Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

The Sword of Judith

 | 
Kevin R. Brine
, 
Elena Ciletti
, 
Henrike Lähnemann

Music and Drama

20. Judith, Music, and Female Patrons in Early Modern Italy

Kelley Harness

Texte intégral

  • 1 Antonio Vivaldi, Juditha triumphans: Sacrum militare oratorium, ed. Alberto Zedda (Milan: Ricordi, (...)

1Of the numerous musical treatments of the Judith narrative composed in Italy before the nineteenth century, probably the best known today is Antonio Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans (1716) – the composer’s only surviving oratorio – originally performed by the well-trained female musicians of the Pio Ospedale della Pietà of Venice as part of that institution’s roughly twenty-year tradition of performing Latin oratorios.1 As suitable models of piety for young (and not-so-young) women, biblical women and female saints appeared frequently in dramatic works performed by communities of women. But Giacomo Cassetti, the oratorio’s librettist, also intended his oratorio to be read as an allegorical response to Venice’s ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire: he appended an allegorical poem (Carmen allegoricum) predicting that Judith’s victory would foreshadow Venice’s own success against its enemy, and in the final accompanied recitative of the oratorio, the high priest Ozias prophesies that Venice ”erit nova Juditha” and will defeat its Asian enemies. As he calls on the daughters of Zion to ”applaudite Judithae Triumphanti,” both audience and performers would have appreciated that the daughters of Venice had just done precisely that.

  • 2 See Elena Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology in the Renaissance Iconography of Judith,” in Marilyn Mig (...)

2Oratorios such as Juditha triumphans make up the majority of pre-1900 dramatic settings of the Judith story, especially after ca. 1650. But during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, theatrical (i.e., staged) works predominate. Like oratorios these plays were meant to edify their audiences by means of the biblical narrative, and, as Cassetti would do in the early eighteenth century, their authors drew on the multiple possibilities for interpretation inherent in that narrative.2 Since authors began with a predetermined central plot, they often relied on extra-biblical scenes to highlight and amplify specific didactic messages. These were often located in musical intermedi, interludes performed between the acts of comedies as a means of providing both diversion and a dramatic frame for the spoken play. Sets of these interludes survive for at least five dramatic works on the subject of Judith from the period 1500–1650:

  • 3 First noted by Elissa Weaver (Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy: Spiritual Fun and Learning fo (...)

3Anonymous, ”Commedia di Judit” (Florence: Biblioteca Riccardiana [=I-Fr], Ricc. 2976, vol. 4)3

4Giovanni Andrea Ploti, Giuditta (Piacenza: Giovanni Bazachi, 1589)

  • 4 In subsequent references to this work I will use the page numbers from the printed edition.

5Andrea Salvadori, La Giuditta (Rome: Vatican Library [=I-Rvat], Barb. lat. 3839, fols. 66r–94v; published in Salvadori, Poesie, 2 vols. [Rome: Michele Ercole, 1668], 1, pp. 91–128)4

6Antonio Maria Anguissola, La Giuditta: attione scenica (Piacenza: Giacomo Ardizzoni, 1627; reprint, Venice: Marco Ginammi, 1629)

7Padre Fra Bastiano, frate della Santissima Nonziata, ”Il trionfo di Iudit: comedia dilettevole” (I-Fr, Ricc. 2850, vol. 3)

  • 5 On Gabrielli and his aria, see Anne MacNeil, Music and Women of the Commedia dell’ Arte in the Lat (...)

