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8.557746 - CAVALLI: Arias and Duets from Didone, Egisto, Ormindo, Giasone and Calisto
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Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Arias and Duets

Although this overview of Cavalli’s music is necessarily condensed, it nonetheless succeeds in painting a meaningful picture of both the nature of opera as it was developing in Venice at the time, and the composer’s own artistic and compositional talent. Cavalli was of course influenced by Monteverdi, yet he imbued his music with his own individual style, in effect setting the artistic seal on the rest of the seventeenth century.

One particularly distinctive element of Cavalli’s music is its singability (cantabilità), especially evident in his duets and in his expression of the sensuality omnipresent in post- Renaissance Venetian art and literature. Opera grew out of the Accademie, forums for artistic and literary debate and performance, whose members were inspired by the tales of the Roman world (as viewed with considerable moral — and historical — licence), and by Greek mythology (also revisited in such a way as to draw in and even titillate Venetian audiences).

The tales told by these early operas had a lot in common with our soap story-lines. Heroes undergo the unlikeliest of hardships, become involved in unrestrained love affairs, get caught out in embarrassing situations, and so on, only for everything to be rapidly unravelled for an unambiguously happy ending, removing all concerns from the minds of a rapt audience (the operatic star system had not yet established itself at this point). There was a sense of liberation from the purely aural allusiveness of the madrigal form, as well as from the compositional and performance difficulties also associated with it, and an increasing interest in the visual impact of the sets and costumes that were soon to become the norm. Madrigal quartets, quintets and sextets were on their way out, seen as music for an aesthetic elite, to be replaced by the more approachable duets.

There is perhaps an analogy to be drawn with our own times, in which the spoken and written word are being replaced by a TV videocracy, whose power is taking hold in the same way as opera did in the seventeenth century. By happy coincidence, however, Cavalli was born at precisely the right time and place, and his genius was translated into intricate, convoluted love stories and impetuous passions and rages expressed with perfect aesthetic and expressive musical symbiosis in masterly passacaglias. The Lament can be seen as a kind of condensed version of this artistic sensibility, an opera in miniature, and is therefore essential to the history of opera (cf. the three Lamenti Barocchi CDs I have recorded with Naxos). This kind of love lyric, in which languor alternates with fury, and invective is followed by immediate repentence (“What have I said? What unhappy ravings are these?”) drew inspiration from both historical and contemporary episodes (Lament of the Queen of Sweden, Lament of Cinq-Mars), and then moved on to self-mockery in semi-serious laments (such as the Lament of the Castrato - whose details are indelicate in the extreme but fascinating in historical terms - or that of the Impotent Man).

All this is to be found in Cavalli’s operas. Self-mockery is often given an outlet in his more humorous characters: stammering servants, elderly besotted old maids, lustful servant girls, satyrs ever ready for love, and so on. The Calisto libretto in particular is extremely liberal in religious and sexual terms, with its explicit scenes of lesbian love between Calisto and Jupiter (who has taken on Diana’s form, becoming in the process a soprano rather than a bass) and the reflections of Mercury who, having openly procured Calisto for his master, then reproaches Jupiter for having created free will.

The synopses which follow include all of the above. It is also worth mentioning that the plot summaries of the original librettos make particular reference to events prefiguring the action covered by the opera, as will be seen in the synopsis Faustini himself wrote for Egisto, which I have transcribed for this edition.

I would like to thank Mr Roccatagliati of the University of Ferrara and Mr Macchioni of the library of the same university, who kindly gave me the opportunity to consult the Cavalli microfilms of the late professor Thomas Walker’s collection.

Sergio Vartolo

The extracts featured on this CD are given in bold, with track numbers in parentheses.

Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice
score press-mark: It. IV 355 (=9879), libretto pressmark: Dramm. 908.4. Two copies of the libretto exist: one only contains the synopsis (1641, Pietro Miloco), the other is complete (1656, Andrea Giuliani)

Opera in musica, by Giovanni Francesco Busenello, first performed at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 1641.

