Hyperion Records

Le disgrazie d'Amore
first performed in Vienna on 19 February 1667; dramma giocosomorale; opera in 3 Acts
author of text

'Cesti: Le disgrazie d'Amore' (CDA67771/2)
Cesti: Le disgrazie d'Amore
Act 1 Prologo Part 1: Sinfonia
Act 1 Prologo Part 2: Sarabanda
Act 1 Prologo Part 3: È tempo sì, sì (Allegria)
Act 1 Prologo Part 4: Sarabanda
Act 1 Scene 1: Dunque Padre inuman – E dove (Venere)
Act 1 Scene 2 Part 1: E dove labile rivolge il piè (Vulcano/Venere)
Act 1 Scene 2 Part 2: Deh non entriamo (Vulcano/Venere)
Act 1 Scene 3 Part 1: Olà? che fate olà? (Amore/Venere/Vulcano) – Se solo d'Amore (Vulcano/Venere)
Act 1 Scene 3 Part 2: Lascia quell'Arco indegno! (Venere/Amore/Vulcano)
Act 1 Scene 3 Part 3: Ma che spasimo è questo? – O perfido Amore (Vulcano)
Act 1 Scene 4: Padron, che abbiam di nuovo – O mostro rabbioso (Bronte/Vulcano)
Act 1 Scene 5: A che porto al fianco l'armi (Amore)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 1: Dove? Dove ne vai? (Venere/Amore)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 2: Per la stigia palude (Venere/Amore)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 3: Mentitrici bellezze! (Amore) – Ecco un teschio reciso (Amore/Venere)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 4: Ecco di che composta (Amore/Venere)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 5: Ma che bussolo è questo? (Amore)
Act 1 Scene 6 Part 6 – Scene 7: Or se non hai Ciprigna (Amore) – Baciar or ti vo' (Venere/Amore) – E che sì contrasta? (Vulcano/Amore)
Act 1 Scene 7 Part 2: Signor bravo (Vulcano) – Non ti rider Vulcan de' fatti miei (Amore)
Act 1 Scene 7 Part 3: Ahimè, che se 'n va (Venere/Vulcano)
Act 1 Scene 8: Siam pronti (Sterope/Bronte/Piragmo) – I lavori (Vulcano) – Vulcano, a dio, ti lasso (Venere)
Act 1 Scene 9 Part 1: Ch'io voglia lavorare (Bronte/Sterope/Piragmo)
Act 1 Scene 9 Part 2: Passiamo intanto il tempo (Sterope/Bronte/Piragmo)
Act 1 Scene 9 Part 3: A quattro dita (Sterope/Bronte/Piragmo)
Act 2 Scene 01 Part 1: Sinfonia
Act 2 Scene 01 Part 2: Ferma o Inganno, ferma il piede (Adulazione/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 01 Part 3: Il volo spiegate (Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 02 Part 1: Ahimè! (Amore/Inganno/Adulazione) – Non più benda (Amore) – Così fa (Inganno/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 02 Part 2: Che si può da me pretendere? (Amore/Inganno/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 02 Part 3: E quasi schiavo vile (Amore/Adulazione/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 03: Ahimè più non si regge (Vulcano/Venere)
Act 2 Scene 04 Part 1: Questa, s'io non m'inganno (Amore/Avarizia)
Act 2 Scene 04 Part 2: Io non mi lusingo (Avarizia)
Act 2 Scene 05: O padrona e perché (Amicizia/Avarizia)
Act 2 Scene 06: Se Amor, come s'intende (Adulazione/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 07: Saran forse avventori (Avarizia/Inganno/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 08: Ecco Amor ritornato (Amicizia/Amore/Avarizia/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 09: O che propizia sorte (Adulazione/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 10 Part 1: Poiché questo assassin, che l'alme spoglia (Venere/Vulcano)
Act 2 Scene 10 Part 2: Non vi pensai (Venere) – E dove vai? (Vulcano)
Act 2 Scene 11: Quest'Amicizia in fine (Inganno/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 12 Part 1: Ecco appunto la vecchia (Inganno/Avarizia/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 12 Part 2: Così potesse ancora (Inganno/Avarizia/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 12 Part 3: Insegnarti poss'io (Inganno/Avarizia/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 12 Part 4: Amore non fa (Avarizia) – Vedi pur di trovarti (Avarizia/Adulazione/Inganno)
Act 2 Scene 13: E sì vil personaggio (Amicizia)
Act 2 Scene 14: Signora tu vuoi (Adulazione/Amicizia)
Act 2 Scene 15: Non potrete dolervi, ospiti miei (Avarizia/Amicizia/Adulazione)
Act 2 Scene 16 Part 1: E che si fa? (Inganno/Avarizia)
Act 2 Scene 16 Part 2: Queste fiere selvagge (Inganno/Avarizia/Amicizia)
Act 2 Scene 16 Part 3: Che nuovo affetto (Amicizia)
Act 2 Scene 16 Part 4: Oh, che scherzo gentile (Avarizia/Adulazione/Amicizia/Inganno)
Act 3 Scene 01 Part 1: Sinfonia
Act 3 Scene 01 Part 2: No, no, che non vo' (Vulcano)
Act 3 Scene 02: Perché sei sì sdegnato? (Venere/Vulcano)
Act 3 Scene 03 Part 1: Signora siate certa (Adulazione/Amicizia)
Act 3 Scene 03 Part 2: Festeggia mio core (Amicizia)
Act 3 Scene 04 Part 1: Amor, non v'ha che fare (Amore/Amicizia)
Act 3 Scene 04 Part 2: O cara Amicizia (Amore)
Act 3 Scene 05: Amore, ecco il tuo conto (Avarizia/Amore)
Act 3 Scene 06 Part 1: Son io; che chiedi? (Inganno/Avarizia/Amore)
Act 3 Scene 06 Part 2: O sciocchi (Avarizia)
Act 3 Scene 07: Amor io presento (Venere/Vulcano)
Act 3 Scene 08 Part 1: Da la città famosa (Cortigiano/Amante)
Act 3 Scene 08 Part 2: E che posso per voi? (Vulcano/Amante/Venere)
Act 3 Scene 08 Part 3: Quest'è di già spedito; e tu che vuoi? (Vulcano/Cortigiano/Venere)
Act 3 Scene 09: Signori, se volete (Adulazione/Cortigiano/Amante/Venere/Vulcano)
Act 3 Scene 10: Parmi, s'io non m'inganno (Vulcano/Venere/Amore/Adulazione)
Act 3 Scene 11: E che vale costui? (Venere/Inganno/Vulcano)
Act 3 Scene 12 Part 1: E che dici me? S'aver pretesi (Avarizia/Inganno/Amore/Amicizia)
Act 3 Scene 12 Part 2: L'Inganno? (Venere/Amore/Amicizia/Amante/Cortigiano/Vulcano/Inganno/Adulazione)
Act 3 Scene 12 Part 3: Amore, com'io godo (Amante/Amore/Amicizia)
Act 3 Scene 12 Part 4: Già lieto e quieto (Amante/Venere/Vulcano/Amicizia/Amore)

