Tuesday, November 28, 2006

l'Orfeo, favola in musica

Orfeo, fable in music, is the earliest work considered to be an opera. Monteverdi composed the music, and another Italian with a rad name, Alessandro Striggio, wrote the text. Orfeo, or Orpheus as he is commonly known in English, could sing and play the lute so beautifully, so powerfully, he could sway the gods themselves with its loveliness.
Euridice, his new bride, dies suddenly, and Orfeo descends into Hades armed only with his music.
This is the prologue to the Opera, in which the single female vocalist sings of the power of music.

And this is the first four stanzas of William Wordsworth's "Power of Music":

AN Orpheus! an Orpheus! yes, Faith may grow bold,
And take to herself all the wonders of old; --
Near the stately Pantheon you'll meet with the same
In the street that from Oxford hath borrowed its name.

His station is there; and he works on the crowd,
He sways them with harmony merry and loud;
He fills with his power all their hearts to the brim --
Was aught ever heard like his fiddle and him?

What an eager assembly! what an empire is this!
The weary have life, and the hungry have bliss;
The mourner is cheered, and the anxious have rest;
And the guilt-burdened soul is no longer opprest.

As the Moon brightens round her the clouds of the night,
So He, where he stands, is a centre of light;
It gleams on the face, there, of dusky-browed Jack,
And the pale-visaged Baker's, with basket on back.

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