Cantico Semantico (2003, 5')

for mezzo-soprano, flute and cello. Text in Italian by Ludovico Leporeo. Commissioned by Mnemes Music Publisher.


Cantico Semantico is scored for mezzo-soprano, flute and cello, and was commissioned by Marisa and Pippo Alfieri of Mnemes Music Publishing. The text, in Italian, is by Ludovico Lepòreo (1582-1655), a very interesting literary figure of the Italian Baroque era. His poems are renowned for their display of technical virtuosity, and are rich with internal rhymes and assonances. His taste for wordplay, puns and double entendres, which he employed profusely throughout his career, makes his work virtually untranslatable. The sonnet set to music in Cantico Semantico is a self-deprecating satire on poets and artists in general. In the music I tried to capture some of Lepòreo's tongue-in-cheek humor and witticism.

Imita Omero in bevere e scrivere

Son poeta di bieta, imito Omero:
Ché di vin mero inebriomi d'Epiro,
Ma non deliro e meglio fo il mestiero
Di canzoniero e carmi d'armi stiro.

Metrico spiro entosiasmo vero
E bombardiero avanzo Achille diro,
E canto d'Iro, Ulisse ed il guerriero
Ettore fiero, e spessi rutti tiro.

A lauree aspiro d'apollineo alloro,
minio e lavoro come Alberto Duro,
e a chiaroscuro avanzo Polidoro.

E s'io non moro tisico maturo,
Esser mi auguro corifero del coro,
Poiché, com'oro, il vino urino al muro.

-Ludovico Lepòreo (1582-1655)

He imitates Homer in drinking and writing

I am a poet of little value, I imitate Homer:
Because I get drunk on wine from Epirus,
But I am not delirious, and I do my job better
As a poet, and I write poems of war.

I inspire real enthusiasm for poetry,
And I surpass the ferocious Achilles,
And I sing of Irus, Ulysses and the proud warrior
Hector, while burping frequently.

I aspire to Apollo-like honors,
I labor and I polish like Albert Dürer,
And as for chiaroscuro, I surpass Polydorus.

And if I don't die old, from tuberculosis,
I hope to be number one,
Because, like gold, I urinate wine against the wall.

-Translation by Davide Zannoni