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Romantic Opera
The Golden Age of Opera
n Many of the biggest titles and composers in
opera are from the Romantic era
– 20 of the 25 most performed operas in the
world were Romantic era pieces (2012/13
season) according to operabase.com
n Early Romantic Italian opera emphasized a
beautiful melody for the soloist
n Bel canto refers to this vocal emphasis
Bel Canto
n Literally means “beautiful singing”
n Orchestra provides simple harmonic support
n Vocal lines are soaring and virtuosic
n This vocal emphasis created stars
– The prima donna or diva
– Diva means “goddess”
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
n Studied in Milan, not accepted into Conservatory
n Family tragedy almost stopped his career
n Huge success at age 29 – Nabucco
n Wrote masterworks & served in Parliament
n Long lived and prolific composer
– Aida at age 57
– Otello at age 73
– Falstaff at age 79
n Dies at age 87 a national hero
Verdi’s Style
n Similar to bel canto with added intensity
n Master of the memorable tune
n “La donne è mobile” was rehearsed in
secret because he knew it would be a hit
n Use of recitativo accompagnato to smooth
transition between recit and aria
Rigoletto
n Story centers on a cruel court jester,
Rigoletto, and his tragically unsuccessful
effort to protect his daughter Gilda from the
womanizing duke he serves
n “La donna è mobile,” the most famous aria
from the opera, is sung by a tenor
Listening Example
n Title: La donna è mobile
n Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
n Genre: Opera
Notes on La donna è mobile
n Tenor aria
n Extremely memorable melody
n Simple, vamp style orchestral
accompaniment
n Simple, binary form
German Opera
n Prior to 19th century primarily Singspiel
n Singspiel were German comic operas
– Light themes
– Spoken dialogue
n Many earlier composers, including Mozart,
strove to elevate Singspiel genre
n Wagner’s innovations create a new style of
German opera
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
n Controversial figure to this day
n Inspired in youth by Beethoven and Mozart
n Opera director in small German towns
n Had success in Dresden with Rienzi
n Fled to Switzerland after failed revolution
n Deep in debt, he wrote music philosophy
and began composing epic scale operas
Richard Wagner
n King Ludwig II of Bavaria rescued Wagner
financially and artistically
– Paid debts and staged his operas
– Eventually built theater for Wagner’s works
n A yearly festival of Wagner’s operas is still
performed at the Bayreuth Festival Theater
n 8 of his operas ranked in the 50 most-
performed operas in the world (2012/13)
Wagner’s Operatic Style
n Called his works music dramas
n Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work) refers to
the bringing together all operatic elements
to produce a powerful dramatic experience
n He did away with separate numbers in favor
of an endless melody
n In absence of bel canto approach the
orchestra becomes more important
Leitmotifs
n Short melodic ideas that represent a dramatic
element in the story
– Characters
– Objects
– Ideas
n Leitmotifs help advance the drama musically
n Orchestra plays major role using leitmotifs
Tristan und Isolde
n Story based on a medieval German epic
poem set in England
n A love potion causes Tristan and Isolde to
fall in love despite her betrothal to the king
n Tristan’s sorrow over obstacles to their love
causes him to allow himself to be wounded
n Isolde arrives at his side as he dies, she
sings of their eternal love and then dies
Listening Example
n Title: Liebestod
n Composer: Richard Wagner
n Genre: Opera
Notes on Liebestod
n Liebestod is combination of two words
– Liebe = love, Tod = death
n Use of leitmotifs to represent feelings
– Love/death, ecstasy, desire, transcendent bliss
– Leitmotifs are in vocal and instrumental parts
n Wagner uses rising chromatic lines to build
to an incredibly powerful climax
n Sung by a soprano soloist
Realistic Opera
n An attempt to portray real life, especially
life of the lower classes, on the opera stage
n An outgrowth of the social realities, often
unpleasant, of the industrial revolution
n Realistic opera seeks to find beauty in the
mundane, even gritty, aspects of life
Verismo
n “Verismo” means realism
n The later Italian version of realistic opera
n Similar treatment of gritty, seedy,
sometimes violent subject matter
n Puccini generally considered the most
prominent verist composer
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
n Born to a musical family in N. Italy (Lucca)
n Struggled after graduation from Milan conservatory
n First major success at age 35 – Manon Lescault
n La Boheme is deemed his most popular opera
n A chain smoker, Puccini died of throat cancer
n At news of his death, a performance of La Boheme
was stopped and Chopin’s Funeral March played
La Boheme
n Verismo in the sense that the characters are
impoverished artists, not due to violence
n Features romance between Rodolfo, a poet,
and Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis
n Rodolfo’s jealousy ends the relationship
n They reunite just before Mimi’s death
Puccini’s Style
n Influenced by Wagner
– Much less division into separate recits and arias
– More expansive use of orchestra than Verdi
– Use of leitmotifs
n Puccini’s music more lyrical than Wagner
n He is expert in using different orchestral
colors to fit the mood of the scene
Listening Example
n Title: Che gelida manina
n Composer: Giacomo Puccini
n Genre: Opera
Notes on Che gelida manina
n Shift from recit to aria goes almost unnoticed
– Begins with syllabic text setting
– Grows in warmth, range, and intensity
n Rich orchestral color as vocal intensity grows
n No showy virtuosity, just soaring melody
n Sung by a tenor soloist
Listening Example
n Title: Si, mi chiamano Mimi
n Composer: Giacomo Puccini
n Genre: Opera
Notes on Si, mi chiamano Mimi
n Similar in general style to Che gelida manina
n Very little distinction between recit and aria
n Rich orchestral color as vocal intensity grows
n Note the independence of the orchestra –
Wagnerian influence
n Sung by a soprano soloist

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Romantic Opera

