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Opéra(ôpārä`) (Académie de musique), former chief opera house of Paris, on the Place de l'Opéra, one of the main crossroads on the right bank of the Seine. Designed by J. L. C. GarnierGarnier, Jean Louis Charles
, 1825–98, French architect, studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and won the Grand Prix de Rome (1848). He was awarded the commission for the Opéra in Paris (1861–75), which is his principal work.
..... Click the link for more information. and built between 1861 and 1875, it is formally known as the Palais Garnier, and also called the Opéra Garnier. One of the largest and most sumptuous theaters in the world, it has a smaller seating capacity than many lesser houses, because its huge stage and foyers and its famous grand staircase take up much of the room. On the polychromed facade of the Opéra is the masterwork of the sculptor J.-B. CarpeauxCarpeaux, Jean-Baptiste
, 1827–75, French sculptor and painter. He studied with François Rude and won the Prix de Rome. Carpeaux rose to fame with his Ugolino
..... Click the link for more information. entitled The Dance. An opulently ornamented neo-baroque style building, the Opéra has been copied, on a reduced scale, by many opera houses throughout the world.
The home of grand opera in the 19th cent., it has retained its musical reputation as one of the world's foremost houses. With the opening of the newly constructed Bastille opera house in 1990, the company became the Opéra de Paris, and used the new house primarily for opera. In 1994 the company was renamed the Opéra National de Paris. Garnier's building underwent restoration from 1994 to 2007 and is now used for company opera and ballet performances; it also presents concerts and recitals.
The Paris Opéra Ballet grew out of the Royal Ballet Academy established (1661) by Louis XIVLouis XIV,
1638–1715, king of France (1643–1715), son and successor of King Louis XIII. Early Reign
After his father's death his mother, Anne of Austria, was regent for Louis, but the real power was wielded by Anne's adviser, Cardinal Mazarin.
..... Click the link for more information. ; early works were choreographed by Jean-Baptiste LullyLully, Jean Baptiste
, 1632–87, French operatic composer, b. Florence, Italy. His name originally was Giovanni Battista Lulli. A self-taught violinist, he went to France in 1646 and in 1652 entered the service of Louis XIV.
..... Click the link for more information. and MolièreMolière, Jean Baptiste Poquelin
, 1622–73, French playwright and actor, b. Paris; son of a merchant who was upholsterer to the king. His name was originally Jean Baptiste Poquelin.
..... Click the link for more information. . Its directors have included Serge Lifar (1930–44, 1947–58) and Rudolf Nureyev (1983–89). Virtually all dancers come through its associated school, which grew out of the National Ballet School (est. 1672). Its corps de ballet is particularly famous.
See M. Kahane, The Paris Opera (1988); S. Pitou, The Paris Opera: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers (1984) and The Paris Opera (1990); C. C. Mead, Charles Garnier's Paris Opera: Architectural Empathy and the Renaissance of French Classicism (1991).
opera,drama set to music.
[Ital.,=little book], the text of an opera or an oratorio. Although a play usually emphasizes an integrated plot, a libretto is most often a loose plot connecting a series of episodes.
..... Click the link for more information. may be serious or comic, although neither form necessarily excludes elements of the other. Opera differs from operettaoperetta
, type of light opera with a frivolous, sentimental story, often employing parody and satire and containing both spoken dialogue and much light, pleasant music.
..... Click the link for more information. in its musical complexity and usually in its subject matter. It differs also from oratoriooratorio
, musical composition employing chorus, orchestra, and soloists and usually, but not necessarily, a setting of a sacred libretto without stage action or scenery.
..... Click the link for more information. , which is customarily based on a religious subject and is performed without scenery, costumes, or stage action. Although both opera and operetta may have spoken dialogue, in opera the dialogue usually has musical accompaniment, such as the harpsichord continuo in the operas of Mozart and Rossini.
Often, the music in opera is continuous, with set pieces such as solos, duets, trios, quartets, etc., and choral pieces, all designed to dramatize the action and display the particular vocal skills of the principal singers. For example, the last act trio from Gounod's Faust gives Mephistopheles (bass), Faust (tenor), and Marguerite (soprano) excellent opportunity to display their vocal talents singly and then weave their voices in ensemble singing as the two men vie for the soul of Marguerite, who is intent on salvation.
Although musical drama, such as The Play of Daniel (12th cent.), had previously existed, it was in the year 1600 that opera came into being. It began in Florence, Italy, fostered by the camerata [society], a group of scholars, philosophers, and amateur musicians that included the librettist Ottavio Rinuccini (1562–1621) and the composers Vincenzo GalileiGalilei, Vincenzo
, d. 1591, Italian lutenist, singer, writer, and composer; father of Galileo. As a member of the Florentine camerata (see opera), he was one of the first to compose recitatives.
..... Click the link for more information. , Emilio del Cavaliere (c.1550–1602), Jacopo PeriPeri, Jacopo
, 1561–1633, Italian composer and singer. Dafne (c.1597), perhaps the first opera, was composed by both Peri and Jacopo Corsi. The librettist, Ottavio Rinuccini, also wrote Euridice, which Peri and Caccini set to music (1600).
..... Click the link for more information. , and Giulio CacciniCaccini, Giulio
, c.1546–1618, Italian composer and singer. Both he and Peri composed settings of Ottavio Rinuccini's Euridice (1600), the earliest operas of which the music is extant.
..... Click the link for more information. . It was their aim to promote the principle of monodic musical declamation, i.e., a single melodic line with modest accompaniment inspired by the example of ancient Greek drama; accordingly, the earliest operas took their plots from mythology, the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice being one of the most popular.
Because the story hinges on the expressive power of music and solo song, the early composers referred to their work as dramma per musica [drama through music], and operas of the 17th and 18th cent. used myth at first and plots about historical figures later. It had both lofty and comic strains, which were in time separated into distinct genres, the opera seria (serious opera) and the opera buffa (comic opera). Although fragments of Jacopo Peri's Dafne (c.1597) exist, the same composer's Euridice (1600), set to verse by Ottavio Rinuccini, is generally considered the first opera.
The Baroque in Rome and Venice
Development of earlier baroquebaroque,
in music, a style that prevailed from the last decades of the 16th cent. to the first decades of the 18th cent. Its beginnings were in the late 16th-century revolt against polyphony that gave rise to the accompanied recitative and to opera.
..... Click the link for more information. opera occurred at Rome and Venice. The work that established Roman opera, Sant' Alessio, by Stefano Landi (c.1590–c.1639), appeared in 1632; it had a libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi (later Pope Clement IX). Landi modified the strict declamatory style of the Florentines with formal devices: the recitativerecitative
, musical declamation for solo voice, used in opera and oratorio for dialogue and for narration. Its development at the close of the 16th cent. made possible the rise of opera.
