Musing Music for the Season

     Excerpt from my novel, A House Near Luccoli©

(Fictional performance of
Alessandro Stradella’s Christmas Cantata
Ah, Troppo è ver
at t
he church of Santa Maria Maddalena
Genoa, 24 December, 1681.)

     Travelers through her life had spoken of il Presepi Viventi* in Roma or Napoli, staged elaborately like an opera or simply when peasants gathered in a town or village marketplace. Santa Maria Maddalena displayed a nativity in front of its main altar,  still life figures in satiny marble, the holy family ignoring who had arrived once more to bow and marvel, offer gifts already given and point to unseen stars, donkey and sheep neither tethered nor free. Alessandro had the idea for Lidia to replace the stature of Mary, draped in white, her lovely hair tumbling from her veil to frame a tranquil expression the worshippers unaware of her breathing until the soprano had sung Sovrano Mio Bene. The priest finally agreed when he met the girl’s pale eyes, closed lips and immature body,  and she was willing–if she had a choice–because her humility would be on display as someone else’s. 
     Lidia played her part well, even as the church filling with the Christmas Eve congregation breezed through her costume. The altar tapers flickered,  smoke floating downwards to assist her performance and any concern that la prima soprano wasn’t the prettiest Alessandro had ever employed.
     For the Mass’ entrance procession violins dueled without contest in Sinfonia, the hunchback Lonati soloing unrecognizably with emotion and grace, Alessandro running off with the notes on obbligato harpsichord. His musical if not physical challenger inveigled him back with such fine expression it must be imitated, a perfect opportunity for Alessandro’s virtuosity with the ease of a hawk flying high and low and landing on a pause. Lonati let down his guard, his face gloomy and shoulders sinking. But after a few bars the duo matched their humors again, Lonati’s self-pitying relieved by Alessandro’s company, connecting their past differences for a chordal if short-term agreement.
     After the Liturgy of the Word the Cantata resumed, introducing the cast and their story. First the devil in protest and fury then the concertino per un angelo and concerto grosso with Alessandro taking the part of un pastore, Lonati’s strings only encouraging the thoughts of the tenor in arpeggios e adagios.
     The soprano at the heart of the performance also rose to the violin’s challenge, her breath strung along on Lonati’s long phrasing and jumping to follow Alessandro’s rapid handling of the keys. As always he enjoyed such alternation and certainly the success of Lidia lifting her head and la Gesùs Bambino from the crib. After the Blessing of the Sacrament, there was Communion and the mass’ last rituals, the congregation still on their knees, the madrigal singers standing first . Bells rang from the tower and interplay of their voices, envisioning and extolling. Belief was sustained in countering ways yet harmonization reached out through the nave and ascended the dome, proclaiming that at least for the life of such music heaven was within reach.

*Presepi Viventi–Living nativity. It is believed that the first living nativity  was the work of St Francis of Assisi, in 1223.

 Aria from “Ah! Troppo è ver” (1670-1676c.)

 Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

12 thoughts on “Musing Music for the Season

  1. Oh, that I could participate in worship like this,Diane! I had not been aware you wrote such a book. Really rich and frothy in the phrasing. The artwork is just beyond belief! What a privilege to be allowed to read and view such creativity!


    • Thank you so much, Granbee! I love “rich and frothy” (everything I’m not in “real” life…) The book has been finished for about 2 years without success in getting an agent or publisher (one has the first 3 chapters at this time…) If third party publishing doesn’t work out SOON then I will weigh other options.

      Yes, there is something about those old beautiful European churches with their magnificent surroundings and music that would rise one up to the occasion.

      I have a note in front of me to catch up on your posts TODAY! I apologize for it taking me so long.


    • Thank you again, AZ! I am so flattered by the award and especially that my writing is encouraging yours!

      I will properly accept the award as soon as I can, especially so I can help bring more traffic to your blog and a few other gems I am enjoying.


    • Thank you, AZ! I certainly approach writing prose as if it was poetry…that’s why it takes me so long, every word important as it is in verse…and why, I suspect, it is so hard to get a literary agent or publisher to accept it.


    • Thank you so much, Martin! Hope you found that CD and enjoyed listening. I find Baroque music wonderful to write to (and about, obviously)…especially the instrumentals…clean not cluttered, expressive and flowing. Well, I enjoy it any time and anywhere!


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