  • 2. The Golden Age of Opera n Many of the biggest titles and composers in opera are from the Romantic era – 20 of the 25 most performed operas in the world were Romantic era pieces (2012/13 season) according to operabase.com n Early Romantic Italian opera emphasized a beautiful melody for the soloist n Bel canto refers to this vocal emphasis
  • 3. Bel Canto n Literally means “beautiful singing” n Orchestra provides simple harmonic support n Vocal lines are soaring and virtuosic n This vocal emphasis created stars – The prima donna or diva – Diva means “goddess”
  • 4. Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) n Studied in Milan, not accepted into Conservatory n Family tragedy almost stopped his career n Huge success at age 29 – Nabucco n Wrote masterworks & served in Parliament n Long lived and prolific composer – Aida at age 57 – Otello at age 73 – Falstaff at age 79 n Dies at age 87 a national hero
  • 5. Verdi’s Style n Similar to bel canto with added intensity n Master of the memorable tune n “La donne è mobile” was rehearsed in secret because he knew it would be a hit n Use of recitativo accompagnato to smooth transition between recit and aria
  • 6. Rigoletto n Story centers on a cruel court jester, Rigoletto, and his tragically unsuccessful effort to protect his daughter Gilda from the womanizing duke he serves n “La donna è mobile,” the most famous aria from the opera, is sung by a tenor
  • 7. Listening Example n Title: La donna è mobile n Composer: Giuseppe Verdi n Genre: Opera
  • 8. Notes on La donna è mobile n Tenor aria n Extremely memorable melody n Simple, vamp style orchestral accompaniment n Simple, binary form
  • 9. German Opera n Prior to 19th century primarily Singspiel n Singspiel were German comic operas – Light themes – Spoken dialogue n Many earlier composers, including Mozart, strove to elevate Singspiel genre n Wagner’s innovations create a new style of German opera
  • 10. Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) n Controversial figure to this day n Inspired in youth by Beethoven and Mozart n Opera director in small German towns n Had success in Dresden with Rienzi n Fled to Switzerland after failed revolution n Deep in debt, he wrote music philosophy and began composing epic scale operas
  • 11. Richard Wagner n King Ludwig II of Bavaria rescued Wagner financially and artistically – Paid debts and staged his operas – Eventually built theater for Wagner’s works n A yearly festival of Wagner’s operas is still performed at the Bayreuth Festival Theater n 8 of his operas ranked in the 50 most- performed operas in the world (2012/13)
  • 12. Wagner’s Operatic Style n Called his works music dramas n Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work) refers to the bringing together all operatic elements to produce a powerful dramatic experience n He did away with separate numbers in favor of an endless melody n In absence of bel canto approach the orchestra becomes more important
  • 13. Leitmotifs n Short melodic ideas that represent a dramatic element in the story – Characters – Objects – Ideas n Leitmotifs help advance the drama musically n Orchestra plays major role using leitmotifs
  • 14. Tristan und Isolde n Story based on a medieval German epic poem set in England n A love potion causes Tristan and Isolde to fall in love despite her betrothal to the king n Tristan’s sorrow over obstacles to their love causes him to allow himself to be wounded n Isolde arrives at his side as he dies, she sings of their eternal love and then dies
  • 15. Listening Example n Title: Liebestod n Composer: Richard Wagner n Genre: Opera
  • 16. Notes on Liebestod n Liebestod is combination of two words – Liebe = love, Tod = death n Use of leitmotifs to represent feelings – Love/death, ecstasy, desire, transcendent bliss – Leitmotifs are in vocal and instrumental parts n Wagner uses rising chromatic lines to build to an incredibly powerful climax n Sung by a soprano soloist
  • 17. Realistic Opera n An attempt to portray real life, especially life of the lower classes, on the opera stage n An outgrowth of the social realities, often unpleasant, of the industrial revolution n Realistic opera seeks to find beauty in the mundane, even gritty, aspects of life
  • 18. Verismo n “Verismo” means realism n The later Italian version of realistic opera n Similar treatment of gritty, seedy, sometimes violent subject matter n Puccini generally considered the most prominent verist composer
  • 19. Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924) n Born to a musical family in N. Italy (Lucca) n Struggled after graduation from Milan conservatory n First major success at age 35 – Manon Lescault n La Boheme is deemed his most popular opera n A chain smoker, Puccini died of throat cancer n At news of his death, a performance of La Boheme was stopped and Chopin’s Funeral March played
  • 20. La Boheme n Verismo in the sense that the characters are impoverished artists, not due to violence n Features romance between Rodolfo, a poet, and Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis n Rodolfo’s jealousy ends the relationship n They reunite just before Mimi’s death
  • 21. Puccini’s Style n Influenced by Wagner – Much less division into separate recits and arias – More expansive use of orchestra than Verdi – Use of leitmotifs n Puccini’s music more lyrical than Wagner n He is expert in using different orchestral colors to fit the mood of the scene
  • 22. Listening Example n Title: Che gelida manina n Composer: Giacomo Puccini n Genre: Opera
  • 23. Notes on Che gelida manina n Shift from recit to aria goes almost unnoticed – Begins with syllabic text setting – Grows in warmth, range, and intensity n Rich orchestral color as vocal intensity grows n No showy virtuosity, just soaring melody n Sung by a tenor soloist
  • 24. Listening Example n Title: Si, mi chiamano Mimi n Composer: Giacomo Puccini n Genre: Opera
  • 25. Notes on Si, mi chiamano Mimi n Similar in general style to Che gelida manina n Very little distinction between recit and aria n Rich orchestral color as vocal intensity grows n Note the independence of the orchestra – Wagnerian influence n Sung by a soprano soloist