Possente Spirito

for counter-tenor, 2 sopranos, oboe, and guitar (1996)

for Roberto Andreoni
Possente Spirito

Premiered at the Università I.U.L.M., Milan Italy, 1996

Possente Spirito was written for an Italian Opera class that I attended in Milan. I thought it fit to end where be began, with the legend of Orpheus. The text is by Alessandro Striggio from the opera Orfeo by Monteverdi.

The part of Orfeo is intended to sound like a castrato. The two voice parts (either females or male falsettists) were conceived as vocal fractions with an instrumental quality to them. The oboe acts as a connecting unit between the purely instrumetal sonorities of the guitar and the purely vocal sonorities of Orfeo, and the guitar is representative of Orfeo’s lyre, which he uses to influence Pluto. The piece is dedicated to my composition professor in Milan, Dr. Roberto Andreoni.

Original Italian English Translation
Possente Spirito e formidabile nume,
Senza vui far passaggio a l’altra riva
Alma da corpo sciolta in van presume.

Non viv’io, no, che poi di vita è priva
Mia cara sposa, il cor non è più meco,
E senza cor com’esser può ch’io viva?

A lei volt’ho il cammin per l’aer cieco,
A l’inferno non già ch’ovunque stassi
Tanta bellezza il Paradiso ha seco.

Orfeo son io che d’Euridice i passi
Segue per queste tenebrose arene,
Ove giàmmai per uom mortal non vassi.

O de le luci mie luci serene,
S’un vostro sguardo può tornarmi in vita,
Ahi, chi niega il conforto a le mie pene?

Sol tu nobid dio puoi darmi aita
Né temer dei, che sopra un’area cetra
Sol di corde soavi armo le dita
Contra cui rigida Alma in van s’impetra.

Mighty spirit and powerful divinity,
Without whom the souls freed from their bodies
Hope in vain to reach the other bank.

I am not alive, no, after the death of
My beloved wife, my heart is no longer with me.
And without a heart how can it be that I live?

To her I have turned my path through the dark air,
Not towards Hell, for everywhere
Where there is so much beauty is Paradise.

I am Orpheus, who follows the steps of Euridice
Through the gloomy plains,
To which no mortal has access.

O serene light of my eyes,
only one glance from you can return life to me,
Ah, who can deny me comfort in my torment?

Only thou noble god, canst aid me,
Fear not, for it is only the sweet strings of a
Golden lyre I use as a weapon against
The stern souls to whom it is vain to implore.

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