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Conventions of Prayer in Some 19th-Century Operas

Author(s): Rodney Stenning Edgecombe
Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 146, No. 1893 (Winter, 2005), pp. 45-60
Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.
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and also at the musical and textual conventions that have developed in tandem with them. they were differentiatedby degrees of intimacy and gravitas. The operatic locus classicusfor this kind of prayer is doubtless the 'Conjuration of the nobles' in Meyerbeer's Huguenots.given the fact that both are predicated on archetypal human postures. (We will recognise in this a recurrentsituation of theprimoottocento. as at the start of Linda di Chamounixor Cavalleriarusticana. to that extent. and also to addressthose pagan forms of prayer that persisted on the stage of theprimo ottocento.36 on Tue.I propose to look at the way in which liturgical forms have been accommodated on the lyric stage of the i9th century.16. scene 2 of Aida.whether with a deity or a powerful person. took form as solemn public prayers offered up by the people. the sort of pious communal prayer that operatic composers invoke to image a society at peace with itself. which figures inpropriapersona(so to speak) at the start of Lajuive. o Dio') as well as such grateful tributes to Isis in Act II. to an extent more marked than in their successors. while a 'chamber' IN THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. were more tendentious and purposeful .86.) And if they succeeded.) Precationes. (These have an operatic history that stretches as far back at least as Gluck's Iphignie en Taurideand as far forward as Verdi's Otello. while obtestationesreferred to even more solemn versions of the same enterprise. to festivals of thanksgiving or gratulationes.One must bear in mind that there is often only a nominal difference between classical and Christianprayer. they led.prayers designed to ward off evil and. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 45 .on the other hand. emerged from the public adaptation of preces. such as Sinon's treacherous invocation of 'eternal fires' when the Trojans undo his fetters in the Aeneid. associated as they were with ceremonies of the comitia. I shall base my typology of these forms on classical rather than Christian models so as to admit some neo-classical preghiereinto my study. a verbal form of apotropaic sacrifice.by contrast. and also given the fact that the primitive church made wholesale adaptationsof Roman liturgical practices. Those practices were categorised in terms roughly similar to their Catholic avatars. Preces related chiefly to private entreaty. even though. naturally enough.namely. Obsecrationes who invoked the gods as witness to the covenant. Deprecationes.of which we find a private example inLaforga deldestino('Sono giunta! Grazie.RODNEY STENNING EDGECOMBE Conventions of prayerin some 19th-century operas THIS ESSAY. a heroine in extremisappealing either to a deity or to a tyrannical baritone. The standard Christian vehicle for public gratulation was the Te Deum.

trans.86. remember to lash both her sides! Let lowering Eurus scatter sheet and broken oars on upturned sea! Let Aquilo arise in all the fury with which he rends the quivering oaks on lofty mountain-tops!2 while his Sixteenth Epode.and as when.but the closely related activities of blessing and cursing . Virgil: Thepoems of Virgil. There is little (if anything) to distinguish Roman intercessory prayers . So. For the exsecratioyielded easily enough to the comminatio. bearing unsavoury Mevius.. 'Si pel ciel'.Saint Bris calls down a curse upon the enemies of state and church: I. advanced half in jest: Under evil omen the ship sets sail. p. Benedictio. Horace: Odes and epodes. the maledictio and benedictiocome face to face to form a queasy compound. P-3933. Tchaikovsky's Joan of Arc encompasses the entire French nation in her hymn 'Tsar vishnikh sil' in Act i of OrleanskayaDyeva.41i.46 46 Conventions of prayer in some zith-century operas version of an obstestatiocan also be found in Act 2 duet between hero and villain from Verdi's Otello. while the Marquisof Calatravaadministers a 'chamber'blessing to Leonora at the start of La forja del destino. are able to bring a coldly disengaged eye to its repeated failures of charity.16.' That happens to be a private version of an utterance that could just as easily adapt itself to public occasions and to social groups instead of individuals.from preces and precationes. 2.both specialised intercessory prayers . ibid.I8I. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . O Auster. p. 1921). as witness the blessing that Aeneas calls down on himself in Book 8 of Virgil's poem: O FatherTiber. James Rhoades (London: Oxford University Press. CE Bennett (London: William Heinemann.or 'Christian' malediction. Horace's Tenth Epode representsa private kind of cursing.supplicia . in Les Huguenots. Eh bien!du Dieu qui nous protege le glaive menagantest sur eux suspendu: des huguenotsla racesacrilege aurades ajourd'huipourjamaisdisparu! In this blessing of the daggers from Les Huguenots. Meyerbeer and the anti-clerical Scribe.figured as benedictionesand exsecrationes respectively.despite its being a late Latin term. The same distinction of scale holds true with regard to the exsecratio. located outside the Church. Taketo your careAeneasandat length Fromperilsfend him. visits its execration on a whole segment of the populace: 'Let the weak and hopeless remnant rest on their ill-fated couches!'3 Both those utterances can be heard echoing through the libretti of Scribe. would cover all those invocations of divine protection and advancement that must have existed at the very birth of the Republic. 1968). as when Nelusko recalls the Schadenfreude of Epode o10 in the Adamastor ballade of L'Africaine. an adaptation of which ceremony can be found earlier versions of the Book of Common This content downloaded from 200. trans. a solemn reflection on civil war.with thy hallowedflood. With fearful waves.36 on Tue.

