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  • 1. The Doleful Airs of Euripides: The Origins of Opera and the Spirit of Tragedy ReconsideredAuthor(s): Blair HoxbyReviewed work(s):Source: Cambridge Opera Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Nov., 2005), pp. 253-269Published by: Cambridge University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 23/09/2012 12:17Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Cambridge Opera Journal.
  • 2. Cambridge OperaJournal,17, 3, 253-269 () 2005 CambridgeUniversity Pressdoi:10.1017/S0954586706002035 The doleful airs of Euripides:The origins of opera and the spirit of tragedyreconsidered BLAIR HOXBY Abstract: Scholarly consensus denies a real connection between ancient tragedy and early opera because music historians have measured early operas against an idealised conception of Attic tragedy. However, the pioneers of opera were seeking to revive a Euripidean style of musical tragedy as it was performed in the decadent theatres of the Hellenistic era. Euripidess tragedies established conventional relationships between musical expression and the represen- tation of the passions. Baroque opera is seen as a strongly complex reading of a set of Euripideantragediesthat enjoyed favour in the Hellenistic era but fell from criticalgrace in the nineteenth century. These plays hold the key to operas tragic pretensions; the esteem they long enjoyed should prompt us to reconsider the spirit of tragedy and the nature of catharsis.In their prefaces to Euridice(1600), the first surviving opera, the poet OttavioRinuccini and composer Jacopo Peri appealed to the opinion of many that theancient Greeks and Romans sang their tragedies throughout on the stage andexplained why they thought the ancients must have sung their plays in a mannersomething like Peris stilerecitativo.1 if to announce the genre of their work, they Aschose Tragedyherself to sing the Prologue.2In a counterbidto claimpriorityfor theinvention of the new music, Giulio Caccinirecalledin his preface to a rival settingof the libretto that the noble virtuosi who gathered years earlier at GiovanniBardis house had even then declared his style of singing to be that used by theancient Greeks when introducing songs into the presentationsof their tragedies.3Whether or not we accept Caccinis claim at face value, there can be little doubtthat Bardis prote6ges Vincenzo Galilei and Giulio Caccini - and after themJacopo Corsis protegees Rinuccini and Peri - were inspired to undertake theirpracticalexperimentswith monodic songs and recitativeby two ideas that GirolamoMei circulatedamong the learnedelite of Florence:that ancient tragedieshad beensung throughout and that ancient music had been so affecting because the Greekshad not written polyphony but, relying on simple but expressive melodies, hadimitated the passions using modes whose pitch and rhythm produced a powerfulsympatheticresponse in the souls of their auditors.41 Ottavio Rinuccini, Dedication to Euridice(Florence, 1600), in Oliver Strunk, ed., Source in Readings MusicHisto7y: From ClassicalAntiqui~y Era through Romantic (New York, 1950), the 367-8. Jacopo Peri makes an almost identical statement in his Preface to Le musichesopra LEuridice Readings MusicHistory,rev. edn, (Florence, 1600), in Oliver Strunk, ed., Source in gen. ed. Leo Treitler, The Baroque Era, ed. MargaretMurata (New York, 1998), 659-60.2 On the use of prologues as generic signals, see BarbaraRussano Hanning, Apologia pro Ottavio Rinuccini,Journalof theAmerican Society, (1973), 240-62. Musicological 263 Giulio Caccini, Dedication to LEuridice composta musica stilerappresentativo in in (Florence, 1600), in Strunk/Murata,The Baroque Era, 606.4 See Claude V. Palisca, Girolamo Mei: Mentor to the Florentine Camerata,Musical Quarterly, 40 (1954), 1-20; Nino Pirrotta,Temperaments and Tendencies in the Florentine Camerata, continued next footnote on page
  • 3. 254 Blair Hoxby Yet subsequent critics have denied a meaningful connection between the tragedyof the ancients and the stile rappresentativo. Nietzsche found it incredible that thisthoroughly externalized operatic music ... could be received and cherished withenthusiastic favour, as a rebirth, as it were, of all true music, and even scholars whoadmire the music insist that because composers like Caccini and Peri could studyvirtually no examples of ancient music, their style actually found its origins in themusical practice of the fifteenth century and developed in dialogue with contem-porary madrigals, solo songs and theatrical music.5 Claudio Monteverdi addedweight to this view when he told Giovanni Battista Doni, the first historian of thenew music, that although he had valued seeing Galileis transcriptions of ancientmusical examples twenty years before, he hadnt invested much time trying tounderstand them because he knew that the ancient practical manner wascompletely lost.6 The texts of the ancient tragedies were not lost, of course, yet twoof the most influential historians of early opera, Claude Palisca and Nino Pirrotta,concur in emphasising the contribution of contemporary theatrical forms, such asmasques, pastorals and comedies, to its dramatic form. What contemporary tastesdemanded, says Palisca, was not true tragedy but a mixed genre, and Rinuccini andhis circle, who were steeped in the classics, knew perfectly well that themusico-dramatic form they created was not a rebirth of ancient tragedy.7 I believe that critics have underestimated and misconstrued operas relationshipto ancient tragedy. Even Barbara Hanning, who defends Peri and Rinuccinisinterest in reviving the singing style and affective power of the ancient stage,assumes too readily that when the Tragedy of Euridicepromises to sing not of bloodspilled from innocent veins, not of the lifeless brow of a tyrant, but of mournfuland tearful scenes, she is signalling a change of allegiance from classical tragedy tocontemporary tragicomedy.8 What lies behind such ready assumptions is an footnote continued prevous from page Musical 40 Quarterly, (1954), 169-89;Girolamo and Mei,Letters Ancient Modern on Musicto Vincenzo Galilei Giovanni and Bardi, Palisca(Neuhausen-Stuttgart, ed. 1977);Palisca, Humanism in Italian Renaissance MusicalThought (New Haven,1985), 408-33;Palisca, The ed., Florentine Camerata (New Haven,1989).s Friedrich Nietzsche,The Birth Tragedy TheCase Wagner, Walter of and of trans. Kaufmann and (New York,1967), 114;Nino Pirrotta ElenaPovoledo,Music Theatre Poliziano and from to trans. Monteverdi, KarenEales (Cambridge, 1982), 201. For otheraccountsthatemphasise the inter-relationship the stilerecitativo contemporary of with musicalforms,see, for example, Nigel Fortune, ItalianSecularMonodyfrom 1600 to 1635:An Introductory Survey,Musical 39 Quarterly, (1953), 171-95;Claude Palisca, V. VincenzoGalileiandSomeLinksbetween and "Pseudo-Monody" Monody, Musical Quarterly, (1960), 344-60; and GaryTomlinson, 46 Madrigal, Monody,andMonteverdis "Vianaturale Imitatione"Journal the alla , of American Musicological 34 (1981), 60-108. Society,6 Claudio Monteverdi, Letterto Giovanni BattistaDoni (February 1634),in The NewMonteverdi Companion, Denis ArnoldandNigel Fortune(London,1985), 86. ed.7 I quotePalisca, The Alterati Florence, of Pioneers the Theoryof Dramatic in Music,in NewLooks Italian at Opera: Essays Honor DonaldJ.Grout, William Austin(Ithaca, in of ed. W. 1968), 29, 36. Also see Pirrotta, and 188; Temperaments Tendencies, Pirrotta, Tragidieet comediedansla camerata in fiorentina, Musique etpolsie XVIe siicle au (Paris,1954), 295; PirottaandPovoledo,Music Theatre Poliziano Monteverdi, and,for a summary and from to 268; of similar views,see Hanning, Apologia, 241.8 Hanning, Apologia, 245-6, 252.
