The Mirtillo/Amarilli Controversy: <i>Monteverdi</i>

Susan McClary

in Modal Subjectivities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780520234932
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929159 | DOI:
The Mirtillo/Amarilli Controversy: Monteverdi

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In Giovanni Battista Guarini's poem Il pastor fido, the pastoral lover Mirtillo attempts to put into words the contradictory impulses he experiences in but a single moment. Multiple passions—longing, abjection, disbelief, anguish, resignation—assail him from within, finally to condense into the oxymoron of “un vivace morire.” Banished from Amarilli's presence, Mirtillo hangs suspended between an agony so violent that it ought to bring about his immediate demise, but which, because of its very intensity, prevents the release from suffering promised by death. Claudio Monteverdi happened to choose the principal moments in the quarrel between Mirtillo and Amarilli as texts for some of his most famous madrigals—madrigals that owe much of their notoriety to the attacks they provoked from Giovanni Maria Artusi, whose challenge sparked a response from Monteverdi. Neither Mirtillo nor Amarilli can be reduced to a particular stereotype of gender construction. In his settings of the Mirtillo/Amarilli controversy, Monteverdi offers insights into the interiorities of two fictional personae whose anguish pushes the capabilities of his musical language to their extreme.

Keywords: Giovanni Battista Guarini; Il pastor fido; passions; anguish; gender; Claudio Monteverdi; madrigals; Giovanni Maria Artusi

Chapter.  9568 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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