8Although the music has been lost for all five works, stage directions, as well as the texts themselves, reveal that Judith plays featured a wide range of musical genres, from plainchant and laude to operatic recitative and commedia dell’arte songs. The latter appear in the two intermedi appended to Fra Bastiano’s ”Il trionfo di Iudit.” In the first (fols. 48r–49r), designated ”Aria d’Intruonni” – possibly a reference to the character Pasquariello Truonno – stanzas illustrating the brevity of earthly existence conclude with a warning addressed specifically to Holofernes: the ferocious boar’s poison can quickly bring about the death of the bold hunter. Fra Bastiano entitles the second intermedio (fols. 49v–50r) ”Aria di Scarpino [sic],” and its rhyme scheme and line lengths correspond exactly to the ”Aria di Scapino” published in 1638 by the Bolognese comedian Francesco Gabrielli, who specialized in that role.5 As with the first intermedio, the strophic song offers generic advice – in this case a warning of the pain and torment in store for those who follow earthly, rather than divine, love – before shifting focus in the final two stanzas to the divergent paths chosen by Holofernes and Judith.

9The four cardinal virtues deliver similarly moralistic messages in the choruses that follow each of the five acts of Giovanni Andrea Ploti’s Giuditta (Piacenza, 1589). Their order of appearance – Prudenza, Giustitia, Fortezza, and Temperanza – mirrors the trajectory of the plot, with each virtue commenting on the events of the previous act. These observations are of a general sort (Judith is never named directly); rather, each chorus interprets the narrative by isolating moments in the drama to exemplify larger moral truths, a strategy summarized in the closing lines of the final chorus, which the virtues deliver as a group: ”Imparate / voi quì tutti, Mortali, / il ben seguir, e dechinar da i mali.” (Learn, all you mortals here, to follow good and to decline evil. [120]).

10Among the mortals to whom the virtues addressed their moralistic messages was the play’s dedicatee, Laura Cecilia Scota[o], countess of Agazzano and Vicomarino. Judith plays often seem to have been dedicated to or otherwise associated with women, including four of the five works listed above (the Fra Bastiano play is the exception). Ploti calls particular attention to the issue in his dedication, acknowledging the early modern ideal of decorum: ”il soggetto di quella par, che più à Donna, che ad Huomo si convenga” (the subject appears better suited to a woman than to a man). Conformity to decorum dictated the consideration of other qualities as well, such as age, marital status, and social class. Politically astute playwrights knew to distinguish plays intended for nuns, for example, from those destined for a court performance. In the case of the Judith narrative, the diversity of interpretations attached to the heroine and her deed simplified their task.

  • 6 Due to space limitations, I am able to provide only a brief overview of this work. For a fuller di (...)

11Possibly one of the clearest examples of the multiple interpretations inherent in dramatizations of the biblical narrative can be found in Andrea Salvadori’s La Giuditta, written at the request of the widowed Archduchess Maria Magdalena of Austria (1587–1631), grand duchess of Tuscany from 1609 and, between February 1621 and July 1628, co-regent of the duchy, along with her mother-in-law, Christine of Lorraine.6 Sung throughout to music by court composer Marco da Gagliano, La Giuditta deserves special mention as the first opera on the subject of Judith, although its music unfortunately does not survive. It was apparently performed just once, on 22 September 1626 as part of the festivities celebrating Cardinal Francesco Barberini’s brief stopover in Florence on his return to Rome after (ostensibly) negotiating the Treaty of Monzon between France and Spain. On one level, Salvadori’s entire libretto supports reading the opera as an endorsement of the papacy’s preemptive role in negotiating peace in Europe so that the combined forces of Christianity could then join against the enemies of the Church. Salvadori frames the biblical narrative by two small scenes, somewhat inaccurately termed intermedi. While filled with encomiastic references to Rome and the Barberini family, figures in both intermedi propose that the cardinal and, more importantly, his uncle, Pope Urban VIII, should now direct their attention toward the east. In the first intermedio, a personification of the Appenines promises support through a donation of his (i.e., Italy’s) resources if, in imitation of the pope’s zealous predecessors, he will renew the holy war with the Turks (98). The final intermedio praises the papacy’s reunification of Catholic countries in even more explicit terms. Here Iris, emissary of peace and Juno’s messenger, informs her mistress and Jupiter that credit for securing peace in Europe belongs to the bees, the most distinctive feature of the Barberini coat of arms. Juno expresses the hope that Iris’s intervention will turn Mars’s bellicosity toward a location more deserving of it, namely Thrace, while at the conclusion of that same intermedio Europe praises the Barberini and optimistically predicts that, under the sun’s influence, Europe may now eclipse the moon of Asia, in reference to an Islamic symbol.