  • 4. The origins of opera and the spirit of tragedyreconsidered 255idealised conception of Attic tragedy that nineteenth-century German philologistsextracted from a few touch-stone plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles. For Nietzsche,these two poets embodied the true spirit of tragedy, a spirit with which Euripidesfought a death struggle.9 Some of the scholars who have done the most to shapeaccepted opinion about ancient drama in this century have implicitly endorsed thatview by reclassifying many of Euripidess tragedies as romances, melodramas ortragicomedies - this despite the fact that, as sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuryreaders never tired of repeating, Aristotles Poeticsdeclared Euripides, not Aeschylusor Sophocles, to be the most tragic of poets.10 I would agree that Peri, Rinuccini andtheir immediate successors were not interested in staging the sort of bloody revengetragedy popular with Senecas imitators. Nor did they desire to revive Nietzschesideal of Attic tragedy. But these truths obscure a more important one: that Baroquelibrettists, composers and scenographers did, to an extent not hitherto recognised,seek to revive a Euripidean style of musical tragedy - especially as it was performedin the decadent theatres of Hellenistic Greece and Rome."1 Once we understandthe tragic ideal to which they aspired, we will be in a better position to see Baroqueopera (a new musico-dramatic form that took many names in its first decades) forwhat it is: a strongly complex reading of the Euripidean tradition.12 Euripidess musical dramaturgyWhereas Aeschylus and Sophocles each left seven surviving plays, Euripides leftnineteen. The survival of Euripidess tragedies in such superior numbers is a tribute 9 Nietzsche,Birth Tragedy, of 76.10 See Aristotle, Poetics1453a22-39; Greektext, a translation extensive the and commentary maybe foundin Gerard Else,Aristotles F. The Poetics: Argument (Cambridge, Mass.,1967), 399-406. H. D. F. Kitto (Greek A Tragedy:Literary [Garden Study City,NY, 1954])devotes to chapters Euripidess tragicomedies melodramas. a reviewof the critical and For history of describing Euripidess as tragedies melodramas, whichappears commence 1905,see to in Ann NorrisMichelini, Euripides theTragic and Tradition (Madison, 1987), 321-3.11 RobertC. Ketterer arguesthatLatinliterature the most important was classicalsourcefor the operasof the seventeenth eighteenth and centuries. his WhyEarlyOperais Roman See andnot Greek,this 15 journal, (2003), 1-14. I wouldstressthat some of the central operatic features Ketterer that tracesbackto Romancomedycan be tracedbackyet further, through New Comedy, Euripidean to tragedy. I haveno wish to denythe But importance Ovid,Virgilor the performance of practices the Romantheatre early of to opera.12 OttavioRinuccinis operas,Dafne Euridice, no genericsubtitle, first and bear thoughTragedy singsthe prologue the latter.His Arianna labelled tragedia. of is a Otherearlyoperasreceive subtitles such as Tragedia recitarsi musica, da in tragedia musicale Opera and tragicamusicale.The anonymous of librettist Monteverdis nozze Le dEnea (1640) considered workto be a his a tragedialieto But manyoperaswerepublished fine. with moreneutral genericdescriptors. Alessandro O1feoStriggiosimplycalledhis afavola musica. in RomanandVenetian librettos often used termssuch as dramma musicale, musicale, in musica, di stilerecitativo, opera opera and azione in musica opera The word melodramma firstapplied ais to operarappresentativa regia. librettoin 1647.For the sakeof convenience, will referto earlyoperaeven thoughthat I termhad not yet assumed modernsignificance. the genericdescriptions its On applied to earlyoperas,see especially Margaret Murata, Operas thePapalCourt, for 1631-1668(Ann Arbor,1981), appendix EllenRosand,Opera Seventeenth-Century TheCreation a 2; in Venice: of Genre (Berkeley, 1991), 34-45; Rosanna Giuseppe, di Opera: Tradizione unaparola, di Drammaturgia, 3 (1996), 131-50.
  • 5. 256 Blair Hoxbyto the preference that Hellenistic and Roman audiences felt for them. Seneca, inturn, placed his seal of approval on the popular judgement by basing the majorityof his surviving tragedies on Euripidean originals. Any sixteenth-century reader whogave equal weight to all the surviving Attic tragedies - whether he was reading in theoriginal Greek or in translation - would therefore arrive at a conception of tragedythat was biased towards Euripidess practice. But the scholarly interests ofhumanists and the theatrical culture of Italys princely courts in the sixteenth centuryensured that his dramaturgy would prove even more influential than the sheersurvival rate of his plays could warrant. Starting in 1550, the dissemination of a series of influential commentaries onAristotles recently rediscovered Poeticsdiminished the authority of Platos theatricaland musical strictures, which required that music be used to soothe and moderatethe emotions.13 Aristotle offered a viable defence of extreme theatrical affect bydefining tragedy as an imitation that, by means of pity and fear, accomplishes thecatharsis of such emotions.14 Even though commentators could not agree just whathe meant by that definition, the Politicsdiscussion of the psychic catharsis producedby listening to the enthusiastic music of the aulos performed at sacred rites andtragic festivals left no doubt that, in Aristotles view, the state of passionateexcitement that such music induced was a harmless delight, not a danger to thestate. For participants were restored by the sacred tunes as though they hadreceived a cure and a catharsis.15 Indeed, by praising Euripides as the most tragicof poets, the Poeticsseemed to imply that the chief obligation of the tragic poet wasto stir audiences to extremes of pity and fear by representing those passions on stageand thus leading the psyches of the audience through an affective script.1613 See especially Bernard A Weinberg, History Literary of Criticism theItalian in Renaissance (Chicago,1961), chaps.9-13; andBaxterHathaway, Ageof Criticism: LateRenaissance The The in Italy(Ithaca,1962),part3.14 Aristotle, Poetics1449b27-28,in Else,AristotlesPoetics, HereI departfromElses 221. controversial translation to (carrying completion, througha courseof eventsinvolving pity and fear,the purification those painfulor fatalactswhichhave thatquality), favour of in of a moretraditional translation,whichis certainly truerto the common seventeenth-century understanding the text.The meaning Aristotles of of notionof tragic catharsis remains contested, the literature the subject extensive. and on is Usefuldiscussions includeFranzSusemihl R. D. Hicks,The and PoliticsofAristotle, I- Books V (London,1894), 641-56; Ingram Bywater, on Art Aristotle the ofPoetry (Oxford,1909), 152-61, 361-5; Else, AristotlesPoetics,224-32, 423-47;Aristotles A and Poetics: Translation Commentary for Studentsof Literature,trans.Leon Golden,comm.0. B. Hardison, (Tallahassee, 1981), 133ff.; Jr. Fla., Leon Golden,Aristotle Tragic Comic on and Mimesis (Atlanta, 1992), 5-39; Elizabeth S. Belfiore,Tragic Pleasures: Aristotle PlotandEmotion on (Princeton, 1992);Jonathan Lear, in Katharsis, Essays Aristotles on ed. Poetics, Am6lieOksenberg Rorty(Princeton, 1992), 315-40; and Charles Segal,Catharsis,Audience, Closure, Tragedy theTragic: and in and Greek Theatre Beyond, M. S. Silk(Oxford,1996), 148-72. and ed.15 Aristotle, Politics 1342a.For the Greek,see Alois Dreizehnter, Aristoteles Politik,Studia et Testimonia Antiqua (Munich,1970);for an Englishtranslation, The VII see trans. Politics, Carnes Lord(Chicago, 1984),240. I havedeparted of fromLordstranslation this passage, whichreads,but as a resultof the sacredtunes- when theyuse the tunesthatput the soul in a frenzy- we see themcalming down as if obtaining cureand a purification. a16 On the use of the Greekwordpsuchagogia,leadingthe psyche,by ancientGreekcritics, or see W. B. Stanford, Greek Tragedy theEmotions: Introductory (London,1983), 5. and An Study
