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.