12These intermedi invite the audience to view what takes place between them, that is, Judith’s defeat of Holofernes, as an allegory of a modern-day state’s victory over the Turks, an expansion of Judith’s role as a symbol of the Church Triumphant. But Judith also typified the sort of female worthy that characterized other works commissioned by, or dedicated to, the archduchess during the period of the regency – the principal court-sponsored opera performed in 1624 and 1625 was La regina Sant’Orsola, another Salvadori/Gagliano collaboration. Virgin martyrs and other chaste heroines dominated the court festivities honoring state visitors to Florence during the period of the regency.

20.1. Giovanni Battista Vanni or Cecco Bravo, Judith. Villa Poggio Imperiale, Florence. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).

13Maria Magdalena was also the dedicatee of Cristofano Bronzini’s treatise Della dignità, et nobiltà delle donne (Florence, 1622–32), a dialogue in which supporters of women’s roles in public life refute their misogynist counterparts by citing examples of worthy women from history, including Judith. The heroine of Bethulia joined other biblical heroines in the lunette frescoes that Maria Magdalena commissioned ca. 1622 for her antechamber in her Villa Poggio Imperiale, complementing the female saints and female rulers that decorated her bedroom and audience room there. Positioned directly in the center of the fresco (Fig. 20.1), one of Judith’s bared, muscular arms points the raised sword upward to the source of her victory, while the other grasps the hair of Holofernes’s severed head, eschewing the sack and her maid’s help.

14Judith likewise stands alone in La Giuditta. With her defining action – the decapitation of Holofernes – moved off-stage, Salvadori and Gagliano needed to convey the heroine’s purposefulness and strength of character solely through her words and her music. Salvadori ensured that Judith’s verses affirm her strength of purpose by contrasting her style of speech with that of the opera’s other principal characters, especially Holofernes. Although Holofernes, his enemies, and his followers describe the general as a fierce warrior, his actual words instead recall the dramatic tradition of the love-struck youth. At the beginning of act 2 he pleads to the stars, asking them to tarry in order that he might extend his time with the beautiful Judith, verses that are the most expressive of the libretto (106–7):

Sfavillate ridenti,
chiare notturne stelle,
vostri raggi lucenti,
che quante in ciel voi sete,
tanti saranno in terra i miei contenti:
sfavillate ridenti,
chiare notturne stelle,
vostri raggi lucenti;
e tù, quanto tù puoi,
ne le Cimmerie grotte
trattienti ombrosa notte,
che mentr’aver poss’io
la mia bella Giuditta,
altro giorno, altro sol più non desio.

O bright, nocturnal stars,
let your shining rays
sparkle, smiling,
for as many as you are in heaven,
so many will be my pleasures on earth:
O bright, nocturnal stars,
let your shining rays
sparkle, smiling;
and you, shadowy night,
remain as long as you can
in the Cimmerian caves,
for while I can have
my beautiful Judith,
I no longer desire another day, another sun.

15By contrast, throughout much of the opera Judith displays calmness and strength. She answers her maid’s lengthy lamentation on her mistress’s flirtation with dangers to her chastity (act 1.3) by commanding the woman to put her trust in God (104–5):

Abra, non ben conosci
lo Dio cui servo, e però vano affetto
per me ti turba il petto.
Lascia di quel ch’io tento à lui la cura:
Ei, che move il mio core, ei l’assicura.

Maid, you do not know well
the God whom I serve, and thus useless worry
over me disturbs your breast.
Leave to him concern over that which I attempt:
he, who moves my heart, he who assures it.

