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Thread: A Walk with Loge's hidden operatic gems: Fedra (Pizzetti)

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  1. #1

    A Walk with Loge's hidden operatic gems: Fedra (Pizzetti)

    libretto by Gabriel D’Annunzio
    music by Ildebrando Pizzetti


    Fedra's is one really terrible story. Of the many versions of this tale, we are going to tackle in this thread the one from Ildbrando Pizzetti and Gabriel D'Annunzio. We can hear the opera complete in youtube:

    And we can also read D'Annunzio original drama (in Italian), here:

    Pizzetti's intention was to write something totally different from the mainstream of Italian opera. He was more interested in Wagner, though Pizzetti was careful to get some distance from the German's master. During several weeks we will use the following schema:

    1.- ¿Fedra indimenticabile? (Unforgettable Fedra?)
    2.- A Poker of Fedras (I): Euripides
    3.- A Poker of Fedras (II): Ovid, Seneca, Racine
    4.- The Prelude
    5.- D'Annunzio, the musical playwrigth
    6.- Plot: 1st Act (First chapter).
    7.- "The Music of the Words" in Fedra - Plot: 1st Act (Second chapter).
    8.- Plot: 1st Act (Third chapter)
    9.- Pizzetti, the dramatist composer
    10..- Plot: 2nd Act (First chapter).
    11.- The great scene of Act 2
    12 - Plot: 2nd Act (Second chapter).
    13.- D'Annunzio & Pizzetti, Associated.
    14.- Plot: 3rd Act (First chapter).
    15.- The "new Latin dramma per musica" is a disappointment
    16.- Plot: 3rd Act (Second chapter)..

    We will discuss Italian culture at the beginning of the 20th century, watch a bitter fight between "progressive" and "conservative" composers, a famous playwright will flee to France, an unknown composer will dismiss Wagner as... too little a Wagnerian!, Monteverdi, Glück, Bellini... will briefly appear, a Queen from Crete will challenge the world and the gods...

    With "Fedra", D'Annunzio and Pizetti wanted to start a new chapter in Italian opera. It was a failure, but maybe, just maybe, it was worth the try. Let's find together.

  2. #2
    (Indeed, very few do remember the "unforgettable")

    At the end of first and second acts, Fedra names himself "indimenticabile" (unforgettable). However, after the premiere in 1915, it was indeed forgotten. Very few stagings and just five recordings, two from the 1950s, one from the 1990s and two already in the 21st century.

    The first one is from 1954:

    Milan, on September, 13th, 1954

    Fedra (Mezzo): Mercedes Fortunati
    Ippolito (Tenor): Aldo Bertocci
    Teseo (Baritone): Anselmo Colzani
    Etra (Alto): Vittoria Palombini
    Eurito (Baritone): Silvio Maionica
    Gorgo (Alto): Bruna Ronchini
    The Teban slave (Soprano): Silvana Brandolini
    The Phoenician pirate (Bass): Nicola Zaccaria
    Orchestra and Chorus RAI, Milan. Conductor: Nino Sanzogno

    Live from La Scala we got this recording:

    Milan, on December, 23th, 1959.

    Fedra: Régine Crespin
    Ippolito: Gastone Limarilli
    Teseo: Dino Dondi
    Etra: Marta Rose
    Eurito: Nicola Rossi Lemeni
    Gorgo: Anna Maria Canali
    The Teban slave: Edda Vincenzi
    The Phoenician pirate: Paolo Montarsolo
    Orchestra and Chorus from La Scala. Conductor: Gianandrea Gavazzeni

    Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1993, we got this performance from Palermo:

    Fedra: Sofia Larson
    Ippolito: Piero Visconti
    Teseo: Garbis Boyagian
    Etra: Carmen Gonzales
    Eurito: Alfonso Antoniozzi
    Gorgo: Adriana Cicogna
    The Teban slave: Patrizia Orciani
    Conductor: Maurizio Arena

    In 2008, "Fedra" is staged in Germany, at the Erfurt Festival:

    sep Erfurt, on May, 24th, 2008

    Fedra: Carola Guber
    Ippolito: Richard Carlucci
    Teseo: Paolo Ruggiero
    Etra: Helena Zubanovich
    Eurito: Máté Sólyom-Nagy
    Gorgo: Mihaela Binder-Ungureanu
    The Teban Slave: Ilia Papandreou
    The Phoenician pirate: Vazgen Ghazaryan
    Opernchor des Theaters Erfurt Philharmonisches Orchester Erfurt
    Conductor: Walter E. Gugerbauer

    Also in 2008, a concert version in Montpellier:

    Montpelier, on July 16th, 2008

    Fedra: Hasmik Papian
    Ippolito: Gustavo Porta
    Teseo: Chang Han Lim
    Etra: Christine Knorren
    Eurito: Martin Tzonev
    Gorgo: Mihaela Binder-Ungureanu
    The Phoenician pirate: Tomislav Lucic
    Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon.
    Conductor: Enrique Mazzola

  3. #3
    (A literary travel with the myth of Fedra

    The basic facts are the same in all the versions of the myth: Fedra (Phaedra), the daughter of the King of Crete, was kidnapped by Theseus along with her sister Ariadne, and eventually she married the Athens's prince and became Queen. She is the stepmother of Hippolytus, born of the relation between Theseus and an Amazon. As it could be expected, Fedra is in love with Hippolytus. The young man doesn't reciprocate Fedra's interest, and the Queen, out of spite, denounces to Theseus that Hippolytus tried to rape her. Now, Theseus's father was no other than the God Poseidon, and the King uses one of the three curses given to him by Poseidon, to kill Hippolytus. Then, Fedra committs suicide out of guilt for she had not intended Hippolytus to die, and Theseus is left alone and desperate.