285. where the soi-disant 'virtuous' consign the libertine to 'Proserpina e Pluton'.Prayer. and its operatic stages in particular. John Henry Blunt.nor indeed between that and the public curse that Alberich sets upon the ring in Das Rheingold. Even that very specialised kind of Roman curse. Now let us 'try these truthswith closer eyes. As we try to bring taxonomic order to the various modes of prayer and the musical procedures they have evoked from composers.86. then at least to inflect it with private emotion . being an historical.Morley Stevenson& J. Even if the sermon finds no echo in the ritual nature of pagan religion. the defixio that dedicated 'the victim to the deities of the underworld'. p. RD Macnaghten (London: Longmans. Even so. W. with tolling of bells and extinction of lights at the pronouncement of the sentence of cursing.222. and (in rather more private circumstances) on love itself. trans.36 on Tue.a tendency carried further still when some Protestant sects dispensed with religious formalism altogether.) it is thought good. Falstaff's discourse on honour is a kind of mock-sermon. (until the said disciplinemay be restored again. while they are not properly prayers. Although they have no analogue in the cultusof ancient Rome.16. we need first of all to THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. the Latin word for 'discourse'. then. responses 5. for the drama of the individual's salvation tended. p. for the general landscape.: The annotated Book of CommonPrayer. Its preface regretfully records the fact that it had fallen into disuse in the modern era: Insteadwhereof. So much. Even the final scene of Don Giovannican be read a statuesque sermon-cum-litany with secular. ritual. have sufficient relevance to qualify for admission to an essay of this nature./ And trace them through the prospect as it lies'. if not to marginalise public supplication.6 figures vestigially.: The Prayer Book dictionary (London: Isaac Pitman. And there exists a whole class of hortatory ariastypified by Zaccaria's 'D'Egitto 1a sui lidi' in Nabucco. attests).]4 Thus does the avowedly 'tolerant' Church of England continue 'a form of anathemaagainst sins of various kinds. defiant 4. and it has the kind of cumulative design and swelling climax that Verdi lavishes on the (comparatively) conventional sermon in Stiffelio. to the versicles of repentance.'5 No great distance between the vindictive relish of public denunciation and such operatic scenes as the self-cursing of Paolo in the 1881 revision of Simon Boccanegra. its other liturgical forms quickly found their way into the cultus and liturgy of the early church. and theological commentary on the devotional system of the Churchof England (London: Rivingtons. which is much to be wished. Sermons. that at this time (in presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of GOD's cursing against impenitent sinners. Christianity brought its own characteristic emphases to the enterprise of prayer. life and customs. gathered out of the seven and twentieth Chapter of Deuteronomy [. 6. in the coda to Don Giovanni. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 47 . I89o). and thence into Europeanculture in general. 1963). p. George Harford. ed. and an enacted parable of judgement to top it all. which was to be read out solemnly in church twice or thrice in the year. 1912). I would imagine that the orationesin the Senate often took the form of secular sermons (as indeed the etymon for sermon'. edd. Tyrer.49. Ugo Enrico Paoli: Rome: its people.

of priestly propositions and congregational assent. they rejoice in the fact that 'niuna pietra ove sorse l'altera/Babilonia allo stranio dira'. For.to put it differently . As Byron reminds us in Marino Faliero. where. this translates into a distinction between meditatively prayerful arias and ensemble prayers. many moments of otherwise personal anguish or joy. 'Some sacrifices ask'd a single victim. In operatic terms.36 on Tue./Great expiations had a hecatomb'. as it were in concentric circles. As the Bastardremindsus at the end of Shakespeare's KingJohn. for there can be no escaping the major generic divide between preces of private emotion.to plot the differentiaeof the forms. explanatory notes. (London: Frederick Warne. might well lie behind these choral developments. and opens out. Doge of Venice. at Zaccaria'sprompting. and the more social kinds of prayer representing national or civic aspiration. it does eventually arrivein form of Zaccaria'sprophecy. with life. & c. in Maria Stuarda's solo 'O nube che lieve' (her loneliness and desolation privately revealed by the prayer she utters to a passing cloud).16.48 Conventionsof prayerin some zgth-centuryoperas establish two oppositional axes . because it acknowledged an imminent threat to fatherlandor city or nation. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . also turned on the sense of a people united by crisis. and that the deprecatio.we should recall. this office will amplify its importance in times of crisis. One finds such an advent from a corner of the world at the start of Nabucco. scene 7. In some instances ('Casta diva'. Lord Byron: Thepoetical works of Lord Byron reprinted from the original editions. which contrasts with a grand concertato ('Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera') that registers the impact of her pending death through the use of the chorus.86. RISORGIMENTO composers such as Verdi were quick to realise that collective prayer could be fashioned into a vehicle for nationalist sentiment. And if priests had this mediatorial function in times of peace. or .7a distinction in scale that finds its operatic analogue. and although the Hebrews' responsive 'shock' is long in coming. the chorus of the primo ottocentofunctions as a stylised social voice. p.359. like its counterpart in Greek tragedy.therefore. Charles Gordon. Indeed one of the oldest musical utterances (the sursumcordaembedded in the heart of the Tridentine Mass) turned on just this play between an initiating solo voice and a collective assent. for example). The operatic deprecatio. However the Jews' choric defiance makes itself felt only in the 'profezia' of Act 3. Such Christian prayer forms as the litany. often comes packaged with a priestly intercessor.privacy and publicity . with its chain of versicle and response. a nation linked up in resistantunity is invulnerable to oppression: Come the threecornersof the world in arms And we shallshock them!Nought shallmakeus rue If Englandto itself do restbut true!(Act 5. this outward amplification is made in an explicitly liturgical way. has the priestly/prophetic office on which the sursumcordabases itself). lines 112-18) 7. (Zaccaria. for example. This content downloaded from 200. no date).

