Tag Archives: Venice

Vivaldi and Venetian wind

Giorgione Tempesta_edited-1

The prevalent air regimes dominating Venice include the regional sirocco (scirocco) wind and the strong and gusty local bora (borea, a föhn wind, from the Latin ventus favonius). The bora blows in from either the north (the Alps) or from the west (the Balkans), raising temperatures and lowering humidity; it is typically accompanied by low clouds and reduced visibility.

Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions, especially those with programmatic implications, abound with musical illustrations of winds and their rhetorical satellites. Three out of his four solo violin concertos that make up Le quattro stagioni (1725) feature winds as protagonists controlling the imagery, the attached sonnets, and the music itself.

Vivaldi’s operatic librettos are especially abundant in such allegorical keywords and rhetorical interplay. Winds and breezes, along with other stereotypical concetti—symbolic representations of animals (lion, hind, snake), various birds (goldfinch, nightingale, swallow), and butterflies—abound in his operatic arias.

Often the direct verbal use of “wind” is substituted with its rhetorical alternatives such as tempest (tempesta), thunder (tuono), storm (borasca), air vortices (vortici), flashes and lightings (lampi), high sea waves (onde), clouds (nouvole), and others. The fact that most of Vivaldi’s operatic librettos were provided or adapted by local writers suggests that the wind was a symbol common to the entire Venetian tradition.

This according to “Sirocco, borea, e tutti i venti: Wind allegory in Venetian music” by Bella Brover-Lubovsky, an essay included in Musik—Raum—Akkord—Bild: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Dorothea Baumann (Bern: Peter Lang, 2012, pp. 149–162).

Above,  a detail from Giorgione’s La tempesta, a depiction of Venetian weather from the early 16th century. Below, Vivaldi’s celebrated depiction from Le quattro stagioni.

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Basse danse with attitude II

The letters of Andrea Calmo, a 16th-century Venetian actor and playwright who wrote of having been taught the bassadanza by wolves, highlight how dance was regarded by a member of the middle classes in Venice.

As well as having a general appreciation of dance, which he saw as an enjoyable and moral activity, Calmo was knowledgeable about dance specifics and accurate in his use of dance terminology; in fact, his knowledge of dance practices was extensive enough to enable him to use specific dance references as a tool in creating the humor in his letters.

In a letter wooing a fine dancer, Calmo’s praises include the following:

“Now you can perform well the salti a torno, performing capriole, dancing on only one foot for half and hour, and moving the other foot so quickly it is as if your feet were tickling.”

“Alas, that to go behind, in front, those riprese, those clever steps and turns on joined feet, and all with mesura, with design and grace, in addition to the beautiful, grand, well-rounded and well-proportioned bosom.”

This according to “Learning the bassadanza from a wolf: Andrea Calmo and dance” by Jennifer Nevile (Dance research: The journal of the Society for Dance Research XXX/1 [2012] pp. 80–97). Above, Ball in Venice in Honor of Foreign Visitors, c.1580 (Italian School). Below, bassadanza with attitude!

Related article: Basse danse with attitude I

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Filed under Curiosities, Dance, Humor, Performance practice, Renaissance