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Alessandro Scarlatti

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Alessandro Scarlatti

Alessandro Scarlatti earned an important place in musical history for a variety

of reasons. He is said to have been the first composer to write a string quartet. Moreover,

in developing the "Italian" overture, as distinct from the "French" overture (Ewen). This

paper will be discussing some of Scarlatti's most important works.

One of Scarlatti's most famous operas is Mitridate Eupatore. It was written in

1707, for Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in Venice. It is mainly about the revenge of

Prince Eupatore and his sister Laodice on their mother, Queen Stratonica. The Queen

has murdered their father and married her lover Farnace (Palisca). There are a lot of da

capo arias in this opera, one being "Esci ormai". It opens with a sixteen-measure

concerto-like ritornello that sets the mood of fiery resolution. The Queen then proclaims

to her people that she is banishing mother-love from her breast for their sake. The

recitative actually tells us that she is scheming to sacrifice her son for her lover (Palisca).

Here is how "Esci ormai", a da capo aria, is divided in a diagram.

Ritornello 16 mm. A

A1 Esci ormai che piu non v'hai loco 4 mm. A-E

Materno amore da questo sen!

A Ritornello 1 m.

A2 Same text 8 mm. E-A

Ritornello 5 mm. A

B1 In region petto un piu bel foco 4 mm. f# B Amor v'accese del comun ben.

B2 Same text 5 mm. f#-E

A Da capo 34 mm.

Scarlatti evolved this da capo form. It remained for him to fix a logical formal

structure for the aria, and this is what he came up with. This form can be found in a lot of

Scarlatti's earliest works. This formula was approved by composers because it seemed to

settle the formal problems with which they had been struggling. In 1696, Scarlatti

evolved the Italian overture. In the opera Dal male il buono, he finally achieved the

form which he used almost without exception from then on. The form consisted of three

rather short movements built around subject matter which had no vital connection with

the main body of the opera. The first movement was quick and lively, the middle section

was slow, and the overture ended with a rapid movement of dancer character (Finney).

Scarlatti's final opera, La Griselda is a perfect example of his overtures. The libretto was

by Apostolo Zeno, but there is not sufficient material for three acts. The story of "Patient

Grizzel" is in some ways effective for operatic treatment, as it affords welldefined and

strongly coloured characters; but this very reason is also a drawback. Gualliero is so

incredibly tyrannical and Griselda so incredibly patient that we can give up little

sympathy for such obviously stagey figures. Ottone is the meanest villain; Roberto and

Costanza are merely picturesque puppets, and Corrado hardly even that. Scarlatti has

made the most of the characters, such as they are, Griselda and Costanza being the most

successful. The finest example of dramatic expression is Griselda's air in the second act,




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