Le disgrazie d'Amore


Le disgrazie d’Amore belongs to the composer’s final period. Subtitled dramma giocosomorale, the work is characteristic of Viennese opera’s synthesis of the comical, parodic register typical of the Venetian aesthetic (of which Cavalli’s La Calisto is a remarkable example) and the moral, edifying dimension inherent to court opera. Following the admonishments of Ottonelli, whose pamphlet Della christiana moderazione del teatro of 1650 criticized the immorality of the Venetian drammi, Viennese operas of the last third of the seventeenth century from the sage pens of Sbarra and Minato are distinguished by their skilful blend of mockery of the mythological subjects and the didactic orientation of the narrative framework. In his address to the reader, the poet Sbarra explicitly states his intention of mocking the pagan gods and the morally reprehensible excesses caused by amorous passion: ‘Sì come nell’introdurre in questo Dramma giocoso alcune delle false Deità de’ Gentili, io non hebbi altr’oggetto, che deridere loro sciocchezza …’ (‘Just as, by introducing into this comic drama some of the false gods of the pagans, I have had no other purpose but to deride their folly …’). These words are incidentally almost identical to those used in the preface to Delia by Strozzi, who was himself merely taking up a poetic tradition inaugurated earlier in the century by Francesco Bracciolini in his mock-heroic epic Lo scherno degli dei (‘The gods derided’), published in 1618. The first illustration of this tendency in the still new genre of opera was Diana schernita by Parisani and Cornacchioli (Rome, 1629); it subsequently nourished Venetian dramas from Delia by Strozzi and Manelli (1639) to La divisione del mondo by Corradi and Legrenzi (1675). However, in Venice, these comic perversions of the mythological source, which also include Busenello’s first libretto, Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne (set by Cavalli in 1640), in which Cupid is called a ‘pygmy god of idleness and nullity’ and a ‘soldier in swaddling clothes’, alternate with others of a more explicitly apologetic nature, such as Faustini’s La virtù de’ strali d’Amore and Fusconi’s Amore innamorato, both also set to music by Cavalli in 1642, thus heralding the triumph of amorous passion in most of the city’s theatres. Cesti and Sbarra, for their part, resolutely adopt a position of merry denunciation: the serious moral purpose does not exclude amusement from its vigorous criticism of the ravages of love—quite the reverse, in fact.

