L’Orfeo: memory, recollection, and the tragedy of choosing between seeing and hearing

Antonio Cascelli - Maynooth University, Ireland


In the contrast between seeing and hearing at the centre of the myth of Orpheus, the duality of memory and recollection, in Aristotelian terms, emerges, allowing us to reconsider the role of Eurydice in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. When Orpheus, in a moment of frenzy and forgetfulness, turns back towards Eurydice he chooses the visibility of the eye over the audibility of the ear. The process of active recollection of the past, which he had initiated with the canzonetta Vi ricorda o boschi ombrosi, ends with the failure of music and the inability to retain the object of his love. Conversely, Eurydice’s words – Ahi, vista troppo dolce – after Orpheus looks at her, reveals a musical connection to past moments. In this way, her singing is the embodiment of the power of music and it creates a musical memory to which Orpheus does not have access.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13132/1826-9001/17.1987

Registrazione presso la Cancelleria del Tribunale di Pavia n. 552 del 14 luglio 2000 – ISSN elettronico 1826-9001 | Università degli Studi di Pavia Dipartimento di Musicologia | Pavia University Press

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