La commedia dell’arte is the name usually given to the popular Italian improvised comedy that flourished from the 16th to the early 18th centuries. The commedia dell’arte style was marked by the harmonious collaboration of a group of players improvising dialogue and situations around a previously agreed upon scenario. Although most scenarios have 12-15 characters, many subplots, and convoluted events, I choose five main characters, each to be represented by an instrument in the woodwind quintet. My scenario remains true to the spirit of the more complicated plots.
The instruments and the characters they represent are: The Young Lovers; Isabella, flute; Ottavio, oboe; Pantalone, Isabella’s father, bassoon; Capitano Spavento, Isabella’s suitor, horn; Arlecchino, Capitano’s servant, clarinet
The movements are: Prologue, Scene I, Scene II,Scene III, Intermezzo, Scene IV, Scene V, Epilogue
The music faithfully follows the scenario, which the narrator reads at the beginning of each scene. Multiphonics are used to evoke events such as knocking on a door and actors tumbling to the ground. Each of the quintet instruments is given a three-measure theme in a different mode to portray a character. These themes appear in various permutations. Sometimes, the themes of “offstage” characters are heard as the character is being discussed or alluded to. The prologue opens with a march representing the actors’ entrance. Each character is introduced in turn as his/her theme plays against the march. The march also appears in the Intermezzo as a frame for the five themes played simultaneously. The matrimonial nature of the plot is evoked by brief references to Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding Processional.” In the epilogue the themes are heard in fugue-like entrances that lead to an abbreviated form of the march in grandiose style as the actors exit.
|Length||Approx. 13 minutes|
|Instrumentation||Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Narrator|