. vol.where the storm that has raged for most of the overture spills into the body of the opera proper. where. 3 vols (London:Cassell. Hence the deprecatiothatbegins Gluck's Iphige'nieen Tauride('Grands Dieux! soyez-nous secourables!') and the ensemble near the start of Devienne's Les Visitandines.Bellinipointedout thatyou could not have two martialchorusesin a row. p.a note of desperate entreaty that Verdi canalises through its standardvehicular prayer. Thus Verdi renders Nabucco's advance on the temple with traditional storm effects precisely because Solera calls him a 'Ministro dell'ira del Nume sdegnato'. the demisemiquaver flurries of lightning now represent a begged-for e'claircissement . spoke of moving the hymn to a laterscene.36 on Tue. The invasive Hellene gods stormed over the autocthonous penisular ones in more ways than one. i960). Harmondsworth:Penguin. RobertGraves: The Greekmyths. 9.We get a sense of the anxieties attendant upon the form from Julian Budden's commentary: Verdi's Gli arredi festivi gid cadano infranti has the character of a storm chorus with rushingscales.86.98. If storms are thus viewed as images of divine wrath and power. Io. 8. of course.and signify that the deprecatiohas secured its end.andrpt. 2 vols (1955. As John Rosselli points out. JohnRosselli:Thelife of Bellini (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.] parentwould seem to be the opening scene of Bellini'sIlPirata [1827]. when he needed to give the two basses more to do.16.i. He directeth it under the whole heaven. incidentally.rev. and his lightning unto the ends of the earth' (Job 37.where. The stormy characteristicsthat Budden detects here are.(Its [. this particular prayer form is often musically continuous with its cause.'They ranked Zeus and Poseidon as immortals. as old as religion itself. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 49 .we can invoke the blander public prayer at the start of Ipuritani.shriekingwind andbrass. To appreciate the intensity associated with such quasi-political deprecationesas 'Gli arredi'. p. and in the end. against the entreaties of the High Priest. placation must be the best way to handle them. An inversion of this storm-of-judgement motif can be observed in the prayer for Admete's salvation in Alceste. prompting the nuns to cry (in the 'thy-will-be-done-but-please-don't-do-it' way typical of deprecatoryprayer) 'Grand Dieu. vv./Mais epargnez notre couvent'. picturing both as armed with a thunderbolt'9 .a 'rayon clatant' that will pierce the 'voile affreux' .to follow the opening chorus.43..i35-36.2-3). 1996).thereis also a hermitto soothe the people!). votre bont6 se lasse/Que votre volonte se fasse.Act I of Nabuccostrikesa different note . Bellini's librettist had tried to feed some revolutionary content into the opera.andanabundanceof diminishedsevenths. JulianBudden: The operasof Verdi. turned it into the cabaletta to the duet 'II rival salvar tu di'. vol. but the composer did all he could to neutralise his nationalism: He proposeda hymn to liberty.and the tribal Yahweh also had his judgemental light show: 'Hear attentively the noise of his voice and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. the deprecatio. p..i. 1973-81). But whatever the changes rung on the Sturm und Drang vocabulary. viz.'0 THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200.

like Mendelssohn before him. since the scene in question replicates the prayer contest between Elijah and the pagan prophets in Mendelssohn's other oratorio. Abert attempts. incorporates a genuflecting major second . sequential exposition) they come together.16. No graceful dips and courtesies in its deportment. Mendelssohn's conscription of a danse antiqueto image historical relegation seems in turn to have influenced the presentation of the heathen prayer in Johann Joseph Abert's Ekkehard. facile grace of the minuet. Furthermore. The alienation and continuity of these theological worlds registers in the way the litany floats toward their shared tonic centre (Br) from the realm of the flattened submediant. By rendering the prayers of the Wotan-worshippers through an obsolete dance. He projects their obeisances through the prolonged dip of a major second (the interval that Verdi also used in Mistress Quickly's 'Reverenza') to evoke the courtliness (and obsolescence) of the ancienregime . that vector of Christianmilitancy that would lead Gounod to represent even the crucifixion (of all things) as a 'Marchto Calvary' (Redemption). to convey the idea of a religion about to go under.a gracious 9/8 melody that also. Meyerbeerprovides an interesting take on this conventional opposition of pagan grace and dour Christian militarismin the third act of Les Huguenots. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . image of its removed-but-cognate relationship with the rataplanmarch. carries some ideological weight.and the iconoclastic Huguenot chorus. Abert renders his pagan occlusion by ending the scene with a march. and when (as so often is the case with melodies and counter-melodies that receive a separate. we have a sense of their congruence that. he sets a Lutheranchorale. like the prayer from St Paul.where the pagan rituals of the Heidenstein register in a minuet startlingly at odds with the values of the Waldfrau. but rather the unbending austerity of the primitive church. Clearly each is made for the other.86. which contains a melomachia(melodic battle) between the Marianlitany . Meyerbeer detachedly This content downloaded from 200. that is a price he seems prepared to pay for the sake of a subtler thematic point.36 on Tue. we can witness Bellini's express separationof prayer from social crisis in the way he handles the opening chorale.50 Conventions of prayer in some zgth-century operas In fact. suggesting both otherness and temporal distance. Mendelssohn's St Paul likewise contains a minuet preghiera for Lystrans who mistake the apostles for gods. Against the wheedling.and of course an ancien regime about to be eclipsed by a new religion. here at least. Although its attenuated lyric grace works against any sense of barbarism. where a gigue-like invocation to Baal gives way to a ferocious allegro prophecy of violence ('Is not his word like a fire?'). Three strokes of a bell (perhaps a Trinitariangesture) alternate with a sedate 3/4. a minuet in all but name. This assimilation of antique dance to prayer would seem to serve a dual purpose.and the principles of blood sacrifice she embraces ('Nun segne mit Blut/den neuen Tag der Sonnenwende').