..... Click the link for more information. and ariaaria
, elaborate and often lengthy solo song with instrumental accompaniment. In the 16th cent. it was a melody improvised over a strophic bass line, and a distinction was made between instrumental, vocal, and dance arias.
..... Click the link for more information. became clearly differentiated, and more prominent use was made of choruses and instrumental form. Also, the libretto included comic scenes, which had no part in earlier operas.
However, it was not until the appearance of Claudio MonteverdiMonteverdi, Claudio
, 1567–1643, Italian composer; first great figure in the history of opera. His earliest published works, a set of three motifs, appeared when he was only 15.
..... Click the link for more information. in Venice that baroque opera reached its peak, and the art form that began as entertainment for the aristocracy became available to popular audiences. In 1637 the first public opera house in the world opened in Venice, and by 1700 at least 16 more theaters were built and hundreds of operas produced. In Venice, two of Monteverdi's best-known works, the early La Favola d'Orfeo (The Tale of Orpheus, 1607) and L'Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea, 1642), were performed. Monteverdi's influence was considerable, for he may be said to be responsible for the introduction of bel canto and buffo styles. He also reflected the moods and dramatic vividness of the libretto in his music, and his work became a model for the operatic composers who followed.
With the next generation of Venetian composers, headed by Marcantonio Cesti (1623–69) and Pietro Francesco CavalliCavalli, Pietro Francesco
, 1602–76, Italian composer, whose real name was Caletti-Bruni; pupil of Monteverdi, whom he succeeded as choirmaster of St. Mark's, Venice.
..... Click the link for more information. , an international style developed, and local schools disappeared. The recitative diminished in musical interest in favor of the aria, the chorus gave way to the virtuoso soloist, and the Renaissance interest in antiquities was superseded by a trend toward lofty scenes punctuated by comedy and parody. Alessandro StradellaStradella, Alessandro
, 1642?–1682, Italian composer of operas, cantatas, oratorios, and instrumental music. Few facts but many legends exist concerning his life; he is said to have been assassinated at the behest of a Venetian nobleman with whose mistress Stradella had
..... Click the link for more information. , a forerunner of the 18th-century Neapolitan school, wrote operas in this style.
Early French Opera
Officially, French opera began in 1669 with the establishment of the Académie royale de Musique, which was taken over by Jean Baptiste LullyLully, Jean Baptiste
, 1632–87, French operatic composer, b. Florence, Italy. His name originally was Giovanni Battista Lulli. A self-taught violinist, he went to France in 1646 and in 1652 entered the service of Louis XIV.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1672 after the bankruptcy of its founders. Italian opera, the pastoral, French classical tragedy, and the ballet de cour (see balletballet
[Ital. ballare=to dance], classic, formalized solo or ensemble dancing of a highly controlled, dramatic nature performed to music.
See also dance; modern dance.
..... Click the link for more information. ) were the antecedents of French opera. Lully introduced his audience to grand-scale entertainment: lavish stage settings and scenery in addition to ballets, choruses, and long disquisitions on love and glory. His operas were divided into five acts and a prologue. The operas of Jean Philippe RameauRameau, Jean Philippe
, 1683–1764, French composer and theorist. He was organist at the cathedral in Clermont and at Notre Dame de Dijon. In the early part of his career his wrote two treatises on harmony (1722, 1726) in which he introduced the important and influential
..... Click the link for more information. followed the tradition established by Lully, but were not as well received. Two of his works, however, Les Indes galantes (The Gallant Indies, 1735) and Castor et Pollux (1737), have music surpassing their librettos.
Italian Opera of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Italian opera seria continued to dominate the musical scene throughout the 17th and 18th cent. The Neapolitans cultivated opera seria, notably in the works of Alessandro ScarlattiScarlatti, Alessandro
, 1660–1725, Italian composer. He may have studied with Carissimi in Rome, where his first opera was produced in 1679. In 1684 he went to Naples as master of the royal chapel and there composed operas for the royal palace and chamber music for the
..... Click the link for more information. . Musical and dramatic interest became focused on the grandiose, so-called da capo arias, which make up the bulk of these operas. In the typical da capo aria, the principal emotion is symbolized by a large opening main section, which is repeated, often in a heavily ornamented fashion, after a contrasting "B" section. One of the most influential librettists of this period was Pietro MetastasioMetastasio, Pietro
, 1698–1782, Italian poet and librettist, whose original name was Antonio Bonaventura Trapassi. A prodigy at poetic improvisation, he became court poet at Vienna in 1729.
..... Click the link for more information. , in whose works the separation of serious and comic opera is complete.
Neapolitan opera became known as well for the importance it gave to comic opera as a separate genre. Comedy had maintained its place in the opera house mainly in the form of brief interludes, or intermezzi (see intermezzointermezzo
. 1 Any theatrical entertainment of a light nature performed between the divisions of a longer, more serious work. 2 In the 17th and 18th cent., a short independent comic scene with everyday characters was interpolated between acts of serious operas.
..... Click the link for more information. ), that were played between the acts of opera seria. Now it came into its own, with such works as Giovanni Battista PergolesiPergolesi, Giovanni Battista
, 1710–36, Italian composer of the Neapolitan school. Although he died at the age of 26, he is credited with masterpieces in two fields of music: La serva padrona (The Maid as Mistress, c.
..... Click the link for more information. 's La serva padrona (The Servant as Mistress, 1733), Giovanni Paisiello's (1740–1816) Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville, 1782), and Domenico CimarosaCimarosa, Domenico
, 1749–1801, Italian operatic composer. He wrote almost 80 operas, which were successfully produced in Rome, Naples, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage, 1792). The characters were from commedia dell'artecommedia dell'arte
, popular form of comedy employing improvised dialogue and masked characters that flourished in Italy from the 16th to the 18th cent. Characters of the Commedia Dell'Arte
..... Click the link for more information. , the subject matter satirical and earthy, replacing the staid classical heroism of earlier operas. There was no spoken dialogue.
The Development of English Opera
The first English opera was The Siege of Rhodes, with a text by poet laureate Sir William D'AvenantD'Avenant or Davenant, Sir William
, 1606–68, English poet, playwright, and theatrical producer. His life and work bridge the gap between the Elizabethan and Restoration ages.
