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Of Mars I Sing: Monteverdi Voicing Virility;

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Wistreich


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Monteverdi’s ‘Madrigals of War and Love’, published in 1638 and dedicated to the Emperor Ferdinand III, is justifiably celebrated as perhaps the most significant compendium of secular vocal music of the early Baroque. One of its central pieces, ‘Ogni amante e guerrier (Every lover is a soldier)’, sets a text by Ottavio Rinuccini, which is in turn a free translation of Ovid. Rinuccini, however, perhaps inspired by one of Ovid’s lines, added to the model an original and extended monologue for an extraordinary character who tells the gripping story of his transformation from effete poet to virile lover-warrior, memorably set by Monteverdi as by far the longest and most virtuoso solo for a bass singer yet published. In performance, this song articulates and enacts through the harnessing of the so-called basso bastarda voice, a character who is both lover and warrior – a dichotomy that draws on a complex of classical and Renaissance concepts of militarism, nobility and the dangers to virility of singing. This chapter explores in a variety of ways the word and music text of this song in the context of contemporary notions of male singing in order to elucidate the tropes of early modern masculinity which it encodes and performs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wistreich R

Editor(s): Kirtsen Gibson and Ian Biddle

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Masculinity and Western Musical Practice

Year: 2009

Pages: 64-97

Publisher: Ashgate

Place Published: Farnham

Notes: This is a volume of edited chapters, each of which addresses the relationship between masculinity and art music or musical practice. Each of the 14 chapters deals with a specific case study, drawing from a wide range of musics and periods (from the early modern to the mid twentieth century). Whilst these case studies are methodologically disparate and located in different historical and geographical locations, they all share a common concern for critical revaluation of the role of masculinity (in all it’s varied representations) in art music practices. The volume thus represents a timely contribution to the development of masculinity studies within musicology (and beyond). The volume is organised thematically around four core areas – effeminate/virile musics and masculinities, national masculinities and national musics, the Austro-German fin de siècle and the masculine voice.

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780754662396