  • 6. The origins of opera and the spirit of tragedyreconsidered 257Theorising about the passions burgeoned, not least in the academies and informalsalons that were frequented by such key pioneers and sponsors of the stile as rappresentativo Bardi, Galilei, Caccini, Peri and Rinuccini. Classical authors told many stories about the fabulous affective power of ancienttragedy and music, but perhaps no tragedian attracted so many such stories asEuripides. Plutarch recorded that an Athenian singing a chorus from EuripidessElectra (a tragedy rediscovered by Mei) moved a conquering army to pity and thusprevented Athens from being razed.17 Plutarch also recounted that the tyrantAlexander of Pherae fled a performance of Euripidess TrojanWomen because he wasashamed that his citizens should see him, a ruler who never pitied anyone hemurdered, weep at the sorrows of Hecuba and Andromache.18 Lucian said that aperformance of Euripidess Andromedaduring the reign of Alexander the Greatssuccessor Lysimachus put the whole town of Abdera into a fever for tragedy, so thatthey sang the roles of Perseus and Andromeda in the streets and dreamed feverishlyof Perseus holding Medusas head.19 It is no accident that these stories pay tributeto Euripidess music, for his popularity in Hellenistic Greece depended in part onhis early adoption of the new dithyrambic music of Timotheus. Although scholars like Mei and Francesco Patrizi believed that they foundevidence in Aristotle that ancient tragedies were sung through, Euripidess plays andAristophaness parodies of them provided the clearest illustration that ancienttragedians had not confined their musical expression to the chorus.20 The Aeschylusof TheFrogscharges Euripides with having introduced Cretan monodies to the tragicstage, and the evidence bears him out.21 The heroines of several of Euripidessearliest surviving plays - Alcestis (438 BCE), Medea (431 BCE), and the Phaedraof Hippo~ytus (428 BCE) - express their grief in sung monodies.22 In his subsequenttragedies, Euripides drew on the new music of Timotheus, who abandoned restraintin favour of an expanded tonal range, the flexible mixing of modes and structures,tone painting, melismas and a determination to represent even the most extremeexperiences, like the birth pangs of Semele, in musical form.23 Not to be outdone,Euripides represented the birth pangs of the incestuous Kanake in a monody. He17 Plutarch, Lysander in Plutarchs trans.Bernadotte 15, Lives, Perrin,Loeb ClassicalLibrary, 11 vols. (London,1917), IV, 273.18 Plutarch,19 Pelopidas in Plutarchs V, 415. 29, Lives, Lucian, Howto WriteHistory in Lucian, 1, Loeb Classical trans.K. Kilburn, Library, vols. 8 (Cambridge, Mass.,1959),VI, 3, 5.20 On Meisand Patrizisinferences fromAristotle, Palisca, see Humanism Italian in Renaissance Thought, 412-26.21 Aristophanes, Frogs The 849-50, 944. Aristophanessplaysarecitedby line number. All translations fromAristophanes, Benjamin are trans. BickleyRogers,Loeb ClassicalLibrary, 3 vols. (Cambridge,Mass.,1968).22 For insightful discussions of music in Greek tragedyand close analyses of the metres used, see T. B. L. Webster,TheTragedies The (London,1967);andWebster, Greek ofEuripides Chorus (London,1970). See also MarioPintacuda, musica tragedia (Cefahi, La nella greca 1978).23 Webster, Greek Chorus, 132, 153-4, 171; Lillian B. Lawler, The Dance of the Ancient Greek Theater (Iowa City,1964), 16-17.
  • 7. 258 Blair Hoxbyeven wrote the messengers speech in the Orestes an agitated monody in the new asstyle - sung by a Phrygian slave unmanned by fear.24 Even though the pioneers of dramma musicacould not study Euripidess music, perthey could learn a great deal from the texts of his tragedies. One of their chief goalswas to find a musical style that, by synthesising textual, musical and expressivecontent, could speak a language of the passions.25 Euripidess restless metricalexperimentation showed that he was interested in the same problem, and nowheremore so than in the laments of his characters. Starting with the lament of the dyingHippolytus in the Hippolytus,he experimented with the use of an astrophic poeticstyle whose metrical shifts and transitions from recitative to song could nimblyfollow the movement of his characters thoughts and the agitation of theirpassions.26 He left numerous examples of such astrophic laments, written withvarying degrees of structure, repetition and unexpected variation, includingHermiones wish for death in Andromache,Cassandras mad song in The Trojan Women, Creusas complaint to Apollo in the Ion, Antigones lament for her dead kinin ThePhoenicianWomen,Helens long keen for her woes in the Helen, and Electraslament for the ruin of her house in Orestes.27 Perhaps there is no more revealing guide to the procedures of the Euripideanlament than the pastiche that the Aeschylus of The Frogs sings.28 Like most greatparodies, it hews close to its subject. The distressed maiden begins with anapostrophe to Night, sings of an ominous dream, finds that Glyce has abandonedher in the night, thinks of what will never be, bewails Glyces flight again, thenappeals to the gods for assistance. Frequent grammatical and metrical shifts signalher agitation as she descends into incoherent grief. Yet amid all this freedom thereis structure. Text repetitions give scope to her sorrow and permit her to deferacceptance of her plight. And all the while lines in dochmaic metre, which tragedyreserves for statements of great grief, recur with the regularity of an ostinato bass,serving as a reservoir of accumulating pathos - or so they would if the song weremeant seriously. Laments like these assumed a special importance to Renaissance theorists of thenew monodic style of singing such as Mei, Galilei and Lorenzo Giacomini becausetheir emotional intensity was calculated to move an audience to pity - and therefore24 Orestes 1369-1502.Euripidess All are playsarecitedby line number. translations from trans.DavidKovacs,Loeb Classical Euripides, Library, vols. to date (Cambridge, 5 Mass., 1994-2002). Girolamo25 See Palisca, Mei;Palisca, The Artusi-MonteverdiControversy, The in New Monteverdi ed. Companion, Arnoldand Fortune,147-8; and Palisca, Florentine 57-61. Camerata, Giovanni Bardiparticularlyemphasised importance musicservingtext;see On How the of Tragedy ShouldBe Performed, Palisca, in Florentine Camerata, 145.26 Hippolytus1347ff.; Webster, Greek 155. Chorus,27 Andromache 825ff.;TheTrojan Women 308ff.;Ion859ff.,ThePhoenician Women 1485ff.; Helen 164ff.;and Orestes 982ff.A list of Greekmonodiesmaybe foundin W. Jens,ed., Die Bauformendergriechischen (Munich,1971),279ff. Tragodie28 Aristophanes, The Frogs 1329-63. For a commentary on this monody, which poses various textual and metrical difficulties, see Aristophanes, Frogs,ed. Kenneth Dover (Oxford, 1993), 358-63.