..... Click the link for more information. , in 1656. The masquemasque,
courtly form of dramatic spectacle, popular in England in the first half of the 17th cent. The masque developed from the early 16th-century disguising, or mummery, in which disguised guests bearing presents would break into a festival and then join with their hosts in a
..... Click the link for more information. was the true antecedent of English opera, and John BlowBlow, John,
1649–1708, English composer. He was organist and choirmaster at Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and the teacher of Henry Purcell. He wrote more than 100 anthems and 10 sacred services, mostly unpublished, and a masque, Venus and Adonis.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Venus and Adonis (c.1685) was actually an opera. The one great English opera of the 17th cent. was Dido and Aeneas (1689) by Henry PurcellPurcell, Henry
, c.1659–1695, English composer and organist. Often considered England's finest native composer, Purcell combined a great gift for lyrical melody with harmonic invention and mastery of counterpoint.
..... Click the link for more information. , after whose death England succumbed completely to Italian opera.
The reigning "English" composer was a German who had completely absorbed the Neapolitan Italian style, George Frideric HandelHandel, George Frideric
, 1685–1759, English composer, b. Halle, Germany. Handel was one of the greatest masters of baroque music, most widely celebrated for his majestic oratorio Messiah. Of German descent, he was originally named Georg Friedrich Handel.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although best known as the composer of the oratorio Messiah, Handel spent most of his musical energy between 1705 and 1738 in composing operas. His first opera in England was Rinaldo (1711), an instant success, and among the many other operas he composed are Giulio Cesare (1724), Rodelinda (1725), and Alcina (1735). Handel's operas featured castrati (see castratocastrato
[Ital.,=castrated], a male singer with an artificially created soprano or alto voice, the result of castration in boyhood. The combination of the larynx of a youth and the chest and lungs of a man produced a powerful voice of great range and unique sound.
..... Click the link for more information. ), who had great popularity, and who dominated this period and type of opera, sometimes forcing composers to write around them, adding music that had little or nothing to do with the plot.
Coincident with Handel's efforts at establishing Italian opera in England were the attempts of native talent to produce an English musical theatrical form. The result was The Beggar's Opera (1728), with a libretto by the poet John GayGay, John,
1685–1732, English playwright and poet, b. Barnstaple, Devon. Educated at the local grammar school, he was apprenticed to a silk mercer for a brief time before commencing his literary career in London.
..... Click the link for more information. and music composed partly by John Christopher PepuschPepusch, John Christopher
, 1667–1752, German musician, who lived in London from 1700 until his death. As a theorist he became expert in Greek music and helped found (1710) the Academy of Ancient Music. He was the predecessor of Handel as composer to the duke of Chandos.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Beggar's Opera inaugurated the form of ballad opera that satirized Italian opera and contemporary politics.
German and Austrian Opera in the Eighteenth Century
The ballad opera eventually led to the singspiel, the German comic opera with spoken dialogue, which was to reach its highest development in the works of Wolfgang Amadeus MozartMozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
, 1756–91, Austrian composer, b. Salzburg. Mozart represents one of the great peaks in the history of music. His works, written in almost every conceivable genre, combine luminous beauty of sound with classical grace and technical perfection.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although the early court opera of Germany showed preference for the Italian school—Frederick the Great is said to have compared German singing to the neighing of horses—in the 18th cent. German composers began to turn their attention to singspiel.
Georg Philipp TelemannTelemann, Georg Philipp
, 1681–1767, German composer. From 1721 until his death he was director of music for the five major churches in Hamburg. Extremely prolific, he composed scores of overtures, 40 operas, 12 complete services for the year, and other works in
..... Click the link for more information. had anticipated the technique of Pergolesi's La serva padrona in his Pimpione (1725), a comic opera with only two characters. In the same vein is Johann Christian Standfuss's (?–1756) Der Teufel ist Los (The Devil to Pay, 1752), an unpretentious composition written in the simple style of folk melody. However, it was Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio, 1782) that fully established singspiel in Vienna, the international music capital. Singspiel had now become fused with Italian aria-oriented opera.
The increasing taste of the 18th-century public for musical portrayal of emotion in a more earnest manner and on a more human scale had its most significant impact on opera seria in the works of Christoph Willibald von GluckGluck, Christoph Willibald von
, 1714–87, German-born operatic composer. Gluck revolutionized opera by establishing lyrical tragedy as a unified vital art form. He studied music at Prague and later in Italy with G. B. Sammartini.
..... Click the link for more information. . In a letter to the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, Gluck stated his principal aim: "I sought to restrict music to its true function, namely to serve poetry by means of expression—and the situations which make up the plot—without interrupting the action … ." He accomplished that aim with Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and Alceste (1767).
The unity of drama and music was continued by Mozart, through his explorations of and expansions on the comic styles. His music manages to present characters familiar to every age, with all the virtues and foibles of the human race. Goethe compared him with Shakespeare. His major librettist was Lorenzo Da PonteDa Ponte, Lorenzo
, 1749–1838, Italian librettist and teacher, b. Ceneda as Emmanuele Conegliano. Born Jewish, he converted to Catholicism at 14, became (1773) a priest, and shortly after ordination moved to Venice.
..... Click the link for more information. , who produced texts for three of Mozart's greatest works: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (Women Are Like That, 1790). In La clemenza di Tito (1791) Mozart used the work of Pietro MetastasioMetastasio, Pietro
, 1698–1782, Italian poet and librettist, whose original name was Antonio Bonaventura Trapassi. A prodigy at poetic improvisation, he became court poet at Vienna in 1729.
..... Click the link for more information. for his libretto. The libretto for Mozart's last great opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, 1791) was written by Emmanuel Schickaneder (1751–1812).
Opera in the Nineteenth Century
The Romantic Movement in Germany
Hero worship, a return to nature, idealism, and fantasy are elements of late 18th-century romanticism that found their way into 19th-century German opera. Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven, Ludwig van
, 1770–1827, German composer. He is universally recognized as one of the greatest composers of the Western European music tradition. Beethoven's work crowned the classical period and also effectively initiated the romantic era in music.
..... Click the link for more information. 's only opera, Fidelio (1805, rev. 1814), is set against the background of French rescue opera and the theme of personal freedom versus political tyranny. But it was Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, which rested on the foundations of singspiel, that was really the point of departure for German romantic opera—for E. T. A. HoffmannHoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus
, 1776–1822, German romantic novelist and composer, a lawyer. At one time an opera composer and musical director at Bamberg and a gifted music critic, he is most famous as a master of the gothic tale.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Undine (1816) and Carl Maria von WeberWeber, Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von
, 1786–1826, German composer and pianist; pupil of Michael Haydn and Abbé Vogler. He made his debut as a pianist at 13 and began to compose at about the same time.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Der Freischütz (1821) and Oberon (1826). These operas, although somewhat limited in melodic invention, fused in their plots the natural and the supernatural and paved the way for the grandiose music dramas of Richard WagnerWagner, Richard
, 1813–83, German composer, b. Leipzig. Life and Work
Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17.
