite souls to devotion, he endeavoured to make some spiritual dialogue for the boy musicians in recitative style, himself composing for this purpose the words, which were moving, accompanied by the sweetness of song, in such away that those who heard felt contrition that moved them to tears… Among the other works that he wrote and that were afterwards staged in public was the one called the Dialogue of Soul and Body, which, in the jubilee year of 1600, was staged in music in the little oratory'. An extraordinary testimony from a scholar present at the first performance of the Rappresentatione reports, among other things, that the part of the Soul was acted divinely by a small boy, confirming the participation of young musicians in these carnival spectacles. This makes clearer the meaning of a letter that Cavalieri wrote to the Grand Duke's secretary, when he spoke of the praise received by the priests of Vallicella for 'a little thing put on at this carnival time, a musical performance in their oratory, that cost six scudi at the most'. In confirmation, as it were, of this, forty years later the Roman noblemen, the musician Pietro Della Valle, records that when he was quite young he had been present at this little performance in the Oratory of the New Church, the first example of recitative style brought from Florence by Emilio de' Cavalieri.

Finally it should be noticed that the Oratorian Fathers did not simply hand over the Vallicella oratory out of pure politeness to Cavalieri, but certainly played an active part in the promotion of the spectacle. Apart from the fact that the author of the libretto was a religious of their congregation, a close examination of the musical repertory of the oratory shows that the Congregation was capable of choosing among the current musical trends of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries those that would best suit their desire for simplicity and immediacy, and with the capacity to transmit the meaning of the musical texts, without through this debasing the level of compositions performed especially at the evening meetings on festival days. As Animuccia, the first composer of the Oratorian circle, already noticed, the aim was to 'see that the words aided by the music, should be able to penetrate more sweetly the heart of the listener, and, as the Oratorian Father Tarugi wrote, to the one that lends an attentive ear there enters wonderfully the holy word of God with harmony and the sweetness of music'.

This inclination towards simplicity, not to be understood as affected naïveté, but rather as sobriety, naturalness, the opposite of the artificial and intellectual typical of the Jesuits, finds confirmation also in the Oratorian artistic commitment that prefers the 'naturalistic' trends, exemplified above all by Caravaggio, and in preaching in which the Oratorians deliberately avoided every rhetorical excess (sermons are recommended to be half an hour, without any ornamentation of words). The Vallicella fathers, therefore, looked to an art capable of speaking more emotively than intellectually, more to the senses than to reason; so for this reason they opened their doors to the new recitative style, quickly realising its potential in communicating and moving an audience. Not by chance, as evidence of the cathartic efficacy of recitar cantando the Oratorians kept in their library a reminiscence concerning the scholar Giulio Cesare Bittifango of the positive effects of music that moves the feelings aroused in him by Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo:

I, Giovan Vittorio Rossi, finding myself one day in the house of Signor Cavaliere Giulio Cesare Bottifango, a gentleman, of exceedingly rare qualities, an excellent secretary, poet and most intelligent musician, and having entered into argument about music that moves the feelings, he told me definitely that he had not felt anything more moving than the representation of the Soul set to music that he well remembered by Signor Emilio de' Cavalieri and performed in the holy year 1600 in the Oratory of the Assumption, in the house of the very reverend Fathers of the Oratory in the New Church, and that he found himself present there on that day when they performed the work three times without ever having enough, and he told me in particular that hearing the part of Time he felt come upon him great fear and terror, and at the part of Body, performed by the same one that played Time, when he was somewhat in doubt what he ought to do, whether to follow God or the World, he resolved to follow God, that tears fell from his eyes in very great abundance and he felt rise in his heart great penitence and sorrow for his sins, nor was this only then, but always thereafter what they sang, every time that he wanted to take Communion, to arouse devotion in himself, he sang that part and broke out in a flood of tears. He praised again finally the part of Soul, that was divinely performed by a small boy, and said that in the music there was inestimable skill that expressed the feelings of sorrow and sweetness with certain false sixths that moved to the seventh and caught the soul; in sum, he concluded in that form it was not possible to make anything finer or more perfect, and he went un, so that you may see yourself that what I say is true, and led me to the harpsichord and sang some pieces from that work, and in particular that part with the Body that so moved him, and it seemed good to me to ask him to make me a part, which he very courteously did, and copied it for me with his own hand, and I learned it by heart, and I often went to his house to hear him sing it.

