Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Academicism in Monteverdi's Orfeo: oratory and symmetry as manifestations of the Accademia degli invaghiti's philosophy and practice
by Schwindt, Joel, Ph.D., Brandeis University, 2014, 218; 3687283
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation offers a reading of Alessandro Striggio and Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo as a reflection of the Accademia degli Invaghiti's humanist philosophy, focusing on the topics of oratory and symmetry. Additionally, this study offers new insight on the Invaghiti's views regarding music's power and its function in theatrical representation that helps to reconcile apparent disparities between the view of this work as a "hymn" to music's greatness and the failures of the musical protagonist. For example, on the subject of oratory—which served as one of the group's primary areas of study—I demonstrate how Orpheus's failure to persuade Charon through his aria-oration, "Possente spirto", results not only from his exhibitionism and affectation, but as suggested in academy member Stefano Guazzo's writings, his substitution of clever sophistries and musical brilliance for morally sound arguments and modest displays of ability. On the topic of symmetry—which was commonly associated with beauty during the period—I demonstrate how this formal design was used to project the "beauty" of moral uprightness, reflective the academy's Neoplatonic motto, "Nothing is more beautiful than virtue" (e.g., the symmetries of the first act representing Eurydice's "morally upright" decision to relent from her disdain for Orpheus's love, a "female vice" addressed by several of the academy members). I also consider the subject of gendering in relation to both of these topics, asserting that the marginalization of female characters not only "silences" them, but also creates an Aristotelian structure found in academy member Ercole Udine's narrative, La Psiche, that draws focus to the protagonist's inherently gendered character flaws (in this case, "male" flaws such as pride and fits of romantic despair). I expect this research to contribute to discussions on the impact of humanism on the development of early opera, giving much-needed attention to the views and practices of the group that sponsored Orfeo's creation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chafe, Eric T.
Commitee: Coluzzi, Seth, Dell'Antonio, Andrew
School: Brandeis University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Performing Arts, Theater History
Keywords: Gender, Invaghiti, Monteverdi, Oratory, Orfeo, Symmetry
Publication Number: 3687283
ISBN: 978-1-321-64798-3
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