..... Click the link for more information. , who also wrote his own librettos.
Wagner's early operas, such as Rienzi (1842), based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name, and Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman, 1843) are Italian-style operas, with arias, duets, trios, and choral pieces. In the romantic tradition, he turned to medieval lore for Tannhäuser (1845) and to tales of chivalry and knighthood for Lohengrin (1850), Tristan und Isolde (1865), and Parsifal (1882). Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), Wagner's only comic opera, used the real-life cobbler and poet Hans SachsSachs, Hans
, 1494–1576, German poet, leading meistersinger of the Nuremberg school. A shoemaker and guild master, he wrote more than 4,000 master songs in addition to some 2,000 fables, tales in verse (Schwanke), morality plays, and farces.
..... Click the link for more information. as the central character.
The set pieces of the Italian school were put aside in favor of leitmotifs (leading motifs) that were used to identify individual characters and situations and present a continuous flow of music, at times almost symphonic in nature, which was uninterrupted by recitative. The culmination of this technique was Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs), a tetralogy composed of Das Rheingold (1869), Die Walküre (1870), Siegfried (1876), and Götterdämmerung (1876).
The Development of French Grand Opera and Opéra Comique
After the French Revolution (1789), spectacular and melodramatic operas became popular. Outstanding examples are by Luigi CherubiniCherubini, Luigi
, 1760–1842, Italian composer, who lived in Paris after 1788. Before he was 16 he wrote masses and other sacred works; he later composed Italian opera.
..... Click the link for more information. , Étienne Nicolas MéhulMéhul, Étienne Nicolas
, 1763–1817, French operatic composer of outstanding importance during the Revolutionary period. Méhul's masterpiece was the biblical opera Joseph (1807).
..... Click the link for more information. , Jean François LesueurLesueur or Le Sueur, Jean François
, 1760–1837, French composer. During the French Revolution his operas, such as La Caverne (1793) and Paul et Virginie
..... Click the link for more information. , and Gasparo SpontiniSpontini, Gaspare
, 1774–1851, Italian opera composer. Spontini studied music in Naples. He went to Paris in 1803, was soon backed by the Empress Josephine, won a prize from Napoleon for La Vestale (1807), and became court composer under Louis XVIII.
..... Click the link for more information. . Extensive use was made of plots involving rescue. Paris had now become the center of operatic activity, and the performance there of Daniel François Esprit AuberAuber, Daniel-François-Esprit
, 1782–1871, French operatic composer. His greatest successes resulted from his collaboration with the librettist Scribe. Their first success together was Le Maçon
..... Click the link for more information. 's La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici, 1828), also known after its hero as Masaniello, Gioacchino RossiniRossini, Gioacchino Antonio
, 1792–1868, Italian operatic composer, one of the great masters of the Italian opera buffa. His parents were both musicians, and he began his career in childhood as a singer.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Guillaume Tell (William Tell, 1829), Giacomo MeyerbeerMeyerbeer, Giacomo
, 1791–1864, German operatic composer. He traveled in Italy and experimented in various styles of composition, but his real success came only with his spectacular French grand operas—Robert le Diable (1831) and his masterpiece,
..... Click the link for more information. 's Robert le Diable (1831), and Jacques HalévyHalévy, Jacques François Fromental Élie
, 1799–1862, French operatic composer. He studied with Cherubini at the Paris Conservatory, where he became a professor in 1827.
..... Click the link for more information. 's La Juive (The Jewess, 1835) established the grand opera tradition.
Grand opera, of which Meyerbeer's works are the outstanding examples, typically feature historical subjects with pointed reference to contemporary issues, religious elements, and violent passions. The influence of French grand opera was enormous, reaching even to the early works of Wagner and Verdi. Hector BerliozBerlioz, Louis-Hector
, 1803–69, French romantic composer. He abandoned medical study to enter the Paris Conservatory as a composition student. In 1830 his Symphonie fantastique was first performed in Paris, marking a bold new development in program music.
..... Click the link for more information. 's masterpiece Les Troyens (The Trojans, 1856–58), while owing nothing to Meyerbeer, may also be considered grand opera.
Opéra comique (distinguished from grand opera in that it had spoken dialogue) took two directions in the middle of the 19th cent., one lead toward operetta, the other toward a more serious, lyrical opera. Of that genre Ambroise ThomasThomas, Ambroise
, 1811–96, French operatic composer, studied at the Paris Conservatory, receiving the Prix de Rome in 1832. He later taught composition there and became its director in 1871.
..... Click the link for more information. , Charles GounodGounod, Charles François
, 1818–93, French composer, studied at the Paris Conservatory and received the Grand Prix de Rome in 1839. His fame rests chiefly on his operas Faust (1859) and Romeo and Juliet
..... Click the link for more information. , Georges BizetBizet, Georges
, 1838–75, French operatic composer. The son of professional musicians, he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of nine and won the Prix de Rome in 1857. He was a gifted pianist and composed instrumental music in his teens.
..... Click the link for more information. , Léo DelibesDelibes, Léo
, 1836–91, French composer. After studying at the Conservatory in Paris, he became an accompanist at the Théâtre-Lyrique in 1853, and, ten years later, at the Paris Opéra.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Jules MassenetMassenet, Jules
, 1842–1912, French composer. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, where he taught from 1878 to 1896. In addition to many songs, several oratorios, and a number of orchestral suites, he composed more than 20 operas.
..... Click the link for more information. were the chief composers. Gounod's Faust (1859) and Bizet's Carmen (1875), two of the most popular French operas ever written, actually had spoken dialogue in their original versions, but this qualification for works given at the Opéra Comique theater was ultimately dropped. The operas of Emmanuel ChabrierChabrier, Alexis Emmanuel
, 1841–94, French composer. His best-known works are an orchestral rhapsody, España (1883); an opera, Le Roi malgré lui (1887); and piano pieces, such as Habanera (1885) and Bourrée fantasque (1891).
..... Click the link for more information. and Vincent D'IndyD'Indy, Vincent
, 1851–1931, French composer. D'Indy was a pupil of César Franck. In 1894, Charles Bordes, Guilmant, and d'Indy founded the Schola Cantorum, Paris, of which d'Indy was composition teacher and, from 1911 until his death, director.
..... Click the link for more information. show the influence of Wagner, while Gustave CharpentierCharpentier, Gustave
, 1860–1956, French composer; pupil of Massenet. His best-known works are the opera Louise (1900), portraying bohemian Parisian life, and his orchestral suite Impressions d'Italie (1892).