In fact Alessandro Guidotti, in the dedication of the published score to Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, seems fully to adhere to this Oratorian ideology, bearing witness how the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, performed 'last February in Rome, in the oratory of Vallicella, with so great a gathering and such applause could clearly show how much this style is fitting to move to devotion'. The words come to mind of the Florentine scholar Giovan Battista Strozzi the younger, a guest at Vallicella in 1590, who cleverly summarised the aim of the Oratorian fathers as moving [souls] and not offering things to marvel at (è il muovere e non il far maravigliare).

Arnaldo Morelli
English version by Keith Anderson

...novamente posta in Musica... per recitar Cantando
(...newly put into Music... to recite Singing)

In his Preface to the Readers, placed at the beginning of Euridice, composed for the marriage of Henri IV and Maria de'Medici and performed on 6th October 1600, Jacopo Peri, while not denying his claim that at the end of 1594 he had set to music Rinuccini's Dafne, nevertheless does not hesitate to acknowledge that Cavalieri, 'first of every other I know', invented stage music. Such primacy is also attributed by Doni, a most punctilious authority, to Cavalieri, who, among other things, first introduced on the frontispiece of his Rappresentatione the expression recitar cantando (to recite singing), that became the symbol of the origins of Melodramma, claims to priority in the invention of which gave rise to such jealousy. Caccini was never willing to acknowledge the claims of others and about Cavalieri there formed a circle to oppose the ambitions of Giulio Romano. The struggle for primacy developed over the succession of dates and if Cavalieri staged his opera in February 1600, the dedication of Euridice, performed, as has been said, on 6th October 1600, is nevertheless dated by Peri to 6th February of the same year.

The Notice to the Readers of the Rappresentatione makes reference, wrongly indicating the year 1588, to the Comedia grande at the Medici wedding that had marked the highest point of Cavalieri's career as the then superintendent of festivities. Reading between the lines, it can be seen that there is the delusion that the proper merits of the organizer of festivities was not recognised by Ferdinando I dei Medici, whose title of nobility was linked for ever, indissolubly, with the famous Ballo composed for the festivities of 1589, recognised by contemporary musicians as the Ballo del Granduca, source of a number of varied works. The Rappresentatione, notwithstanding the negative criticisms of Doni and of others in modern times, is a unique event in the history of music. It took place in the Jubilee Year, on the border between, on the one hand, medieval mystery plays and, on the other, the Oratory and Baroque melodrama. In particular the scenes in Hell are borrowed from medieval scenes of devilry and at the same time are a prelude to the similar scenes of the Underworld of the Baroque, starting, above all, with the Orfeo of Monteverdi. What makes the work absolutely unique is the inspiration that stems from the contact Cavalieri must have had with St Philip Neri, who died in 1595. Only this transcendent motivation could explain the perfect success of a work based on completely devotional characters and succeeds in touching strings of the intensest emotion, transposing profane musical characters into an ambience of edification and thus, in spite of difficulty, available for general appreciation.