16Gagliano likely mirrored Judith’s terseness and rationality with similarlyuninflected recitative. At the opera’s conclusion Judith sings a moralistic speech drawn directly from the Book of Judith (16:7–8), warning against an over-reliance on earthly power and admonishing the audience to pay heed to the meaning of her story, a moral that clearly served the purposes of the female regents: when guided by God, women acquire the spiritual and physical strength necessary to overcome their enemies (118).

  • 7 See Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 58; Harness, Echoes of Women’s Voices, pp. 113–23.
  • 8 Florence, Archivio di Stato, Mediceo del Principato 1409, transcribed and translated in Harness, E (...)

17This final speech highlights yet another facet of the opera, for Judith was of course also a symbol of Florentine agency in response to a more powerful, outside aggressor.7 And unlike the political implications of Judithimagery in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florence, in 1626 actual female rulers presided over the city, with the effect that Judith could act as the allegorical representation not only of Florence, but of its regents. Salvadori’s La Giuditta thus evokes multiple allegorical interpretations, no one of which invalidates the others. At the level closest to the surface, the opera demonstrates that a woman’s initiative can defeat the agents of heresy and destruction, in conformity with representations of the heroine as the personification of the Church. But given the antagonistic nature of relations between Florence and Rome ever since Urban VIII declared his intention to reclaim the duchy of Urbino – which Florence had hoped to acquire as a result of the marriage arranged between Prince Ferdinando II de’ Medici and Vittoria della Rovere – a more topical allegorical interpretation of La Giuditta also emerges: Florence, in particular its female leadership, did not intend to relinquish passively what it viewed as its rightful territory, even in the face of the papacy. And just as throughout its history Judith’s story was perceived as the most problematic when it intersected with the deeds – real or imagined – of actual women, just a few days after the performance the archduchess recognized the danger in this particular diplomatic strategy. She asked her secretary of state to convince the pope that the opera did not refer to the Barberini family – an extraordinary example of what a modern-day political commentator might term ”damage control.”8

  • 9 Giovanni Ciampoli’s oratorio Coro di profeti also links Judith to the prophets, as well as to the (...)

18As an operatic heroine, Salvadori’s Judith conveys at least some of La Giuditta’s musical messages herself. But she also communicates through others. In the final two plays to be discussed here, prophets deliver these messages: in the anonymous sixteenth-century convent play, ”Commedia di Judit,” four sibyls – Cumana, Sambetta, Delfica, and Erithrea, described by the author as ”prophetesses and virgins” – frame the prologue by means of individual speeches in ottava rima and a sung lauda, then pair off to predict the events of each act in six sung intermedi. Antonio Maria Anguissola separated the acts of his attione scenica entitled La Giuditta (Piacenza, 1627) with four musical intermedi, featuring (in order) the biblical prophets Elijah, Jonah, Balaam, and Habakkuk.9

  • 10 Isidore of Seville, Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum, ed. W. M. Lindsay (O (...)
  • 11 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., p. 168.
  • 12 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., p. 181.

19This linking of Judith and prophecy in two dramatic works may be simply coincidence. But both authors may have drawn on a tradition of describing Judith as a prophet, a view whose principal source, Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies, remained influential well into the seventeenth century. Isidore cites Judith near the end of his extended list of Old Testament prophets (VII.viii.29): ”Iudith laudans, vel confitens” (”Judith, ’she who praises’ or ’she who proclaims’”).10 Verse 32 confirms unambiguously the nature of the preceding list: ”Hi sunt prophetae Veteris Novique Testamenti, quorum finis Christus” (”These are the prophets of the Old and New Testament, of whom the last is Christ”).11 Sibyls are also prophets; according to Isidore’s understanding of the term, Judith herself might be described as a sibyl (VIII.viii.2): ”Sicut enim omnis vir prophetans vel vates dicitur vel propheta, ita omnis femina prophetans Sibylla vocatur. Quod nomen ex officio, non ex proprietate vocabuli est.” (”And just as every man who prophesies is called either a seer [vates] or a prophet [propheta], so every woman who prophesies is called a Sibyl, because it is the name of a function, not a proper noun.”)12

  • 13 On Judith’s virginity, see Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 43.
  • 14 Jerome, Letters and Select Works, trans. W. H. Fremantle, vol. 6 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers(...)
  • 15 Juan Luis Vives, The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual, trans. Charles Fa (...)