..... Click the link for more information. 's Louise (1900) is representative of naturalism. Perhaps the most complete realization of the ideals that had marked French opera from its beginning was Claude DebussyDebussy, Claude Achille
, 1862–1918, French composer, exponent of musical impressionism. He studied for 11 years at the Paris Conservatory, receiving its Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'Enfant Prodigue.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Pelléas et Mélisande (1902).
Early-Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera
In Italy, the voice remained master of the orchestra, and melody, presented with clarity and directness, ruled out overly polyphonic writing. The early masters of this style were Rossini, DonizettiDonizetti, Gaetano
, 1797–1848, Italian composer. He studied music in Bergamo and Bologna and achieved success with his first opera, Enrico di Borgogna (1818).
..... Click the link for more information. , and BelliniBellini, Vincenzo
, 1801–35, Italian opera composer. He acquired his musical training from his grandfather and father, and began composing religious and secular music in his childhood. His first opera, Adelson e Salvini, was successfully performed in 1825.
..... Click the link for more information. . The arias were often in two large sections, a slow section displaying bel canto singing, i.e., smoothness of vocal line with flawless phrasing and high notes, followed by a cabaletta (a rapid section requiring precision singing). Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers, 1813) and Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1816) are just two of his comic operas that provide sparkling melodies, brilliant arias and ensembles, and fast-moving plots.
Gaetano Donizetti also wrote tragedies (for example, Lucia di Lammermoor, 1835) and a trilogy on the queens Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart, and Anne Boleyn that gave the soprano lead exquisite scenes and arias for displaying her ability at coloratura singing. His two comic operas L'Elisir d'Amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843) are in the same bubbling melodic vein of the best of Rossini. Vincenzo Bellini also gave his leading ladies splendid arias combining dramatic and coloratura techniques with unusually long melodic lines, such as those in Norma (1831) and I Puritani (1835). Neither he, Rossini, nor Donizetti slighted the male voices, writing parts that enabled them to display astonishing vocal versatility.
Verdi and the Late Nineteenth Century in Italy
The dominant Italian composer in the second half of the 19th cent. was Giuseppe VerdiVerdi, Giuseppe
, 1813–1901, foremost Italian composer of opera, b. Le Roncole. Verdi, the son of an innkeeper, showed a precocious talent for the organ but was refused entrance to the Milan Conservatory as having been inadequately trained.
..... Click the link for more information. , whose operas epitomized the lyric-dramatic style of the Italian school. Verdi's operas are usually classified by periods—early, middle, late. Of the early period, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar, 1842) was his first success. The middle period contains three undisputed masterpieces: Rigoletto (1851, based on Victor Hugo's drama The King's Jester), Il Trovatore (The Troubador, 1853), and La Traviata (1853, based on Alexandre Dumas' play Camille). All are characterized by Verdi's trademark: magnificent, sustained melodies in the standard forms of aria, recitative, and choral numbers.
The work initiating Verdi's third period was Aïda (1871). All his life Verdi searched for the ideal libretto and finally found two in his last operas. The tragic Otello (1887) and the comic Falstaff (1893), based on plays by Shakespeare with librettos by Arrigo BoitoBoito, Arrigo
, 1842–1918, Italian composer and librettist. His opera Mefistofele (1868, rev. 1875), influenced by Wagner's music-drama, helped to bring about a new dramatic style in Italian opera.
..... Click the link for more information. , brought new dimensions to operatic music. Verdi also wrote two operas for the Paris Opéra: Les Vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers, 1855) and Don Carlos (1867).
Toward the end of the 19th cent. the verismo style came into being, which brought the seamier side of life to the operatic stage. Of these, Pietro MascagniMascagni, Pietro
, 1863–1945, Italian operatic composer. He is known for his opera Cavalleria rusticana (1890), based on the tale by Giovanni Verga; it is a classic example of the style of realism known as verismo. His other operas were less successful.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, 1890) and Ruggiero LeoncavalloLeoncavallo, Ruggiero
, 1857–1919, Italian composer. The opera Pagliacci (1892), his one outstanding success, is a classic example of Italian verismo, or realism. Of his numerous other operas, only Zazà (1900) had moderate success.
..... Click the link for more information. 's I Pagliacci (The Clowns, 1892), now almost always performed as a pair, are prime examples.
Of Verdi's successors in Italy, the only one who approached his genius was Giacomo PucciniPuccini, Giacomo
, 1858–1924, Italian composer of operas. He wrote some of the most popular works in the opera repertory. A descendant of a long line of musicians, he studied piano and organ at his Tuscan birthplace, Lucca, and in 1880 entered the Milan Conservatory.
..... Click the link for more information. . His simple, lyrical melodies, at times criticized for being overly sentimental, and his pungent orchestrations underline the tragic fates of his fragile heroines. Manon Lescaut (1893) and La Bohème (1896) were Puccini's first two triumphs, and both brought him international fame. Tosca (1900), based on a melodrama by Victorien SardouSardou, Victorien
, 1831–1908, French dramatist. Author of some 70 plays, he won great popularity with his light comedies and pretentious historical pieces, but his reputation later declined. His best farce comedy is Divorçons! (1880, tr. 1881).
..... Click the link for more information. , was another instant success, but Madama Butterfly (1904) failed when it was first performed, only to succeed when revised a few months after its premiere. The suggestion that Puccini write on an American theme resulted in La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West, 1910). Although not the overwhelming success of his previous operas, La Fanciulla had harmonic textures that were a departure from his earlier work and anticipated the music of his last opera, Turandot (1926).
The 19th cent. also saw the beginning of Russian opera. Mikhail GlinkaGlinka, Mikhail Ivanovich
, 1804–57, first of the nationalist school of Russian composers. His two operas, A Life for the Czar (1836) and Russlan and Ludmilla (1842), marked the beginning of a characteristically Russian style of music.
..... Click the link for more information. in A Life for the Czar (1836) and Russlan and Ludmilla (1842), Aleksandr DargomijskyDargomijsky, Aleksandr Sergeyevich
, 1813–69, Russian composer. He and Glinka brought nationalism to Russian music, strongly influencing the next generation of composers.
..... Click the link for more information. in Russalka (1856), and Modest MoussorgskyMoussorgsky, Modest Petrovich
, 1839–81, Russian composer. His name is also transliterated as Mussorgsky and Musorgsky. He was one of the first to promote a national Russian style.
..... Click the link for more information. in his masterpiece Boris Godunov (1874) turned to Russian history and literature to produce strictly national operas. Russian opera was marked by the nonnational romanticism of Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyTchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich
, 1840–93, Russian composer, b. Kamsko-Votkinsk. Variant transliterations of his name include Tschaikovsky and Chaikovsky. He is a towering figure in Russian music and one of the most popular composers in history.
