Itineraries - Conference Papers
Symbolic Gestures in the Performance of Clementi’s Didone
By Damjana Bratu
Power Point presentation
Throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, over
sixty operas were composed on the theme of Dido, Queen of
Carthage, and Aeneas; Metastasio’s libretto (1724) served
as a sort of template for most of them. The subtitle Scena
tragica, and the dedication to Luigi Boccherini of Clementi’s
Sonata Didone abbandonata (1821) underline the operatic origin
of its style.
This presentation identifies through visual and musical
examples some of the compositional and interpretive gestures
that originated in Italian operatic conventions; it follows
their transformation into the idiom of the fortepiano and
the proportions of the classical sonata; it links to the ancient
imagery and metric structure of Virgil’s Aeneid Book
IV (The Passion of the Queen) the topoi that reverberate in
the Sonata, and for which the composer gave expressive indications
on the score (e.g. con furia, languente);
it examines the translation of the symbolic imagery into the
parameters of music - stress, distress, discord, tension,
re/petition, reiteration, resolution, climax, etc.
Gestural implications are explored through comparison of vocal,
fortepiano, and piano performances that reflect different
decodings of the same selected fragments; they also reveal
that it is the adherence to the encoded musical gestures,
and not necessarily the authenticity of the instrumental timbre
that brings the symbolic content to life.
First presented at:
Gestures, Rituals and Memory: A Multidisciplinary
Symposium on Patterned Human Movement across Time.
Sponsored by the Emilio Goggio Chair of Italian Studies with
the cooperation of Victoria University. CHASS-University of
Toronto, and http://www.semioticon.com.
May 6-8, 2004.