    We can trace back this sort of story about a wife being lecherous about a young man, and falsely accusing him of rape once she is rejected, to the Bible, Potiphar and the caste Joseph. Or to the Egyptian tale about Anpu and Bata. But in the Western world, the first treatment was by Euripides, and then, before D'Annunzio, the most important writers dealing with the subject were Ovid, Seneca and Racine.

    Euripides's Fedra
    There are two versions. The first one, "Hippolytus's Veiled", portraits a wanton Fedra trying to impose unrequited love in the young man. It was a big scandal in Athens. In the second version, the timid Hippolytus, instead of using a veil to hide his embarrassment, gives the goddess Artemis a wreath of flowers. It received and award in 428, BC.

    Euripides was more interested in reputation, than in love, incest or adultery. The consequences of your acts, fell on yourself, but also on your family. Fedra kills herself, but tries to keep her good fame maintaining her accusation to Hippolytus. Theseus doesn't feel guilty of the murder of his son, until Artemis told him the truth about her wife's indiscretion. He also challenged the notion that we behave to accommodate our notions of Good and Evil, by trying to attain Good. Let's listen to Fedra:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa "Evil things are not done because we can't tell Good for Evil. We understand that, but sometimes there is a kind of inertia that drives us to Evil. Or some pleasures that apart us from Good” aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    That human reason is ethically powerless was one of Euripides's mottos. As well as his doubts about discerning a rational purpose in human life, in the functioning of the Universe.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:10 PM.

  4. #4

    Ovid's Fedra

    “Heroides” (The Heroines) is one elegy written by Ovid just before his exile. They are 21 love letters supposedly written by female mithological or literary characters, to her lovers. Regretting absence, forgetfulness, distance, abandonment...

    This epistolary form is already a big difference with Euripides's work. In Ovid, Fedra declares her love for Hippolytus, and for her is just another adultery:
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa “Stepmother loving her stepson is an ancient custom. It was Jupiter who said that sister can join brother in a love embrace" aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    Ovid's Fedra is a woman in love, and she knows what she wants. She doesn't commit suicide because of any tainted honour, but rather because of Hippolytus's rebuff.

    Seneca's Fedra

    As it was to be expected, Seneca's Fedra is a return to pessimism. He plays his usual conflict between "mens bona" and "furor": reason and passion. Reason represented by the secondary roles, passion by the protagonists like Fedra. There are no goddess fighting here, is a debate in the conscience of a woman in love. For Seneca, love is a passion that can be controlled, an instinct that can be defeated, even if Fedra herself can't. Hippolytus is not a young man interested in hunting, but rather a kind of stoic philosopher. Fedra is also pictured as a woman corrupted by the power she holds.

    Racine's Fedra

    Here Fedra confess her love for Hippolytus when she believes Theseus is dead. For Racine, Fedra is just a puppet in the hands of destiny and forces much stronger than herself, to which she finally succumbs. It's her nursemaid, not herself, who accuses Hippolytus of rape.

    There are other Fedras by Bocaccio, Chaucer, Schiller, Unamuno, Espriu... or the funny "Elogio de la madastra" (In Praise of the Stepmother) by Vargas Llosa, where the teenager is the seducer of the mature woman.

    In opera, apart from Pizzetti's we have also Gluck's "Ippolito" (1745), and some "Fedras" by Paisiello (1788), Mayr (1820), Romani (1931) or Henze (2007), but they pale in comparison to the literary references.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:11 PM.

  5. #5
    The Prelude

    D'Annunzio's Fedra is an insatiable, wild woman, bordering on madness. A primeval being, unrest, deluding herself. To indulge her passions she will confront everyone, including the gods themselves.

    Still traumatized by her kidnapping and how Theseus forced her into being his way, he is suffering for "mania insonne", and is emotionally separated from her fellow human beings.

    Listen to this
    [No longer available - link deleted by Admin]

    As compared with:
    [No longer available - link deleted by Admin]

    Yes, the mysterious melody is just the beginning of the Prelude to Act 3 of "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg", Sachs's renounciation of Eve. Pizzetti, in the same vein, open his prelue with a solo in the strings, an appassionato, ma molto sostenuto comprising seventeen bars and scored for the violas.

    However, in Wagner, the thoughts of the shoemaker are moving in several directions, while in "Fedra" we are being witness to the 'mania insomne', this obsessive feeling.

    Gaetano Cesari was saying about this Wagnerian influence:
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa "Fedra's torment is composed of Tristan-like Chromaticism, a rather pedantic uniformity of the melodic line and Syncopation to connect all together". aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    However, more than to Tristan, this prelude refers to the ancient Greek music, as discovered by Pizzetti in the writings of the composer and musicologist François Auguste Gevaert:

    The "Manìa insonne" will be the main Leitmotif. Fedra's loneliness. A loneliness that places her opposite to Theseus, to the gods. This is her "hybris" (Greek word for excess, for misguided pride). She is not seducing Hippolytus out of love, or lust. She is searching revenge from Theseus, Aphrodite and Artemis.

    She is also a nocturnal creature. Sleepless. A true messenger of Thanatos and Hecate. All the opera is enveloped by an atmosphere of violent death.

    We will see how Pizzetti is handling those facets of Fedra
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:12 PM.

  6. #6
    D'ANNUNZIO, The musical playwright

    At the end of the 19th century, there was a general feeling of decadence in Italian's literary world. Everything looked formulaic, exhausted. The situation of Drama was the worse of all. It was conceived as a showcase for the talent of the actors, and the astute display of the "impresario" management skills. The text itself, and the scenography, were rendered irrelevant.

