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EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ORATORIO REFORM IN PRACTICE: APOSTOLO ZENO REVISES A FLORENTINE LIBRETTO

  • HUUB VAN DER LINDEN

Abstract

Although the circulation and revision of Italian opera librettos is a well-known aspect of musical life in eighteenth-century Europe, the practice has hardly been touched upon with regard to the Italian oratorio of the same period. Librettist Apostolo Zeno (1668–1750) worked in and theorized about both genres, yet his involvement with the oratorio has been little studied. This article addresses three editions of an oratorio libretto by Domenico Canavese. Following versions for Florence (1712) and Pistoia (1714), a third appeared in 1726 in conjunction with a Lenten performance at the Imperial Court Chapel in Vienna. An annotated copy of the 1712 edition from Zeno's library shows that he revised the text for the Viennese performance. His textual changes – some small, some radical – reveal practical, stylistic and dramaturgical concerns. A comparison of the annotated copy with the printed libretto for the 1726 performance and the principal musical source for the new setting by Giuseppe Porsile shows that Zeno's revisions were scrupulously followed.

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1 See Caruso, Carlo, ‘Italian Opera Libretti 1679–1721: Universality and Flexibility of a Literary Genre’, in Alessandro Scarlatti und seine Zeit, ed. Lütolf, Max (Bern: Haupt, 1995), 2137. Recent comments that illustrate the degree to which this notion has become absorbed into general historiography appear, for example, in Taruskin, Richard, The Oxford History of Western Music, volume 2: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 3334, and Bianconi, Lorenzo, Music in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 190204 and 220–237.

2 Some of the earliest case studies are found in Powers, Harold S., ‘Il Serse trasformato’, The Musical Quarterly 47/4 (1961), 481492, and 48/1 (1962), 73–92, and Lindgren, Lowell, ‘I trionfi di Camilla’, Studi Musicali 6 (1977), 89159.

3 Spagna, Arcangelo, Oratori overo melodrammi sacri, ed. Herczog, Johann (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 1993). On Spagna and the oratorio as literary genre in this period see Sarnelli, Mauro, ‘Percorsi dell'oratorio per musica come genere letterario fra Sei e Settecento’, in Percorsi dell'oratorio romano, da ‘historia sacra’ a melodramma spirituale: atti della giornata di studi (Viterbo, 11 settembre 1999), ed. Franchi, Saverio (Rome: IBIMUS, 2002), 137197, and Speck, Christian, Das italienische Oratorium 1625–1665: Musik und Dichtung (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), 419426.

4 Concerning Spagna's revisions see Speck, Das italienische Oratorium, 419–426; Sarnelli, Mauro, ‘Dai Barberini all'età dell'Arcadia: nuove indagini sulla poetica drammaturgico-musicale sacra di Arcangelo Spagna’, in Musikstadt Rom: Geschichte – Forschung – Perspektiven. Beiträge der Tagung ‘Rom: Die ewige Stadt im Brennpunkt der aktuellen musikwissenschaftlichen Forschung’ am Deutschen Historischen Institut in Rom, 28.–30. September 2004, ed. Engelhardt, Markus (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2011), 263305; and Ryszka-Komarnicka, Anna, ‘Arcangelo Spagna's “Perfetto melodramma spirituale” as Seen on [sic] the Example of Two Versions of His Oratorio Based on the Book of Judith’, Musicologica brunensia 49/1 (2014), 7388. A case study of the revisions and life cycle of one oratorio libretto is provided in van der Linden, Huub, ‘A Bio-bibliographical Approach to the Circulation of Italian Oratorio around 1700: The Case of Francesco Pistocchi and Il martirio di san Adriano’, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 68/1 (2011), 2960.

5 Zeno, Apostolo, Poesie sacre drammatiche . . . cantate nella imperial cappella di Vienna (Venice: Cristoforo Zane, 1735).