..... Click the link for more information. in Eugene Onegin (1879), after PushkinPushkin, Aleksandr Sergeyevich
, 1799–1837, Russian poet and prose writer, among the foremost figures in Russian literature. He was born in Moscow of an old noble family; his mother's grandfather was Abram Hannibal, the black general of Peter the Great.
..... Click the link for more information. 's poem, and The Queen of Spades (1890). On the other hand, Nicolai Rimsky-KorsakovRimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai Andreyevich
, 1844–1908, Russian composer; one of the group of nationalist composers called The Five. He prepared himself for a naval career, but after meeting Balakirev in 1861 he turned seriously to composing.
..... Click the link for more information. added the dimension of folklore and fantasy in May Night (1880), The Snow Maiden (1881), and in his last opera, The Golden Cockerel (1909).
In the early part of the 20th cent. the foremost operatic composer was Richard StraussStrauss, Richard
, 1864–1949, German composer. Strauss brought to a culmination the development of the 19th-century symphonic poem, and was a leading composer of romantic opera in the early 20th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although influenced by Wagner, he composed operas with even richer and more stunning orchestrations, often using dissonant harmonies and abandoning tonality to emphasize the humor or drama of a scene. Among his most successful operas are Salomé (1905), Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911), Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), and the allegorical Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow, 1919).
After World War I a period of innovation began that has continued to the present day. Alban BergBerg, Alban
, 1885–1935, Austrian composer. In his youth he taught himself music but in 1904 he became the pupil and close friend of Arnold Schoenberg. Later Berg himself taught privately in Vienna.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (1937; posthumously completed in 1979) have been the most enduring of early atonal operas. Arnold SchoenbergSchoenberg, Arnold
, 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial
..... Click the link for more information. 's serial work (see serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
..... Click the link for more information. ) Moses and Aaron (unfinished, 1932) had successful revivals in the United States in the 1960s and again in the United States and Germany in the 1980s. George GershwinGershwin, George
, 1898–1937, American composer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., as Jacob Gershwin. Gershwin wrote some of the most original and popular musical works produced in the United States.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Porgy and Bess (1935) is considered the first great American opera, while Paul HindemithHindemith, Paul
, 1895–1963, German-American composer and violist, b. Hanau, Germany. Hindemith combined experimental and traditional techniques into a distinctively modern style. After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, he began his career as a viola player.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Mathis der Maler (1938), dealing with the life of the painter Mathias Grünewald, represents the trend of the 1930s toward lavishly staged, moralistic epics.
Operatic composers who emerged after World War II include Gian-Carlo MenottiMenotti, Gian-Carlo
, 1911–2007, Italian composer. Menotti was taught music by his mother and composed his first opera at 10. He studied at the Verdi Conservatory, Milan, and the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, where he later taught.
..... Click the link for more information. , Samuel BarberBarber, Samuel,
1910–81, American composer, b. West Chester, Pa. Barber studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. His music is lyrical and generally tonal; his later works are more chromatic and polytonal with striking contrapuntal elements.
..... Click the link for more information. , Alberto GinasteraGinastera, Alberto
, 1916–83, Argentinean composer, b. Buenos Aires. Ginastera is considered among the most prominent Latin American composers of the 20th cent. His early works used Latin American folk material; later compositions were less nationalistic and utilized
..... Click the link for more information. , Hans Werner HenzeHenze, Hans Werner
, 1926–2012, German composer, b. Gütersloh. Henze was a pupil of Wolfgang Fortner and René Leibowitz. His early works were influenced by Stravinsky, Hindemith, and Bartók.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Dominick Argento. The first two composed in traditional musical idiom, as in Menotti's The Medium (1946), The Consul (1950), and Amahl and the Night Visitors (written for television, 1951) and Barber's Vanessa (1957) and Antony and Cleopatra (1966). Henze's The Young Lord (1965) and Ginastera's Bomarzo (1964) and Beatrix Cenci (1971) are highly innovative and controversial. Argento's operas, including Postcard from Morocco (1971) and The Aspern Papers (1988), are generally musically conservative but often unconventional in other aspects. Operas by the Americans Douglas MooreMoore, George Edward,
1873–1958, English philosopher, b. Upper Norwood. He was educated at Cambridge, where he was a fellow (1898–1904) and then a lecturer (1911–25) in the department of moral sciences.
..... Click the link for more information. and Carlisle FloydFloyd, Carlisle
(Carlisle Sessions Floyd, Jr.), 1926–, American composer, b. Latta, S.C., grad. Syracuse Univ. (B.A., 1946; M.A., 1949). His reputation rests on his operas, for which he writes both music and libretto.
..... Click the link for more information. use American history, legend, and folk music, as reflected in Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956) and Floyd's Susannah (1955).
The most internationally accepted post–World War II composer of operas was the Englishman Benjamin BrittenBritten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh,
1913–76, English composer. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music, much of which was written for his partner, the tenor Sir Peter Pears.
..... Click the link for more information. . His first operatic success was Peter Grimes (1945), followed by The Rape of Lucretia (1946). Britten's other works include Billy Budd (after Melville's story, 1951), The Turn of the Screw (after Henry James's story, 1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (after the novella by Thomas Mann, 1973). Britten's operas are cast in traditional musical and dramatic form.
Some late 20th-century avant-garde operas include The Devils of Loudon (1968–69) by the Polish composer Krzysztof PendereckiPenderecki, Krzysztof
, 1933–2020, Polish composer. His music is characterized by unusual sonorities, and he devised his own system of notation to convey the effects he desired.
..... Click the link for more information. ; Le Grand Macabre (1978) by the Hungarian György LigetiLigeti, György,
1923–2006, Hungarian composer. He studied music in Romania and Hungary, and was a teacher at the Budapest Academy of Music until he fled to Vienna (1956) after the Soviet invasion of Hungary.
..... Click the link for more information. ; Three Sisters (1996) by the Hungarian Peter Eötvös; and Einstein on the Beach (1976), Satyagraha (1980), Akhnaton (1984), The Voyage (1992), and White Raven (1998) by the American Philip GlassGlass, Philip,
1937–, American composer, b. Baltimore. Considered one of the most innovative of contemporary composers, he was a significant figure in the development of minimalism in music. Glass attended the Univ. of Chicago, Juilliard (M.A.
..... Click the link for more information. . Other operatic works by Americans in the same period include Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) by John AdamsAdams, John
(John Coolidge Adams), 1947–, American composer, b. Worcester, Mass. A clarinetist, he studied composition at Harvard (B.A. 1969, M.A. 1971). Often regarded as the most outstanding, technically adept, and influential composer of his generation, Adams has
..... Click the link for more information. ; The Ghosts of Versailles (1991) by John CoriglianoCorigliano, John Paul
, 1938–, American composer, b. New York City. The son of New York Philharmonic first violinist and concertmaster John Corigliano, he attended Columbia (B.A., 1959) and the Manhattan School of Music and studied with Paul Creston.
