9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Claudio Monteverdiís interpretation of musical narration

Antonio Cascelli

The sixteenth-century discussions regarding poetics and music reveal an attention to the narrative element of a text. Zarlino acknowledges the importance of long narration in order to arouse different passions in the listener. Torquato Tasso considers the ottava-rima a better medium for narration «because the unequal [verses] accommodate themselves to the grandness of sadness and anxiety.» The aim of this paper is to delineate how the seconda pratica as defined by Giulio Cesare Monteverdi fits these requests for a narrative dimension, through Claudio Monteverdiís Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

The character of Clorinda, in particular, allows interesting observations, for she undergoes a deep metamorphosis during the course of the work. She is initially disguised as a male warrior, yet before her death she allows her feminine self to emerge. By means of a reductionist technique in close relationship to the treatment of the text, I will show how the style of the music changes in relation to the revelation of Clorindaís identity. Every time Clorinda sings, she employs a different musical style, with a different relationship with the text and a different harmonic orientation. The comparison between the first and last cadences of the composition demonstrates the meaning of the changes and transformations. The spectator is guided through them as if through a camera that momentarily focuses its attention on different objects in order to grasp the meaning of narration, fully apparent only at the end of the performance. The music becomes a process of montage and transformations, the embodiment of change of gender and personal identity.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita