November 2012 Archives

(Sculpt!) Group Argument

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Antonio Vivaldi's work in Baroque Italian Opera was heavily influenced through the governmental structure of eighteenth century Italy. Throughout the course of his playwritng career his work from "Arsilda" (opera) to "Juditha Triumphans" (opera), Vivaldi evokes a strong essence of survival and an overcoming of power struggle within Italian government. For instance, Arsillda tells the story a young girl who poses as her brother, whom she believes is dead, in order to inherit the throne and sustain nobility within her royal family. Vivaldi's "Juditha Triumphans" serves as a historical mirror reflecting the happeing of a war between the Turkish and Venetian army, where the Venetian army ends victorious. It is clear that in these plays Vivaldi's plot ties back to a power strugge shared between the opera characters and government. In "Arsilda", Vivaldi plays with the idea of one "posing" as what one is not-- which was the essence of the Early Modern Period during this time. This was an era in Italy where foreign lands were "posing" as the rulers and leaders of countries of differing nationalities. All in all, the basis of our argument is that Vivaldi's work served as a mirror reflection of eighteenth century Italian rule and governmental structure. We will also argue how and why Vivaldi's work is considered Baroque Opera, and its most concrete definition, which would be that of a "well-crafted imperfection." In doing this we will explain how composers and artists like Vivaldi broke societal rules and restrictions and found other ways art could be found--"good" art. Our argument will also contain how Baroque Art became less about structure and more about the feelings it could provoke as shown in Vivaldi's work. (We will speak about some other Baroque Italian Opera artists as well).

Three Questions

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Regarding the historical context, it is imperative that information on the Early Modern Period in Italy is communicated effectively, as this was a long series of a transitioning era throughout the world, as well it was in 1713. Being that our point of focus starts with 1713, it is important that we talk about how Habsburg Austria took over in Italy replacing the rule of Habsburg Spain. Foreign rule was huge during this time in history, and that is something that must be conveyed as well as the strength and power of the church. When it comes to daily life in Italy, it is imperative that we keep the information that fuels our topic of discussion first, such as Baroque being not only a music and theatre form but an art and architecture form as well during the time. Also, we should speak on Baroque in Italy being the starting point for opera being perceived as an aspect of entertainment for the first time as discovered in our sources.

2. Our topic expresses the philosophies, ideologies, and political circumstances of the time in one way-- through music and theatre. Baroque Italian Opera being a form of entertainment, the voicing of any one of those three things would only be able to be expressed and evoked through the theatricality of Baroque operatic style. Hence, if Baroque Italian Opera were to express these things it would be through their performance which would serve as a mirrror of reflection to what they wanted to speak to

We also know that our topic involves the social and theatrical tendencies of the upper class. Vivaldi was known for his speed in writing his scores and often borrowing elements from other scores to add to his own. This was partially due to audiences constantly wanting new material to consume. As opera was generally something that the upper class would partake in this tells us about the tendencies of the higher class in seeing musical theatre. This could also bring us to the censorship of Vivaldi's Arsilda, Regina di Ponto and why it was found necessary to stifle Vivaldi and his artistic freedom.

3. Regarding historical context, some big ideas that will have to be left out may include some aspects of life in Italy during the time including industry and commerce, cost of living and dying, and the customs and nobility of the Italians. However we would have to include information concerning the Early Modern Period, religion and clergy, and theatre and music. If the group is really pressed for time, than perhaps speaking on both Baroque Italian art and architecture in addition to Baroque Italian Opera may need to be left out. However, as a group that would be something that would definitely be worth while discussing, as we would be able to compare and contrast two completely different styles of Baroque art form. Unfortunately, due to time, we will also have to leave out nearly all discussion of other Baroque artists and composers of the time so we can focus on Vivaldi.