The work opens with an overt domestic squabble between Venus and Vulcan, worthy of an opéra-bouffe by Offenbach. The goddess of beauty can no longer bear rotting in her loathsome husband’s noisy, smoky cave, while the responsibility for these incessant quarrels is immediately assigned to Cupid, who tries in vain to intervene between the two and is chased away, though not before biting the ear of the blacksmith god, already handicapped by his club foot. Here there are numerous criticisms of contemporary morals (the artifice of cosmetics to feign natural beauty), which continue at the end of the first act when the Cyclopes, Vulcan’s servants, take advantage of their master’s absence to indulge in the pleasures of gambling and wine. The moral dimension of the piece takes on greater importance than in the Venetian repertory through the substantial presence of the allegorical characters typical of court opera (Inganno, Adulazione, Avarizia, Amicizia). The emphasis is laid on the ever-increasing place of money, and this dominant but reprehensible value pervades the whole opera. As we are told in Act II Scene 2, ‘Così è lo stile;/Oggi tutto si vende,/ E può tutto ottener quegli, che spende’ (‘That’s how it goes;/today everything’s for sale,/and those who spend can have it all’), showing the point which the Venetians too constantly hammered home: ‘Che al fin chi sa bene/ Adulare, e ingannare, il tutto ottiene’ (‘For in the end those expert/at flattery and deceit gain everything’). Observing the financial dealings surrounding Cupid in the middle of Act III, Avarice remarks that, in this world, ‘people appreciate riches and not learning’.

Musically, the work is entirely typical of Cesti’s refined style. After a sumptuous sinfonia in two sections, the polystrophic prologue alternates between a stile declamato of great variety and metric flexibility and a lively refrain commensurate with the cheerfulness of the text. Here Cesti deploys all his talents as a skilled melodist and, like his contemporary Cavalli, an experienced man of the theatre. The closed forms as they appear in Sbarra’s libretto are mostly respected: the monostrophic aria for Venus in proparoxytonic rhythm [with the accent on the antepenultimate syllable—translator’s note] evoking the lashes she inflicts on her son (‘Storcignati’, Act I Scene 3), and, in the same scene, Vulcan’s colourful invective (‘O perfido Amore’); the polystrophic arias of Cupid (Act I Scene 5) and Avarice (‘Io non mi lusingo’, Act II Scene 4); the energetic, vehement aria for Vulcan (‘Signor bravo’, Act I Scene 7); the magnificent aria for Flattery that opens the second act, founded on a bewitching chain of coloratura; the many duets, between Venus and Vulcan (Act I Scene 2), Vulcan and Brontes (Act I Scene 4), Flattery and Deceit (Act II Scene 2), and Flattery and Friendship (Act II Scene 14); or the ensembles which conclude the three acts. But Cesti’s genius resides still more in his ability to twist the text to his advantage, placing right in the middle of a recitative an arioso that is invariably musically and dramatically apt, as in the numerous interventions of Cupid (‘Fu virtù di quell’Arco’, Act I Scene 3; ‘Mentitrici bellezze!’, Act I Scene 6). This device also offers a rhetorical interest when the same melodic cell with which one scene ends is reprised at the start of the following scene, with the two formally linked by an identical metrical scheme (‘Ho tanto, che basta,/Moneta ci vuole’, Act I Scene 6; ‘E che sì contrasta?/Che tante parole?’, Act I Scene 7). In this respect Cesti shows himself extremely faithful to the Venetian aesthetic, based on the two principles of contrast and surprise: the aria often appears unexpectedly, as in the fine short duo in chaconne rhythm between Cupid and Deceit (Act II Scene 2), or the piquant scene showing Flattery and Deceit disguised as a gipsy girl and a charlatan respectively (Act II Scene 6), whereas, conversely, certain closed forms are treated in declamatory mode, as with the significant change of tempo in Cupid’s strophic aria ‘A che porto al fianco l’armi’ (Act I Scene 5).