  • 8. The origins of opera and the spirit of tragedyreconsidered 259to accomplish tragedys cathartic function.29 Euripidess laments, together with theirliterary descendants in such works as Catullus 64 and the laments of Ovids Heroides,are the most important classical models for such highly expressive, irregular lamentsas Rinuccini and Monteverdis Lamento dArianna (1608) - with its naturalisticdeclamatory style, its affective text repetitions, its choral responses, and itsappearance of freedom from superimposed formal structures.30 Perhaps nomusico-poetic form exercised a more formative influence on the early developmentof opera than did the lament.31 Important though the formal example of Euripidess laments was, the heightenedand specific meanings with which he invested the singing voice may haveconstituted a yet more crucial dramatic legacy. Euripides greatly expanded the set ofestablished relationships between particular speech acts and forms of musicalexpression that were available to a dramatist. It was presumably no feat for him topresent sacred songs or dirges for the dead on stage: their meaning was already laiddown by custom and dramatic convention. But there is nothing inevitable about agrief-stricken woman complaining in private song or about spouses singing inrecognition of each other. What is required, if such scenes are to be naturalised, isa musico-dramatic rhetoric of the passions. That is precisely what Euripides createdfor himself and his successors. Rather than catalogue all the conventional relationships that Euripides establishedbetween musical expression and particular speech acts, I will try to suggest how heused dramatic context to establish such relationships. In Medea, the heroinesanguish surfaces in a sung lament heard from behind the scene - Oh, what a wretcham I, how miserable in my sorrows! Ah ah, how I wish I could die! - while herNurse and Tutor, standing in front of her house, discuss her languishing condition.Her suffering indecision, always expressed in song, punctuates the opening dialoguelike a refrain - Oh, what sufferings are mine, sufferings that call for loud29 EllenRosand,Lamento, Grove Music Online, L. Macy(Accessed ed. July 14, 2004) <>30 Catullus whichis sometimes 64, described an epyllion, diminutive as or epic,is the longest of Catullusspoems.Its narration the marriage PeleusandThetisis interrupted a of of by long ekphrastic of description a coverletdepicting Theseussdesertion Ariadne; her of for lengthylament,see Catullus, trans.Francis Warre Cornish, edn rev. G. P. Goold,Loeb 2nd ClassicalLibrary (Cambridge, Mass.,1988), 64.132-201.In the Heroides, assumesthe Ovid voices of such Euripidean heroinesas Phaedra Medeaand of otherheroines and who feature in prominently seventeenth-century monodiesand operas,such as Penelope,Dido, andAriadne; Heroides Amores, see and trans.GrantShowerman, edn rev. G. P. Goold, 2nd Loeb ClassicalLibrary (Cambridge, Mass.,1986).The musicfor the choralresponsesof the Lamento dArianna not survive, the librettoclearly does but theirexistence; indicates see AngeloSolerti,Glialbori melodramma, (Milan,1903-4), II, 175-9. For an essay del 3 vols. thatbrieflyremarks the important of monodiesin Euripidean on role tragedy, then focuses on the Latinsourcesof Ariadnes lament,see Leofranc Holford-Strevens,"Her eyes becametwo spouts": ClassicalAntecedents Renaissance of Laments, Ear!y 27 Music, (1999), 379-405.31 See EllenRosand,The Descending Tetrachord: Emblemof Lament, An Musical Quarterly, 65 (1979), 346-59;Tomlinson, Madrigal, Monody,andMonteverdis "Via";Nigel Fortune, Monteverdi the seconda and in prattica, NewMonteverdi Companion, Arnoldand ed. Fortune,192-7; and the specialissue on lamentsthat appeared Ear~y in 27 Music, (1999).
  • 9. 260 BlairHoxby -lamentation! until she emerges to present a calm exteriorand to speak,ratherthansing, to the Chorus.32 Hippolytus, the other hand, Phaedrasstepson and his In onchorus of servants enter singing to a dance rhythm, then pay homage to Artemis.Their strength and chastity stand in marked contrast to Phaedraswasted appear-ance as she lies on a couch and sings languidlyand feverishlyof her desire to be inthe woods where Hippolytushunts. In their differentways, both scenes contrastthepublic and the private,the visible and the hidden.As they revealthe waveringof thewomens aims, they dilate time in order to give scope to the emotions and thus toexploit fully the dramaticpotential of internal,as opposed to physical,pathos. Andthey turn the singing voice into a privilegedmeans of expressing hidden passions. Scenes like these consolidated a conventional association between laments andthe feminine voice. Plato invoked that association by describing tragic laments aswomanly.33 When Lucianwas attendingtragediesin Rome, he found it tolerabletohear Andromache and Hecuba melodisingtheir calamitieson stage, even thoughhe found it risible to hear Heracles burst into song.34Not coincidentally,the vastmajority of monodic laments published in the first decades of the seventeenthcenturywere written for female characters portrayedby the sopranovoice.35But theassociation of abandoned women with song is just one of many that Euripidesnaturalisedthrough sheer repetition. Although he may not have been the first tothink of setting a recognitionscene as a sung duet (the uncertaindate of SophoclessElectra leaves the question open), there is no doubt that he left the most numerousexamples of such duets in his late tragedies.In the Ion,Iphigenia Tauris Helen, in andhe showed how lyric dialogue could be turned into a theatrical expression ofintellectual discovery, spontaneous joy and mutual feeling as parent and child,brother and sister, or husband and wife are reunited.36 example paved the way Hisfor the sudden, expansive lyricism of Penelope when she at last recognises herhusband in Giacomo Badoaro and MonteverdisII ritorno dUlisse(1637). The very priority that Euripides set on such musical set-pieces pushed himtowards a form of dramatic construction that differs, say, from Sophocless.Euripides often slows the dramaticaction in order to give scope to his characterspassions in song, then uses those songs, in turn, to structurehis tragedies.Theclimacticscene of Iphigenia Aulis shows him doing this on a smallscale:the hapless ingirl sings a long lament prompted by the prospect of death, ClytemnestraandAchilles consider how to save her life, then Iphigenia, whose mind has beenworking silently to bring about the reversalof the plays action, sings a triumphalsong in which she expressesher determinationto die gloriouslyas a willingvictim.37Hippolytus shows him working on a largerscale and using song to shift the patheticand dramatic focus from Phaedra, who at first complains of her love-pains, to32 Euripides,Medea96-7, 111-13. 605d-e, in TheCollected3 Plato, Republic Dialogues Plato,ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington of Cairns(Princeton, 1961), 831.34 Lucian, On Dance27-8, in Lucian,V, 40.35 Rosand, Lamento.36 Ion 1437-1509, Iphigenia Tauris in 827-99, and Helen 625-97. in 7 Iphigenia Aulis 1278-1336,1338ff.,1371ff.