    This was the outlook of things when Gabriel D'Annunzio decided to write a play, after a trip to Greece, in 1895. Then, "La città morta" was presented in 1896. D'Annunzio, never shy, wanted to resurrect the old Greek tragedy, to permeate Italian plays with a mystical feeling, to shudder the bourgeois's audience.

    Inevitably, he was attracted to Wagner. We can trace the influences of the German composer in D'Annunzio use of leit-motif techniques, and plots that remind us of the typical Wagnerian obsessions: passionate love that can only find its culmination in death, a rejection of the Day in favour of the Night, of the Light in favour of the Darkness...

    He was also an active promoter of the "Gesamtkunstwerk" concept, and he progressively introduced music, by different composers, to his dramas. And he also embraced the staging techniques, making of the actor (or the singer) just another element in the total fusion of arts.

    Sometimes, D'Annunzio's plays are imbued with opera cliches, too. In "Fedra", the action is frozen several times, with the characters composing a kind of 'tableau vivant', just hearing the narrative of past events.

  7. #7
    Plot: 1st Act (First chapter)

    Troezen, a city in the eastern cost of the Peloponnese, separated of Athens by the Saronic Gulf:

    In the atrium of the Royal Palace we found Aethra, the mother of King Theseus, and a group of supplicants. They are the mothers of the "Seven Against Thebes", a group of seven captains that were to fight the city of Thebes, only to find death. Adrastus, the King of Argos, have gone with Theseus to rescue the corpses.

    Aethra opens the opera with this words:

    Alzate il capo, alzate il capo o donne
    mísere! Il Dio dei sùpplici v'esaude;
    ché il suo favore è alterno.
    La volontà del Dio splendere vidi
    nella tènebra, splendermi il presagio,
    sul cuore affaticato
    da tante sorti. Contenete il gemito,
    scotetevi la cenere dal crine
    raso, madri incolpabili dei Sette
    uomini Eroi, toglietevi dal volto
    il nero lembo

    The verses are disposed like an " enjambment", breaking a sentence into two or several lines, sometimes even lacking proper punctuation. It was intended by D'Annunzio as a translation to the literature of the Wagnerian musical "continuum". It was also a way to create "musical poetry", avoiding uniformity, and compensating for the lack of regularity in the metrics. He uses a lot of 'sdrucciole" (words with stress on the antepenultimate syllable, known in English by the Greek word proparoxytone) to further favour the rhythmic intention: misere, supplici, splendere, tenebra, splendermi, scotetevi, incolpabili, toglietevi...

    aaaaaaaa After the prelude we get a movement marked as molto concitato (very vigorous), a portrait of the feelings of the supplicants, waiting for news. A ship with black sails appears, and the women's moans are put in music by two phrases reiterating themselves: ("Che sai? Che sai della lontana guerra?")

    Pizzetti is using the ancient Dorian mode, as the best way to convey the words about the heroism, the virtues of the seven sons, as seen by the seven mothers.
    We hear also the motif of the "bark"

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa LE SUPPLICI
    Odi i cani,
    odi i cani d'Ippolito, laggiù,
    che latrano alla morte!

    When Aethra goes to ask for news, Fedra appears. She is the daugther of the King of Crete, the sister of Ariadne, and now the (rather unwilling) wife of Theseus.

    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:12 PM.

  8. #8
    "The Music of the Words" in Fedra - Plot: 1st Act (Second chapter)

    Fedra appears suddenly from the shadows. With the background of the strings, we can hear the second clarinet playing a forth: C-G, in the low notes range. Then the first clarinet does the same, but in G major, and the high notes. This orchestration device, with an instrument standing out from the rest, is also a dramatic metaphor of the solitude and isolation of Fedra.

    The clarinet is also used because of the dissonance nature of its top notes playing the interval above. It's again a way to emphasize the singularity of Fedra. She is isolated, but also a rebel. Fedra considers herself a messenger from Thanatos, the daemon personification of death. She confronts the women lamenting the death of the King and the other heroes. They can honour their sons, while Fedra can't even be proud of her family. Gorgo tries to ease the tension, claiming the Cretan is mad: ("Non l'udite! L'insania la rapisce")

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    (...) Tu sei paga,
    madre d'Ippomedonte,
    paga nella tua doglia. Tu darai
    al tuo figlio la parte sua d'unguenti,
    la sua parte di fiamma,
    e le vittime e il canto e l'alto tumulo;
    e parlerai con l'ombra,
    e udrai l'aedo celebrar quell'uno
    dei Sette contra Tebe di te nato;
    e vivrai la vecchiezza,
    tu, conforme la legge degli Iddii;
    e il tuo cibo e il tuo sonno e il tuo silenzio
    avrai l'acque per dissetarti, l'ombra
    per temperar l'arsura,
    e nella tua memoria i di felici,
    e il tuo dolore dentro le tue mani
    como un'urna che reggi, che soppesi,
    che conosci, che poni nel tuo grembo
    quasi a nutrir di te un'altra volta
    il tuo caro; e non temi
    che ne balzino serpi, che n'esalino
    veleni, che ne sorga
    la pestilenza occulta e ti s'apprenda
    e ti corrompa e ti consumi.

    O mia

    Né l'anima tua stride,
    penata in ogni stilla del tuo sangue;
    né il vento, che rinfresca l'erba, strazia
    il tuo corpo deserto; né la notte
    affannata s'affanna del tuo soffio,
    né ti vincola il giorno alla sua ruota
    crudele; né tu odi, né tu odi,
    irta d'orrore, né tu odi dentro
    di te mugghiare il mostro

    Non dir più!
    Non l'udite!

    Ma Fedra,
    Fedra indimenticabile...