The composer’s expressive palette covers a broad spectrum, from the homorhythmic hammering in the Cyclopes scene to the musical figurations of the virtuoso aria for Flattery mentioned above, by way of the numerous instances in which the different musical forms follow and lead into each other with great subtlety. Particularly remarkable, in this respect, is scene 8 of the first act, where the trio of Cyclopes on a somewhat rough-hewn rhythm moves into an arioso for Vulcan with a ravishing melody, to be followed by a reappearance of the Cyclopes in a second trio with a much more assertive rhythm. Another example is provided by the arioso of Venus that leads into a duet with Vulcan (Act III Scene 7): here the same musical form is reprised, in chiastic fashion, at the opening of the next scene.

Le disgrazie d’Amore has two other notable features. First of all, the importance of sung declamation—‘recitar cantando’ as developed by the Florentine school (it will be recalled that both Cesti and Sbarra were Tuscans)—which is of remarkable expressive richness, for instance in the opera’s opening monologue for Venus lamenting her lot, and in the final scene, especially the interventions of Cupid. Then there is the substantial weight accorded, in this festive spectacle, to the many superb instrumental pieces, from the overture to the ritornellos accompanying the arias, culminating in the expressive ballets (the danced combat of the Cyclopes, the ballet of the monkeys) at the end of the first two acts. In the end, the constraints imposed by the court opera tradition to which this authentic masterpiece belongs are amply compensated by the great musical variety that characterizes the work, reflecting a synthesis of genres (Venetian parodic dramma, popular ‘regular’ comedy [the name given to Italian comedy—fully written rather than improvised—of the sixteenth century inspired by the classical models of Plautus and Terence. In its more elaborate literary manifestations it is often referred to as ‘commedia erudita’], and edifying allegory) which results in a ‘clearly identified operatic object’: the dramma giocosomorale.

Focusing on the tribulations of Cupid driven away on all sides, even by his own mother, Le disgrazie d’Amore, despite a literary style which does not achieve the refinement of men like Rospigliosi or Busenello, skilfully combines literary and musical forms. Its characters embody a resolutely pathetic view of humanity: Avarice keeps an ‘osteria’, an inn which might have been borrowed from some regular comedy, where Deceit appears disguised as a fortune-telling mountebank in order to get close to Friendship and, thanks to Cupid’s arrows, obtain her favours. Le disgrazie d’Amore thus stands revealed as a comedy of appearances which, in denouncing Love, makes of it no more than a market commodity. The necessity for a lieto fine—enshrined in the Horatian precept that one should both entertain and instruct—is no mere bow to convention. Like the later Metastasian heroic dramas, the happy ending possesses above all a heuristic and rhetorical value: the effectiveness of the demonstration requires the characters to pass through a moment of realization resulting in the restoration of an initially disrupted order. Hence the conclusion restores serenity to the relationship between Venus and Vulcan, who are now accompanied by a Friendship much more efficacious than an immature and blind Love, thus signifying that where constancy and control of the potentially deviant passions reign, harmony may truly triumph.

A note about the dancesby Carlo Ipata
In the score of Le disgrazie d’Amore, Cesti marks the Balletto dei Ciclopi and Ballo delle Scimmie at the end of Acts I and II respectively, without supplying the music for these instrumental dances. The usual practice was to utilize dance movements by other composers, as was done in February 1667 when the balletti by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer included on this recording were incorporated in a staged production. Schmelzer’s balletti survive in two parts, written for harpsichord only; we have realized these in five parts, to achieve a texture more consistent with the other orchestral music in the opera, and to enable the alternation of soli and tutti passages in the various repetitions.

from notes by Jean-François Lattarico © 2010
English: Charles Johnston

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