Contrascena presents Metastasio in a conversation with himself, accompanied by other four voices representing his own doubts, intuitions and observations concerning his opera productions. Following the dramaturgy ideated by Anne Gerber, the character on stage speaks to himself and to the public, while searching for a new subject. The five-voices counterpoint results in a composite monologue which allows a special openness of the formal structure: a form of parabasis. Metastasio tells to the public something he would never say to the singers presenting his Intermezzo just after his appearance. The public is the confident of his intimate streams of thought concerning the many aspects of the making of the opera. The “play within the play” focuses on the solitude of the demiurge.
Like in the Italian Madrigale rappresentativo, the principal voice plays the role of Metastasio but sometimes the whole vocal ensemble becomes a choral expression of the same character. This fluid and metamorphic musical form, freely alternating the solo and the tutti gives the chance to express the complexity of Metastasio, who was not only a librettist, but a sophisticated director and dramatist of his own productions.
The vocal quartet moving around the principal voice, has the function to realize the most figurative images of the libretto: strong metaphors and oxymorons are indeed used by Metastasio in his letters: Qual guerra di pensieri (what a war of thoughts), Un abisso di dubbi (an abyss of doubts), Le alterazioni del cuore umano (the alterations of the human heart), Come in una popolata solitudine (like in a populated solitude).