6 On Zeno as an opera librettist see Fehr, Max, Apostolo Zeno und seine Reform des Operntextes: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Libretto's (Zurich: Tschopp, 1912). A more critical stance toward Zeno's activity as a reformer, together with a reconstruction of eighteenth-century views, is provided by Freeman, Robert, ‘Apostolo Zeno's Reform of the Libretto’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 21/3 (1968), 321341. More recent research includes Freeman, , Opera without Drama: Currents of Change in Italian Opera, 1675–1725 (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1981); di Felice, Elena Sala, ‘Alla vigilia del Metastasio: Zeno’, in Convegno indetto in occasione del 2. centenario della morte di Metastasio d'intesa con Arcadia, Accademia letteraria italiana, Istituto di studi romani, Società italiana di studi sul sec. 18.: Roma, 25–7 maggio 1983 (Rome: Academia dei Lincei, 1985), 79105; di Felice, Sala, ‘Dagli inganni felici allo specchio delle virtù: diagramma di Apostolo Zeno’, Intersezioni 6/1 (1986), 5171; di Felice, Sala, ‘Zeno: da Venezia a Vienna, dal teatro impresariale al teatro di corte’, in L'opera italiana a Vienna prima di Metastasio, ed. Muraro, Maria Teresa (Florence: Olschki, 1990), 65114; and Mercedes Viale Ferrero, ‘Le didascalie sceniche nei drammi per musica di Zeno’, in L'opera italiana a Vienna prima di Metastasio, 271–285.

7 Gigli's revisions and Zeno's comments are discussed extensively by Marco Bizzarini, ‘Griselda e Atalia: exempla femminili di vizi e virtù nel teatro musicale di Apostolo Zeno’, two volumes (PhD dissertation, Università di Padova, 2008), volume 1, 28–52. Further studies of revisions of Zeno's opera librettos include Grout, Donald Jay, ‘La Griselda di Zeno e il libretto dell'opera di Scarlatti’, Nuova rivista musicale italiana 21/1–2 (1968), 207225; Pensa, Maria Grazia, ‘L’Atenaide di Apostolo Zeno adattata per la musica di Vivaldi’, in Antonio Vivaldi: teatro musicale, cultura e società, ed. Bianconi, Lorenzo and Morelli, Giovanni (Florence: Olschki, 1982), 331344; and Bigongiali, Biancamaria, ‘La Merope di Apostolo Zeno nelle versioni di Jommelli e Terradellas: libretti e fonti musicali manoscritte’, Fonti musicali italiane 10 (2005), 3984.

8 See principally Herczog, Johann, Il perfetto melodramma spirituale: l'oratorio italiano nel suo periodo classico (Rome: IBIMUS, 2013), 111131. See also Stroppa, Sabrina, Fra notturni sereni: le azioni sacre del Metastasio (Florence: Olschki, 1993), 3451 and passim for comparisons with Metastasio. On Zeno's Joaz see Bizzarini, ‘Griselda e Atalia’, volume 1, 107–134, and on his David see D'Angelo, Emanuele, ‘Dalla Bibbia al libretto: David, azione sacra di Apostolo Zeno’, Sacro e/o profano nel teatro fra Rinascimento ed Età dei lumi (Atti del Convegno di Studi, Bari, 7–10 febbraio 2007), ed. Castellaneta, Stella and Minervini, Francesco S. (Bari: Cacucci, 2009), 453474.

9 Forcellini, Marco, Diario zeniano (Firenze, Biblioteca medicea laurenziana, Ashb. 1502), ed. Viola, Corrado (Pisa: Serra, 2012), 35.

10 The book's slow progress towards publication is documented in various letters. See Zeno, Apostolo, Lettere di A. Z. cittadino veneziano istorico e poeta cesareo, ed. Forcellini, Marco, second edition, six volumes (Venice: Francesco Sansoni, 1785), volumes 4–5, passim. Writing on 26 November 1735 to Gianfrancesco Baldini in Rome, Zeno wrote of his ‘raccolta di poesie sacre’ that ‘L'ho fatta stampare a mie spese’. Zeno, Lettere, volume 5, 170, No. 903.

11 Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 276–280, No. 756.

12 Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, fols *5r–*6v.

13 Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, fol. *8r.

14 Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, fols *8r–*8v.

15 Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, fol. *8r.

