chapter  3
25 Pages

Unmasking Salacious Subtexts in Lasso’s Neapolitan Songs

During Lasso’s apprenticeship in Italy (1544-54), the canzone villanesca alla napolitana attained widespread popularity in aristocratic venues, where it functioned as a humorous antidote to the serious madrigal. Following its printed debut in 1537, the villanesca evolved in two separate, but complementary, directions. The first one emerged in collections of canzoni for three voices by Neapolitan songwriters, whose crude sense of humor was derived from slang and proverbial folklore as well as from the cryptic system of salacious double meanings and sexual metaphors developed by humanist poets. The second direction was established in northern Italy by composers who produced madrigalesque arrangements for four voices of pre-existing Neapolitan canzoni-the medium that Lasso would prefer.