Le veglie di Siena/Night Games of Siena: An Italian Madrigal Comedy by Orazio Vecchi
Prima Parte della Veglia/The First Part of the Games
The First Evening
Prima Proposta The First Proposal
The Gamesmaster proposes “The Games of Impersonations”
to the company, and of Stordito he makes the first request:
to pretend to be a Sicilian.
Imitatione del Siciliano Imitation of the Sicilian
Applauso overo Applause or
Chiachiera della Veglia The Evening Discussion
Seconda Proposta The Second Proposal
Then he makes a pleasant request of Laura to impersonate a
little country girl who believes she is the most beautiful of them all.
Imitatione della Villanella Imitation of the Country Girl
Quinta Proposta The Fifth Proposal
With a merry look he commands Emilia to impersonate an
obstinate Frenchman, who finds himself in an amorous state.
Imitatione del Francese Imitation of the Frenchman
Tradutione in Italiano Italian Translation
Fine della Prima Veglia/End of the First Evening
~~ Pause ~~
Seconda Veglia/The Second Evening
La Caccia d’Amore/The Hunt for Cupid
Tal fu il piacer
The Gamesmaster declares Cupid to be a tyrant, and in order
to catch him he inspires them all to the hunt, for which
they all gather up their strengths.
Facciam muggir col corno
They are all ready to spend the day with the weapons of the hunt,
and a great noise sounds through the air as they go after Cupid.
E dov’è questo ribello?
Cupid shows himself and then disappears. Then he flies from
bank to bank, so that no one is able to catch him.
The reckless company realizes that Cupid is not a body, but a little spirit,
that to his pleasure fools now this person and now that person.
La Vendetta Contro Amore The Vengeance Against Cupid
The indignant company desires to have vengeance
against Cupid, but now they put their anger aside
, and play the game of the “Tongue Twister.”
Bisticcio The Tongue Twister
Licenza del Prencipe The Gamesmaster’s Dismissal
al Vegliatori of the Company
Fine della Seconda Veglia e della Prima Parte delle Veglie
End of the Second Evening and the First Part of the Games
~~ Pause ~~
Seconda Parte delle Veglie/The Second Part of the Games
Proemio The Proem
The Gamesmaster introduces a new game of the “Humors of
Modern Music,” which moves people to marvel and delight.
L’humor universal The Common Humor
L’humor licentioso The Capricious Humor
L’humor lusinghiero The Alluring Humor
L’humor perfidioso The Obstinate Humor
L’humor balzano I The Eccentric Humor, part 1
L’humor balzano II The Eccentric Humor, part 2
Complimenti del Principe The Gamesmaster’s Compliments
a Vegliatori to the Company
Cantus: Shari Alise Wilson, soprano
Sesto: Shannon Canavin, soprano
Alto: Carrie Cheron, mezzo-soprano
Tenore: Owen McIntosh, tenor
Quinto: Matthew Anderson, tenor
Basso: Paul Guttry, bass-baritone
Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 8pm
University Lutheran Church, 66 Winthrop Street, Cambridge
Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 3pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
Notes on the Program
Orazio Vecchi (1550–1605) is as interesting as he is obscure. Because his output consisted mostly of "entertainment music," and because he composed around the time when the Italian madrigal was becoming a virtuosic endeavor and the experiments of the Florentines were planting the seeds of opera, his quirky musical tastes and sharp wit have been rather neglected by modern scholars.
Of course, Vecchi's response to this neglect would likely resemble his response to contemporary criticism that appeared in the dedication of the collection Selva di varia ricreatione from 1590: "I am well aware that on first hearing some may perhaps think these my caprices base and trivial. Let them learn that it takes just as much skill, art, and knowledge...to make a silly comic character as it does to create a prudent and sagely old man." He continues the thought in the preface: "...and if some smart ass says that it is easy to come up with such things, let him try; he'll see that it is easy to want ideas, hard to have them, harder still to arrange them, and even more difficult to put them all together well."
Vecchi's exact birth date is unknown, but parish records discovered in the early 1900s show that he was baptized in Modena on 6 December 1550. He studied there under Salvatore Essenga, who included a work by Vecchi in his own first book of madrigals from 1566. Various travels over the next few years helped his reputation as a composer to spread, and in 1581 he was appointed the maestro di cappella in Salò. He left, in 1584, to assume the same post in his hometown, before accepting better-paying jobs, first at Reggio nell'Emilia and then at the Correggio Cathedral.
