Emily Bassett September 21, 2012 The Baroque During the period of the Baroque musical style (1600-1750), emotions ran high, literally. This was a time for expression of emotions through musical performances called operas. Operas were made popular in Italy in 1600 and employed many theatre elements such as music, acting, poetry, and costumes. Operas, in all simplicity, were dramas set to music. The Baroque was defined by sudden shifts in dynamic, homophonic musical texture, emphasis on beats, and unity of rhythms.
Both performances, “Tu Se Morta” by L’Orfeo and “Dido’s Lament” by Henry Purcell, display distinctive qualities of this time period and serve as excellent examples of technique. Both pieces are described as being arias, or solo vocals with an orchestral accompaniment. Knowing this, one might assume that there would be some similarities in the dynamics of the two pieces. Both works demonstrate sudden changes in dynamic, less so in “Dido’s Lament”, that is characteristic of the baroque. The timbres of the performances display a dark, mourning mood.
In “Tu Se Morta”, L’Orfeo sings of a dead loved one, and he is mourning over her death and his life. “Dido’s Lament” shows Purcell asking of his friends and family to “remember me…” and to not “forget my fate…” Additionally, both operas also show the recitative form that is known to be of the baroque. “Tu Se Morta” utilizes more of the recitative technique than Purcell’s opera. “Tu Se Morta”, performed by L’Orfeo, is performed in Italian. L’Orfeo sings this piece in a baritone vocal style, and a melismatic arioso musical style, which is in between an aria and a recitative style.
He uses a slow, solemn, and soft tempo to express his deep mourning and sudden dynamic changes at specific times to draw attention to times of heightened emotion. At one point, the orchestral accompaniment nearly stops, and a chorus of other singers picks up to highlight L’Orfeo. “Dido’s Lament” is quite different in that it is performed in English. Henry Purcell has a tenor vocal style rather than L’Orfeo’s baritone vocals. Unlike “Tu Se Morta”, this performance maintains a generally even dynamic throughout the opera.
Compared to L’Orfeo’s opera, Purcell’s performance maintains a regular, pulsating pitch, called a vibrato. Rather than maintaining a recitative style throughout the opera, Purcell begins with this technique and transitions into a simple aria. “Dido’s Lament” also utilizes a bass ostinato that simulates a homophonic texture. In conclusion, baroque style music performances are known for expression of feelings and moods. Baroque musical styles emphasize beats, change dynamic patterns suddenly, and use a recitative style to communicate these emotions. Tu Se Morta” and “Dido’s Lament” have many similarities including the recitative technique, the slow, solemn tempo and timbre, and the use of stringed instruments in the orchestral accompaniment. However, differences are apparent between the two. “Tu Se Morta” makes better use of sudden dynamic change by emphasizing times of extreme emotion. Personally, I find these baroque period performances to be very calming. I enjoy listening to this style of music, and I find the emotional expression to be rather inspiring.