20Although Isidore and other authors often associated individual sibyls with specific prophecies, aside from a handful of particularizing references in the convent play (e.g., Delfica cites the statue erected in her honor by the Roman senate, while Erithrea summarizes the apocalyptic prophecy for which she was best known), the author takes a more generic approach: in the octaves that precede the prologue, the Persian (i.e., Sambetta), Delphic, and Erithrean sibyls all remind the audience of their prophecies of the birth, life, and passion of Christ, and all but Erithrea stress their virginity, an attribute they share with the nuns who portrayed them and the members of the audience, as well as, according to some, Judith herself.13 This focus on virginity aligns the sibyls’ octaves with contemporary conduct literature, which was in turn strongly influenced by Jerome, who limited his discussion of the sibyls to that single attribute as he defended the Church’s position on virginity (Against Jovinianus 1.41): ”What need to tell of the Sibyls of Erythrae and Cumae, and the eight others? For Varro asserts there were ten whose ornament was virginity, and divination the reward of their virginity.”14 Juan Luis Vives shared Jerome’s focus: he cites Jerome then quotes him directly, like Jerome mentioning the sibyls only in reference to their virginity.15

  • 16 The comedy features music in three other locations: the author attempts to create a realistic banq (...)

21The final scene of the comedy makes it clear that the nuns were being encouraged to contemplate Judith’s relationship to their daily lives. Not only was the role of Judith acted by a nun, but Judith in a sense becomes a nun when, according to the stage directions, she sings the first verse of the canticle Hymnum cantemus Domino (Jdt 16:15–21) in the sixth psalm tone, after which the others join her (fol. 82v). Judith sings her biblical words using a recitation formula that the nuns likely used while singing her canticle each week. But although she begins with verses 15–16, rather than continuing with the verses found in the Roman Breviary (i.e., vv. 17–21), which first celebrate God’s might then warn those who would threaten God’s people, in this play Judith sings verses 7–14, which recount her deed with a particular emphasis on her gender.16

22Although it is impossible to determine whether or not a nun actually wrote the ”Commedia di Iudit,” the author’s inclusion of liturgical music and scenes from everyday convent life illustrates the close connections between the play, its music, and the nuns who constituted its performers and its audience. The convent context also helps explain the single-minded focus on virginity in the sibyls’ opening stanzas: their message is both prescriptive and celebratory, isolating the source of their abilities while simultaneously commending the nuns on theirs.

23A very different type of performance context dictated a very different sort of Judith play in 1627, the year that Antonio Maria Anguissola dedicated his attione scenica to Margherita Aldobrandini Farnese (1588–1646), the widowed duchess of Parma and Piacenza and, from February 1626 to April 1628, sole regent for her son, Odoardo. Like Archduchess Maria Magdalena, Margherita seems to have sought out works featuring strong female protagonists: in the play’s (undated) dedication letter Anguissola refers to an earlier version of La Giuditta that she had ordered to be performed at court some months earlier. Margherita had been the recipient of several such works since her marriage to Duke Ranuccio I Farnese in 1600, including Antonio Maria Prati, La Maria racquistata (Parma, 1614) and Ranuccio Pico, La principessa santa, ovvero la Vita di Santa Margherita Reina di Scotia (Venice, 1626). The year after Anguissola first published his Judith play, the duchess was the dedicatee of yet another literary work on the subject, Ludovico Bianchi’s heroic poem La Giuditta (Parma, 1628). In his dedication Bianchi praises both Judith and his patron, the widow who so resembles her (”à Vedova serenissima, che tanto la somiglia” [5]). He singles out the manner in which Margherita has shouldered the responsibilities of government, and he predicts: ”And even if she does not have occasion, as had the courageous Judith, to kill Holofernes and to prostrate armies, she would not lack the willpower to do it, in defense of the country and of her dominions” (E s’ella non ha occasione, come hebbe l’animosa Giuditta, d’uccidere Oloferni, & di atterrarne esserciti, non le mancarebbe però l’animo di farlo nell’occorenze in difesa della patria, e de’ suoi Stati [4]).

