Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Tomlinson, Gary. "Madrigal, Monody, and Monteverdi's 'Via naturale alla immitatione.'" Journal of the American Musicological Society 34 (Spring 1981): 60-108.

Monteverdi's "via naturale alla immitatione" can be traced throughout his dramatic works as well as in some of his madrigal books. His musical realization of Rinuccini's L'Arianna can be seen as the culmination of that philosophy. Instances in which he does not reach that goal can be attributed to the inadequacy of his librettists, rather than to his own inability to extract the highest dramatic elements from a text. His 1607 opera Orfeo, for example, demonstrates a great debt to the compositional style of Jacopo Peri in his L'Euridice. A comparison of the two operas demonstrates striking similarities in musical language in a number of key aspects: (1) the low tessitura of the Underworld choruses; (2) the characterization of Orpheus and Pluto by tonal and melodic means; and (3) the borrowed structural outlines from large musical units in L'Euridice. Moments of musical similarity are, however, generally preceded by a correspondence in text between Striggio's and Rinuccini's librettos. Monteverdi's response to Striggio's libretto, therefore, mirrors Peri's to Rinuccini's especially in the moments when the two coincide: for example, in the messenger's narration of Eurydice's death and in Orpheus's subsequent reaction to this news. In these examples, specifically, Monteverdi's debt to Peri's stile recitativo is most prominent. Thus, it is evident that Monteverdi's musical style relies heavily on the quality of the text, and Striggio's inadequacies in borrowing from Rinuccini are reflected in the composer's realization of the libretto. Such problems can be found in Monteverdi's later Venetian operas as well, preventing the composer from duplicating the dramatic success present in his 1608 masterwork, L'Arianna.

Works: Monteverdi, Orfeo (60-108).

Sources: Jacopo Peri, L'Euridice (60-108).

Index Classifications: 1600s

Contributed by: Elizabeth Elmi

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