Early in the Baroque era, there was a group of artists, writers, poets and musicians who wanted to recreate the drama of ancient Greece. This group, known as the Florentine Camerata, determined that Grecian drama would have included music, and created new compositional styles that led to the development of opera. The Camerata thought the music should support the emotional content of the poetry, and decided polyphony would not work in this context, so they developed a new texture type called Monody, which features a solo voice with instrumental accompaniment. Monody allowed a singer to present a dramatic role with simple chordal accompaniment in what was known as the “expressive style.”
Opera is a music drama which is sung and is accompanied by an orchestra. There are several terms with which we need to be comfortable before discussing specific pieces and excerpts. Recitative is like musical speech and is music which serves to advance the plot (or tell the story). Recitative typically mimics the rhythms and inflection of speech, and is often rather fast. Recitative may be written for an individual character or may feature sung dialogue for multiple characters. There are two types of Recitative: Secco, which means dry, is recitative accompanied by basso continuo only, while Accompagnato, or accompanied, features the whole orchestra, and therefore, is more rhythmically strict. Please see the videos and links section of Blackboard for an example of recitative.
An Aria a solos song for one character, and allows him or her to reflect on the action or offers the audience insight into that characters feelings and motives. Arias are highly emotional and dramatic, although they tend not to have many plot points. Arias are the most famous parts of opera, and are the portions that may be excerpted and are the tunes audiences most often remember. An important form of aria from the Baroque is the da capo aria, which features an ABA form with embellishments on the final statement of A (da capo translates as “to the head”, or to the beginning). An aria is for one singer only. Any emotional music for 2 or more singers is often referred to by the number of performers (duet, trio, quartet) or may simply be called an ensemble. Operatic ensembles often feature multiple characters singing at the same time, each offering his or her own opinion.
An overture is a piece of music for the orchestra alone which precedes the action of the opera, and may include themes from the arias and ensembles to follow. There may be orchestral interludes before subsequent acts of the opera, as well. The text of the opera, called the libretto, is almost never written by the composer, but is usually written by a poet fluent in Italian, known as the librettist.
The first great master of early Baroque opera (and a member of the Florentine camerata) was Claudio Monteverdi. As Monteverdi lived in both the Renaissance and Baroque eras, his music features stylistic elements from each era (such as monodic writing for the soloists, and polyphony for choruses). Monteverdi’s operas, like his madrigals, are emotionally intense, which he embellishes with new instrumental effects, known as the agitated style. Monteverdi’s later operas included an orchestra with strings at the core that became the standard for orchestras to the modern day. Like his colleagues in the Camerata, Monteverdi felt quote “the text should be the master of the music, not the servant,” and made certain the libretto was the focus of his operas.
While the early operas from the Florentine Camerata all dealt with Greek mythology, some of Monteverdi’s later operas told the stories of actual historical events, especially as opera began to move from the palaces to opera houses for the entertainment of the general public. One of Monteverdi’s most famous operas is The Coronation of Poppea, which tells the story of Emperor Nero and his second wife Poppea, and ends with the crowning of Poppea as Empress of Rome. Please see the videos and links folder in Blackboard for an excerpt from this opera.
In the late Baroque era, especially in England, Large-scale Italian opera, called opera seria, was immensely popular. George Frideric Handel was a German composer who spent much of his compositional career in London and was a master of the opera seria genre. Handel’s music combined international styles from across Europe, including Italian melody writing, German polyphony, and French dance rhythms. One of Handel’s most famous operas is GulioCesare, which tells the story of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Please see the videos and link folder in Blackboard for a video of a famous da capo aria from this opera, v’adoro pupile.
Transcript of "Baroque opera"
Chapter 20 – Baroque Musical style<br />Florentine Camerata<br />Group of artists; Salon<br />Wanted to add music to drama of Greece<br />Music must support emotion in text<br />Monody<br />Texture focused on solo singer with instrumental accompaniment<br />“The Expressive style” - melody moving freely over simple chords <br />Photogrpah by Marco Antonio Hernández Partidahttp://www.flickr.com/people/moosehp/ This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.<br />
Chapter 21 – Opera Terms:<br />Recitative - musical speech<br />Advances the plot<br />Mimics speech in terms of rhythm, inflection<br />Fast, patter<br />Question / answer dialogue<br />Secco - only harpsichord, continuo<br />Acompagnato - orchestra (stricter rhythms)<br />
Opera terminology cont’d.<br />Aria - lyric, emotional moments<br /> A song which offers insight into character<br />The “tune”, what we remember<br /><ul><li>Can be excerpted</li></ul>da Capo aria - ABA form, final section embellished <br />Ensembles - duets, trios… choruses<br />Often overlap each other and each offers own opinion<br />
Opera cont’d.<br />Overture - Orchestral introduction<br />May include themes from the opera<br />Also orchestral interludes before each act<br />Libretto - the text, the “book”<br />Often written separately - librettist<br />
Monteverdi, early opera<br />Monteverdi Renaissance - Baroque<br />Combines styles, e.g. Polyphony and Monody<br />Emotionally intense<br />Expanded ideas of camerata <br />Agitated style<br />Standardized the orchestra<br />Strings became core<br />“The text should be the master of the music, not the servant.”<br />
Coronation of Poppea<br />History, not mythology<br />Opera becoming popular entertainment<br />Plot:<br />Nero & Poppea<br />Poppea becomes empress<br />Photo by Mary Harrsch http://www.flickr.com/people/mharrsch/<br />This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.<br />
Handel, late Baroque opera<br />German, worked in London<br />Cosmopolitan styles<br />Opera Seria - It. Opera - heroic or tragic<br />Giulio Cesare - Cleopatra and Caesar<br />V’adoro - da capo aria<br />
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