Courage to Chart a New Course
from Patrick Kavanaugh's Spiritual Moments with the Great Composers, 1995, Zondervan
(image, courtesy of Waldomiguez, Pixabay)
Cavalli? Is it a type of pasta?
Wrong! Pier Franceso Cavalli was a seventeenth-century Venetian composer whose works are seldom performed or studied. Today his name is unknown even to many musicians, but in his day, Cavalli was a very important Italian composer. In his seventy-three years (1602-1676), he wrote forty-two operas. As a musician, Cavalli never had the talent to create masterpieces that would endure the test of time.
Yet Cavalli’s musical influence has had a dramatic effect on hundreds of composers to this day-including all the great opera composers.
How did this surreptitious influence take place? Cavalli wrote operas when that genre was still in its early stages. In his day, an opera included many non-dramatic halts between songs; in these pauses the singers intoned long, boring texts to tell the story itself. Composers employed a declamatory technique known as recitative, in which the singer would drone line after line of the story. These sections were often considered so musically unimportant that patrons would excuse themselves, go outside, socialize, and wait until the time for their favorite songs!
Cavalli was one of the first composers to understand that a change needed to be made. He began to write a new kind of opera, with a dramatic style from start to finish, with recitatives woven into the fabric of the music. In his time, this was a novelty, a new approach that took innovative insight and courage. Cavalli was a man who was not stopped by the brick wall that kills many good ideas: “But we’ve never
done it like this before!”
One mark of a creative person is the ability to see new ways of doing things. Creative, courageous persons act on an idea and go beyond the internal or external resistance to something that is “different”.
This mix of creativity and courage can influence generations. Not everyone is a Mozart or Verdi or Puccini, but each of us can be courageous and make a difference for someone else or for the world. Cavalli, himself, did not possess the brilliance to create history’s greatest operas, yet every opera composer will be in his debt.
In your day, your work, your artistic pursuits, your household, your ministry, do you see a “better way” of doing things? Do you have a vision for something new but are afraid you may be ridiculed because it is not the norm?
Go for it! Call it your Cavalli Courage and transform a boring monotone into a dramatic production with a purpose. Or simply, have the courage to be different to make a difference.