    Non l'udite! L'insania la rapisce.

    This is an aria-like fragment, with a sort of cantabile (sostenuto e triste) first, a tempo di mezzo ("O mia creatura!") and the final cabaletta (appassionato). However, it's the only one in the opera. And even here, there is also present the special relation between music, and the music of the words, that was at the core of the collaboration between Pizetti and D'Annunzio.

    Som the poet uses a Polysyndeton (several conjunctions in close succession), from the initial words ("e le vittime e il canto"), increasing with the adding of new elements: "e l'alto tumulo", "e parlerai", "e... e... e", etc. Lo mismo sirve para la serie de frases relativas -"che reggi, che soppesi, che conosci..."... or in "Né l'anima", "né il vento", "né la notte" already in the "cabaletta". It feels like a vocal hammer. At this level, we can even recognize the Leitmotif technique transplanted to a syntactic level.

    D'Annunzio also simulate musical timbre with his "music of the words". The tool here is Alliteration (repetition of a particular sound in the stressed syllables of a series of words or phrases). Just listen to the cabaletta and the group 'st' (stride, stilla, strazia), the group ff (affannata, s'affana, soffio), or the pairings of 'r' with 't' towards the end (irta, dentro, mostro, fraterno)

    The return of Aethra with Eurytus announces the victory ot Theseus, and the immolation of the seven heroes in the bonfire. Fedra can't avoid another sarcastic comment, but Aethra dismisses her and gives each one of the mothers a bronze chest to collect the ashes of their sons.

    Eurytus asks Fedra about Hyppolitus, and then we can hear again the dog's bark:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    Che vuoi
    dal figlio dell'Amàzone?

    Tre doni gli offre il re Adrasto.

    Forsennata ella si muove qua e là come
    se la punga l'assillo impatibile.

    O Gorgo,
    non udisti il latrato dei suoi cani?

    Non udii.

    Come inferma si ostina la Cretense con le
    mani verso le tempie, con un penoso
    battito delle palpebre, e concitata e

    Sì, sì, sempre s'ode ovunque
    s'ode, ovunque!

    There are three gifts for Hyppolitus: Ariane, a fast horse. A krater made of silver. And a beautiful slave from Thebes, a maiden of royal blood. Fedra requests the slave to be brought before her, overcomed by an unbridled agitation while the orchestra comments the action portraying the terrible jealousy that is now hitting Hyppolitus's stepmother.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:13 PM.

  9. #9
    Plot: 1st Act (Third chapter)

    Eurytus leaves and a delirious Fedra requires the ritual sacrifice of a victim. After Gorgo goes away to find the necessary widgets, Aphrodite manifests. Fedra starts her invective towards the goddess:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Dea, che vuoi tu dunque da Fedra? Dura
    belva, con la tua bassa
    fronte sotto il pesante oro scolpita,
    o mille volte adultera del Cielo,
    o druda dell'Imberbe, se mi guardi
    ti guardo, se t'appressi
    m'appreso, disperata di combatere.

    Con la mano minacciosa fa l'atto di
    trarre il lungo ago crinale.

    M'irridi? Se nemica
    mi sei ti son nemica.
    Ti potessi trafiggere
    a vena a vena.

    The rather obssesive syncopation supporting the tirade against the goddess are the motif of the impiety, the "hybris" (extreme pride or arrogance). At the end Fedra yields (("No. Ti cedo. Invitta, invitta sei.") and even pleads ("Dea, t'imploro. Perchè mi perseguiti?"), but Aphrodite just ignores her, and disappears.

    Then Gorgo arrives with the Theban slave, and all that's needed to perform the sacrifice. Fedra pretends to befriend the young girl, and so she learns her name is Ipponoe, that she is the daughter of the King of Thebes, and that her brothers killed three of the seven heroes. Delighted, Fedra reveals herself and informs Ipponoe that she is going to die, and won't go to Hyppolitus, after all. The mad Queen kills the slave with her hairpin.

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    sino alle labbra ti rimbalzerà
    il cuore, udendo il suono del suo passo;
    e sarai tutta gelo
    sino al fiore diviso del tuo petto
    e tutta del colore della notte;
    ché spenta avrai la face;
    ché men terribile è fisare il volto
    di Tànato che il suo
    volto nudo, Ipponòe.

    È dietro a te Tànato! È dietro a te,
    Fedra, il Fanciullo nero! Tutto intorno

    Più le si appressa Fedra col viso contra
    il viso, ponendole su gli òmeri le mani
    violente. Tutto l'atrio rosseggia di volubili

    Ti prenderà
    fra le sue braccia ferree,
    t'abbaterà, ti premerà su i velli
    dei leoni (*); perduta,
    ti squasserà, ti schianterà...

    sei nel fuoco! La reggia è in fiamme! Tutto

    Ora del pieno petto grida la veggente,
    invasa dalla grande angoscia apollinea.
    Anela e geme; e poi sembra esanime; e poi
    riprende il clamore, come il vento che
    cade e risorge. Abbagliata dai riverberi,
    Fedra si scosta e indietreggia.

    È l'incendio della nave fùnebre.
    È l'olocausto nautico.

    la face! Spegni la face, se Tànato
    è dietro a me.

    Adrasto, Adrasto, a chi
    fui data! O fonte di Dirce! O mia Tebe
    di Sette Porte! Dove mi trascini,
    Ismènio? O Lòssia, che farai di me?

    Tu gridi verso il dio
    che non ama il lamento,
    con la tua gola alzata
    come la gola della

    I riverberi per l'atrio hanno un battito
    incessante; quasi vampe vivaci, mentre la
    Cretese trascina verso l'altare la figlia
    d'Astaco che si lagna e repugna.