  • 17 Correspondence from 1627 and 1628 confirms the duchess’s direct involvement in the theatrical prep (...)

24Anguissola may have hoped that the combination of a powerful femaleheroine and spectacular stage effects would convince the duchess to remount a more elaborate performance of the work in the as yet unused Teatro Farnese.17 For the play’s four intermedi he seems to have selected prophets whose presence virtually required the stage machinery that was such a necessary part of court spectacle: a chariot of fire drawn by four simulated horses carries Elijah to heaven (26–28); Jonah emerges from the belly of the whale (57–58); Balaam and his donkey sing in dialogue (78–79); and an angel carries Habakkuk through the air in order to bring food to Daniel in the lion’s den (94–95). None of the prophets’ canzonette mention Judith or the plot directly, and, in the published list of costumes and props, Anguissola discloses that the intermedi are actually unrelated to the main action and can be eliminated or changed if desired (”Come gl’Intermedij sono totalmente separati dall’ Attione principale, così possono tralasciarsi affatto, ò mutarsi, à beneplacito altrui”). His disclaimer may simply have been directed to potential buyers who lacked access to the sorts of machinery required, for despite his claims, the intermedi are connected closely to the main action, highlighting words, images, and the overall mood of the play’s five acts.

25One of these images, and a central theme of La Giuditta and its intermedi, is blindness, in both the literal and metaphorical senses. Blindness provides for some comic banter in act 2.3, as the women of Holofernes’s camp prepare a theatrical entertainment disparaging love – the actress who plays Cupid complains that her blindfold has been tied too tightly (43). In this scene the women also sing two strophic canzonette on the subject of Cupid’s blindness, ”Quell’ acuto, e fiero strale” and ”Ecco l’ombra di quel nume” (42–45). An inability to perceive the truth – blindness in another sense – motivates the actions of at least three of the play’s characters: Holofernes deceives himself as to the nature of the feelings Judith harbors for him (act 2.2), Judith’s nurse laments what she fears is her mistress’s lascivious behavior (act 4.5), and the newly invented character of Elciade, the Bethulian ambassador, misconstrues Judith’s presence in Holofernes’s camp and persuades the Bethulians that she has betrayed them (act 5.1–3). Only Judith seems able to discern the truth behind what she sees, for example in act 3.5, when she recognizes that a celestial apparition is actually her guardian angel.

26The intermedi explore the theme of blindness along a trajectory that follows the plot of the play. In the first intermedio Elijah’s condemnation of a world given over to corruption alludes only indirectly to blindness, but the second intermedio, sung by Jonah, contains concrete references to the theme. Addressing his opening stanza to humanity, Jonah warns, ”Ahi con qual mente cieca / ci aggiriamo, ò mortali” (Alas, with what blind intellect, O mortals, we deceive ourselves [57]). His canzonetta recalls not only his own shortcomings but also those of Holofernes, who in the previous act deceives himself into believing that Judith returns his desire. Jonah reveals that only within the whale, his blind prison (”cieca prigione”), was he finally able to perceive the truth. In intermedio 3 the prophet Balaam suffers from a similarly delayed comprehension: unable to see the angel of God that is visible to his donkey, who tries to avoid it, he beats the animal until God gives the beast the power of speech, so that she might question her master’s actions (Nm 22:21–35). The donkey does not reveal the cause of her fear in the biblical account, but rather, God opens Balaam’s eyes (Protinus aperuit Dominus oculos Balaam [Nm 22:31]). In Anguissola’s text, the donkey calls attention to Balaam’s blindness: ”Mira Balaamo, mira, ... non scorgi tu di morte hora ’l periglio?” (Look, Balaam, look … do you not perceive now the danger of death? [78]).