Iris (Prologue) Dido, queen of Carthage / Aeneas, a Trojan leader / Anchises, Aeneas’s father / Ascanius, Aeneas’s son / Creusa, Aeneas’s wife / Iarbas, king of Gaetulia / Anna, Dido’s sister / Cassandra, princess of Troy / Sychaeus, Dido’s husband (a shade) / Pyrrhus, a Greek leader / Chorebus / Sinon, a Greek / Illionius, Aeneas’s ambassador and companion / Achates, Aeneas’s faithful companion / Hecuba, elderly wife of King Priam / Jupiter / Juno / Mercury / Venus / Cupid / Neptune / Aeolus / Fortune / The Graces / Chorus of Carthaginian maidens / Chorus of hunters / Chorus of Trojans / Chorus of sea nymphs

Following the Prologue, in which Juno’s maidservant Iris declares the fall of Troy to be fit vengeance for Paris’s insulting behaviour towards her mistress, Act One describes the burning of Troy and Aeneas’s flight with his father Anchises and his young son Ascanius. Act One ends as the Trojan army sets sail [1].
Act Two opens in the city of Carthage where Iarbas has come to propose marriage to Queen Dido, whom he loves passionately. She rejects him, however, as the memory of her first husband, Sychaeus, still burns within her. Meanwhile, Juno asks Aeolus to raise a tempest to destroy the Trojan fleet. Neptune intervenes though, rebuking the winds and calming the elements [2]. Aeneas’s ships dock on the Carthaginian shore in order to repair the damage caused by the storm. Dido receives his ambassador and his son, Ascanius, although in fact this is Cupid who, with the help of his mother Venus, has assumed the child’s appearance. His darts strike the queen, causing her to fall in love with Aeneas as soon as she sees him. As Act Two comes to an end, Iarbas flees, crazed with jealousy.
At the beginning of Act Three, Dido confides in her sister Anna, telling her of her love for Aeneas. Anna advises her to forget Sychaeus and to allow ‘a new and precious bud/into [her] secret garden’ (‘novo inesto peregrino/nel segreto tuo giardino’). To this end, she suggests that Dido organize a hunt during which she will be able ‘to transform herself with joy and delight/deep within a cavern/with the Trojan hero’ (‘nel sen d’un cavo speco/con l’Heroe troiano teco/trasformar in gioie i guai’). In the meantime, two maidens who have perceived Dido’s passion and hope themselves to enjoy Cupid’s pleasures, invite Iarbas to frolic with them in a grotto. A storm breaks during the hunt and Dido and Aeneas take refuge in a cave. Jupiter sends Mercury to Aeneas, by now Dido’s lover, to spur him on to his higher destiny. Aeneas calls together his followers and departs, but not before singing a farewell lament to the sleeping Dido [3]. When Dido awakes, the shade of Sychaeus appears before her. Iarbas has meanwhile been returned to sanity by Mercury. In a powerful lament, Dido prepares to stab herself [4]. Iarbas steps in to save her and is about to kill himself when Dido in turn prevents him, finally yielding to his love. The opera ends with an aria for Iarbas and a duet for him and Dido [5].

Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice
score press-mark: It. IV 411 (=9935), libretto pressmark: Dramm.911.5 (1641, Pietro Miloco)

Favola dramatica musicale, by Giovanni Faustini, first performed at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 1643. In a prologue and three acts.

Prologue: Night, as the sun sets, and Dawn, as it rises. Lydius, who loves Chloris / Chloris, who loves Lydius / Aegisthus, who also loves Chloris / Clymene, who loves Lydius / Hipparchus, Clymene’s brother / Voluptuousness / Beauty / Cupid / Venus / Semele / Phaedra / Dido / Hero / Cinea, Hipparchus’s servant / Apollo / 4 Hours, ministers of Apollo / The Graces / Chorus of cupids, Venus’s retinue (silent) / Chorus of the Heroides, who died for love / Chorus of Hipparchus’s servants / Chorus of Clymene’s servants The story takes place on the island of Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea, in springtime

