Sunday, March 23, 2014

Early Baroque Music: Monteverdi's Orfeo

Claudio Monteverdi 1567-1643

The text of “Tu se’ morta” is:

You are dead, dead my darling
 And I live; You have left me, 
You have left me forever,
 Never to return and I 
No, no, if verses have any power,
 I shall go boldly to the deepest abysses,
 And have melted the heart 
of the queen of shadows,
 Will bring you with me to see the stars,

Or if cruel fate deny me this, 
I will remain with you in the company of death,

Farewell earth, farewell sky,
 and sun, farewell.           

“Tu se’ morta” is a recitative from the opera “Orfeo”. A recitative is a combination of singing and talking that characters in an opera use to explain what is happening and how they feel.

 Orfeo is the story of the Greek tragedy Orpheus who could music so beautifully that he could make the animals cry. His lover, Eurydice is bitten by a poisonous snake and she dies. Because he is so sad, Orpheus stops playing music. So the gods make a deal that he can go to the underworld and lead her out of Hell, but he must not look back at her, or will she sink back into Hell.   

Near the end of the journey, Orpheus begins to worry that Eurydice has fallen behind and he forgets and looks back at her. As she sinks back into Hell, he is overcome with sadness knowing that his lack of faith put her back into Hell forever.

Musically, “Tu se’ morta” is a solo accompanied by continuo (harpsichord and viola da gamba) which is homophonic texture. The mood of the piece is expressed by the soloist and the minor key of the music accompanying the soloist. 

Word painting is used by placing key words on the highest or lowest notes. For example “death” is on the lowest note and “star” is on the highest note, highest notes showing excitement and sadness and the lowest pitches showing death and depression.
"Tu se' morta" from Orfeo 1607.

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