  • 18 On Judith as a prefiguration of Mary, see Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 42.
  • 19 Bullarum, diplomatum et privilegiorum sanctorum Romanorum pontificum taurinensis, ed. Luigi Tomass (...)

27Anguissola restores sight to these biblical prophets in the final intermedio, which precedes act 5 and foreshadows Judith’s return to Bethulia and its citizens’ own belated understanding of the truth. Drawn from the deuterocanonical appendix to the Book of Daniel known as ”Bel and the Dragon” (Dn 14:32–38), in the final two stanzas of Habakkuk’s joyful canzonetta the prophet predicts the wondrous sights he will see on his journey, and he uses the verb vedrò (I will see) three times in seven lines. These wonders include the face of Cynthia (i.e., the moon) and the stars, her handmaidens, likely a reference to the six stars on the Aldobrandini coat of arms, featured prominently on the title page of the 1627 edition. Perhaps, Habakkuk muses, he will hear that the stars call God with his proper name (”Forse, forse udrò come / tutte le chiama Dio col proprio nome” [95]). The phrase ”his proper name” appears to point to a lengthy speech that one of the high priests delivers in act 5.6. Initially commending Judith, the speech takes an unexpected turn at lines 17–19, as it metamorphoses into a prophecy of the Virgin Mary: ”Behold the crushed head, behold the dead serpent, behold the woman who prefigures another such woman” (Ecco il capo schiacciato /ecco morto il serpente, ecco la Donna, / che ne figura un’ altra Donna quella [118]).18 The Jewish high priest goes on to predict – among other events – the coming of the Messiah and the appearance of a powerful pope, undoubtedly a reference to Margherita’s most illustrious forebear, her great uncle, Ippolito Aldobrandini, Pope Clement VIII from 1592 to 1605. Like her uncle, the Catholic duchess would have believed that as Jews the Bethulians would blindly refuse to acknowledge the fulfillment of this prophecy when it occurred. Distorting the Book of Judith, Anguissola may have used his dramatization of Judith’s story, along with its intermedi, in order to allude to Caeca et obdurata (Blind and Obstinate), her uncle’s papal bull of 1593 expelling Jews from all the papal states except Rome, Ancona, and Avignon.19

28Such a misappropriation of a Jewish heroine in support of anti-Semitic rhetoric strikes the modern reader as deeply troubling. But as a work celebrating one powerful widow and dedicated to another, this could never have been perceived as the play’s sole meaning. As with the Salvadori opera of 1626, as well as the other plays discussed here, Anguissola’s La Giuditta demonstrates the interpretative flexibility inherent in dramatic works on the subject; they were at once reenactments of a ”worthy woman” narrative in line with contemporaneous ideals of decorum, glorifications of civic female heroism on behalf of women who wielded real political power, and sites of the sort of dynastic praise so necessary to court spectacle in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Notes

1 Antonio Vivaldi, Juditha triumphans: Sacrum militare oratorium, ed. Alberto Zedda (Milan: Ricordi, 1971); see Michael Talbot, The Sacred Music of Antonio Vivaldi (Florence: Olschki, 1995), pp. 409–47.

2 See Elena Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology in the Renaissance Iconography of Judith,” in Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari (eds.), Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 35–70.

3 First noted by Elissa Weaver (Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy: Spiritual Fun and Learning for Women [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], pp. 141–48, 244–52), who transcribes the prologue and two of the intermedi. I would like to thank The Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust for making possible two research trips to Italy in 2008, which allowed me to consult numerous Judith plays, including those listed below.