16 Spagna, Oratori overo melodrammi, 8.

17 See Pietzsch, Willy, Apostolo Zeno in seiner Abhängigkeit von der französischen Tragödie: Eine Quellenuntersuchung (Leipzig: Seele, 1907) and, more generally, Weiss, Piero, ‘Teorie drammatiche e “infranciosamento”: motivi della “riforma” melodrammatica nel primo Settecento’, in Antonio Vivaldi: teatro musicale, cultura e società (atti del convegno tenuto a Venezia nel 1981), ed. Bianconi, Lorenzo and Morelli, Giovanni, two volumes (Florence: Olschki, 1982), volume 2, 273296; Strohm, Reinhard, Dramma per Musica: Italian Opera Seria of the Eighteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 121177; and Bucciarelli, Melania, Italian Opera and European Theatre 1680–1720: Plots, Performers, Dramaturgies (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), passim.

18 Joaz azione sacra per musica (Vienna: Gio. Pietro Van Ghelen, 1726), fol. A1v. The libretto is listed in Sartori, Claudio, I libretti italiani a stampa dalle origini al 1800: catalogo analitico con 16 indici, seven volumes (Cuneo: Bertola and Locatelli, 1994), No. 14058. On the oratorio see Bizzarini, ‘Griselda e Atalia’, volume 1, 107–134.

19 Odio, ed amore ovvero Assalonne nemico del padre amante oratorio a cinque voci (Florence: Nestenus e Borghigiani, 1712). Only the copy at I-Fm, Misc. 319, nr. 14, is listed in Sartori, Libretti italiani, No. 16867.

20 See Paolo Guasconi, ‘L'oratorio musicale a Firenze dalle origini al 1785’ (laurea dissertation, Università di Firenze, 1979), 462–463. On the oratorio in Florentine confraternities see Hill, John Walter, ‘Oratory Music in Florence, III: 1655 to 1785’, Acta Musicologica 58/1 (1986), 127177. The local Congregation of the Oratorio is discussed in Hill, ‘Oratory Music in Florence, II: At San Firenze in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, Acta Musicologica 51/2 (1979), 246–267.

21 Assalon punito oratorio a cinque da cantarsi nella chiesa de’ padri della congregazione dell'Oratorio di s. Filippo Neri di Firenze. Dedicato all'illustrissimo sig. marchese Cammillo Borbon del Monte. Poesia del sig. Domenico Canavese (Florence: Vangelisti, 1708). The dedicatory text is signed by Canavese. The libretto is listed in Sartori, Libretti italiani, No. 3197, and both known copies are at I-Fm (shelfmarks Melodrammi 2367.6 and Melodrammi 2235.20). Fabbri, Mario, ‘Gli ultimi anni di vita di Francesco Maria Veracini’, Collectanea historiae musicae 3 (1962–1963), 98, note 16, first affirmed that Antonio Veracini was the composer of the lost music, but on what basis is not clear. The attribution also appears in John Walter Hill's 2001 entry on Antonio Veracini in Grove Music Online www.oxfordmusiconline.com (20 September 2018).

22 Assalonne nemico del padre amante oratorio a cinque voci. Dedicato all'illustriss. signore Atto Forteguerri protettore della rinascente accademia degli Abbozzati recitato in Pistoia l'anno 1714 (Pistoia: Gatti[, 1714]), listed in Sartori, Libretti italiani, No. 3207.

23 Fedi, Maria, Tuo lumine: l'Accademia dei Risvegliati e lo spettacolo a Pistoia tra Sei e Settecento (Florence: Firenze University Press, 2011), volume 1, 178.

24 L'odio e l'amore drama per musica da recitarsi nel teatro da S. Sebastiano in Livorno l'anno 1708 (Livorno: Jacopo Valsisi, 1703 [sic]), listed in Sartori, Libretti italiani, No. 16863.

25 Hill, ‘Oratory Music III’, 162.

26 I have also been unable to locate the text of the substitution aria in another dramatic work.

27 This aria also does not appear in other sources.

28 Spagna, Oratori overo melodrammi, 17.

29 I-Vnm, Misc.2641.2. All volumes belonging to Zeno, including this one, have his printed ex libris. For an inventory of the Venetian opera librettos from Zeno's library at the Biblioteca Marciana and an introduction to this collection see Laini, Marinella, La raccolta zeniana di drammi per musica veneziani della Biblioteca nazionale Marciana, 1637–1700 (Lucca: Libreria musicale italiana, 1995).

