Dominick Argento's Casa Guidi : a character and a musical study

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Ray, Beth Ann

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It is not surprising that Dominick Argento’s influence is particularly strong in the realm of American vocal music, since he considers the human voice the “original instrument.” His thirteen operas and eight solo song cycles, to the present date, encompass a wide range of topics and musical styles. Argento has often chosen a text based on who will be singing a piece and on what type of character will be portrayed through the singer. Ultimately, this characterization directly shapes the ensuing musical style forged by Argento. The way in which Argento brings musical life to the letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the cycle Casa Guidi is the topic of this study. v Argento set texts from personal letters of Mrs. Browning. Biographical details surrounding each song text and musical analysis of each song will aid the reader in orientation to the 1983 work. A performance guide is offered for each of the five songs that comprise the cycle, as well as a brief section on Casa Guidi’s pedagogical value. This treatise also explores some of the differences between Casa Guidi and Argento’s other solo song cycle for mezzo-soprano, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf. The primary goal of this comparison is to illustrate how the contrasting personalities and words of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Barrett Browning led Argento to very different musical results. The transcript of a phone interview with Dominick Argento concludes the treatise.




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