La Giuditta: Mixture of traditional and Innovative Ideas
Following Carissimi, Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) was another outstanding composer of Italian baroque oratorios. His influential supporters in Rome included two patrons, the Cardinals Benedetto Pamphili and Pietro Ottoboni. The La Giuditta oratorio was composed in 1693 and premiered in Palazzo Cancelleria in March of 1964 for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni's libretto. This oratorio, in many respects, seemed to be a groundbreaking one. It is in two parts for 5-vocies with instruments. Although it is a religious piece, it concentrates on the spiritual, contemplative aspect of the story of Bethulia's siege and its liberation by the beautiful widow Judith who seduced and killed the commander of the Assyrian army - Holofernes. Contrary to the rule of the three unities that limits opera, here, the composer switches action between Bethulia and the enemy's camp. In his musical interpretation, the mixed use of traditional and innovative composed skills emphasize the text expression and makes La Guiditta one of the best oratorios of the Baroque era. In La Giuditta, Scarlatti brings to the oratorio a greater homogeneity in terms of aria forms. The da capo aria dominates, though not exclusively; a new sense of instrumental virtuosity reflects the affect of the textual moment, and there is a limitation of contrapuntal sections to the conclusions of two parts. In this oratorio, orchestras are growing larger by adding two flutes and a trumpet to the strings with the basso continuo accompaniment. Accompanied only by a basso continuo, around half of the arias are still of the older type while shorter arias of various forms are replaced by da capo arias of ABA form. Moreover, recitatives with an orchestral accompaniment appear. Scarlatti’s innovative music characteristics let the music and text to be more tightly combined and make it easier for performers to express composer’s idea. The Giuditta’s Aria Ma so ben in Part I and...
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