  • 10. The originsof operaand the spiritof tragedy reconsidered 261Theseus, who mourns her death in dialogue with the chorus, to the woundedHippolytus, who dies singing an agonised lament near the end of the tragedy.Inboth plays, these songs stand out from the surroundingaction like monuments toparticularpassions. This method of construction appealed even to the authors ofspoken tragediesin a centurywhen the abbe dAubignaccould maintainthat it wasthe proper business of a tragedianto present a galleryof passions, each developedto the point of fulness.38 librettists,it provided a viable model for the dramatic Forarrangementof action and reflection, speech and song, recitative and set-piecelaments and arias. Euripides and the operatic repertoryThe whole tenor of my argumentsuggests that Euripidesscontributionto Baroqueopera should not be measuredby the number of operas that are based directly onhis tragedies.An Ariadne or a Dido may lament like a Euripideanheroine, while,conversely, an opera that is purportedlybased on one of his tragediesmay bear nodeep resemblanceto it. But it is nevertheless instructive to consider which of histragedies entered directly into the repertory before the end of the eighteenthcentury. I would like to defer considerationof his extant tragedies,however, and beginwith one of his lost plays,Andromeda, because I think its popularityreveals muchabout what Baroque librettists found attractivein Euripides.This was the tragedythat filled the Dionysus of The Frogs with a sudden pang of longing, a fierce desirethat threatenedto consume him unless he could rescue Euripides from Hades.39This was the play that Alexanderthe Great was said to have recited spontaneouslyat his last banquet.40 Just enough was known about the contents of the play to besuggestive. It contained the strikingspectacle of the forlornAndromeda chained tothe rocks, her flesh as white as a statues. She lamented to the Night but, until achorus of Ethiopian maidens arrivedto lament in lyric dialoguewith her, she wasanswered only by the echo of her voice sung from off stage. She was eventuallyrescued by Perseus, who made a memorable entrance.That was enough to inspirenumerous librettiststo write versions of the tale based on what was known of thetragedy and on its retelling in the Metamorphoses. was staged in Bologna as a ItTragedia da recitarsiin Musica(1610); in Mantua,with a lost score by Monteverdi(1620); in Venice, where it was the first work to be staged in a public opera house(1637); in Ferrara,where it gave Francesco Giutti an occasion to employ hisimpressivestage machinery(1638); in Paris,where it provided the vehicle for PierreCorneille and Giacomo Torellis first attempt to adapt Italian opera and Venetianstage-craftto French tastes (1650); in Madrid,when the fourteen-year-oldInfantaMaria Teresa, future wife of Louis XIV, commissioned Calder6n de la Barca to38 Abb6 dAubignac,La Pratique theitre, du trans. anon. as The Whole of theStage(1684), III, Art 46.39 Aristophanes, TheFrogs52-4, 58-9.40 Athenaeus 537d-e; see Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, trans. CharlesBurton Gulick, Loeb ClassicalLibrary,7 vols. (Cambridge,Mass., 1927-41), V, 429.
  • 11. 262 Blair Hoxbyproduce the first fully sung Spanish opera (1653); and in Paris, where Louis XIVhimself commended the subject to Philippe Quinault and Jean-Baptiste Lully(1682).41 The fact that the original was lost may not have been the least of itsrecommendations since that forestalled all direct comparisons. After the contro-versy that erupted over their revision of an extant text, Alceste (1674), Quinault,Lully, and Lullys occasional librettist Thomas Corneille discreetly opted toreconstruct only lost Euripidean tragedies in Thisee(1675), Bellirophon (1678), Persie(1682) and Phaton (1683). Of Euripidess surviving tragedies, seven entered the operatic repertory beforethe close of the eighteenth century: Alcestis,Andromache, Electra, Hippolytus,Iphigeniain Aulis, Iphigeniain Tauris and Medea.42They tended to make their entrance, orreceive their most famous treatment, at times when composers wanted to set theirmark on opera or to reform it. When Quinault and Lully wished to demonstrate thattheir tragidiesen musiquehad no other models but the tragedies of Ancient Greece,they did so with the controversial Alceste (1674).43 When Thomas Corneille andMarc-Antoine Charpentier wished to show that a tragddie musiquecould succeed enwithout a lietof they produced Mdee (1693). When Jean-Philippe Rameau wished ine,to make an impressive debut in the form, he wrote HippolyteetAricie (1733), a workso ambitious that his contemporary Andre Campra famously remarked that itcontained enough music for ten operas.44 It was again to Euripides that themid-eighteenth-century reformers of operaseria looked for inspiration. Thinking ofNiccolo Machiavellis claim that republics must periodically reduce themselves tofirst principles if they are to remain vigorous, the Venetian reformer FrancescoAlgarotti urged that opera must do the same in order to keep alive - and heattached a prose libretto of Iphigeniain Aulis to emphasise what he meant.45 DenisDiderot argued for the musical potential of Racines version of the play at the sametime.46 Working in Vienna with the likes of the poet Ranieri Calzabigi and the41 On these operas,see Rosand,Opera Seventeenth-Centuy7 67-75; Margaret in Venice, RichGreer, ThePlaj ofPower: Mythological Dramas Calderon la Barca Court of de (Princeton,1991), 31-76; LouiseK. Stein,Songs Mortals, of Dialogues theGods: of Music Theatre Seventeenth-Century and in Spain(Oxford,1993);and BufordNorman,Touched theGraces: Libretti Philppe by The of Quinault theContext French in of (Birmingham, 2001), 237-58. Classicism Ala.,42 RuthZinar,The Use of GreekTragedy the Historyof Opera,Current in 12 Musicology, (1971), 80-94.43 Anonymous 1675.JeanDuronattributes to one of Lullys letter,February it or secretaries performers; see the CD bookletfor Lullys Ays, Les Arts Florissants, William dir. Christie (Harmonia Mundi401257.59,1987), 18-19. On the controversy Alceste, Buford over see Norman,Ancients Moderns, and and Tragedy Opera: The Quarrel overAlceste French in MusicalThought 1600-1800,ed. GeorgiaCowart(Ann Arbor,1989), 177-96.44 Charles Dill, Monstrous Rameau theTragic Opera: and Tradition(Princeton,1998), 53.45 Niccol6 Machiavelli,Discordsi la primadecadi TitoLivio,ed. Francesco Bausi, 2 vols. sopra (Rome,2001), bk. 3, chap.1; Francesco Saggio lopera musica Algarotti, sopra in (1763), ed. Bini (n.p., 1989), 21-2. Annalisa46 Denis Diderot, Troisiame entretien sur le Fils naturel(1757), in (Liuvrescompletes, ed. JacquesChouillet Anne MarieChouillet and (Paris,1980),X, 139-62. SeeJulienTiersot, Gluckand the Encyclopedistes, trans.TheodoreBaker, Musical , 16 Quartery (1930), 336-57;DanielHeartz,FromGarrick Gluck: to The Reformof Theatre Operain the and Mid-EighteenthCentury, ofthe Proceedings Royal MusicalAssociation, (1967-8), 111-27. 94