138.to render a sect at its devotions and not a nation in danger.that make for the tension and torsion of Blake's bracing 'damn'. malediction and benediction. Bless relaxes'. Since. and projecting the Babylonian invasion as a divine judgement aligned (through its musical idiom) with the more conventional vectors of thunder and lightning.II. having once made an emblematicgesture in the direction of Puritanrestraint. could be further removed from his idyll than the chorus at the start of Nabucco. p. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 5I . London: Longman. These two forms draw alongside each other in Cherubini'sMedee when the sorceress asks Jove to mark the cruelty of the king . foursquare tunes associated with early Protestantism ('feste Burgen' in every sense of that phrase). ibid.IIo.36 on Tue. the composer allows himself more ample harmonic resources than the stripped-down. o Giove tu.fumes that in real Puritanical nostrils would have registered as stench.its chromatic cresting and subsidence imaging a prayer at once raised and pulled back from heaven: 'Disperdi. Bellini projects an innocent piety (inviting his audience to correlate her with the sexless purity of such descants as that of the Allegri 'Miserere'). The same holds true of the evanescent triplets at the end of the scena (which Bizet would rememberwhen he came to depict the smoke of the cigarette girls in Carmen). p. il presaggio suo feral'. 1989). and will manifest those musical symptoms of Angst and disruption." and yet. after another bell-struck interlude. according to William Blake. The austerity that Rosselli detects here is entirely relative.a veiled malediction . unlike Mendelssohn and Abert after him. for. but. After all. by having Elvira's voice ride the ensemble with a descant even before her entry.Here we have a nation in turmoil. WH Stevenson (I97I. demelismated idiom of Calvinist worship would ordinarily allow. surveys Christian factionalism. the rapt offstage prayer. and perceives the common denominator between its warring sects. the brilliant martial chorus all evoke a climate of austerity and war'.16. it comes back on vi. and then steers a path through a voluptuous dominant ninth and the secondary dominants of V and ii.while Creon and chorus seek to reverse the thrust of her entreaty in a massed deprecatio. ed. through this sereneprecatio. viz. Also. Nothing. therefore. 12. Bellini recoils from the bleak. William Blake: The completepoems. THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. deprecatiois nothing more than a human response to divine malediction. John Rosselli has written of the entire scene that the 'opening horn calls.86.Bellini clearly had a mental image of circling incense fumes . Bellini's chorale moves decorously and stolidly between primary triads. and chose.diminished sevenths and the like . rpt. But let us return to the minuet prayer in Ipuritani. At its first statement.. spaced out in changing measures.." we could connect the deprecatio(which wards off evil) and theprecatio (which invites good) with two other favoured modes of operatic prayer. 'Damn braces. The suave nature of this chorale shows that Bellini avoided the urgency and crisis more usually associated with Risorgimentoprayers.

'Gli arredi' simply records the crisis. which attracted Liszt just as powerfully as the authentic medieval materials that figure in his compositions. for example. 'correct' idiom we find in many choric supplications. therefore.52 Conventionsof prayerin some t9th-centuryoperas 13.to play the monks' chant 'straight'. No surprise. which describes the rituals of the wedding chamber ('Dufteneder Raum. After all.16. sur Liebe geschmiickt. Which brings us to another important fact about choric prayer in the primo ottocento.'. In contrast with the above examples from Gluck and Devienne.86.36 on Tue. Verdi's Levites speak a recognisable liturgical dialect . dem Glanze entriickt'). and that in TheMikado. in the anabaptist chant from Le prophite. composers for the Grand Operatic stage are more likely to craft ecclesiastical pastiche.viz. Verdi took care. when writing the 'Miserere' in Il trovatore. being the complete text of the Gilbertand Sullivan operas as originally produced in theyears z185-z 896 (London: Macmillan.29. the Levites issue liturgical instructions to 'temple virgins'. We see this.the composer will now aim for inwardnessand ardour This content downloaded from 200. instead of the external . Such rubric choruses and arias form a distinct sub-category in the literature of operatic prayer.and. Possibly designed to evoke an image of the non-Catholic 'other'. you will want its representativesto speak something akin to its authentic voice. WS Gilbert: The Savoy operas. p. as when Isaiah sends a teller of good tidings to Zion. that it is almost invariably couched in some sort of pastiche idiom. consult their instruction manuals and then assign the deprecatioto virgins who have more to do with Spontini'sLa Vestalethan with any recognisable Jewish practice. driven to this by the dictates of dramaticdecorum. concerned though they might be with niceties of ritual. at least.with its directives for nuptial hair-dressing: 'Braid the raven hair -/Weave the supple tress. its measured ecclesiastical gait designed to offset the anguished convulsions of Leonora's line on the one hand. as is not the case with these later 'rubric' choruses. ratherthan to modify it ad hoc. which the composer has already adumbrated in the proem to the overture. as witness the epithalamionfrom Lohengrin. it does homage to a tradition very different from that of Palestrina . many psalms and prophecies begin with imperatives that they themselves obey. who had made the entreaty music continuous with a 'representation'of the deprecated terror. For when it comes to communal prayer. No such constraints apply to individual efforts of prayer.. in the fact that the Levites (custodians of the temple cultus) should.that of the Lutheranchorale. as it were. If you are representing the church as a sociological force.but it does homage none the less. for example. 1962). For now. and the heroic sangfroid of Manrico'swaltz on the other. This technique of incorporating liturgical rubrics into the actual act of prayer is not unique to Solera. an effect that would hardly have been possible in the context of a monastic polka or a valsetto such as the demons utter in Giovannad'Arco./nehm' euch nun auf. though it is seldom as formally demarcated and antiphonised as it is here.i3 However. When it subsides. however. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . as it were. who duly oblige. and then ventriloquises the words to be uttered there.