Faustini’s original synopsis
Night and Dawn perform the prologue.
Aegisthus, born in Delos and a descendant of Apollo, was in love with Chloris, and she with him. Venus, however, as part of a dispute with Apollo, had them captured by pirates, and when the spoils were divided Chloris was given to Miciades, and Aegisthus to Callia. Miciades sold Chloris to Alchisthenes, a noble from Zakynthos, while Callia kept Aegisthus in slavery. Once on Zakynthos, Chloris forgot her former love and became enamoured of Lydius, ruler of the island, who in turn loved her more than he loved himself. A year later, Aegisthus escaped from his bonds, along with a young noblewoman of Zakynthos, Clymene, who had been captured on the same day as him, by the same pirates, and who was herself to have married Lydius. Filled with pity at her cruel fate, Aegisthus promised to return her to her homeland. Thus he and Clymene set sail for Zakynthos and reach its shores safely, only for Aegisthus to find Chloris in love with Lydius [6], and Clymene to find Lydius in love with Chloris. Chloris accuses Aegisthus of being a madman, while Lydius simply rejects Clymene, who pours out her grief to her brother Hipparchus. He then swears vengeance and, having surprised Lydius with his new lover, attacks him, ties him to a tree, and gives Clymene his sword in order to avenge her honour, then leaves.
Clymene is filled with anger against the treacherous Lydius, and wants to plunge the sword into his breast, yet her love for him outweighs her bitterness, and she stops herself. Rather than injure him, and unable to live without him, in desperation she prepares to die. Cupid meanwhile, has been sent to the Underworld by Venus in order to do Aegisthus harm, but has himself been rescued by Apollo from a sombre myrtle grove where he was in great danger [from the Ovidian heroines, Semele, Phaedra, Dido and Hero, determined to wreak their vengeance upon Cupid], on condition that he solemnly swear to return Chloris to Aegisthus. Cupid emerges into daylight as Clymene is contemplating death; he revives Lydius’s love for her and the latter prevents the unhappy girl from stabbing herself, lovingly declaring he is hers once more. Aegisthus, knowing himself betrayed by his beloved, becomes more and more delirious and finally goes mad [7]. As he raves, Cupid takes the opportunity to use his weapons of mercy on Chloris, and her love for Aegisthus is reawakened. Apollo’s ministers, the hours, return Aegisthus to his senses, and bear the two lovers through the air from Zakynthos to Delos on Dawn’s chariot, thus triumphing over Venus’s anger.

Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice
score press-mark: It. IV 368 (=9892), libretto pressmark: Dramm. 912.4 (1644, Francis Miloco)

Favola Regia per musica, by Giovanni Faustini, first performed at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 1644.

Harmony, who performs the Prologue / Ormindo, Hariadano’s long-lost son / Amida, prince of Tremisene / Nerillo, Amida’s page / (In disguise) Sicle, princess of Susio [Scotland]; Melide, her lady-inwaiting; Erice, her nurse / Erisbe, wife of Hariadeno / Mirinda, her confidante / Hariadeno, king of Morocco and Fez / Destiny / Cupid / Fortune / The Winds / Osman, Hariadeno’s captain / Guard of the arsenal at Ansa / Messenger / Chorus of Ormindo’s soldiers / Chorus of Amida’s soldiers / Chorus of Mauritanian soldiers / Chorus of Erisbe’s ladies-inwaiting

In Act One we meet Ormindo, a Mauritanian warrior in love with Erisbe, and his fellow soldier Amida, who also loves her. Erisbe is still young, but is married to the elderly Hariadeno, king of Morocco. The two men agree to present themselves in turn to Erisbe and leave her to make her choice [8]. She is delighted by their declarations but unable to choose between them [9]. The two suitors take their leave of Erisbe [10]. The page Nerillo laments the fact that love makes fools of men. Enter Sicle, dressed in gipsy clothes, in search of her lover, Amida, and accompanied by her nurse, Erice. They offer to read Nerillo’s palm. Erisbe meanwhile is bemoaning her fate as the wife of an old man who can only offer her ‘insipid kisses’ (‘sciapiti baci’). Her lady-in-waiting Mirinda declares ‘truly it is not right/to join golden tresses to silver locks’ (‘[non] si conviene in vero/congiunger treccia d’oro a crin d’argento’). The act closes with Destiny’s order to Cupid to reunite Amida and Sicle. Act Two opens with a love scene between Amida and Erisbe. Still disguised, Sicle, Erice and Melide appear and offer to tell their fortunes, before reading first Amida’s and then Erisbe’s palm. Erice convinces Amida to meet her in a cave where she will carry out a magical fortune-telling ceremony. Meanwhile Ormindo announces that he is leaving, having received a letter from his mother asking for his help to fight the king of Algeria who is besieging Tunis. Erisbe decides to run away with him. Fortune then commands the Winds to turn back the ships of the fleeing lovers. At the beginning of Act Three, Sicle, Melide and Erice prepare the cave for the magic rites promised to Amida, with the intention of revealing their true identity to him. During the ceremony, Sicle appears before Amida and exhorts him to touch her to see that she is real, and not a spirit. The two are reconciled. In the meantime, Hariadeno has commanded his captain Osman to follow Erisbe and Ormindo. A messenger arrives, bearing the news that they have been captured. In a faltering voice, the king declares that they are to be poisoned. Osman is charged with the task of killing them but Mirinda promises to marry him if he replaces the poison with a sleeping draught. Ormindo and Erisbe drink the potion and feel themselves gradually being overtaken by sleep [11]. Hariadeno then receives a letter which reveals that Ormindo is his long-lost son, and is filled with remorse, until Osman reveals that he only gave them a sleeping potion. The two lovers awake and Ormindo begs his father’s forgiveness [12]. Final duet between Ormindo and Erisbe [13].

Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice
score press-mark: It. IV 363 (=9887), libretto pressmark: Dramm. 916.3 (1649,50,54, Giacomo Batti)

Drama per musica, by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini, first performed at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 1649 and 1666. In three acts.

Jason, leader of the Argonauts / Hercules, one of the Argonauts / Bessus, captain of Jason’s guard / Hypsipyle, queen of Lemnos / Orestes, her confidant / Alinda, lady-in-waiting / Medea, queen of Colchis / Delpha, her nurse / Rosmina, a gardener / Aegeus, king of Athens / Demos, a servant / Apollo / Cupid / Jupiter / Aeolus / Zephyr / Chorus of gods / Chorus of winds / Chorus of spirits / Volano, a spirit / Chorus of Argonauts / Chorus of soldiers / Chorus of sailors
The action takes place in part on the island of Colchis and in part on the shores of the Black Sea

Prologue: Apollo and Cupid.
As Act One opens, Jason tells of the joy and pleasure he feels because of his nightly assignations with an unknown lover [14]. Hercules reproaches him for neglecting his task of finding the golden fleece. Medea, a sorceress, rejects the advances of Aegeus, who leaves in dejection. Enter Orestes, sent by Hypsipyle to find her husband Jason, by whom she has twin sons. He is intercepted by the servant Demos who, stuttering, challenges him to combat [15]. There follows an intermezzo for Delpha, Medea’s elderly maidservant, who dreams of finding a lover. Medea and Jason meet, and she convinces him that his secret lover is Delpha, before revealing that she herself is the woman in question. Hypsipile now arrives on the shores of Colchis, and the act ends with a magical incantation by Medea. As Act Two begins, Orestes comes to meet Hypsipile who, having just landed with her servant Alinda, is now asleep and dreaming of Jason’s kisses. Orestes tries to take advantage of her while she sleeps but she awakes in time. Meanwhile, Medea gives Jason a ring containing the ‘warlike spirit’ (‘guerriero folletto’) that will help him defeat the bull who guards the golden fleece. They sing a love duet [16]. Jason fights the bull and returns victorious. Demos discovers the intrigue between Medea and Jason and tells Aegeus about it. In the meantime, Orestes tells Jason of Hypsipile’s arrival, and Jason then calms Medea’s jealousy by telling her that Hypsipile is a madwoman. The two women meet and argue.
Act Three opens with a comic duet between Orestes and Delpha. Medea then asks Jason to murder Hypsipile and he charges Bessus with this task. In the valley of Orseno, Besso comes across Medea, whom he mistakes for Hypsipile. Instead of killing her outright, however, he throws her into the sea, from where she is rescued by her rejected suitor Aegeus. Jason is angry with Bessus for the mistake made. While he sleeps, Aegeus tries to kill him, but is stopped by Hypsipile only for Jason to assume that she was trying to kill him. He inveighs against her and in return she sings a moving lament, offering herself up as his victim [17]. Moved, Jason is reconciled with Hypsipile, while Medea and Aegeus are also reunited. There follows a final duet between Hypsipile and Medea, wishing one another future happiness [18].