  • 12. The originsof operaand the spiritof tragedy reconsidered 263choreographersGasparoAngiolini and George Noverre - all of whom professed tobe strivingto revive the true spirit of ancient theatre- Gluck produced an ItalianAlceste(1767) before makinghis debut in Pariswith Iphignie Aulide(1774), a work enthat he followed with the French Alceste(1776) and Iphignieen Tauride (1779 and1781).47 Even Luigi Cherubinichose Ifigenia Aulide (1788) as the subject of his inmost distinguishedopera seriaand MIde as the subject of one of his most successfuland innovative operas (1797). Euripides and the tragic experienceThe tragediesthat entered the operatic repertorybefore 1800 reveal that librettistsand composers were attractedto a subset of plays that could be said to constitutea strong reading not only of the Euripidean tradition but of tragic catharsis. In theMedea, Nurse regretsthat no one has discoveredhow to put an end to mortalsbitter griefs with music and song sung to the lyre. It is because of these griefs thatdeaths and terrible disasters overthrow houses. It would have been a gain formortalsto cure these ills by song.48 We are surelymeant to think that the Athenianshave met this need with theirtragedies.But in what sense can tragedybe said to cureills by song? Rene Girardand WalterBurkert,whose views on the subjecthave beenparticularly influentialin recent decades, argue that tragic representationsfunctionlike blood sacrifices.49 The action of several of Euripidess plays, including theHecuba, in Tauris Iphigenia and Iphigenia Aulis, threatensto result in, or is actually inconsummatedby, a human sacrifice,and TheBacchae, tragedythat is conspicuous aby its absence from the operatic repertorybefore the twentieth century,can easilybe read as an admission of the deep-seated connection between tragicjoy and thesense of emotional liberationafforded by communal violence against a victim. But I would suggest that if we return to the deliberations of the FlorentineAlterati,we will get a better sense of what seventeenth-century dramatistsvalued inEuripides.Founded in 1569, the Alteratimet once or twice a week at the palace ofGiovanni Battista Strozzi the Younger to discuss subjects like Aristotles Poetics,Francesco Patrizisnew commentaryon the Poetics, verse-forms appropriateto thetragedy, how rhetoric and poetry moved the passions, and what tragic catharsismeant. Its members included Giovanni Bardi; Ottavio Rinuccini, the librettist ofDafne, Euridiceand Arianna;Jacopo Corsi, who contributed music to Peri andRinuccinis Dafne and sponsored their Euridice; Prince Giovanni de Medici, whostaged CaccinisRapimento Cefalo 1600; Girolomo Mei; and Giovanni Batttista de inDoni, author of the Trattato musica della scenica (1638).5047 For some of their theoretical statements, which are filled with appeals to the example of ancient tragedyand pantomime, see [RanieriCalzabigi],Lettresur le micanisme lopiraitalien de (1756), George Noverre, Lettres la danseet les ballets suzr (1760), Gasparo Angiolini, Dissertation les ballets sur pantomimls anciens des (1765), Christoph Gluck, Dedication for Alceste(1769), in Strunk/Murata,Source Readings,The Baroque Era, 933-4.48 Euripides,Medea195-201.49 Walter Burkert,HomoNecans,trans. P. Bing (Berkeley, 1983); Renb Girard, Violence theand Sacred(Baltimore, 1977).50 Palisca, The Alterati.
  • 13. 264 BlairHoxby In 1586, Lorenzo Giacomini delivered a discourse on tragic purgation to theacademy.51 According to Giacomini, we take four types of pleasurein tragedy.Weenjoy learningabout the events of the tragedyand marvel to see incredible thingsactually happening. We appreciate the play as an imitation, with its beautifullanguage,sweet music, festive dance, magnificentmachinery,sumptuous costumesand artfullyarrangedplot, full of digressions,recognitions and reversalsof fortune.We enjoy reflectingon both the compassion that we feel for the characterson stageand our own freedom from their fearful adventures.And we experience thepleasures accessory to the cathartic process itself.52 Giacomini pursues thephysiologicalimplicationsof Aristotles claim that those who listen to enthusiasticmusic during sacred rites and tragic festivals are restored ... as though they hadreceived a cure and catharsis.53 arguesthat the passion of a hero representedon Hestage acts like a sympatheticmedicine, agitatingour own passions and drawingthemaway from us. When the soul is sad, our vital spiritsevaporateand rise to the head.As they enter the anteriorpart of the head, they stimulatethe fancy, and as theycondense, they cause our face to contractuntil we relieve ourselves by lamentingorweeping. Although Giacomini may seem to reduce catharsis from an abstractconcept of purification (or intellectual clarification) to having a good cry, thenumerous classicalsources that speak of the pleasureof feeling pity and weeping attragic spectacles lend some support to his interpretation.This insatiabledelight oflamenting, full of grief, sings the chorus of TheSuppliant Women, carriesme away,just as spring-waterruns down the high-cliff, unceasing ever.54 At the end of his discourse,Giacomini singles out Iphigenia Tauris discussion in for- a tellingchoice that to my knowledgehas escaped criticalcomment. Tragediesthatproceed from misery to felicity can be purgative,he says, because the prospect ofan impendingevil can move us as powerfullyas a present one. Thus when Iphigeniapreparesto sacrificeher unrecognisedbrother Orestes in her role as a priestess inTauris, she elicits almost as much pity as she would if she actuallykilled him. Forthe layingout of the instrumentsof a miserabledeath that is impendingcan moveour compassion as much as the sight of an actual death, which might appear soterribleand so sorrowful,with such a withdrawalof the vital spirits to their originof being that it would make pity and tears impossible, inducing a stupor and thatnumbness of which Dante spoke: "I did not weep, I so turned to stone inside" .ss For GiacominiIphigenia Tauris an exampleof what Aristotlemeant by the best in ismanner of tragicfable. He can presumablyjustifyhis choice because the Poetics saysthat Euripides is not to be faulted for focusing on heroes like Orestes who havehappened either to undergo or to do fearful things. In fact, the artisticallyfinests1 Lorenzo Giacomini, Tebalducci Malespini, Orationi discorsi e (Florence, 1597), 29-52. Hathaway (TheAge of Criticism) discusses the discourse in the context of rival explanations of catharsis (251-60), while Palisca, The Alterati,discusses its musical significance (24-9). Where possible, I follow Paliscas translations.52 Giacomini, Orationi discorsi, e 46-7.53 Aristotle, Politics1342a.54 Euripides, The Suppliant Giacomini, e Orationidiscorsi 51-2.