however.86. And no crime in that. I would argue an additional line of influence. to sublime lightning strikes in herfioriture. for in the background of both pieces (as Julian Budden suggests'5) is the cello proem of the GuillaumeTell overture. Verdi would remember this 'chamber' aria as something well suited topreghieraidiom when he wrote 'Tu sul labbro' in Nabucco. with its viola d'amore obbligato. And in this he was hardly breaking ground. not least Raoul's first-act aria. while Meyerbeer might have aimed for an historically plausible sound for his Anabaptists in the act of baptism.36 on Tue.broken and uneven'. centred on 'Light quirksof Musick.vol. and yet. These THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. A whole withered grove of Anglican chants and settings owes its desiccation to its distance from the stage. Alexander Pope: The poems of Alexander Pope: a one-volume edition of the Twickenhamtext with selected annotations. 'Plus blanche que la blanche hermine'. casting his 'Nazareth'. an assimilationby no means foreign . Bach's cantatasand passions are stocked with long. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 53 . many 'prayerful' arias derived from contemporary dance forms. In 18th-century oratorios. mulling reflections.14.Io3. Les Huguenotsmight err a touch too far from the prissy niceties of Anglican church music when Marcel is granted his vision of bliss to the strains of a polka. p.and the enjoyable obviousness of the stage. he suffered no 'historical' inhibitions when writing prayers for the solo voice. By the same token. sterile idiom that resolutely turns its back upon the cheerfulness of popolaresco. in the very opera that contains a studiously reproductive Anabaptist chant.to courtly love and to the Petrarchismthat followed on its heels. It is at moments like these that Meyerbeer's notionally 'French' influence reinseminates the Italian idiom that went into its fashioning. solo stringed instruments enwreathe a sparely declaimed line. as a 6/4 waltz. Meyerbeer has Fides pray for her son ('Comme un clair') in what might be termed either a peristaltic gigue or a rollicking barcarole.but she actually sounds rather jaunty. too. reflections that spring directly from the intimate God-colloquies urged by Protestantism. when he wrote for the unbuttoned ethos of the salon. he turned out religiose dance music. John Butt (London: Methuen. as when Handel set a credal affirmation ('I know that my redeemer liveth') as a minuet. She aspires. Both Scribe's text. perhaps. Meyerbeer occasionally wrote preghierethat. Untroubled by that horror of vigorous melody that seems to have beset the school of Stainer and Stanford.as the librettistwould have known . There.16. 15. p.593.I. Hence. given Mendelssohn's revival of the Matthius-Passion in 1829. ed.Gounod might have delighted in chaste horizontality of the music in St Peter's. and the reverentially hesitant melody that Meyerbeer crafted for it. Budden: The operas of Verdi. made 'the soul dance upon a Jig to Heaven'. for example. and even a touch of emotional de'shabille. i965). since Meyerbeer had a German precedent for this kind of instrumental 'close-up'. but it's worth remarking how raptly prayerful some of Meyerbeer's secular moments can be. project Valentine as a kind of Virgin Mary ('Vierge immortelle').4 But sooner that than a stillborn.

But. the waltz of semitonal 'commas' that emerges from the triplets of the 'Eroica' march.16.one thinks.54 Conventionsof prayerin some z9th-centuryoperas arias frequently centre on a solo instrument. and to that extent. Unlike the mazurka (leaving aside Chopin's. but the devout probably feel discomfiture. or the oboe in 'Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen'. the waltz proved more amenable to the kind of deportment expected of prayer . And although there are operatic precedents for instrumentally spotlit ritornelli in operatic prayers .86. for example of the oboe that ushers in Alceste's 'Grands dieux. Neither goes quite as far in the direction of populism. and succeeded for a while. For just as the minuet elided by slow degrees and a quickening of spirit into the dances of Lanner and Strausspe're. and setting it down on the dance floor.More than anybody else. each with a heavy first beat. say. he should be credited (or debited. both of them dances with irreverently buoyant rhythms. in the folk masses and chancel guitars of postconciliar Rome. The waltz was waiting. in the Maddalena's 'Potea quel pianto' (from the Passione di Gesu Cristoby Paisiello). and that Beethoven himself followed this prototypic valse triste with an effect of sombre dancing. for such an invitation into the world of prayer. it was possible to make less mischievously blatantraidson the ballroom if one chose one's forms with greater caution. the demotic church idiom simply went underground to resurface. Indeed. None the less. Pius X's Motu propriotried to shut them out of the chancel. du destin' in Gluck's opera. both from the Matthius-Passion. The 'Pro peccatis' is a jaunty mazurka. decades later. the waltz can be made to swoon and surge by reconfigurations of its beat. even though we find a solo clarinet ritornello. however. while Meyerbeer and Verdi were capable of highly dignified 'chamber'prayers. Even so.a gliding motion beyond the reach of the brash polka bounce. istud agas' a polka. As a dance form. Unbelievers might chuckle in amazementat these festivities at the foot of the Cross (most especially the loose-shouldered swagger of 'Juxtacrucem tecum stare'). perhaps.36 on Tue. they still pushed the envelope in the other direction.they lack the obsessive isolation and intimacy that marktheir sacred counterparts. set apart in plaintive isolation from the body of the orchestra. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . We have noted Marcel's jolly glimpse of heaven and Fides's gigue-prayer. some of which sound more like valses lents). we ought not to forget that the 'Lacrymosa' of Mozart's Requiem trenches on waltz form by breaking its compound metre into triune segments.and the 'Sanctamater. demurely enough.so likewise the minuet-prayer girded its cassocks and kicked up its heels. can trace the aspiring graph of This content downloaded from 200. Such orchestral spotlighting is less marked in the Italian tradition of the aiione sacra. as Rossini's second StabatMater. for example.the oboe d'amore in 'Ich will dir mine Herze schenken'. like the Arethuse.it's all a matterof perspective) with lifting musicalprayerout of the statuesquehymnic mode of Gluck and Cherubini.