    Vieni all'ara!
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (*) Theseus and his son slept over lion's skins aaaaaaaaaaa

    Ipponoe begs for her life to be spared, in another example of "failed" aria. While the "number" is built on the motifs associated to the slave's lament, there is also traditional melody, incorporated by Pizzetti to answer the dramatical needs, as well as the ritual form (the plea).

    Fedra then justifies her actions with the kinship between the slave and the killers of the heroes.

    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:14 PM.

  10. #10

    D'Annunzio boasted of having introduced "music in the words", but Pizzetti was close to extirpate music... from music itself!.

    Pizzetti was impressed, as many other composers, by Wagner's "Oper und drama". Music, to Wagner and then to Pizzetti, was subdued to drama, it was not an end in itself. Every art form is in fact a drama, and everything must serve this drama.

    Music is in the words, but not only in the more immediate level of the rhyme, or the rhythm. There is a deeper meaning, flowing with the relationship between one word and another. While a rhapsode can show this music of the words by declamation, the composer can go one step beyond, and use music to materialize what is impossible for the simple writing. While putting words in music, there is a limit beyond which music is an extrinsic component, and only can do harm. Music must be the servant of the words, not its master. There is no room for traditional melody.

    Pizzetti looked into the history of Western music to find some examples of his theory. He didn't find in the old troubadours. The members of the Camerata Fiorentina (Peri, Caccini, Cavalieri) knew intuitively musical drama, but the results were far from perfect -"tanto recitare e tanto poco musica"-. Only Monteverdi (the greatest of us all) was the embodiment of true 'dramma per musica'. Italian opera in the 19th century was too lyrical, too distant from Monteverdian truth. While Richard Wagner tried to reconcile music and drama, his approach was not immediately implantable into the body of Italian opera. And Wagner was also too keen on symphonic music, unbalancing the relation between poetry and music.

    Pizzetti was here giving a lecture on Wagnerianism to Richard Wagner himself!. His approach was certainly austere, using what he considered the best possible literary quality (D'Annunzio's plays):

    He just needed to impose on the sometimes too exuberant D'Annunzio a little bit of rigour and frugality, reducing by half in the process the almost three thousand verses of the tragedy, adapted by D'Annunzio himself, but working closely with Pizzetti, and making some important cuts, that will be even extended during the revisions of the libretto in 1934 and 1959.

  11. #11
    Plot Act 2
    (First Chapter)

    In "Fedra" there is an internal timing that is outside external references. Hippolytus seems to take seven days to tame the horse, but D'Annunzio hides this starting each act with a very similar situation, and giving the impression that everything happens in about one day. So we see again in Act 2 the seven mothers, now sewing, and Fedra again alone, at the far end of the stage.

    Fedra sends Gorgo to the port, in search of a phoenician's merchant ship hoping that it carries some remedy against her insomnia. Some young people foresee that Fedra will finally rest: "Fedra, stanotte dormira!", and she starts again her ravings:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    È il latrato del Cane di sotterra
    quello que sempre s'ode, siempre s'ode?
    Agave, Stilbe, avete udito?

    The dogs!, the dogs!. Always the dogs and their barks!. Those are Hippolytus's dogs, but in the tragedy they appear as heralds of impending doom.

    Fedra asks Eurytus (now an Aoidos) for the whereabouts of Hippolytus. He is taming the horse Arione. Bad luck!, Fedra had a nightmare about a man and a horse. The young Hyppolitus arrives, full of life and confidence. We can hear this in the orchestra:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa IPPOLITO
    Eurito! Eurito d'Ilaco!

    O Teseide,

    Ho preso al laccio
    il cavallo d'Adrasto e l'ho infrenato.
    L'ho vinto!

    Invitto sei,
    figlio del domatore di Centauri!

    The musical portrait is very clear, and separates the boy of his stepmother, they are in different planes. The Queen is worried about a small wound in Hippolytus's finger, but he is angry because he feels that Fedra treats him as a child, while he dreams about great deeds like going to Sparta and abduct the beautiful Helene. Like father, like son!, thinks Fedra.

    Then arrives a pirate from Phoenicia praising Helene's beauty. Fedra is more interested about some goods like nepenthes (a drug to cure pains, and bring forgetfulness) and aconitum. In D'Annunzio's play the pirate offers those merchandises to the Queen:

    questa collana dalle pietre verdi
    co' due fermagli a testa
    di sparviero,
    Anassa (...)
    questa collana tutt'oro costrutta
    di fiori a quattro petali, d'antilopi,
    di leoni, di vipere
    alate, d'avoltoi (...)
    Guarda. In questo alabastro
    è un collirio con l'ago suo di legno
    per ispargerlo agli orli delle palpebre
    come fanno le femmine di Memfi.
    Anassa (...)
    Non mi lasciare,
    Anassa, questo peplo istoriato,
    portento di Sidone, da riporre
    nell'arca più segreta.
    (...) Guardati in questo specchio, Anassa, bronzeo
    col manico d'avorio
    simile a stel di loto.

    But Pizzetti, instead of scoring a great "jewel's scene", cut the action and restrains himself:
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa L'oro e l'ambra, l'avorio e il vetro, il bisso
    e la porpora, il legno
    balsamico e la pietra
    medica, e alcuna cosa non veduta
    mai nell'Ellade, reco,

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    Gorgo, mi conduci l'uomo

    Si avanza il mercante fenicio, asciutto e
    adusto, audace e scaltro; che porta la
    berretta delle gronde pendule e la bruna
    esomide dei marinai.

    Fatti innanzi,
    ospite! Rechi maraviglie? Rechi
    il farmaco d'Egitto,
    il nepente che dà l'oblio dei mali?

