Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Ronel Alberti da Rosa
I Hear Dead People
Or How the Teoria degli Affetti Contributed to the Humanistic Representation of Dead and Living Characters in the Early Italian Opera
The opera Orfeo, una favola in musica (1607) from Claudio Monteverdi, marked a rupture with the metaphysical aesthetics from Renaissance. Thanks to the theoretical achievements from Galilei and Caccini, the early Italian opera included innovative elements such as a “certain noble negligence” by singing – as an expression of truth in music – and the acceptance of dissonance as a strengthening element of both pathetic and human. In its beginning the musical drama used to depict spirits and dead people in order to distinguish two realms of the cosmos: that from the living ones and that from the passed away. As a result the new characterizations proved to be largely more convincing than the previous attempts of dramatizing afterlife, mostly sacred music with episodes of lives of saints or the Christian Passion. This paper aims to examine the theoretical and aesthetical premises that enabled a shift in the form to depict musically the death in the beginning 17th century. The core query is why it was necessary to change from a metaphysical aesthetical paradigm to another one, which was denoted by the rhetorical and the pathetical as well. I hope to demonstrate that the defeat of melody by the rhetoric in the struggle for the key role in the singing theater inaugurated a musical new era marked by an aestheticization of death and of dying.