i986). and while Richard Osborne might be right to call the melody 'a remarkablysimple one'. I am sure. Because of that very equability.It was in these that the waltz made its home. and it is Verdi who showed himself ready to slough pseudo-chorales and factitious plainchants for private intercession. So the task of 'popularising' the language of operatic prayer fell to his successors. This imparts an incipient waltz momentum to the utterance. the rhythmic hesitancies of the Mose prayer are to some extent effaced by the equable arpeggios that soothe and encourage the voices as they climb and fall. actually originates in the despair of Dante's Inferno. far from representing the soul in colloquy a tribal god. to gladden the heart of the sniffiest pope. for such choric prayers as 'Va pensiero' (Nabucco) and 'O Signor dal tetto natio' (I lombardialla prima crociata)both come close (through their parenthetically inserted compound metres) to matching the poignant swing of Mozart's 'Lacrymosa'. that this device simply heightens the line of a figure in the High Priest's adjurationin Alceste. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 55 . however. Even so. the latter seems quite staid in its 2/4 deportment even despite its liquefying ostinato of sextuplets . an energy compounded by the triplets that Verdi inserts into THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. and with an extremely similar contour . One can note. p. Rossini trenched on irreverence in his 'sinful old age' by offering a populist Stabat Mater and an oxymoronic 'solemn masslette' as two further 'p6ch6s de viellesse'.also in G minor. but these post-dated his stage career. We have already noted that in the prayer from Mose in Egitto.I6.16.staid enough. Indeed. no such historical inhibitions govern the composition of (private)precationes. the cognate Motive of Vertragand Vertragsschut{ in Der Ring desNibelungenwould suggest. Zaccaria'spulses with aspirantenergy. Another interesting point of comparison for Rossini's prayer is provided by the barcarole. and whereas the ostinato of the prayer from Mose had slowly rippled.36 on Tue. Richard Osborne: Rossini (London: JM Dent. Rossini had created a tension between his 2/4 time signature and the triple pulse of the accompaniment. the foursquare cut of the melody might be softened. The descending scale that (in Gluck.from his own Otello. as Mozart had realized in the Requiem.86.A certain irony springs from the fact that the text of this aria. superimposes triplets on each beat of his 'official' common metre. from which it appears to have been derived."6its double dottings evoke a tentativeness distinct from the beat-bound melodic confidence of the German chorale. when we place his waltzing 'Lacrymosa' beside the prayer from Rossini's Mose in Egitto. And not only then. but not in Rossini) balances that 'ledged' ascent would seem to offer itself as an image of divine dependability. in Zaccaria'smelodic sermon ('D'Egitto l1 sui lidi'). prayer. While many operatic prayers for chorus observe the conventions of actual church music to the extent that the (public) deprecatiobecomes all but synonymous with pastiche. at least. Verdi goes a step further in Nabucco. but it is never compromised. however.and. or so.2 i.

of course. We find this even in arias that approximate rather realise liturgical forms. and the waltz comes close to sweeping the chorale off its feet. petition and an optional resolution. p.16. is Orestes's gratulatio. and. We see the extent of this overlap between erosand agape in II trovatorewhen Leonora rejoices to find that her own name has displaced the deity's in the scheme of things: Versidipreceedumile Quald'uomchepregaIddio: In quellaripeteasiun nome Il nome mio! 17. The circumstances This content downloaded from 200. Ruth i. The locus classicus. with its palpitant semiquaver figure on the dominant. "He killed his mother! Keep playing!" 'i7Verdi'sZaccariaisn't lying. whether overtly spiritual or frankly erotic. Such vehemence is foreign to the prayer idiom of the i8th century. and (b) as in the isolated cello texture of the 'Tu sul labbro". through Meyerbeer. as the century unfolds. so that an oboe plaintively informs us of Gilda's innocence as she begins her crypto-confessional in 'Tutte le feste' and Neris's aria in Cherubini's Mede'e('Solo un pianto'). "He's lying!" Gluck explained.i6). Ethan Mordden: Opera anecdotes (New York: Oxford University Press. I will lodge'. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1985). 'Le calme rentre dans mon coeur!'. none the less consolidated two importantresourcesthat had become available both to deprecationes(public prayers) and precationes(private ones) in the primo ottocento:(a) the greater rhythmic freedom attested by the near-waltz of his sermon.56 Conventionsof prayerin some zgth-centuryoperas the melody itself with an effect of pulpit-thumping vehemence. while it might not have been cutting edge.86. Zaccaria's 'liturgical' music. More and more frequently. There had been no mistake. of course. theprecatiowill image its intimacy in a prelusive solo. v. that passion half-prevails over dignity. a sense of intimacy and inwardness that might ultimately lead back. and where though lodgest. which 'warms up' the vocal line for the singer at the same time as it projects his or her solitary encounter with godhead. with its faithful bassoon obbligato. Theprecatiocan (given the range of its Latin meanings) encompass almost any aria delivered in a posture of supplication. I will go.to the baroque choral heritage. History records a contemporary orchestra'sbafflement over this discrepancy: 'Gluck urged them on. is nothing if not a Bach-like mulling on an undeclared biblical text ('for whither thou goest. but he is a man both dignified and passionate. but the challenging subliminal energy of an accompanimentthat fails to squarewith its squarish melody has its origins in Gluck. because the underlying 12/8 Gestalt(actually a segmented 6/8) keeps reshaping our linear grasp of the official 4/4. But more often precationes avail themselves of openly liturgical procedures: invocation.needless to say.36 on Tue.25. chiefly for woodwind or stringed instrument.