    L'oro e l'ambra, l'avorio e il vetro, il bisso
    e la porpora, il legno
    balsamico e la pietra
    medica, e alcuna cosa non veduta
    mai nell'Ellade, reco,

    Fa che lo schiavo deponga
    il peso, e poi vedrò.

    Hippolytus has dreamed of the goddess Artemis, and wants to sacrifice her a white bull. He instructs Eurytus to prepare everything and goes on to take another snap. Fedra releases all her servants, and is now alone with Hippolytus.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:15 PM.

  12. #12

    Pizzetti was always harping about the incorrect use of Wagnerian Leifmotif, as a kind of "melodia-cartellino" ,when referred to an object, or to a "melodia-ritratto", when referred to a character. In his view, this was too simple, a mere bureaucratic registration. A caricaturem, like the "melodietta" used by Puccini to represent Manon in his Manon Lescaut.

    Fedra was to Pizzetti a complex woman. During the first scenes of the opera, she was showing only one of her facets: hubris. But now, in the scene between Fedra and Hippolytus, there is a new feeling: passion. And Pizzetti presents a second motif, built on the cello and bass clarinet, that we can hear while Fedra walks like a panther to seduce her stepson ("col suo paso de lunga pantera").


    This slow and expressive melody is the musical characterization of love, of Fedra's passion. And it's also the beginning of Pizzetti's departure from D'Annunzio's drama:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    dove sei col tuo cuore?
    Assorto in qualche grande ombra di gloria?
    o domato da peso
    di sùbita stanchezza? O dormi, infante,
    disamorato per tutte le vene?

    Con infinita levità ella osa levare verso lui
    le nude braccia, e prendere tra le sue mani
    il bellissimo capo, e verso l'alito spirare il suo alito.

    Non so, non so qual grande ombra mi tiene, madre.

    Velata come da una interna lontananza è la voce
    del sognante, soave come un canto sommesso.

    Ti preme le pàlpebre, come
    il sonno?

    Tra la vita e il sonno è un breve
    istmo che forse non conosci, o uomo
    straniero, ove i papaveri son rosei
    come le rose. Quivi ora ho veduto

    The scene of the dream is a kind of static spell. There is no dialogue, but two monologues about the "legitimate" love of Hippolytus towards Helene, and the "illegitimate" love of Fedra towards Hippolytus.

    "Il bacio della Sfinge", by Franz von Stuck

    The spell is broken by the kiss that Fedra gives to her stepson. He awakes, and feels at the same time fear and revulsion. A frenzied Fedra shows Hippolytus her wild love.

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa IPPOLITO
    Dove fui? Quale mai sogno
    premeva la mia vita? Sola sei
    con me solo! E da quando?

    Gelide sono le tue labbra. Dove
    fluì tutto il tuo sangue

    Con che bocca soffocato
    m'hai? Di che onta infetto m'hai, o Cressa?
    Non fu bacio di madre il tuo!

    Non io
    ti son madre. Non mi sei tu figlio,
    no. Mescolato di sangue non sei
    con Fedra. Ma il tuo sangue è contra il mio
    nemico, vena contra vena. Ah no,
    non d'amore materno t'amo! Inferma,
    sono inferma di te,
    sono insonne di te,
    disperata di te che vivi mentre
    io non vivo né muoio,
    né ho tregua nel sonno,
    né ho tregua nel pianto,
    né ho bevanda alcuna che m'abbeveri,
    né ho farmaco alcuno che mi plachi,
    ma tutta me consumo in ogni lacrima,
    tutta l'anima spiro in ogni anelito;
    e mi rinnovo como una immortale
    nel mio supplizio io sola,
    io che non sono dea ma consaguinea
    degli Implacabili, o tu che non m'ami
    tu pari ad un nume, Ippolito!

    She is more frightening now, than when she killed the slave. But Hippolytus keeps rejecting Fedra. Now, we have a true dialogue, a duet between the two characters:

    Understanding that love is not enough, Fedra promises Hippolytus also the power. She will bring ships from Crete to depose Theseus, and finally gets her revenge from him. Hippolytus, enraged, menaces to kill Fedra and leaves. Then, she feels invaded by hate, a hate so big as her love was.

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa IPPOLITO
    Mi tenti in vano col tuo volto perfido,
    pieno d'errore come il Labirinto,

    O spurio dell'Egide,
    o incauto! Per l’amor della regale
    Ariadne fu salvo
    il padre tuo perduto nelle mille
    vie. Tu lo sai. Ma il rapitore immune
    ovunque uccise, depredò, distrusse;
    e con la salvatrice prese me
    ch'ero nel fiore della puerìzia.
    E una notte sonarono le grida
    della sorella sopra il mio terrore;
    e gridava la misera il mio nome
    dalla rupe deserta.

    Ah, tacerai!

    Accecato dall'ira impugna egli la
    mannaia, e afferra per i capelli la
    donna che cade; e fa l'atto di
    colpirla ma si rattiene. Lo provoca
    ella, aggrappandosi a lui,

    Qui, tra l'òmero
    e la gola, percoti obliquo, il petto
    aprimi, il cuore vedimi!

    Lascia egli cadere a terra l’arme.

    Di te
    io non mi macchierò, donna di Tèseo!
    La caligine d'Ate
    scesa m’era su gli occhi.

    No, non posso.

    Lasciami. Gorgo! Gorgo!

    Ah, non lasciarmi viva se vuoi vivere.

    Hai bevuto l’ippòmane, o furente.
    Gorgo! Gorgo!

    Se vuoi vivere, soffocami
    nelle trecce che m'hai sciolte. Finiscimi!
    Ti risànguina il pollice.