30 On the influx of Italian oratorios in Vienna see Kantner, Leopold, ‘L'oratorio tra Venezia e Vienna: un confronto’, in L'opera italiana a Vienna prima di Metastasio, ed. Muraro, Maria Teresa (Florence: Olschki, 1990), 207216, and Deisinger, Marko, ‘Römische Oratorien am Hof der Habsburger in Wien in der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts: Zur Einführung und Etablierung des Oratoriums in der kaiserlichen Residenz’, Musicologica austriaca 29 (2010), 89114.

31 Sala di Felice, ‘Alla vigilia’. Zeno later confirmed that he had to write three operas and an oratorio per year in Vienna. See Forcellini, Dario zeniano, 79.

32 Composers sometimes worked with remarkable speed. For example, on 14 February 1732 Zeno wrote that he finished and sent to Vienna his ‘Oratorio per la ventura Quaresima’, that is, his Sedecia (Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 355, No. 796). Antonio Caldara finished the music less than a month later, on 7 March, as shown by the dated score. See Kirkendale, Ursula, Antonio Caldara: Sein Leben und seine venezianisch-römischen Oratorien (Graz: Böhlau, 1966), 138.

33 Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 97–98, No. 678. For further letters from 1726, none of which mention his revision of Odio ed amore, see Bizzarini, Marco, ‘L'epistolario inedito di Apostolo Zeno’, Studi musicali 37/1 (2008), 133134.

34 Kirkendale, Antonio Caldara, 131. The score at A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 17129 is available in facsimile as Antonio Caldara, Joaz, introduction by Howard E. Smither, The Italian Oratorio 1650–1800, volume 12 (New York: Garland, 1986).

35 Zeno later stated that he also ‘greatly helped’ (‘aiutò assai’) Giovanni Claudio Pasquini with the libretto of Porsile's Spartaco, which was premiered in Vienna in February 1726. See Forcellini, Diario zeniano, 125.

36 Josephus, Flavius, Delle antichità e guerre giudaiche, trans. Pietro Lauro (Venice: Domenico Milocho, 1671), 161. The use of ‘Macami’ in the libretto points to this text, which calls the mother of Absalon ‘Machami’.

37 There were several women (and locations) called Arsinoe in Antiquity, but I know of no sources that names an Arsinoe as Amnon's mother. The name ‘Ac(h)inoam’ for Amnon's mother is given in II Samuel 3:2. Lauro's translation of Flavius Josephus, Delle antichità e guerre giudaiche calls her ‘Achinoe’ (it may have been misspelled ‘Arsinoe’ in a particular edition Canavese used).

38 These line numbers must be taken as approximate. I have counted actual printed, not necessarily metric, lines in the 1712 and 1726 librettos (in which there are a few instances of one metric line being divided over two or more printed lines). Lines are counted without the da capos.

39 The line count for Joaz derives from the edition of the libretto in Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, 189–221, and reflects the number of metric lines.

40 Spagna, Oratori overo melodrammi, 17.

41 Zeno, Poesie sacre drammatiche, fol. *8v.

42 Fanelli, Jean Grundy, ‘Aesthetic and Practical Influences on the Tuscan Oratorio of the Late Baroque’, in L'oratorio musicale italiano e i suoi contesti (secc. XVII–XVIII): atti del Convegno internazionale, Perugia, Sagra musicale umbra, 18–20 settembre 1997, ed. Besutti, Paola (Florence: Olschki, 2002), 329.

43 Assalonne (1726), fol. C4v: ‘Benchè innocente, / Anch'io esser deggio / Madre dolente: / Ma forse in piangere / Non sarò sola. / Se ne le lagrime / L'aver compagno / Non toglie al misero / Il duol dal seno, / In parte almeno / Lo racconsola / Benchè, &c’. The aria does not appear in other librettos by Zeno or his contemporaries.

44 Forcellini, Diario zeniano, 25.

45 Freeman, ‘Apostolo Zeno's Reform’, 327–328.

46 Spagna, Oratori overo melodrammi, 16.

47 Concerning the musical tradition of this lament see Spilker, John D, ‘“Oh My Son!”: The Musical Origins and Function of King David's Lamentation’, College Music Symposium 49–50 (2009), 427450.