PaulMesnard. possente Ftha. For although the recitative that ushers in Agamemnon's first aria in Iphigdnieen Aulide addresses itself to 'Diane impitoyable'. noi t'invochiamo. the Egyptians immediately beg that she curtail the scope of her power and focus on their country alone. do such invocations of providence ('O tu che regoli gli umani eventi') seem less than cynical. an offstage marriage hymn salutes a deity all powerful and all regulating even as chaos invades the life of the heroine. in Norma. vol.I69. 18. for here we find the imperative that lies at the heart of all prayer. ah. After buttering up the deity with this acknowledgement of cosmic power. a discrepancybetween the invocation and the context of the prayer can issue in irony. Bellini's solo flute and the solo voice into which it elides representthe luminous isolation of the priestess who intercedes for her people.8 vols (Paris: Hachette. Although Racine's Iphigenie offers nothing comparable (apart from the crypto-monotheism of Agamemnon's address to 'Juste ciel"'8). 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 57 . as the invocation of Ftha in Verdi'sAida attests: Possente. ed./tempra ancora lo zelo audace'.36 on Tue. where we catch a glimpse of old-fashioned 'poetic justice'. That this is a metaphor for the imposition of chastity upon disruptive emotion is borne out by the second strophe. o Diva.JeanRacine:Oeuvres.86. Romani has his priestess observe. frequency of an alTHE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200./tempra tu de' cori ardenti.'Dieu'. confirming a tradition as old as all hieratic systems of worship. On other occasions. the air proper invokes a 'Brillant auteur de la lumiere' and a 'Dieu bienfaisant' . Gluck's librettist seems to borrowed from the spirit of another utterance by the playwright (the 'Cantique' set by Faure). which is nothing if not a shopping list of petitions in various degrees of laudatory disguise: 'Tempra. Del mondospiritoanimator. who has been doubly wronged by the wedding in question: 'O tue che i mondi innumeri/d'un cenno e festi e reggi'. observe. In Mercadante'sElena da Feltre. and half modelled his invocation on 'Jour 6ternel de la terre et de cieux'. p. which invariablytakes the form of a vocative phrase and an adjectival clause specifying the godly power or attributemost relevant to the entreaty in hand.16. the discrepancybetween divine being and doing becomes all too clear when the vocative elements of a prayer bypass and overwrite each other. In one interesting instance indeed. So it is that.and motive of the person at prayer will determine the nature of the first. at the point of honorific ascription. and not 'Deesse'.3. Only in a melodrammasemiserio such as Linda di Chamounix. 1865). If the vocative element represents the effort to tune the 'frequency' of a prayer and guarantee its reception by the right ears. that Irminsul silvers the ancient oaks: 'Casta Diva che inargenti/Queste sacre antiche piante'. One senses that he has gone over the head of the spiteful lesser deity and appealed to a god more absolute even than Zeus.

we can be sure that the strophic repetition of a melody will create just such a route through the thickets of human uncertainty and confusion. One subdivision of theprecatiocan be likened to the Nunc Dimittis because it pleads for death. Because. has a deep structure akin to the da GERMAN This content downloaded from 200. tend not repeat themselves. Leonora's entreaty in Lafora deldestino ('Oh Dio. Because those twin deities of the Liebestod. scene i.86. because it wishes to escape an unhappy life. This is certainly the case in Beatricedi Tenda. is the cletic (or invitational) prayer. but rather.58 Conventionsof prayerin some zth-century operas together different sort .has often played a significant part in Catholic supplication. of course. as in the case of Simeon. in effect a free-standing invocation (though. This summons a deity to transform or bless or otherwise make better. 'framed' as a liturgical utterance (as in other historical operas of the time) an utterance distinct from the mobility of private thought and response. and thus forego the hieratic conviction of Norma's effort.We can ascribe this is to the for there the strophic prayer of its chorale is work's Durchkomponiertheit. To explain that reference to the Song of Simeon. Yet another prayer type.not. fa ch'io muoia') takes on an urgency foreign to the serenely balanced alternatives of 'O mi rendi il mio tesoro/O mi lascia almen mori'. Dio. the scena. the prayer in final act of Schumann's Genovevais a free-flowing scena.less formulary than its Italian counterpart. it has an intercessory tail). open-lapped cletic ('Ah! vieni. For example. amor mio') is generically identical (however strange that might seem!) with the governessy tones of Cherubini's Glauce in Me'dee:'O amore. Unless.iterativeness . a fact that gives it added liturgical weight and gravitas. as Richard Wilbur has suggested. ceremony is a known route to the unknown. while they are versified. vieni. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .16.blick auf mich') gets left behind.Amore and Morte.36 on Tue. the boundary between the cletic and the Nunc Dimittis quite often seems blurred. like all its congeners. stranded in the lead-up. Her voluptuously sprawling. as in the case of Elijah. less parcelled and directed than the belcantoprecatio. While this might simply be a rhetorical gesture on the part of the Countess in Le noi{e di Figaro. But in Genoveva's last-act prayer the surrounding lyricised recitative is so close to the phatically conceived supplication proper that the vocative ('O heil'ge Junfrau. vieni a me'. are so often the commutable subjectsof summons.for there Romani conceived the cabaletta-finale as a Nunc dimittis. because it has found fulfilment. sometimes modifies the outlines we have been drawing. and is splendidly exemplified by Amneris's aria in Aida Act 2. Even so. we must recall that prayersare as much defined by their content as by their outer shells. they figure as cabalettas and thus receive a statutory ripeto. But most private prayers in the operatic literature. 'Casta Diva' is unusual in being a strophic prayer. OPERA. free and loose on the surface.