The two leading 'lovers' are Corpo (Body) and Anima (Soul) for whom Cavalieri supplies arioso recitatives, ornamented arias and even a duet. If the performers were adolescents, nevertheless there is reference in the Preface to the famous Vittoria Archilei, who must have been a remarkable singer, in view of the frequency with which her name appears in the prefaces of the period, including Peri's, as the supreme interpreter of the Disperatione di Fileno (The Despair of Philenus) by the same composer, with a text written by the gentlewoman from Lucca, Laura Guidiccioni, who must have been closely associated with Cavalicri. For the rest, we know that in the Intermedi of 1589, supervised, as has been said above, by Cavalieri, who played the most important part of director and composer, famous singers took part. In this respect it is not without importance to remember what Viadana said of boys' voices, a view that Cavalieri, who in the Oratory made use, for preference, of professional singers, certainly shared: 'for the most part the boys sing carelessly and with little grace'. It is useful to remember that, contrary to the wide practice of singers of renaissance and baroque music today, the so-called vibrato was so typical in singing that at that time the vox humana stop was added to the organ, also called Fiffaro or German flute or transverse flute, with its oscillating sound. The mechanism of the tremblant fort, noted by Mersenne and which brings a considerable degree of oscillation, is always absolutely alien to our present taste.

If, as appears probable, there were agreements and anti-Caccini meetings in order to coordinate common stylistic standards between Cavalieri, Luzzaschi, Merulo and Verovio, the fact that the Rappresentatione was printed in movable type, extremely accurate in the alignment of the parts, seems anomalous. In fact the principal editor of the music of the Oratory of St Philip, with the Lodi della Musica and Il Diletto Musicale, was the Flemish Verovio, inventor of engraving on copper plates, while Luzzaschi and Merulo relied on the copperplate printing method for the printing of their own works. The Rappresentatione is closely tied to the musical production in Rome that St Philip Neri had succeeded in bringing about with his Counter­-Reformation innovations: it is enough to examine the Lodi della Musica or Il Diletto Musicale to realise that Cavalieri was the last of the prestigious acquisitions that the good 'Pippo', St Philip's nickname, had enlisted in his cause, a supreme example of the ignorance of the existing church establishment, totally indifferent if not hostile to culture in general and to music in particular. It should be noted that the year 2000 would seem the ideal opportunity for a revival of this opera.

The text by Padre Manni follows, as recommended in the preface, and harshly criticized by Doni, versification based on short verses that make use of rhymes using a stress on the antepenultimate syllable, a form of which Giovanelli was a champion (cf. the chorus O quanti errori e tenebre) and, in the spirit of the meetings of St Philip that according to accounts of the time brought together singing and spiritual converse, the Rappresentatione is preceded by a moral dialogue in which two young men compete in fervent scorn for earthly things.

The Preface reports in the third person (according to the Spanish-style custom of not associating noblemen with a trade, as detailed in the Cortegiano of Castiglione and followed, among others, by Kapsberger) through the printer the performance directions of Cavalieri that have been carefully followed in the present recording. Such directions, however (arias rhythmically varied and provided with echoes, Moresca dances and 'changing instruments to suit the feeling of the text') are followed in many of the works of the early Baroque, among them Orfeo. The continuo of Cavalieri is suited to the structure of the Roman ostinato, as in many basso continuo parts of the period. This is measured to underline a simple form of melody not structured in the verbal pattern of Caccini that appears, at least in theory, extremely grudging towards the Canzonetta, a form considered vulgar, and is directed rather towards 'a certain noble contempt for song (another conclusion coined by Caccini from Castiglione) passing through some dissonances, but keeping the bass chord firm'. Actually Cavalieri's melody avoids the tedium of recitative as clearly criticized by Mazzocchi and reflects his preference for the genre of the Intermedio, richly articulated in dance rhythms. Doni too criticizes Cavalieri's remarks on versification that in his opinion with the use of short verses would turn dramatic music into barzellette e villanelle (vulgar comedy).

