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The question, of course, is whose interactive listening behaviors we can hope to deduce from the silent page. The difficulty with this rationale lies not so Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.

Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Artabano's dilemma is mirrored in broader struggles of class and consanguinity that mark the two females: the princess Mandane loves Arbace yet seeks vengeance for her father's death. Arbace's sister Semira pleads his innocence. Once again, Arbace is the prime target of conflict and instrument of resolution. In Act III, after a series of mishaps that serve as tests of Arbace's moral resolve, he proves himself to be virtuous once and for all by offering his life first to Mandane and then in exchange for his father's to Artaserse.

Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy

In both attempts he is refused, and in Artaserse's first act of royal grace he decrees exile for Artabano instead of execution. The way is cleared for the marriage of Mandane to Arbace and Artaserse to Semira, and the libretto ends with the populace crowning Artaserse's virtue in a final chorus of praise. Embedded in this narrative lies a moral tale of impure elements tamed and eradicated from the idealized body politic, as generically represented by ancient Persia.

This upper stratum forms a sacralized royal household poised above the more secular, heroic realm of Artabano, Arbace, and Semira, who duplicate the familial triangle of their royal superiors to whom they are bound through ties of friendship, love, and counsel. The system of hierarchical strata extends partially downward to an even lower order in the figure of Megabise, a corrupt general who has Artabano's ear, just as Artabano had had Serse's ear.

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Until then, upper and lower ranks are traversed most conspicuously by the heroic Arbace, who functions in the libretto as a symbolic medium of inner virtue, immanent in the body social but as yet not fully realized at the outset of the opera. Significantly, his virtue flags only once: at the beginning of Act I he threatens to skew the moral order not just by courting Mandane but, worse, by taking umbrage at King Serse's have spoken "down" to him and charging that if royalty were assigned on earth it might as easily have fallen on him as on Serse.

From this moment of transgressive pride many sins are born for which, in the moral economy of opera seria, Arbace pays the largest price but owing to which he alone undertakes a full-scale moral ascent. Arbace's story of moral transformation is Artaserse 's didactic subplot, an instructive lesson of grace. Were the conflicts that Metastasio's characters confront as simple as those between public duty and personal desire, however, the plots would be limply self-evident. Somewhere at issue is always the seemingly ineluctable problem that honor cuts so many ways as to suffer no matter what the outcome: that honoring the father will betray the prince Arbace ; or honoring the beloved will betray the father Mandane.

Since narrative lies ever victim to this fact, conflicts are mediated through an ethical hierarchy with obligations pointing ever upward from lovers, friends, counselors, and confidantes, to fathers, brothers, and sisters, and finally to kings. As a rule kings trump kin and kin trump nonblood relations in resolving conflict. Accordingly, the moral prerogatives postulated through this scalar movement also place public concerns above private ones, thus forming a parallel set of criteria that is structurally interesting precisely because imperfectly congruent.

Larger clan relations inseparably bind king and kin, as well as other alliances; and some of these, though merely potential, such as troths or covenants, will help ensure the perpetuity of the patriarchy. The king in particular occupies at once two categories, sacred and profane. In accordance with long-standing Western tradition as described most famously by Ernst Kantorowicz , he is divine and eternal with respect to office yet human with respect to person.

Mediator of the two realms, his double position aids upward resolutions in securing new affinal relations, new princely offspring, and the general harmony and durability of the kingship. Furthermore, as crux of the moral order, the king's embodied father image takes on a variety of meanings whose implications again fan out through numerous levels of the body politic. As eternal embodiment of the father to his subjects and a temporal father-body to his children, the king was a father figure in at least two senses: a divine but kin-like king to the body politic and kingly kin to his own progeny.

The decorum of loyalties implied by these varying positions involved each person in multilayered relations, of which different ones would be implicated in different situations. Thus Mandane, at a point in Act II when she believes that Arbace has killed her king and father, can actually urge Artabano to condemn his own son to death while still reproaching him afterwards for having done so: "Mandane's duty was t'avenge a father, But Artaban's to save a son: compassion Became thy state, and hatred suited mine. Such were our diff'rent duties" The implicit destination of all upward motion--and a feature I deem crucial to listening practices--is the divine figure of God the Father.

Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy, Feldman

All relations cascade hierarchically down from God, for whom the king served as instrument and representative on earth. This direct link between god and king is instantiated in a host of symbols. When Artaserse attains the crown, he bestows sublime love on the people in exchange for their earthly loyalty III. In the midst of the rite he is to drink from a "sacred cup" by which he imbibes the eternal polity into the king's body and consolidates his connection to the sacred.

Shortly thereafter, proof that divine providence smiles on the new reign is offered as Mandane appears with news that Megabise, in his lowly will to desecrate the body politic anew, has been inciting disorder among the populace, only to be stopped by Arbace III. In the libretto's prime transformative incident, Arbace's sword becomes the divine rod of iron that breaks Megabise's evil back.


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Mandane's report reveals that critical to Arbace's spiritual ascent and the upward transformation of the populace is the medium of passion. A key feature of her account is that at the brink of his final upward resolution Arbace preserved the populace from unrest not with reason but with impassioned oratory: "On some with threats he wrought, on some with prayers; oft changed his looks from placid to severe.

Occurring at the very moment when Megabise threatens to profane the polity, the medium of passion becomes the kingdom's warrant against doom and assurance that its axioms will stand secure. In this respect the magical effects of passion that Mandane recounts here merely illustrate at the narrative level the force that drives opera seria at the level of experience--the emotion collected and poured forth in singing and hearing arias.

ULTIMATE FASHION HISTORY: The Italian (and Spanish) Renaissance

As described by 18c intelligentsia in Italy, opera seria was a form of spectacle, a series of diverting set pieces and visual delights--arias, dances, stage effects. Its instrumentality lay in the states of awe induced by spectacle and moreover the states of emotion brought on by ravishing voices. Story-telling thus had little power to operate directly on audiences, as process and not mere paradigm, except perhaps when forced to listen in a sovereign's presence.

Yet even then, I would insist, listening was not therefore an acknowledgement that the myth of the good king was true. Rather it was proof positive of its power as myth. It was an affirmation that the medium of the message was effective.

Opera and Sovereignty

The person of the monarch, to recall Norbert Elias, was made sovereign through the imitation of his behavior by his subjects. By extending a condition of his bodily person, they also extended his controls into the body politic. Everyone collectively thereby became the monarch, who was thus dissolved into the new sovereign of the people.

When the king was absent, performances reenacted kingly force by virtue of iteration. The process of generating passions, magically linked thus to the sovereign's moral and spiritual condition, made sovereignty more than a mere site of power and charisma: it made sovereignty centerless, invisible, and pervasive.

It rendered it internal in the sovereign's subjects. Indeed it rendered the sovereign's physical presence all but unnecessary and "proved" ineffably the immortality of his spirit. If anything, the narrative contributed to this invisibility by dispersing propositions and symbolic currencies so thoroughly as virtually to absolve audiences of any requirement to evaluate what went on onstage for evidence of a verifiable reality.

That work was sooner done by more narrative genres. Narration could have no privileged place in the way audiences were asked to experience propositions whose truth claims were all decided in advance. Seria in its classic form asserts a social order that exists naturally, inevitably, and endlessly. An opera seria, as it progresses, merely turns the pages of eternal time, its outcome preordained, and its messages and denouements hardly susceptible to validation through inspections by earthly mortals. Seria's characters therefore need not be situated in real histories of family, place, or time.

But they have said little about the specific realization of Venetian literary ideals in musical practices, or about the mechanisms for the transmission of stylistic ideals between literary figures and musicians. Castrato by Martha Feldman 1 edition published in in English and held by 7 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Madrigali a cinque voci : Venice, by Perissone Cambio Book 3 editions published in in Undetermined and held by 5 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Abstracts of papers read at the joint meetings of the American Musicological Society, sixty-third annual meeting, [and] Society for Music Theory, twentieth annual meeting, October November 2, , Hyatt Regency Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona by American Musicological Society Book 1 edition published in in English and held by 3 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.

The voice as something more : essays toward materiality by International Conference "A Voice as Something More" Book 1 edition published in in English and held by 3 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.

Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy

Staging the virtuoso : ritornello procedure in Mozart, from aria to concerto by Martha Feldman 1 edition published in in English and held by 2 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Audience Level. Related Identities. Associated Subjects. English 91 Italian 21 German 1 French 1.