Showing posts with label Italian opera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian opera. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Theater Arts – ITALIAN OPERA

Italian opera is the earliest known opera form. Although the Greek and Roman Theater had inspired it, it inspired many countries around the world, including most of Europe. Some say that the word opera has been derived from the Italian words “Opera in Musica” which means work in music. The evidence of the very first opera performed in Italy was at the wedding of Marie de Medici and Henry IV of France. The Italian opera had three stages namely the baroque, the romantic and the modern.

Interior view of the Royal Italian Opera House...

Baroque period is the name of that period of Italian opera that originated in Italy in the beginning of the 17th century. The voice used was very high pitched along with instrumental music. This style was known as monody and was developed by Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri. It was reflected in the opera Euridice that was based on the story of Eurydice and Orpheus. When there were no dialogues during the performance, there were songs with music. This type of opera inspired many other writes, on of them was Claudio Monteverdi who wrote La Favola D’Orfeo that had the monody style. It was his first play and it still is famous with the audience today. Monteverdi worked hard on synchronizing instrumental music with the words and showed this effort in Mantua, with large choruses with nearly forty instruments that created a really good effect.  He was named as the Maestro Da Cappela in Venice in the year 1613.

The first opera house for public was opened in the year 1637. Monteverdi wrote many compositions for this theater and his works L’Incoronazione di Poppae and I Ritomo d’Ullise in Patria were prominent out of the many. He even brought the Bel Canto and Buffa styles into Italian opera. Bel canto had a more even tone and eased the singing stress. Buffa had more comic touch with amusing and mocking elements. All these acted as the stepping-stone for many other later composers. At the end of the century there were three hundred and fifty opera created for the theaters of Venice alone. Many young artists were inspired to work in these theaters and bring out their talents. People came from outside Italy too.


In the 19th century romantic opera began to rise and Gioacchino Rossini was responsible for it. The romantic opera involved lots of emotions and imagination along with lots of music and arias. This music was so fine that it over shadowed the blunders in the stories. His composures such as La Cenerentola and Barber of Seville are famous till today. Many others such as Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi and Gaetano Donizetti followed him.

Giuseppe Verdi changed the way opera was written at that time. Nabucco was his first work and it was a very big success because of the great choruses along with enormous liveliness in the music. He even wrote Va pensiero, a chorus presentation to inspire the warriors at the time of Italian independence struggle. The works, which followed this had a more patriotic theme and were also based on older romantic works. He began to venture into different musical forms and finally his creation Otello replaced Rossini’s opera. His last work Falstaff finally changed the conventional form of theater and made music and words more free flowing.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Theater Arts – History of OPERA

In the 1600s Opera started to flourish in Italy. French opera was popular for adding the element of dancing to opera other than the already existing elements such as singing and music. In Italian, opera means works and in Latin it means the plural of labor. This means that there can be duet, trio, and group singing. It also utilizes various aspects of the spoken theater, like costume and backdrop.

Interior of La Fenice opera house in Venice in...
Interior of La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1837. Venice was, along with Florence and Rome, one of the cradles of Italian opera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Greek were the first known theater artists especially people from Athens. Their theater plays included all the elements like acting, dialogues, singing, scene, dancing, chorus and music. This art was cultivated by different civilizations having few or all the elements. One of them was the opera. The western classical theater arts which involves conveyance through singing and dancing and not through dialogues, is known as Opera. Composition by Jacopo Peri, Dafne, was written in 1597 and was the first known composition specifically meant for opera although it was inspired by Greek theater arts, but it no longer exists. Euridice composition by Peri written in 1600s was the first recorded composition which is available till this date.

The performances are most of the times accompanied by chorus and instrumental music. Libretto is the word in opera and there have been great composers who have written famous libretti like Richard Wagner. Handel was the famous German composer who wrote for theaters in England. Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte are famous for the great musical works which were played during the opera performances.

There are two types of singing in opera. The first is recitative in which the story is being narrated in a non-melodies style and the second is aria, where the performers were more melodious. Chorus is used as a commentator and sometimes as a narrator. Subcategories of recitative are secco or dry recitative and Accompagnato or Stromentato in which orchestra accompanies the performance.  Opera can be further classified as singspiel, operetta, semi-opera and opera comique. In these types of opera, dialogues are used on the contrary, instead of recitative. Arioso too is replaced by semi-melodic passages.

Opera started with court performances and then shifted to royal theaters. In 1637 this performance was open to public when the idea of opera festival in Venice was brought up by Monteverdi. It was then known as Baroque opera which had a mixture of both the tragic and comic elements along with some education. This started a reform which was promoted by Venice’s Arcadian Academy. Metastasio was a part of this academy and his libertti became famous till the end of the eighteenth century in Italian opera. And this mixed with baroque opera was known as opera buffa.


The characteristic of Opera Seria is that it had a high tone along with secco kind of recitative. It was greatly liked due to it highly stylized form and the singers at that time were very popular and Opera Seria was in great demand all over Europe except France. The hero had the castrato voice such as Farinelli and Senesino and the heroines had the soprano’s voice such as Faustina Bordoni. Alessandro Scarlatti, Porpora and Vivaldi were some of the great Opera Seria composers.

But Opera Seria had few loopholes. It concentrated more on drama and left music, singing and ballet behind.  It was Francesco Algarotti who brought all this elements back with his composition Essay on the Opera. He was then followed by other great composers such as Niccolo Jommelli, Tommaso Traetta and the most successful, Gluck. He used rich orchestra and vocal lines and brought a reform in Opera Seria.