4 In subsequent references to this work I will use the page numbers from the printed edition.

5 On Gabrielli and his aria, see Anne MacNeil, Music and Women of the Commedia dell’ Arte in the Late Sixteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 24–30.

6 Due to space limitations, I am able to provide only a brief overview of this work. For a fuller discussion see Kelley Harness, Echoes of Women’s Voices: Music, Art, and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006), pp. 111–41.

7 See Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 58; Harness, Echoes of Women’s Voices, pp. 113–23.

8 Florence, Archivio di Stato, Mediceo del Principato 1409, transcribed and translated in Harness, Echoes of Women’s Voices, p. 141.

9 Giovanni Ciampoli’s oratorio Coro di profeti also links Judith to the prophets, as well as to the Virgin Mary: performed ca. 1635 on the feast of the Annunciation, the third soprano recounts Judith’s triumph in the recitative ”Venga Betulia afflitta,” which was published with a slightly altered title (”Ecco Bettulia afflitta”) in Domenico Mazzocchi, Musiche sacre, e morali a una, due, e tre voci (Rome, 1640; reprint, Florence: Studio per edizioni scelte, 1988), pp. 42–45. I would like to thank Virginia Lamothe for calling my attention to this work.

10 Isidore of Seville, Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1911); English translation from Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, trans. Stephen A. Barney et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 168.

11 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., p. 168.

12 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., p. 181.

13 On Judith’s virginity, see Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 43.

14 Jerome, Letters and Select Works, trans. W. H. Fremantle, vol. 6 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 2nd ser. (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1893; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), p. 379.

15 Juan Luis Vives, The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual, trans. Charles Fantazzi (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 66, 82.

16 The comedy features music in three other locations: the author attempts to create a realistic banquet scene in act 4.15 by including stanzas to be sung in Holofernes’s tent by a musician who accompanies himself on lute or kithara (fols. 53r–v), concluding the scene with directions that the performer should play ”moresche and similar things” (fol. 54r); in act 5.10 Ozias commands the Bethulians to sing the verset Benedixit te dominus in virtute sua, quia per te ad nihilum redegit inimicos nostros (Jdt 13:22) in the sixth tone, before and after Psalm 116, Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; and in act 5.11 the entire cast honors the triumphant heroine with a seven-stanza canzona that begins ”Al’ inclita, vittoria, / tutti rendiamo honore” (To the glorious, victorious woman, we all return honor), sung, according to the stage directions, to the tune known as ”Tu ti lamentiti a torto Signiora, del mie more” (fols. 67r–v).

17 Correspondence from 1627 and 1628 confirms the duchess’s direct involvement in the theatrical preparations that would finally inaugurate the theater in 1628 (Parma, Archivio di Stato [=I-PAas], Carteggio Farnesiano interno, busta 372; I-PAas, Teatri e spettacoli Farnesiani, busta 1, mazzo 1 [fasc. 9, sottofasc. 5; fasc. 13, sottofasc. 2, 4–8; and fasc. 20–23]).

18 On Judith as a prefiguration of Mary, see Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 42.

19 Bullarum, diplomatum et privilegiorum sanctorum Romanorum pontificum taurinensis, ed. Luigi Tomassetti et al., 25 vols. (Augustae Taurinorum: Seb. Franco, H. Fory et Henrico Dalmazzo, 1857–1872), 10, pp. 22–28.

Table des illustrations

Légende 20.1. Giovanni Battista Vanni or Cecco Bravo, Judith. Villa Poggio Imperiale, Florence. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1020/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 519k

Auteur

Kelley Harness is an Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Minnesota. Her articles on early Florentine opera have appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society and the Journal for Seventeenth-Century Music. She is the author of Echoes of Women’s Voices: Music, Art, and Female Patronage in Early Modern Florence (2006). She is currently working on a study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century intermedi.