Dissimulare etiam sperasti (IV, 305-319)

A. Text and translation:

'Dissimulare etiam sperasti, perfide, tantum          

posse nefas tacitusque mea decedere terra?

nec te noster amor nec te data dextera quondam

nec moritura tenet crudeli funere Dido?           

quin etiam hiberno moliri sidere classem

et mediis properas Aquilonibus ire per altum,  

crudelis? quid, si non arva aliena domosque     

ignotas peteres, et Troia antiqua maneret,

Troia per undosum peteretur classibus aequor?

mene fugis? per ego has lacrimas dextramque tuam te     

(quando aliud mihi iam miserae nihil ipsa reliqui),  

per conubia nostra, per inceptos hymenaeos,

si bene quid de te merui, fuit aut tibi quicquam

dulce meum, miserere domus labentis et istam,

oro, si quis adhuc precibus locus, exue mentem.

Deceiver, did you even hope to hide so harsh a crime, to

leave this land of mine without a word? Can nothing hold

you back—neither your love, the hand you pledged, nor even

the cruel death that lies in wait for Dido? Beneath the winter

sky are you preparing a fleet to rush away across the deep

among the north winds, you who have no feeling?

What! Even if you were not seeking out strange lands and

unknown dwellings, even if your ancient Troy yet stood

would you return to Troy across such stormy seas?

Is it me that you flee? By these tears, by your right hand—

since I am now left with nothing else—by the wedding, the marriage 

we began, if I did anything deserving of you or anything of

mine was sweet to you, take pity on a fallen house, put off

your plan, I pray—if there is still place for prayers.

B. Musical Sources and Settings:

1. Filippo de Lurano (c1470-after 1520) a4)                                 

            sources: Petrucci, Frottole VIII (Venice, 1507), no. 13

            modern edition: Frottole libro octavo: Venezia, 1507, ed. Lucia Boscolo (Padua: CLEUP, 1999)

*2. Cipriano de Rore (1515/15-1565), a6 ("Lamento di Didone")

            sources: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. Ms. B, no. 2; Il cicalamento delle donne al bucato et la                              caccia (Venice: Scotto, 1567) ("lamento de Didone a Enea"); Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de                                        France, Département de la Musique, Fonds du Conservatoire, MS Rés. Vma. 851 ('Bourdenay Manuscript')

            modern edition: Cipriani Rore: Opera Omnia, vol. VI, ed. B. Meier (AIM, 1975), 6-15; Osthoff 1955, 17-31;                              Owens 2016, appendix (unreduced note values).

C. Rore's setting




Cipriano de Rore (1515/16-1565), like Arcadelt and Willaert, was a Franco-Flemish composer who spent much of his career in the humanist centers of Italy, where he learned to adapt northern counterpoint to the nuances of Italian madrigal texts. In so doing he developed a highly expressive approach to text setting based on an expanded harmonic palette and unusual textures, and these qualities are audible in his setting of Dissimulare etiam sperasti. This particular text afforded him expressive, even dramatic opportunities that were closer in spirit to the amorous world of the secular madrigal (and even early opera) than to any Latin sacred text, for these fifteen lines of Book IV bear the heart of Dido's impassioned reaction to the news the Aeneas is leaving her, as she first rages at him, then pleads piteously for him to reconsider.  By the time of her Dulces exuvie speech that drew the attention of so many Renaissance composers (see Dulces exuvie commentary), she was already broken and resigned to suicide, but here we see her in trying to sort out her mixed feelings of anger and desperation as she begins to tilt on the fulcrum between life and death.

This text called forth from de Rore a work of extraordinary dimensions: 253 measures, divided into three sections that expand from five, to six, to seven voice parts:

I. lines 305-308

II. lines 309-313

III. lines 314-319

5 voices

6 voices

7 voices

Dido's rage: accusatory questions

Dido's rage: imagery of stormy seas

Dido's pleading

What is most striking about the work, however, is that de Rore eschews the polyphonic textures that he and his contemporaries typically relied upon for setting serious texts, and except for brief moments he relies primarily on choral declamation. Clearly de Rore sought an effect different from what could be expressed either through polyphony or through the German schoolmasters' metrical declamation that his approach superficially resembles. Unlike Senfl's Vergil setting, Rore's declamation was shaped more by natural speech patterns than by strict adherence to Vergil's dactylic scansion, and unique to his style was the expanded harmonic range that provided an expressive breadth appropriate to this intensely dramatic scene. The effect of a dramatic monologue is further enhanced by Rore's frequent repetitions of Vergil's text. In her probing analysis of this piece, Jessie Ann Owens refers to de Rore's "carefully considered use of repetition, creating in effect a new prose version that is roughly 50 percent longer than the original" (Owens 2016, 371?). This transformed Vergil's hexameter verse into something closer to normal speech. The result is a reading of Vergil's text that goes beyond the metrical fidelity of the German school settings or the elevated decorum of Franco-Flemish polyphony to a create a "musical representation of Dido's emotional state through harmonic means" (ibid.), a work closer in spirit to early opera than to a Renaissance madrigal or motet. On the other hand, when it suits him de Rore is not insensitive to the original rhythms and meter of Vergil's verse. At the words et mediis properas Aquilonibus ire per altum Vergil employs strict dactyls to suggest the agitated seas upon which Aeneas is willing to set sail; these are strictly maintained in de Rore's setting, and the sense of roiling turmoil is intensified by having the voices offset one from another.[1]

De Rore's other extant Vergil setting, O socii, employs the same Durate musical emblem as does Willaert's (see O socii commentary), and bears the same dedication to Cardinal de Granvelle, so the two works certainly arose as a single commission from this wealthy and discerning patron in 1557 or 1558. We have no such secure information about the date or context of Dissimulare, but as an even more idiosyncratic work than O socii it is likely that it too came about through a special act of patronage.  Most likely this was at Duke Albrecht's court in Munich where the work first appeared in the lavish manuscript commissioned by the Duke (completed 1559), where Rore's music was performed often, and where resident composer Lasso himself composed settings of Vergil's Dulces exuvie and Horace.

[1]Owens 2016, 376. This may be the very musical passage the Swiss theorist Heinrich Glarean had in mind when, in likening Josquin's music to Vergil's epic poetry, he praised Vergils abilitity "to express rapidity with unmixed dactyls," and Josquin's to capture the same in music; Dodecachordon, trans. Clement A. Miller, 2 vols. (Rome: AIM, 1965), ii, 264-265