    Si china tentando di giungere le stille
    con le labbra protese.

    Ho lambita la tua vena. Ho premuto
    la tua bocca. Ch’io muoia!

    Accorre alfine la nutrice atterrita,
    mentre Ippolito con più violenza si scrolla
    per liberarsi.

    Gorgo, Gorgo,
    tu strappala da me. Toglila!


    No! No! Bada!

    Lo sente ella sfuggire, si sente ella
    sopraffatta; e tenta l’ultimo sforzo

    Ti perdi.
    Se implacabile sei, sono implacabile.
    Bada! Ippolito! Ippolito!

    Si china a soccorrerla la nutrice
    tremante. Ma balza la Titanide in piedi
    col movimento repentino del lottatore
    caduto che inarcando i muscoli evita di
    dare le spalle all'arena.

    Non mi toccare, Gorgo.

    Ella è in piedi, immobile e ferrea come il
    fato che per lei si manifesta, ma il seno
    seminudo le palpita come quel della Pitia
    quando è pieno della procella divina.

    O creatura, ti si rompe il petto!
    Placa l’ambascia.

    non gemere, non piangere. La cosa
    è tra Fedra e le Dee.
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:16 PM.

  13. #13
    Plot Act 2
    (Second Chapter)

    Theseus enters the scene. A great and heroic man, indeed, but not the brightest guy on Earth. He just saw Hippolytus running and he comes to ask Fedra what happened. Cunningly, she just insinuates something terrible.. The King, little by little, start to understand and when his wife makes a reference to the incest of Oedipus and Jocasta, he finally realizes his son has just raped Fedra. How it's possible?, he asks. This comes from the day I killed the Theban's slave, answers the Queen.

    Well, it's a nice story. However, Theseus claims tangible proof... Now again, maybe not so tangible. An oath from Fedra will do. Of course, the oath means nothing to Fedra. Then the King invokes his own father, the god Poseidon, and requests him to fulfill former promises, and help him to kill his son (and the God's grandson, incidentally).

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FEDRA
    Non io gli son madre
    come Giocasta, ma gli sei tu padre
    che l’ama.

    Ho io compreso?
    D'averti fatto forza tu l’accusi?

    Ah foss'io già, sotterra!

    Per gli Iddii, dimmi!

    per forza soperchiò me disarmata
    e presa pei capelli.

    Dove? dove?

    Sul tuo talamo.


    Nella notte
    del sacrifizio, dopo
    che rinvenuta egli ebbe la Tebana
    su la fossa dell’ara.

    Accosciata selvaggiamente, ora parla
    vincendo il tremito che le scuote la
    mascella, mentre l'ombra del sangue le
    ricolora il viso cinereo.

    Ruppe i serrami delle porte?

    voce ad inganno, come s'ei chiamasse
    te, come s'ei credesse anche te reduce
    con la nave salpata
    d'Elèusi. Ed io gli apersi,
    ancor nel sonno.

    Ed egli? Dimmi! dimmi!

    Sotto il maschio volto convulso dal
    dolore e dall'impazienza, perversa ella s'accende
    come quando imponeva alla schiava
    atterrita l'imagine notturna di sé
    palpitante nell'aspettazione.

    Ebro di forzamento
    era, tornato allora lungo il Mare
    con le sue mute al suono delle bùccine
    Saputo avea dall'uomo
    d'Argo il dono della schiava,
    e veduto la schiava nella fossa,
    e urlato di furore.
    Entrò. Mi si scagliò
    contra gridandomi: “O Pasifaèia,
    o spietata noverca,
    se tolta m'hai la vergine altocinta,
    stanotte mi darai uso di te!”
    E m'afferrò per i capelli, e il pugno
    mi pose entro la bocca.
    E me, me fredda, me
    venuta meno per tutta la carne
    nell'orrore, domò, contaminò
    sul tuo talamo.

    Veracemente ella ha nella carne un
    misto d’orrore e di voluttà straziante.
    Quanto più crudo appariva
    il tormento dell'uomo, tanto più
    profondo era il fremito della finzione.
    Ora di nuovo ella si getta su i velli,
    s'aggruppa in se, s'avvolge, s'annoda
    intorno alla sua volontà occulta.
    Raccoglie la sàgari Teseo nell'impeto e la
    brandisce, pronto a percuotere.


    Si risolleva la donna e si protende,
    travagliata senza respiro dall'interna

    Lo chiami in vano. Cala
    il colpo a me che minacciata fui
    pur dianzi e tratta pei capelli ancóra
    e ancóra oppressa!

    urna di tutti i mali, non uscì
    da te menzogna? Fammi giuramento.

    Prona su i velli, Fedra stende le mani
    marmoree verso terra.

    Gli Iddii del Fiume stigio
    ne sieno testimoni!

    Allora Teseo, di tutta la statura alzato,
    scaglia l'imprecazione funesta.

    O Re truce del Mare, odimi tu
    che promettesti adempiere tre voti.
    Se alcuna grazia ho nelle tue vendette,
    oggi adempimi il primo contra il figlio.
    Che innanzi sera egli discenda all’Ombre!
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:17 PM.

  14. #14

    D'Annunzio and Pizzetti started to work together in 1905, with Pizzetti writing the chorus lines for D'Annunzio's play "La Nave". Pizzetti, born in Parma, got a musical education in the Conservatory of his native city. He presented one of his works to a competition about Gregorian chant and Polyphony, in 1901:

    Pizzetti in 1901
    sep Pizzetti, moved by the teachings of Tebaldini, discovered the two volumes of Gevaert's monumental "History of Ancient Music", published in Gante between 1875 and 1881, and this was a big influence on the young composer.