  • 14. The origins of opera and the spirit of tragedyreconsidered 265kind of tragedy ... is based upon this structure and in our theatres andcompetitions such plays appeal to the audience as most tragic, if they follow theright principle, and Euripides, even though in other respects his construction isfaulty, nevertheless appeals to the audience as the most tragic, at least, of thepoets.56 To be sure, some Renaissance commentators thought that Aristotle meantonly to defend Euripidess unhappy endings.57 But Giacomini seems to concludethat the tragedians essential duty is to move audiences to extremes of pity and fearwithout letting them fall into a petrifaction of horror. If that purpose can beaccomplished by a plot that moves from misery to felicity, then the success justifiesthe endeavour. Although Giacomini quotes Dante to describe the stupefaction thatmight result if Orestes were actually killed in Iphigeniain Tauris, the words alsosuggest the potency of a drama based on imagined evils. For what turns Ugolino tostone is not the sight of a death but a premonition based on a dream: as he beholdshis innocent sons in the tower, he foreseestheir deaths by starvation and his own feaston their flesh.58 From the standpoint of this essay what must be stressed is a simplerpoint: with all Attic tragedy available to him, Giacomini selects Iphigeniain Tauris,aplay that many critics now prefer to characterise as a romantic melodrama, to showwhat Aristotle meant by the best (ottima) manner of tragic fable.59 In defence ofhimself, Giacomini could point to a passage, which frankly puzzles most moderncommentators, in which Aristotle says that tragedies like Iphigenia Tauris,in which inrecognition averts a violent deed, are the best kind (kratiston).60 Palisca describes Giacominis discourse as a document of the prevailing taste.He suggests that this taste supported the strange compound of dramatic ingredientsthat found their way into the Roman and Venetian operas of the seventeenthcentury. It was a taste, he says, that demanded of the stage not true tragedy but amixed genre that adds to the emotionally purgative experience a feast of the sensesand the mind.61 But this formulation obscures the importance of Euripides as the56 Poetics in 1453a21-31, Else,Aristotles Poetics, 399. 376,57 LudovicoCastelvetro, PoeticadAristotele e sposta, Werther ed. 2 Romani, vols. (RomeandBari,1979), I, 376. Severalvulgarizzata modernclassicists haverejected notionthat the Aristotle meansonly to praiseEuripidess unhappy endings; for example, see, Aristotle,On Poetry Sole,trans.G. M. A. Grube(Indianapolis, and 1958), 25-6n.4;and Else,Aristotles Poetics,400-6.5s Dante,Inferno, canto33.59 In his influential Kitto (Greek calls surveyof Greektragedy, example, for Tragedy) Iphigenia in Tauris turnsa tragi-comedy a romantic by and melodrama (327). Commenting on Aristotles praiseof Sophocless Oedipus andEuripidess Rex in Iphigenia Tauris,Else (Aristotles Poetics) that of remarks, so happened the knife-edge his judgment square it hit on one masterpiece, Oedpus; the otherplayit hit upon,the Iphigenia, the but cannot honestlybe calledmuchmorethana good melodrama (446). Else goes so faras to say thatAristotles selectionof these two playsas examples the best kindof tragedy of is to damaging Aristotles creditas a critic,no matterhow one looks at it (446), thoughhe is disturbed muchby the exclusion playslike theAgamemnnon the Bacchae he is as of and as by inclusionof the Iphigenia.60 Aristotle, Poetics1454a2-9,in Else,Aristotles Poetics, For an attemptto reconcileThe 421. Poeticsseemingly contradictory praisefor Oedpus and in see Tyrannus Iphigenia Tauris, Stephen A. White,Aristotles FavoriteTragedies, Essays Aristotles in on 221-40. Poetics,61 Palisca, Alterati,28-9.
  • 15. 266 Blair Hoxbyclassical model for the very genre that Palisca identifies. H. D. F. Kitto puts it inthese terms: by reducing the tragic to the pathetic in plays like Alcestis,Electra,Iphigenia Tauris Iphigenia Aulis, Euripidesmadeit possible to combine in and inharmoniouslyinto one theatricalwhole a wide range of emotional effects.62Theappeal of that theatricalwhole to opera composers need not be stressed: theyproduced eighteen versions of Iphigenia Tauris seventeen versions of Iphigenia in andin Aulis before 1800. In the eyes of most seventeenth-centuryreaders, such a range of emotionaleffects did not disqualify these plays as tragedies. A revolution of feelings wasconsidered essential to the tragic experience by such an influential critic as ReneRapin.The soul, he said, could be pleasurably agitatedonly by a constant varietyofobjects set before it, such was the Immensity of its desires.When Rapin praised Oedjpus in his commentaryon ThePoetics, was not for its beautiful simplicity Rex itbut for its flux and reflux of indignation,and of pity, its revolutionof horror andof tenderness, its capacity to generate such a universalemotion of the soul bysurprises,astonishments,admirations.63 Tragediansas diverse as John Milton,JeanRacine andJohn Dryden defined tragedynot in terms of the shape of its action butin terms of the passions it representedand aroused.64 No wonder, then, that an arbiterof taste like the abbe dAubignacappealed tothe nineteen plays of Euripidess evidence that the catastrophesof tragediescould asbe either calamitous and bloody or, as in the case of Alcestis,Electraand manyothers, felicitous:the Orestes,which begins with fury and rage, and runs upon suchstrong Passions and Incidents, that they seem to promise nothing but a fatalbloodyEvent, [is] nevertheless terminatedby the entire content and satisfactionof all theActors, Helenabeing placd among the Gods, and Apolloobliging Orestes Pylades and62 Kitto, GreekTragedy, 336-7.63 Rene Rapin, Reflections Aristotles on trans. Thomas Rhymer,in The Whole Treatise Poesie, of CriticalWorks Monsieur of Rapin,2 vols. (London, 1716), II, 141, 208.64 In the preface to Samson Agonistes entitled Of That Sort of Dramatic Poem Which Is Called Tragedy,Milton entirely omits Aristotles key contention that tragedyis a representationof an action and focuses instead on its imitation and manipulationof the passions: Tragedy, as it was ancient composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems: therefore said by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such-like passions, that is to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Racine also stresses the representationand stirringof the passions in his criticalwritings. In the preface to Berenice, instance, he insists that it is enough for a for tragedy that its action should be great and its actors heroic, that passions should be aroused, and that everythingin it should breathe that majestic sadness in which all the pleasure of tragedyresides ((Euvrescompletes, Raymond Picard [Paris,1950], I, 465). In ed. his preface to Iphigenie, points to the tears of his own audience to confirm Aristotles he judgement that Euripides was the most tragic of poets, that is, he was wonderfully adept at arousing compassion and fear, which are the true effects of tragedy(CEuvres, 465). The I, representationof an action scarcely figures at all in the definition that Lisideius contributes to Drydens Essay ofDramatick - Poesie a definition widely quoted and accepted by subsequent authors:A just and lively Image of Humane Nature, Representingits Passions and Humours, and the Changes of Fortune to which it is subject; for the Delight and Instruction of Mankind (The WorksofJohnDryden, Edward Niles Hooker and H. T. ed. Swedenberg,Jr., 20 vols. [Berkeley,1956-89], XVII, 15).