48 Stroppa, Fra notturni, 35, note 82, and 117, observes that Zeno tends not to use figurality (in particular the foreshadowing of Christ's life in the Old Testament), but that his Giuseppe (1722) does have an indication of figurality at its end.

49 Assalon punito, 20: ‘D'Israele o re dolente / Rasserena il mesto ciglio. / E al voler del ciel possente / Lascia il fato del tuo figlio’.

50 Forcellini, Diario zeniano, 36.

51 Vocabolario degli accademici della Crusca quarta impressione, six volumes (Florence: Domenico Maria Manni, 1729–1738), volume 4, 476. Hence sentenzioso is defined as ‘Pieno di sentenzie, nel signific. del §. IV. di Sentenza’.

52 The 1726 libretto is given in Sartori, Libretti, No. 3208. The only known copy is at the Biblioteca Livia Simoni, part of the museum of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

53 On Zeno's operatic stage indications see Viale Ferrero, ‘Didascalie sceniche’.

54 Assalonne (1714), 15: Aßalonne coll'esercito alle porte di Gerosolima; 17: David, e Gioab coll'esercito accampato nella selva d'Effraim; 19: Aßalonne col suo esercito, e Gioabbe.

55 Porsile's score is located in A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 18114: Assalonne / Nemico del Padre amante / Oratorio / da cantarsi nell’/ Augustissima Cappella / della / Sac: Ces: e Catt:a Reale Mstà / Carlo VI. / Imperadore de’ Romani sempre / Augusto / L'Anno 1726. / La Musica di Gio: Porsile Mstro giubilato di S: M: C: e C:a.

56 I spotted only one discrepancy: the manuscript comma after ‘Amor’ at the bottom of page 4 of Odio ed amore was not adopted in Assalonne nemico (1726).

57 In only one case was a capital letter added: ‘Trono real’ (Odio ed amore, 2) becomes ‘Trono Real’ (Assalonne nemico, 1726, fol. A2v).

58 Odio ed amore, 2 and 11. Assalonne (1726), fols A2r and C1r. A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 18114, fols 6v and 101r.

59 A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 18114, fol. 90r.

60 Wienerisches Diarium 22 (16 March 1726), [7]: it pleased the emperor ‘dem alda [in the Court Chapel] Italiänisch gesungenem Oratorio (welches Assalone nemico del Padre amante: der Absalon, Feind seines ihn liebenden Vatters benamset, und von Herrn Joseph Porsile, Ihrer Kaiserl. Majestät jubilirten Capell-Meistern in die Music gebracht ware) wie auch der Italiänischen Predig, und übriger Andacht abzuwarten’.

61 See Paoli, Maria Pia, ‘Paoli, Sebastiano’, Dizionario biografico degli italiani 81 (2014), www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/sebastiano-paoli_(Dizionario-Biografico) (20 September 2018).

62 Letter of 30 March 1726 to Lorenzo Patarol. Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 104.

63 Letter of 3 August 1726. Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 129.

64 Zeno, Lettere, volume 4, 98. The libretto was by Giovanni Claudio Pasquini, but Zeno claimed to have had a hand in the dramaturgical layout of the text.

65 D-MEIr, Ed 147f. On the Meiningen collection see Bennett, Lawrence, ‘A Little-Known Collection of Early-Eighteenth-Century Vocal Music at Schloss Elisabethenburg, Meiningen’, Fontes artis musicae 48/3 (2001), 250302, and specifically on the oratorios see Schnitzler, Rudolf, ‘Fux or Badia? The Attribution of Santa Geltrude and Ismaele’, Fontes artis musicae 42/3 (1995), 205245.

66 I-Wn, Mus. Hs. 18114, fol. 1v, and D-MEIr, Ed 147f, fol. 1v.

67 King, A. Hyatt, ed., Catalogue of the Music Library, Instruments and Other Property of Nicolas Selhof, sold in The Hague, 1759 (Amsterdam: Frits Knuf, 1973), 248, No. 2938.

68 Schnitzler, ‘Fux or Badia?’, 220.

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