Manuscript score and libretto held at the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice
score press-mark: It. IV 353 (=9877), libretto press-mark: Dramm. 918.5 (Giuliani, dedicated to The Most Illustrious Signor Marc’Angelo Corraro)
Drama per musica, by Giovanni Faustini, Favola Decima, first performed at the Teatro San Apollinare, Venice, 1651

Nature / Eternity / Destiny / Jupiter / Mercury / Callisto, one of Diana’s virgins, daughter of Lycaon, king of Pelasgia / Endymion, a shepherd in love with Diana (the Moon) / Diana, in love with Endymion / Lymphea, one of Diana’s followers / A satyr / Pan, god of shepherds / Silvanus, god of the woods / Juno / The Furies / Chorus of celestial spirits / Chorus of nymphs / Diana’s archers
The action takes place in Pelasgia, in the Peloponnese, later called Arcadia by Arcas, son of Jupiter and Callisto.
The Prologue features Nature, Eternity and Destiny.
As Act One opens, Jupiter has come to earth with Mercury to see for himself the damage done by the fire caused by Phaeton’s fall to earth. He sees Callisto and becomes infatuated with her, but the nymph resists his advances. Mercury suggests that he take on the form of his daughter, Diana (thereby becoming a soprano rather than a bass). He is thus able to retire with Callisto into a cave in the depths of the forest. Meanwhile, Diana is travelling through the forest with Lymphea, expressing regret that the wild animals are still in hiding, terrified by the fire, when she sees Endymion who declares that he is in love. Before he can reveal that Diana is the object of his desires, however, Lymphea chases him away, much to Diana’s disappointment, as she loves him too. Callisto now finds Diana and begs her for more kisses and caresses, but Diana, unaware that Jupiter has assumed her appearance, angrily sends Callisto away [19]. The nymph then sings a lament [20]. Lymphea, left alone on stage, declares that she does not want to die a virgin and that ‘a man is a sweet thing’ (‘l’huomo è una dolce cosa’). A satyr appears, offering to console her, but Lymphea refuses, telling him to go ‘and find love with the herd (‘ne le mandre ad amar va’’). The act ends with a satyr trio: Pan, lamenting Diana’s indifference to him, is consoled by Silvanus and the other satyr, who promises to spie on her for him. There follows a ballet for six bears.
In Act Two Endymion has climbed Mount Lycaeum to contemplate the rising moon (Diana) and sing a lament [21]. There he is suddenly overcome by sleep. Diana, who has spied him while out hunting, now approaches. Still asleep, Endymion embraces her and she remains motionless so as not to wake him. He does finally awake, and the two declare their love for one another. The satyr has witnessed this scene and runs to tell all to Pan. In the meantime Juno is searching for Jupiter on the plain of Erymanthus and comes across Callisto who tells how she has been chased away by Diana after having been kissed and treated as though she were ‘the beloved spouse’ (‘come se stata fossi il vago, il sposo’). Juno asks if anything other than kissing took place and Callisto replies that there was ‘a certain sweetness, which [she] could not describe’ (‘un certo dolce che dir non tel saprei’). Juno immediately realises that Jupiter has deceived her by assuming the guise of Diana to seduce Callisto. She reproaches Mercury, then pretends to believe that Jupiter has returned to Olympus and that it is the true Diana who stands before her. As she leaves, Endymion enters: he too is fooled and believes he is with Diana. Now the satyrs enter, and Pan jealously attacks Endymion. Lymphea too appears and the satyr tries to capture her. As she calls for help, four nymphs appear and the act ends with a fight between the nymphs and the satyrs.
Act Three opens with a lament from Callisto: Juno has called on the Furies to turn her into a bear. Jupiter, no longer disguised, enters with Mercury and, although he cannot undo Juno’s work, he consoles Callisto by raising her into the sky before she is transformed to see the beauties of the place where she will ultimately live. Meanwhile, Diana frees Endymion and the two sing a love duet [22]. The opera ends with Callisto’s descent to serve her earthly sentence as a bear, protected by Mercury who will watch over her until the time comes for her to return to the heavens as a constellation [23].
Sergio Vartolo

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