Annotated Bibliography

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Cross, Eric. The Late Operas of Antonio Vivaldi, 1727-1738, Volume One. Michigan: UMI

Research Press, 1981

This book is fairly comprehensive of all of Vivaldi's life. It starts with a preface which goes into the purpose of the book: To examine the impact of Vivaldi on the world of Baroque Opera. The first chapter gives background information on both Vivaldi's history and the history of Venice during his upbringing. The focus of the chapter is to provide background information on both the history of Venice and the nature of opera during his time to contextualize Vivaldi's entrance into the world of musical theater and opera. Because the book focuses on the entirety of Vivaldi's career and primarily on his later works, it only briefly examines the time frame of 1713-1723. Nonetheless, the information given provides an adequate survey of our decided time frame. Cross then attempts to cover the most important of Vivaldi's operatic works chronologically as he follows his career from his first opera appearing in 1713 to his death in 1741. Cross devotes the second chapter to this topic and goes into depth to examine varying aspects from the types of paper Vivaldi used to the structures of his scores. Because this book is musically based, Cross also provides a brief explanation and examination of Vivaldi's musical style in these selected operas. Eric Cross is a Professor and Dean of Cultural affairs at Newcastle University. He wrote his PhD dissertation on Vivaldi and his operas and his primary research interests lie in Baroque opera, especially the works of Vivaldi.

Landon, H.C. Robbins. Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1993. Print.

This 208 page book covering the entire life of Antonio Vivaldi and his work is very informative and extremely well written. The author, H.C. Robbins Landon, is an "honorary Professional Fellow of University College, Cardiff, and one of the world's leading musicologists." He has wrote many books about Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and more, making him seem like a credible source with a lot of passion and knowledge in regards to classical music and the history of surrounding famous composers and their compositions. "Landon's name guarantees scholarship of the highest order, plus readability" (The Daily Telegraph, book jacket). The book is laid out as a typical biography. It begins with Vivaldi's early life and his family, growing up in Venice the son of a barber who also became a professional musician and joining the orchestra of San Marco in 1685 when Antonio was seven. Then Antonio Vivaldi becomes a priest (his nickname was Prete rosso, the red-haired Priest) as he is composing and shortly after having to give up celebrating mass due to "tightness in the chest." It then goes into his career in opera and the fact that Handel arrived in Venice in 1709, bringing a huge boost in interest into the Italian opera scene. From there is goes through relationships, patronage of Charles VI, traveling and ill health and his eventual death in Vienna in 1741, at the age of 62. This book also contains a complete chronology of all his operas and other major works.

"Life in Italy from Baroque to Napoleon." Italy. Newsletter, 29 Dec. 2009. Web. 18 Nov.

2012. .

Life in Italy from Baroque to Napolean is an article from that I plan on using to help with my research. The article touches specifically on Baroque Art and how it fit into Italian society, and talks about how Baroque art in Italy was heavily inspired by many classical elements and acheivements made by the Renaissance. Although, my group presentation focuses heavily on Vivaldi and his famous work Prisillda, the article goes on to talk about how that both the architecture and style of Baroque art can be seen best through Gian Lorenzo Benini. With this article I am not only provided with information regarding Baroque music and theatre, but their art and architecture as well, which is where Benini came into play. I'm given very little covering specifically Baroque music and theatre in comparison, which is just fine being that I am more in charge of the historical content of the the era as oppose to the specifities of the music and its relation to theatre. The information that I am provided with should suffice just well, from a historical lens all I will be informing my listeners is how Baroque opera in eighteenth century Italy was the starting point for opera being seen as a major form of entertainment. Life in Italy from Baroque to Napolean makes way for me to also speak about the Catholic Church at the time and its relation to science, as well as the economic decline and trading of powers which literlly starts at our starting point--1713.

Macklem, Mary. "VIVALDI: Arsilda, Regina Di Ponto." Opera Today. Opera Today, 14

June 2005. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.


Opera Today is regarded as the leading site dedicated to opera and vocal music. Established in 2004, the site provides reviews of current performances, recordings and books, interviews, and links to recent news items. The information I found was a CD review by Dr. Mary Macklem, a professor at the University of Central Florida. She gives a historical background of Arsilda, Regina di Ponto and addresses the difficulty Vivaldi faced with censorship and artistic freedom. She also lays out the plot of the Opera which will be essential to our presentation since we have chosen to focus on the third opera of Vivaldi's.
The recording reviewed features the Baroque orchestra of Modo Antiquo, a group known for their work with Vivaldi's pieces which are often neglected by contemporary musicians. Arsilda, Regina di Ponto is recorded in its original signed form and it is the first recording of the non-censored opera. Macklem gives great credit to the musicianship as well as the instrumentation that gives Vivaldi's work great color and emotion. She refers to the plot as "typical early eighteenth-century plot in its use of love intrigues, mistaken identities, and musical features such as simile arias. As such, it perfectly encapsulates the contemporary Pier Jacopo Martello's tongue-in-cheek satire of opera of the day, which argued that opera, in order to be entertaining, should avoid following Aristotelian rules of drama and instead feature favored scenic conventions, such as prison and sleep scenes." It is clear from her historical description why the play was censored in the first place.