Car. asinoni'. but we get a glimpse of the Evangelimann's anguish in the chromatic slope that subtends the chorale-like setting of 'Selig sind. Because the Roman churchhas always impartedits doctrine through acts of repetition (as in the catechism). and his muttered invective seems to apply to the lovers' old-fashioned deportment: 'Asini.16. when Metastasio was fossilising. Mayr and Rossi pilloried him in Che originali! Aristea. And for Blakean innocence. though Wagner is ready enough to sermonise through Kinig Markeor Hans Sachs or Wotan. composers find other ways to depict their instructiveness than by playing them straight. and her lover. Rossini also had a jab at prayer forms now and again.e Ari. comes close to anticipating Aida's terrified interruption of her father's curse: 'Basta.in Kienzl's Der Evangelimann. however. Sermons of the traditionally discursive kind will not play well on the lyric stage. we can glance briefly at the many parodic prayers scattered through the 19th-century repertoire. the benedictee. per rendermi il cor vieppiu securo. 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Winter 2005 59 . the composer has placed the bitter experience of Matthiasagainst the uncomprehending innocence of the boys he instructs. Since the pregkiera forms an integral part of this. When they do figure. die Verfolgung leiden'. disguised as a priest. basta/Per pieta'. the Gestaltof the repeat-after-me formulary can be felt even in the Gloria of Haydn's Nelson Mass. Ah. over-prolongs his benediction in II barbieredi Siviglia. it will come as no surprise that comic opera. both declare their love in an obtestatio witnessed by the Roman pantheon: Ari.In the latter opera. the father arrives.capoarias of the Baroque. and so too does a comparable scene . As early as 1798. occasionally mocked its solemnities. The sermon in the (Protestant) context of Stiffelio evolves from just this sort of cumulative repetition. as when the Count Almaviva. an impassioned metastasiasta. Poor Bartolo.36 on Tue. not content with the depiction of nuns so garrulous that they THE MUSICAL TIMES This content downloaded from 200. eager to please her. Giuralo! Car. far from feeling uplifted. As they abandon the quick phatic pulse of their recitative for the idiom of a Baroque motet. The idiom isfaux-naif. And. what better than a naive seesaw of imperfect and plagal cadences to support the beatitude that is persecution's reward? BY way of a coda.Blake-like in its affecting simplicity . and even the spontaneities of its text receive some delineation from litanic repetition: 'Durch Triibsal fiihrst Du ein zur Seligkeit'. which breathes the same air of semi-Protestant Catholicism as Schubert's GermanMass. so often the vector of musical satire.86. basta. Lo giuro! Giuro ch'ad altro mai la destra io porgerb.A tutti i nostri Dei.

haunt of the nobility that avoided the middleclass Opera.'and ginger shall be hot i' th' mouth too' (Act 2. and . grace a Dieu.AssociateProfessorof English at the University of Cape Town.In Twelfthnight. Malvolio is reproached for believing that virtue subsists in dreary self-abnegation but.86. line II6). then. V6nus. not least the pagan sublimity ofpriere d la Gluck.the heroine'sprecatio addresses the goddess in the idiom of the demi-monde: 'Dis-mois.36 on Tue. an item that Offenbach impudently added to a concert of 'sacred music' he had to cobble up for an American Sunday concert. as we have seen. quel plaisir trouves-tu/A faire ainsi cascaderla vertue?' Far from hailing a 'Casta Diva' or 'Dieu bienfaisant'. This content downloaded from 200.of the works that had graced the stage of the Theatre Italien in the I84os. scene 3. In La Belle He'lene. But then not all operatic prayers. Musically satiric prayers are likely to connect with chipper and demotic tunes. Offenbach is obviously the composer best equipped to parody the dignities of operaticprayer.60o Conventions of prayer in some z9th-century operas drown out the Angelus bell. mio padre' in Monsieur Choufleuri should charge along as swiftly as Leonora's 'Mira di acerbe lagrime'. which parodies a bourgeois soire. that 'O mio padre. just as verbally satiric ones (like the Amen with which Bardolfo and Pistola cap Dr Cajus's pious resolution in the first scene of Falstaff) demand the ironising sound of churchiness. and theprecesof desperate sopranos before unyielding baritones can even speed along on the back of a galop. No surprise. are slow and solemn. Monsieur Choufleuri. The curses so thickly strewn through the Italian repertoire also caught Offenbach's satiric eye. heady idiom of some ottocentomusic proves how hot and gingery the otherworldlypreghierawould become over time. as Feste points out. is a pasquinade about transalpine opera. she has a casual chat with a 'Friponne'.16. Rodney StenningEdgecombe./bon souper ainsi que bon feu'. And it is fitting that we should end with that most racy of prayers from Il trovatore.just as importantly . 21 Oct 2014 11:18:45 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The vivid. prayer has no effect on the taste of condiments . Auber's Domino noiralso shows the interface of gluttony and gratulatio in Gil Perez's 'Nous allons avoir. haspublished ten booksand over 200 articleson topicsranging from Shakespeareto z9th-centuryballet and opera.