  • 16. The originsof operaand the spiritof tragedy reconsidered 267to marryHermione Electra.45 ending may have been one of the inspirations and Thisfor the apotheosis that concludes Striggio and Monteverdisrevised Orfeo (1609).For the OrestesintroducesApollo from a machine to elevate Helen to the stars,thussavingher from assassinscomparedto bacchants;while the Orfeo introducesApollofrom a machine to sing his son up to the stars, thus saving Orpheus from theimpending threat of real bacchants.66Whether or not we wish to make such aconnection, I would maintain,more generally,that Pirrottahas committed a graveoversight in claimingthat operas propensity for the depiction of tender passionsand its almost unbrokenrule of the happy endingbetrayits pastoralparentage,justas Robert Kettererhas in saying that romanticlove and the dramaticstructureitbegets is almost nowhere present in Athenian tragedy and must be attributedtoRoman comedy.67 These formal characteristics opera might just as well be traced ofto Euripidesstragedies,which devote tremendous energy to the representationofpassionate love, frequentlyend happily, and more often than not introduce a deuxex machina engineer the felicitous catastrophe.It seems particularly to inappropriateto attributethe love interest and the lieto to fineof Calzabigiand GlucksAlceste anoperaticconvention derived from Roman comedy (as Kettererdoes) when they arepresent in the Euripideanoriginaland when even the ancientsrecognisedEuripidesas the ultimatesource of such comic, romanticor melodramaticconventions.68As Satyrus remarks, peripeteiai, violations of maidens, substitution of children,recognition by means of rings and necklaces, these are the elements of NewComedy, and it was Euripideswho developed them.69 For many nineteenth- and twentieth-centurycritics, plays like Alcestis,Electra,Orestes Iphigenia Tauris by definition untragic.These critics say that in lieu and in areof the metaphysicalcomfort that tragedy should provide, these plays offer anearthlyresolution of the tragicdissonanceand that in lieu of tragiccatharsis,theyoffer a happy ending.70 we know from Euripidesstexts that he was interested Yetin developing an art againstgrief, and at least one classicist has gone so far as toanoint him the originatorof catharsisas a tragicideal, the practisingdramatistwhoshowed Aristotle the way.71For our purposes, I think it is most useful to think ofhis tragedies more simply as a series of provisional but coherent answers to thequestion, What sorts of song cure ills? Although Euripidesshows a consistent taste for scenes of extreme pathos and isinclined to elicit pity by staging or describing the suffering or death of helplessvictims like young virgins and children, he does not adhere to a particulartragicpattern, and he seems to have been willing to entertain the possibility that, as65 DAubignac, La Pratique thedatre, 140. du IV,66 Euripides, Orestes 1492-3.6 Pirrottaand Povoledo, Musicand Theatre from to Monteverdi, Ketterer, Why 268; Early Opera is Roman and not Greek, 5, 12. Poliziano6 Ketterer, Why Early Opera is Roman and not Greek, 12.69 Satyrus, Vita di Euripide39, col. 7; for the Greek text and an Italian translation,see Vita di ed. Euripide, Graziano (Pisa,1964). Arrighetti70 Nietzsche, Birthof Tragedy, Kitto, GreekTragedy, 10; 331.n See C. Diano, Euripide auteur de la catharsistragique,Numen,8 (1961), 117-41; Pietro Pucci, The Violence Pity in Euripides of Medea (Ithaca, 1980).
  • 17. 268 BlairHoxbyGiacomini said, an action that moves from miseryto felicitymight still be purgativebecause the soul contemplatesan impending evil as if it were a present reality.72 Inmost of the plays that Kitto labels melodramas, Euripidesleads the psyches of hisaudience by harrowingthem with prospects of evil and exposing them to passionsdeveloped to the point of fullness before stupefying them with the marvellousentranceof a god. His di ex machina not just a way to tie up his plots, or to pander areto a taste for spectacle.They are a means, or so seventeenth-century readerscouldreasonablyinterpret them, of completing the affective script of his tragedies bystirring the audience to intense wonder - a passion that, according to manycommentators,had its own purgativequalities.They are, in other words, an integralpart of his art againstgrief. This, at any rate, is the way many ItalianBaroque operas and French tragidies enmusique interpretEuripideantragedy.Their moments of deepest fearand pity usuallyfall well before the catastrophe.Think of Le Cerf de la Vievilles account of theaudiencesreactionto the end of Act II of Quinaultand Lullys Armide(1686), whenthey are ravishedby the mere spectre of an impending evil: When Armide nervesherself to stab Renaud ... I have twenty times seen the entire audience in the gripof fear, neither breathingnor moving, their whole attention in their ears and eyes,until the instrumentalair which concludes the scene allowed them to draw breathagain,afterwhich they exhaledwith a murmurof pleasureand admiration.73 the Ifpurpose of tragedyis simply to stir up and purge the passions, there is no reasonwhy it should not stage scenes like this, and there is every reason for it to introducea deusex machina the end to arouse a final sense of wonder. Such endings became atso conventional that Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Nougaret could explain that, because amachine nearlyalways ends serious operas in France, in imitation of Greek plays,it can be said to fall within the rules of dramaticpropriety.74 I do not believe, any more than Palisca or Pirrottado, that seventeenth-centurytragedians or librettists were under the impression that their productions werehistoricallyaccuratereconstructionsof ancient Greek tragedies.Nor do I wish todeny that Latin literatureor pastoraldrama- which GiraldiCinthio traced back to -Euripidess late play Cyclops contributed to the development of opera.75Thepioneers of opera read widely in classical sources from a variety of genres andperiods, consciously rejectingthe use of masks when they would interferewith theexpression of the passions, drawingfreely on accounts of Alexandrianand Romanactors, dancersand machinists,and alwaysbearingin mind that the first duty of thepoet was to please his contemporary audience. A mournful sense of the gulfdividing modern Europe from the ancient world, the contemporarystage from the72 Giacomini, Orationidiscorsi, e 51-2. italienne de la musiquefranfoise,73 Jean-LaurentLe Cerf de la Vieville, Comparaison la musique de et trans. in French Baroque A Opera: Reader, CarolineWood and Graham Sadler (Aldershot, ed. 2000), 39.74Pierre-Jean-BaptisteNougeret, De lArt du thaitre, vols. (Paris, 1769), II, 211. 2 soprail comporre satireattealle scene7 See Cinthios Discorso le the (1554). Cinthio cites Cyclops, only completesurvivingexample an ancientsatyrplay,as the modelof his Egl6, of which has been variously described a satyric as a drama, pastoraldrama a tragicomedy. and
  • 18. reconsidered The originsof operaand the spiritof tragedy 269ancienttheatre,runs through some of the very writingsin which they piece togetherthe fragmentaryevidence of the past. Indeed, it could be argued that it was theirvery consciousness of belatedness that reinforced their taste for Euripides and forthe decadent performers of Alexandria and Rome - who were themselvesconfronted with the task of renewing a revered,yet increasinglyalien, literaryanddramatictradition.But when scholarsdismiss the claims of earlyopera or tragidie enmusique being true tragedy,they obscure both how open and contested were the togeneric boundariesof tragedyin the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and howavidly Baroque opera fed on a particularstyle of tragic dramaturgy. is time we Itrecognised that in imaginatively responding to Euripidessmusicaldramaturgy, earlyopera helped to disentanglehis tragic style from Senecas sententious revision of it,and, by so doing, to secure his position as the premier model of classicaltragedy,spoken or sung, by the time the abbe dAubignac announced our Poets haverecovered the Way to Parnassus, upon the Footsteps of Euripides.76 its musical Withrepresentationof the passions, its episodic plotting, its choral interludes and itsfelicitous catastrophes,Baroque opera is a strong and coherent readingof a set ofEuripideantragediesthat were highly prized in Hellenistic Greece but that fell fromgracein the nineteenth century.Although the prevailingtheories about the meaningof tragiccatharsisand the sources of tragicpleasurechanged severaltimes between1550 and 1800, only the rise of German idealism in the late eighteenth andnineteenth centuries displaced the passions from their central place in the criticalanalysisof tragedy,thus deprivingEuripidesof his distinction as the most tragicofthe poets and transforminga revivalof ancient tragedyinto the birth of melodrama.76 DAubignac, La Pratique thitre,I, 12. du