Morin, Alexander J. "Vivaldi - Juditha Triumphans." Classical Net Review - Vivaldi -

Juditha Triumphans. Classical Net, 1998. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.


Much like the other reviews, I will use this source as a tool to explain the plot of Juditha as well as its major themes. These facts will contribute to our argument by connecting the work of Vivaldi the the historical context. Juditha is based off of the Book of Judith and tells the story of Judith's triumph over the general of the Barbarians who took over her home. It was commissioned a few months after Venice took control of the island of Corfu back from the Turks. What is most interesting about this piece is how quickly it was composed by Vivaldi and how general who led the troops was in attendance when it opened. The opera was performed by an all-female cast and was a great success, evoking pride and a strong emotional response from the audience.

Portrait of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). N.d. Photograph. Civico Museo Bibliografico

Musicale, Bologna. Art Prints On Demand. Web. 28 Nov.

2012. .

This is an oil painting of Antonio Vivaldi. It is one of the only portraits of Vivaldi still available. There are only three portraits of Vivaldi known-an engraving, an ink sketch and the oil painting we have chosen for our main photo. In the oil painting you can see Vivaldi's red hair as well as his blonde wig. He is also holding his violin which was his original art form. It was found online via an print-ordering website in which you could purchase a representation of the original work.

Strohm, Reinhard. Essays on Handel and Italian Opera. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.

I originally found this book when looking up information when we were planning on focusing our efforts around researching Handel. But now, as interests shifted, I still find myself researching this book because it feels like it gives very good context to the era of baroque music. I like the fact that it's more modern because it translates better to me as someone studying the 18th century in the 21st century. I also appreciated how in his own way, the author immediately addresses the use of the W.E.I.R.D. lens and crafts his research with that dissonance in mind. From what I've read so far, there is a lot of light to be shown on the politics, culture and social surroundings of the Italian opera from that generation by use of this book.

Tuttle, Raymond. "Classical Net Review - Vivaldi." Classical Net. Classical Net, 2005.

Web. 17 Nov. 2012. .

It is clear from my research that finding entire articles or books on this opera would prove to be difficult. I am relying on CD reviews because they not only give historical context to Arsilda, Regina di Ponto, but they provide me with great audio sources and analyses of the music and instrumentation which often provide greater insight than the summaries of the plot. The review above was written by Raymond Tuttle a professor and classical music critic. He begins the article by discussing Orlando, but goes into the review on Arsilda directly after. The fact that he begins the description of the play with its difficult beginnings and the story of its censorship proved to me the significance of Vivaldi's ordeal. He then opens up a discussion as to whether it is right to perform the censored version or if conductors should always choose the original score-I found this to be an excellent discussion point. The CD he reviews is the same on as Macklem by the Baroque orchestra. Due to the conductors choice of the original score and the orchestra's knowledge of Vivaldi's work, Tuttle appreciates and enjoys this recording. He goes into a plot summary which ends with a particularly interesting line which says, "And the characters happily couple off in the expected heterosexual pairs". This ending, for him makes him focus on the gendering of the opera and its place in the society of the time.

Vaussard, Maurice. Daily Life in Eighteenth Century Italy. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. 

Daily Life in Eighteenth Century Italy will be a strong base and contributor to my research of the historical context of the time. The book literally delves into the day to day life of the people of this era and place covering what people wore during this time and era, cultural rituals of the time, and the governmental effects on society. This book is great because I knew that for this project I would need a source that did not specifically cover just the Early Modern Period in Italy or the country's art, but I needed a source that would give me a sweeping overview on the day to day life of the people that lived during that time, which I believe would be the most important piece of historical context. Daily Life in Eighteenth Century Italy provides me with not just the historical context covering my range of years for the presentation-- 1713-1723, but it provides me with context twelve years before and seventy seven years after so that I may have a more well rounded way of understanding what it is that I'll be talking about. It provides me with enough free range to speak about the customs of the nobility of the Italians, the middle and lower class, the cost of living and dying, theatre and music, religion and clergy, and industry and commerce. This source would work perfectly with any other source that I incorporate. If I were to change one of my sources down the line, this book actually serves as the basis of the hisorical context of the time and can mold in with any other research.