..... Click the link for more information. ; and McTeague (1992) and A View from the Bridge (1999) by William BolcomBolcom, William
(William Elden Bolcom), 1938–, American composer, b. Seattle, Wash. He attended the Univ. of Washington (B.A., 1958) and studied composition at Mills College and Stanford (D.M.A., 1964).
..... Click the link for more information. . Owing to widespread indifference to new works on the part of the opera-going public and most major opera houses, plus the financial burden incurred in staging a new work, many composers in the latter part of the 20th cent. turned to community and college opera workshops to produce their works. However, in the 1990s and 2000s this trend was partly reversed, with younger audiences becoming interested in opera, and more large companies presenting operas by contemporary composers.
H. Graf, Opera for the People (2d ed. 1969); R. G. Pauly, Music and the Theater: An Introduction to Opera (1970); J. Wechsberg, The Opera (1972); L. Orrey, A Concise History of Opera (1973); S. Braubard, The Future of Opera (1988); D. Grout, A Short History of Opera (3d ed. 1988); C. Headington et al., ed., Opera: A History (1988); S. Sadie, Opera (1988) and, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1998); R. H. Kornick, Recent American Opera: A Production Guide (1991); P. Gossett, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera (2006); C. Abbate and R. Parker, A History of Opera (2012); E. Baker, From the Score to the Stage (2013).
For studies of librettos see P. J. Smith, The Tenth Muse (1971) and A. H. Drummond, American Opera Librettos (1973). For books containing summaries of opera plots, see K. Kohrs, ed., The New Milton Cross' Complete Stories of the Great Operas (1952) and The New Milton Cross' More Stories of the Great Operas (1980), and H. W. Simon, ed., The Victor Book of the Opera (13th ed., 1968).
Following the publication of John Polidori‘s initial vampire story, and its popularization by being adapted for the stage in France, it was also adapted for the stage in Germany by Heinrich Ludwig Ritter under the title Der Vampyr, oder die todten Braut in 1821. It was this German play that then became the basis of the script written by Wilhelm August Wohlbrück, which Heinrick August Marshner (1795–1861) turned into the first vampire opera. Der Vampyr premiered in Leipzig on March 28, 1828.
Following Ritter’s lead, the Wohlbrück script has Lord Ruthven meet the (Satan-like) Vampyrmeister to beg for more time on earth. He is given a deal—he can have three more years if he brings the Vampyrmeister three virgin brides. He celebrates his first kill with a light song about the joy of killing. He then kills Emmy and goes after Malwine as his third. Introduced to Malwine’s family as the Earl von Marsden, he attempts to draw the young woman away from Aubrey her true love. Aubry is helpless because of an oath previously made to Lord Ruthven, which, if he breaks, will cause him to become a vampire. However, Ruthven is ultimately thwarted.
Marshner’s work was quickly followed by a similar adaptation, also named Der Vampyr, by Peter Josef von Lindpainter (1791–1856). The script, by Caesar Max Heigel, follows closely the plot of Charles Nodier‘s prior Parisian production, even though the characters’ names are shifted around. The vampire has, for example, become known as Graf Aubri. Lindpainter’s opera has been largely forgotten, while Marshner’s was produced for the first time in England in 1829, and in recent decades in London in 1976. In 1992 the British Broadcasting Company filmed a version of the opera (with a new script by Charles Hart), which played on American television and has been released on CD and video. Marshner’s opera was also revived for a performance in Boston in 1980. (A list of recent public performances can be found http://www.operone.de/opern/vampyr.html.)
Following the German productions of the 1820s, the genre seems to have exhausted itself as a subject for opera. However, there were a number of attempts to turn the vampire play into a musical. Various productions added songs and Gilbert and Sullivan produced their own vampire operetta, Ruddigore, which enjoyed a successful run after its opening in January of 1887. Like all of their work, Ruddigore was a satire, in this case of Dion Boucicault‘s The Vampire. Throughout the twentieth century, a host of Dracula musicals have been written and staged, including Seven Brides for Dracula by Tim Kelly and Larry Nestor, Count Dracula, or A Musical Mania from Transylvania by Lawrence O’Dwyer (1974), Dracula by Kingsley Day (1978), and My Fair Dracula by William Lockwood and Franklyn J. Wyka (1996). However, opera seems to be the one contemporary media that has chosen not to take a bite out of the Vampire Lord.
a genre of musical dramatic art. The literary foundation of opera (the libretto) is presented by means of the resources of musical dramaturgy and, above all, through forms of vocal music.
Opera is a synthesis that unites in a single theatrical presentation numerous art forms, including drama, music, the representational arts (sets and costumes), and choreography (ballet). Historically, several specific forms of opera music have developed. Although there are some general principles in operatic dramaturgy, all of its components are open to different interpretations, depending on the type of opera. The vocal forms of classical opera are diverse. The characters of the heroes are most fully revealed in solos (the aria, arioso, arietta, cavatina, monologue, ballad, and song). Recitative—the intonational and rhythmic imitation of human speech in music—has various functions in opera. In many instances, it is used to connect the solos, which are complete in themselves, and to provide for continuity in the plot and in the music. Often, the recitative carries the action in musical dramaturgy. In some operatic genres, particularly comic opera, conversational speech is used instead of recitative, usually in dialogues. In opera, a musical ensemble (duet, trio, quartet, quintet, and so forth) accompanies the stage dialogue and action. The special features of the musical ensemble make it possible to create conflict situations and to show the clash of characters and ideas, as well as the development of the plot. For this reason, ensembles are often used in the culminating or concluding moments of an operatic act.
The chorus is treated in different ways. It may be used in the background and have no connection with the main line of the plot. Sometimes it serves as a special kind of commentator on the action. Its artistic possibilities make it an excellent vehicle for depicting scenes from popular life and revealing the relationship between the hero and the masses (for example, in M. P. Mussorgsky’s folk music dramas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina).
In operatic dramaturgy the orchestra plays an important role: the symphonic means of expression makes possible a fuller rendition of images. Opera also includes independent orchestral interludes called overtures and entr’actes (introductions to each act). Another component of an operatic presentation is ballet, or choreographical scenes, in which the fluid, plastic images of the dance are combined with musical images.
The history of opera is closely connected with the cultural and historical development of human society. Often, opera has been a unique ideological outpost of musical art, reflecting the most pressing issues of the times, including social inequality, the struggle for national independence, and patriotism.