    So, when meeting D'Annunzio, Pizzetti was already familiar with ancient Polyphony and he was ready to work for the writer. They cooperated very well, and "La Nave" was a big success in 1908. Pizzetti also wrote some music for D'Annunzio's "I pastori", and started thinking about an opera based on Euripides's "Hippolytus". Much to the composer's surprise, D'Annunzio offered to write the libretto.

    D'Annunzio was engaged in a war with the mainstream Italian lyrical scene. He has attacked viciously "Cavalleria Rusticana" back in 1892, calling Mascagni a 'capobanda', a chief of the Mafia, that in D'Annunzio's view was formed by the connivance of producers and composers to offer cheap theater to the audience.

    For D'Annunzio, Pizzetti was the ideal choice for writing together an opera. The composer was interested in the 'music of the words', was new to lyrical theater, and he was familiar with ancient music. So, D'Annunzio started to work, and he was able to give the first draft to Pizzeti on February, 1909. The poet wrote to Giulio Ricordi:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa "We want to create Latin musical drama. Beyond Wagner leitmotif, Strauss's excesses of Debussy's affectation" aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    As we have seen, he was not really telling the whole truth about leifmotifs, anyway. "Fedra", as a drama, was then ready. However, "Fedra", the opera, was still a work in progress when D'Annunzio had to flee Italy to escape his creditors.

    D'Annunzio's palazzo in Il Vittoriale, besides Lake Garda

    D'Annunzio hides in France. Not even Pizzetti is able to find his whereabouts. From this moment on, they tried now and then to work in the opera by exchanging letters, but to no avail. It's not until 1912, when finally they meet at Arcachon, and can complete the piece. When Pizzetti shows the opera to D'Annunzio and some friends he received a warm welcome. But this was not the end of the story....

  15. #15
    Plot Act 3
    (First Chapter)

    Poseidon readily granted Theseus's wish. The corpse of Hippolytus lies before the rest of the characters. Just before raising the curtain, Pizzetti wrote a piece for the chorus, to be sung 'a capella', the threnody for the death of Hippolytus:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa O Giovinezza, piangi.
    O Giovinezza, tondi la tua chioma,
    piangi tutto il tuo pianto,
    ché il tuo principe è morto. È morto Ippolito!
    O selve di Metàna,
    olivi di Genètlio,
    sarònide palude,
    piagge di Limna, monti d'Ermione,
    rempietevi d'orrore e di lamento.
    Piangete, Efebi di Trezene. Vergini
    di Trezene, piangete. È morto Ippolito!

    In "Fedra" there is a temporal jump between the second and third acts. A small, but necessary one, that includes how Hippolytus is cut to pieces by Arione. The threnody is a representation of the time passed, like Pizzetti himself wrote:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa "It's written in 'forte', but the chorus need to increase loudness slowly, gradually. The idea is to get the singers giving their backs to the audience, and then turn to the orchestra in the 30th bar ("rempietevi d'orrore")" aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    After the threnody, we see the corpse of Hippolytus, surrounded by Theseus, Aethra, Eurytus and the young friends of the deceased. It's like a continuation of the laments in the first act. We can hear how Aethra invokes again the 'Mater dolorosa' in her singing:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa "Ippolito, oh Ippolito più caro
    a me che se t'avessi generato,
    con grandi urla di strazio
    invidio chi ti piange
    che piangere non so della tua morte
    e gemere non so della mia vita (...)"

    Eurytus tells of how the sacrifice of the bull have gone astray, and the horse was restless.

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Il cavallo tenuto era dagli uomini
    a pie dell'argine, affinché presente
    fosse nel rito. Era cinghiato già
    e immorsato col morso duro.
    Ippolito scese a guardarlo e lo palpò sul collo.
    Non disse verbo. Taciturno e crudo era,
    come in corruccio. Quando all’ara fu tratto
    il toro bianco per l’offerta,
    il cavallo aombrò. Mugghiava il toro
    e il cavallo annitrì verso quel mugghio.
    Nell'ombra d'una nuvola fuggiasca,
    sbuffando a capo chino si guatarono
    dalla rotondità dei lor crudeli
    occhi sporgenti. Né volea morire
    il toro. Quando Forba i peli svelse
    di su la fronte e li gittò nel fuoco,
    e il salso orzo con essi, il furibondo
    sbalzò traendo negli sbalzi gli uomini
    che impugnato l’aveano per le corna,
    cosi che Forba con la scure al primo
    colpo non l'abbatté ma sol l'incise
    su la collòttola e, iterando i colpi
    nell’orror del presagio,
    il sangue fumido sprizzava in torno.
    Gridò Forba: “Ricusa
    l’Ippio l'offerta. L'arderemo noi?”
    Ippolito gridò. “Ardila a Fobo!"
    E s'udiva il cupo ululo dei cani.
    E s'udiva il cavallo giù rispondere
    col lungo ringhio al rantolo del toro.
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa

    Returning to the stables, some barks coming from beyond the grave frightened the horse, that ran towards the beach. This is the last appearance of the 'bark' motif, that here is provoking the fatal outcome.

    Death of Hippolytus, by Sir Lawrence Alma

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa L'AURIGA
    (...) su dai canili,
    ulularono come di sotterra
    i molossi (...)

    The horse dismounted Hippolytus, and realizing the young man was still alive, the beast bit his bowels, and disappeared into the sea. After hearing Eurytus telling this sad story, Theseus, contrite, reveals that he himself prayed to Poseidon, imploring for the death of his son. The King desires now to die, after killing not only a young man, but Hope itself. sep
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 7th, 2018 at 02:19 PM.

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