Turning to the work itself, which, in order to keep as much as possible the expressive effect has been recorded with instruments and voices in mean-tone tuning, according to the directions in the Preface 'in the beginning before the curtain opens, it would be good to perform music with doubled voices and a quantity of instruments: best for this purpose could be the madrigal No. 86, O Signor santo e vero: which is for six voices'. This 'madrigal' in the present recording comes before the Proem of Avveduto (Awareness) and Prudenzio (Prudence), young men who in their names reveal the programmatic intentions and anticipate the moral characters of the work, listed in the last speech of Avveduto. The entrance of Tempo (Time) takes the place of the descent from the clouds of the god in Baroque opera. The rhythmic scansion used in the present version attempts to underline the running on of time. The presence of the chorus, a moralising element, is clearly inspired by Greek models, in line with the revival of the idea of musical affetto in circles in Florence in which Cavalieri had participated: the aria 'sung and played in the ancient way' printed at the end of the Rappresentatione, with accompaniment of sordellini to imitate the double-reed instrument or aulos, is final testimony to this. In line too with how Monteverdi writes in Orfeo (which indicates as chorus also the parts obviously written for two solo shepherds), the voices of the chorus, according to Cavalieri, ought to be single ones, also in consideration of the embellishments that are indicated that could prove difficult to perform with a number of voices at the same time: at the most 'it would be possible, if wanted, to double them, singing now four, and at times together, since the stage holds eight'. This last specification suits performance in a setting not much bigger than 'should hold at the most a thousand people to sit comfortably, for their greater silence and satisfaction', according to Cavalieri, criticized here too by Doni, and fits the narrow stage on which Monteverdi records that Orfeo was performed. On the other hand Marco da Gagliano declares in the preface to his Dafne that 'the chorus should not be less than sixteen or eighteen persons'. The instrumental ritornelli are for dances and are therefore repeated. Intelletto (Intellect) appears on stage with an aria that, in its fulness, goes against the rule of the Preface, according to which 'the narrative of a solo should be as short as possible': on the contrary all the characters have an extended aria (that for convenience we shall call 'solo') quite varied in affetti (Cavalieri suggests that 'the passing from one affect to another opposite one, as from sad to cheerful, from fierce to gentle, and the like, are extremely moving'). The affetto is varied by Intelletto either rhythmically in e riso insiem e lutto (laughter and grief together), or through the use of a pause, quindi mille sospiri (then a thousand sighs), or in the lowering of the melodic line, as at dal cor profondo (from the depth of the heart), or by daring melodic leaps, as in sempre felice (always happy). Through all the first part he will be silent to return in competition with Consiglio (Counsel) in exalting Heaven and calling on the Blessed Souls, ending with an exhortation to the festa per tutto, the banquet for everyone, rich in rhythmic and vocal effects.