In Correggio, he divided his time between sacred and secular endeavors. Sometime in his early years, he had taken holy orders, and was eventually named an archdeacon. He had published a collection of spiritual motets in 1590, and he served as one of the three composers (with Giovanni Gabrieli and Ludovico Balbi) who edited the 1591 edition of the Roman Gradual. Another sacred collection, Sacrarum cantionum liber secundus, appeared in 1597, and other spiritual works appeared in the early 1600s. During this time, he was still fulfilling the public's demand for his wildly popular and sometimes rather bawdy canzonettas and other secular works. The combination of high and low, serious and silly, sacred and profane—as suggested in his notes to the Selva of 1590—can be found not only across his entire oeuvre, but likewise within specific collections and even individual pieces. His four large-scale works, commonly referred to as madrigal comedies, were collections of pieces strung together by a loose plot in a deliberate and careful mixture of serious and comical elements. These include the aforementioned Selva di varia ricreatione of 1590, L'Amfiparnasso in 1597, Il convito musicale of 1597, and Le veglie di Siena of 1604.
His most popular publications were his books of lighthearted canzonettas—in fact, Vecchi appears to have been the first to coin the term. The genre as Vecchi shaped it was virtually made of opposing arrows: flowery quasi-madrigalian texts mismatched with rustic Neapolitan musical elements; poignant Petrarchan imagery turned on its ear, so that instead of describing the ruby lips and pearly teeth of a young love, he uses similar clichés, inverted, to describe the "wilted flower" of a wrinkled old lady with "breath like a basilisk." This kind of wry wit found audiences not only in Italy, but also across northern Europe.
A term of twentieth-century origin (popularized by Alfred Einstein), “madrigal comedy” refers to a kind of musical entertainment from late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy in which groups of related, generally a cappella madrigals told a story, often with a loose dramatic plot. The idea that madrigals and related polyvocal forms could be assembled by theme, arranged to tell a simple dramatic story, or figure as parts of a fictionalized social setting was first hit upon with Alessandro Striggio’s highly comic Il cicalamento delle donne al bucato (the gossip of wives in the laundry) of 1567, but was not imitated to the same degree before Vecchi’s Selva of 1590. Later madrigal comedies are sometimes divided into acts, including a prologue, and while not "acted" in the sense of an opera (but an important precursor to them), they may have been performed on stage with elaborate painted backdrops (for example, there is an existing woodcut showing the prologue of Vecchi’s L'Amfiparnaso of 1597: a singer is evidently in costume in a backdrop showing a city street). Vecchi's direction in the score, however, is for the singers not to act, but for the audience to fill in the action internally, using their imagination. He speaks to the audience in the prologue to the work: "the spectacle I speak of is to be seen in your mind; it enters not through your eyes, but through your ears: instead of looking, listen, and be silent."
Published in 1604 (one year before Vecchi’s death) and dedicated to King Christian IV of Denmark, Le veglie di Siena was inspired by the games made famous by the Academy of the Intronati in Siena. The association of gaming with Siena derives from the publications of Scipione and Girolamo Bargagli, both of whom state that erudite games had been founded as well as fostered in their city. In 1572 Girolamo published a dialogue that set out some 130 gaming inventions with instructions for play, several of which Vecchi would borrow. It was an exceptional choice insofar as such gaming in elite circles provided materials for imitation apt for dialogic structuring and sequential arrangement. Materials that were representational in nature and ceremonial in execution allowed for the perfect combination of diversity within a unified mimetic design. The rules of play, under the direction of the “Gamesmaster,” furnished direction and cohesion to the soirées. The makers and collectors of these games had concerned themselves with locating all the materials pertaining to memory, polite learning, social customs, recitations, narratives, caricatures, and mimicry that might lend themselves to play, whether in the academies, the courts, or the salons of the gens du bien where such structured activities had been à la mode throughout the sixteenth century.
Le veglie di Siena has a tri-partite design, divided into three evenings of games as opposed to three acts of play. Seven games of comic imitation are proposed for the first evening, each preceded by a proposta (proposal) and concluded with an applauso (including a discussion of the merits or faults of the performance). The second evening is devoted to the game of hunting for Cupid (Caccia d’amore), and a tongue-twister (bisticcio). The third evening constitutes the second or serious part tantamount to an anatomy of the amatory humors affectively displayed through the modes of modern music, the goal of which was to prove the powers of music by matching each lyric description of a mind state to its exact musical ethos.
Vecchi’s comic brilliance and indulgent wit are evident throughout this wonderful work, as is his gift for lovely melodies, rich harmonies, rhythmic vitality, and talent for capturing the perfect mood. The result is a work that is truly an entertainment in every sense of the word, and we are thrilled to share this fantastic piece with you.
Notes by Shannon Canavin