Laude sulla vita di Gesù - Dramatical Chants of the 13th Century Confraternities
It is hard to draw a definite picture of the medieval dramatic lauda; although it can be clearly seen from their texts that the laude were widespread in Italy, we do not know how they were actually performed. We are inclined to think that when the texts of dramatic laude were performed for an audience they were sung rather than recited, in the same way as the more archaic dramatic theatre models. The field is therefore restricted to the few laudari with text and music handed down to us; these consist, apart from a few fragments, of the two substantial collections known as the Laudario di Cortona (Cortona, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 91) and the Laudario Magliabechiano (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Banco Rari 18). We started by picking out the songs that included dialogue with characters speaking in the first person. The few we chose gave us a clearer picture, that revolved around the life of Christ. This supported our idea that these songs may not have been only sung only, during vigils, but included scenery and real-life characters that performed (sang) the laude. It is difficult though to recreate the original ballad form of these songs, with alternating refrains and stanzas, because the dialogue, or a character’s monologue, is very often not limited to the refrain, but continues over several stanzas, and any division, caused by the refrain, makes the action being sung less clear. So, in the interpretation of these laude, a hypothetical different structure seems to emerge that does not completely alter their basic structure. We know that the person in charge of the company chose which laude were suitable for vigils or celebrations and decided how many verses were to be performed; so we think that a transformed body of laude probably resulted that could be adapted for performance.