As has already been said, the two leading characters, Anima and Corpo correspond to the two lovers of contemporary theatre, elaborating their arioso recitatives which in contrasting affetti and in echoes and duets anticipate the romantic element of Baroque opera. Corpo closes the opening scene with a solo richly furnished with expressive contrasts that pass from moral despair to faith. This very fine passage was certainly dear to Cavalieri, who in his Preface advises on the stage that 'Corpo when he says the words Sì che hormai Alma mia (‘From now on, my Soul’) and what follows, could take off some vain ornament, such as a gold necklace, hat feather or other things'. Anima ends her appearance in the work with a very rich varied solo in which Cavalieri will certainly have been inspired by contemporary virtuoso arias for female singers. The two Sinfonie are based on ascending and descending scales, as at the height of the sixteenth century, on which the instruments elaborate a series of variations. They are constructed on repeated melodic-rhythmic elements that lend themselves to concerted performance. It may be noted that the Sinfonie are indicated as the end of acts, while they open to full effect the following act, as in Monteverdi's Orfeo. Consiglio (Counsel) is in importance parallel to Intelletto (Intellect) and with him represent the deuteragonists of the work. The solo with which he appears is also irregular in its diversity of pace and greatly contrasted affetti, among them a battle analogous to that included in a recitative of Venus in Monteverdi's Ballo delle Ingrate, Invan gentil guerriero (In vain gentle warrior). Piacere (Pleasure) with his two companions, like Mondo (World) and Vita Mondana (Earthly Life) make an important entrance to capture the attention of the public. Real carnival figures, as at the time of Lorenzo Il Magnifico, they represent the temptations to which the leading characters are subjected. The entrance of Piacere is preceded and interrupted by a noisy ritornello for a group of pifferi, an ensemble for dances in which one or two sackbuts come together with two bombards, while the song is made by two parts in sesquialtera proportion, with rhythmic acceleration to considerable effect. Such variations as the alternation of solo and chorus exemplify much of what Cavalieri had written in his introduction: 'when a little has been sung solo, it is good to have the chorus sing, and to vary often the sounds; and that now the soprano sings, now the bass, now the contralto, now the tenor; and that arias and the music not be the same, but varied with many rhythmic and echoing inventions as much as possible'. It is in this way that the aria Vò dimandarne al Cielo is here introduced. The second part of the opera is entrusted to the heavenly, earthly and infernal choruses. Intelletto and Consiglio call on the blessed souls and the damned respectively (and here too Cavalieri anticipates the scenes of magic in Baroque opera). The quartet of the protagonists and deuteragonists comment on these, while everything leads to the great chorus O signor santo e vero that Cavalieri calls a madrigal and which is the musical centre of the entire opera. The courtly origins of the work are realised in the Festa da ballo that ends the Rappresentatione. It is important to remember that throughout the Baroque period dance was current in the Jesuit colleges. Certainly the Rappresentatione of Cavalieri is a glorification of the work of St Philip Neri, showing great modernity and tolerance in the use of secular forms, not treating them with bigotry but moulding them in a true spectacle in the manner of the medieval mysteries rather than creating an artificial morality in the style of the sacred oratorio of the Baroque period.

Sergio Vartolo
English version by Keith Anderson

Emilio de' Cavalieri and the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo

Emilio de' Cavalieri was born about the year 1550 in Rome into a noble family of marked cultural interests and achievements. He was involved for a number of years, from 1578, with the organization of Lenten music at the Oratorio del Crocifisso, in which his elder brother had long been concerned in the same capacity, and was associated in Rome with Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, superintending, after the Cardinal's accession as Grand Duke of Tuscany, the lavish wedding celebrations of Ferdinando with Christine of Lorraine and continuing to serve the Grand Duke in a further series of pastorals and in diplomatic intrigues over the papal succession. The festivities for the wedding of Henri IV of France and Maria de' Medici in October 1600, which he largely superintended, included music by Cavalieri and his production of Peri's Euridice, but the principal entertainment, Il rapimento di Cefalo (‘The Abduction of Cephalus’) by Caccini, was produced by that composer and Giovanni de' Medici, to the annoyance of Cavalieri, who regarded what seems to have been a particularly lavish and, from the written accounts left, successful performance as disastrous. He left Florence, where he was replaced by Caccini, and returned to Rome, where he had continued his connection with the Oratorio del Crocifisso. It was there that in 1600 he produced two performances of his Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo. The work has considerable historical significance as the first staged work set to music from beginning to end Cavalieri died in Rome in 1602.

The period in which the Rappresentatione was written was one of much musical and acoustical experiment, not least in the divisions of the octave, so that Cavalieri could have a special organ made that allowed for enharmonic differences, the difference, that is, between, say, B flat and A sharp, notes which are identical on the modern keyboard. Gesualdo was among those composers writing for keyboard instruments of a similar kind. The Rappresentatione offers the first example of a score published with a figured bass, a bass line with numbers and other symbols to indicate the chord to be used by the addition of notes above. The influence of Platonic and Aristotelian theories of music had considerable importance in the development of the new music, exemplified by Cavalieri's work. From this arose the so-called doctrine of the affetti (affections), by which composers, like orators, were to induce a certain state of mind (or certain feelings) in their hearers. The theories being developed derived in part from Plato's Republic, with its discussion of the effects of music un character, and in part on the teachings of rhetoric, which remained an important element in education, and hence in both music and drama.

Keith Anderson

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