Tiny Mysteries

I was listening to a live recording of Monteverdi’s l’Incoronazione di Poppea this afternoon. There is a part in Act II where Ottone is convincing Drusilla to give him her clothes, so that he can disguise himself as her and murder Poppea (it’s not a phenomenally good plan), and in this recording there is a part of this scene where Drusilla gives a little squeak or yelp and the audience laughs and applauds. I think it was some clever way in which the two characters switched outfits, but wish I knew what the joke actually was. The audience at this performance was German, and based on my experiences with live recordings German audiences don’t usually make much noise.

Also, I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night about the meaning of “deh”. As in the little interjection in a lot of Italian opera dialogue. It seems to mean “oh”, but “O” also appears fairly frequently. I think there is actually a slight difference in meaning: “O” is reserved for vocatives – “O numi” or “O don fatale” and so on, where the speaker is addressing some one or thing directly. “Deh” is more of an all-purpose “oh” or “ah”. It also seems to be confined to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. You get a lot of “deh” in Mozart and earlier material, but if memory serves you pretty much never hear it in Verdi.

1) I have not confirmed this conjecture by, you know, actually looking it up or anything like that.

2) I have days when I am convinced that whatever intelligence I have is pretty much a waste.

2 thoughts on “Tiny Mysteries

  1. “deh” is a tricky interjection to explain in English, but it’s actually got equivalents in other European languages (like the German “naja” or the Hungarian “na” (pronounced “noh”) or the unsurprisingly similar Romanian “de” – all of which are still in use). It can variously take on the subtleties of well/so/then/eh. Sometimes it simply reflects defeat, kind of like a very concise “what can I do?” or, err, “whoa” (as in “deh, per pieta, t’arresta!”). Hope this made sense, 2 years to the punch as it came 😉 I like your blog, btw, I revisited it after watching some of your youtube clips.


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