Format of our Presentation

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Our group will be presenting our research in the form of a Powerpoint. Since we have focused on the work of Antonio Vivaldi, we will begin with some basic background information on his life and work (hopefully a fun fact will be included...). From here will discuss his famous works which predominantly occurred in the decade we have chosen to research (1713-1723). Vivaldi seems to be one of the founding fathers of Baroque Italian Opera, so we think it is important to uncover why he began to change the structure of Italian Opera as well as the historical context in which he composed.

Context means everything when it comes to theatre, so we will present on the cultural and political atmosphere of The Early Modern Period which began in 1713. In that same year, Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto which was a controversial piece for many reasons. The period was dominated by transitions of power over Italy and we want to research where Vivaldi stood in all of it. How did it influence his work? Did he support Austrian control over Italy? After we discuss the plot and controversy surrounding his opera, as well as individuals such as Domenico Lalli (his Librettist), whom he worked with, we will provide our classmates with a visual aid. Hopefully this will be an audio or video example of Arsilda. At the end of our presentation (or perhaps throughout) we want to involve our classmates by asking them to read slides and answer discussion questions. However, this will not be a strategy to fill time since quite often crickets are heard when questions are asked during group presentations...

1.Background Vivaldi
1.5 Fun Fact on Vivaldi
2.Famous Pieces
3.Baroque Italian Opera (Changes it underwent until Vivaldi stepped in)
4.Historical (Early Modern Period, foreign rule, impact on Baroque and Vivaldi)
5.Arsilda, Regina di Ponto
6.Controversy (why?) as well as Domenico Lalli (Librettist) and their partnership
7.Media Clip (specific so as not to waste time)
8.Insert discussion questions throughout to involve classmates but not to fill time.

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3. Specifically starting in 1713 Italy was under foreign domination under Habsburg Austria after just being under the foreign rule of Habsburg Spain prior to 1713. This is known as the Early Modern Period in which Italy, just like a multitude of other areas around the world, such as Southeast Asia, were being governed by foreign lands. Capitalism started to bloom into world order as well, first beginning in Northern Ireland which centered around independent production and the selling of goods for profitable turnout. Colonization was also spreading throughout Europe heavily at the time in which Christianity spread rapidly throughout various Italian areas.

Group Proposal

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1. 1713-1723. Late Baroque period, mostly in regard to events in Italy at that time. During those ten years, Antonio Vivaldi wrote his first opera in 1713 and 19 subsequent operas.

2. We will focus on the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi and how his classic work "Arsilda, regina di Ponto" was both shaped by Italian opera of the time as well as helped to define the genre.

3. Specifically starting in 1713 Italy was under foreign domination under Habsburg Austria after just being under the foreign rule of Habsburg Spain prior to 1713. This is known as the Early Modern Period in which Italy, just like a multitude of other areas around the world, such as Southeast Asia, were being governed by foreign lands. Capitalism started to bloom into world order as well, first beginning in Northern Ireland which centered around independent production and the selling of goods for profitable turnout. Colonization was also spreading throughout Europe heavily at the time in which Christianity spread rapidly throughout various Italian areas.

4. Our group wanted to find an artist that not only fit within the Baroque period of Italian Opera, but one that was interesting and progressive. We played with a few other composers (Handel, Cavalli), but settled on Antonio Vivaldi due to his great selection of operas, some even controversial, and history's consideration of him as a founder of the Baroque Opera. We chose the time period 1713-1723 because it is not only manageable, but Vivaldi's opera "Arsilda,Regina di Ponto" opened during this time (a very controversial piece) and the rest of his successful works shortly followed.

Landon, H. C. Robbins. Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque. [London]: Thames and Hudson, 1993. Print.

Pincherle, Marc. Vivaldi: Genius of the Baroque. [New York, NY]: W. W. Norton and Company, 1957. Print.

Heller, Karl. Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice. [Portland]: Amadeus Press, 1997. Print.

"Italy". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. April 30, 2006. . 9 November 2012.

Cross, Eric. Vivaldi as Opera Composer: 'Griselda'. The Musical Times. Vol. 119, No. 1623 (May, 1978), pp. 411-413+415-416. Musical Times Publications Ltd.

Macklem, Mary PHD.Vivaldi: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto. Opera Today.

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