Musical theater originated in folk festivals and games. Even in the ancient Greek Dionysian games and Greek tragedies, music played an important role. It was an essential component of medieval popular religious (“sacred”) presentations. Opera took shape as an independent genre at the turn of the 17th century. In a few centuries, many national operatic schools, styles, and types of operatic works developed. In many European national cultures, the elaboration of the principles of a new type of musical dramatic presentation was associated with the rise of the humanistic ideas of the Renaissance. These musical experiments first met with success in Italy, the classic country of the Renaissance. A group of philosophers, poets, musicians, and artists (the Florentine Camerata, 1580) called for the revival of classical tragedy. In music the ideal of the Florentines was simplicity, a natural manner of expression. In their presentations they subordinated music to poetry. The first operas, Dafne (1597–98) and Euridice (1600), with music by J. Peri and texts by O. Rinuccini, were written in this spirit. The next landmark in operatic history was C. Monteverdi’s La Favola d’Orfeo (1607). An artist with a great gift for writing tragedies, he created works distinguished for profound dramatic expression and masterful characterization.
In France, an operatic school developed somewhat later than in Italy (second half of the 17th century). Operas by the founder of the French school, J.-B. Lully (Alceste, 1674, and Armide et Renaud 1686), are associated with the classical theater of Racine and Corneille. Lully created the classical French lyric tragedy (tragédie lyrique; lyric, that is, musical tragedy), a harmoniously constructed, monumental composition consisting of five acts, a prologue, and an epilogue-apotheosis, with the climax at the end of the third act. The foundation for the vocal music was a melodic recitative. J.-P. Rameau developed the traditions of Lully’s lyric tragedy.
In the 17th century an original operatic genre, the zarzuela, took shape in Spain. In England, opera is associated with the composer H. Purcell (Dido and Aeneas, 1689). H. Schütz (Dafne, 1626) was the first German operatic composer. At the turn of the 18th century, the Neapolitan school of opera became very important in Italian music. It was headed by A. Scarlatti, the creator of the opera seria (literally, “serious opera”), a new type of operatic work. Emotionally detached arias, in which singers could demonstrate their virtuosity, matched the heroic, mythological themes and lofty content of the opera seria. Gradually, the literary dramatic content became merely a background for the virtuoso arias of the soloists. Associated with the opera seria is the work of G. F. Handel. Among operas of this type, his are outstanding for their dramatic tension and for their melodically and harmonically rich musical language (for example, Julius Caesar, 1724; Tamerlane, 1724; and Rodelinda, 1725).
By the mid-18th century, the artistic possibilities of the opera seria had been exhausted. It no longer satisfied the aesthetic requirements of the time, and it was replaced by a new, more democratic art form, the comic opera, whose comic themes and lively music were in sharp contrast to the forced enthusiasm and bombastic, static arias of the outmoded classicist opera. National varieties of comic opera developed. In Italy, the opera buffa, which grew out of the interludes of the opera seria and theatrical comedies, was established in the work of G. B. Pergolesi (The Maid as Mistress, 1733) and reached the high point of its development in the operas of G. Paisiello (The Miller’s Wife, 1788) and D. Cimarosa (The Secret Marriage, 1792). In England the comic opera took the form of the “ballad opera” (The Beggar’s Opera , adaptations of melodies by J. Pepusch). The Spanish form of comic opera was the tonadilla (M. de García’s El criado fingida, 1804). The most outstanding composers of French opéra comique were E. Duni (The Artist Who Was in Love, 1757), F. A. Philidor (The Gardener and His Master, 1761), and A. E. Grétry (Richard Coeur de Lion, 1789). In Austria and Germany the comic opera was known as the Sing-spiel (K. von Dittersdorfs Doktor und Apotheker, 1786, and J. A. Hiller’s Lottchen at Court, 1766).
The creative work of the greatest reformers of operatic art, C. W. Gluck and Mozart, reflected the progressive ideas of the Enlightenment. Gluck created the heroic musical tragedy, in which he achieved the organic unity of all musical dramatic expressive means (for example, Orfeo ed Euridice, 1762, and Alceste, 1767). Drawing on the achievements of the opera buffa and the Singspiel, Mozart created fine, realistic models of the comedy (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786), the drama (Don Giovanni, 1787), and the philosophical tale (The Magic Flute, 1791).
The first Russian operatic presentations, which date from the 1770’s, were slice-of-life comedies (M. M. Sokolovskii’s The Miller Magician, Deceiver, and Matchmaker, 1779; The St. Petersburg Arcade, revised with a new title, As You Live, Thus You Will Be Known, by M. A. Matinskii and V. A. Pashkevich, 1782; and E. I. Fomin’s The Coachmen, 1787). From the very beginning, Russian opera developed as a democratic genre based on folk and everyday music and closely associated with contemporary literature.
Representative of the response to the Great French Revolution were monumental dramatic works of an agitational character (Grétry’s The Republican Maiden, or the Festival of Virtue, originally entitled The Festival of Reason, 1794), as well as other heroic genres of opera, such as the rescue opera (L. Cherubini’s Lodoiska, 1791; and J. F. Lesueur’s The Cave, 1793). The term “rescue opera” reflects the genre’s typical plot situation, which culminates in the triumph of lofty humanistic ideas and the victory of the “good.” The dramatic art of the rescue opera relied on the use of contrasting images and scenes. Beethoven’s Fidelio (1805; third version, 1814) is an outstanding example of the German rescue opera. Comic opera continued to develop in the creative work of F. Boieldieu (The White Lady, 1825) and D. F. Auber (Fra Diavolo, 1830). The typical features of Italian comic opera were brilliantly reflected in the work of G. Rossini (The Barber of Seville, 1816).
The beginning and middle of the 19th century are associated with the establishment of romanticism in the national schools of opera. In Germany the first romantic operatic composer was C. M. von Weber (Der Freischütz, 1820). Wagner’s early operas were in the romantic style (Rienzi, 1840; Derfliegende Holländer, 1841). In France the romantic style was embodied in the creative work of G. Meyerbeer, who is associated with the development of the grand opera (Robert le Diable, 1830; Les Huguenots, 1835). Italian romantic opera is represented by the works of V. Bellini (La Sonnambula and Norma, both 1831) and G. Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor, 1835), as well as by Verdi’s early works (Nabucco, 1841; I Lombardi, 1842). Outstanding among Russian operas of the romantic period is A. N. Verstovskii’s Askold’s Tomb (1835).
The 19th century was marked by the development and flowering of Russian opera. The most outstanding composer of Russian classical opera was M. I. Glinka. His operas—the folk patriotic Ivan Susanin (1836) and the fairy-tale, epic opera Ruslan and Liudmila (1842)—are the most brilliant examples of realism in operatic art. A. S. Dargomyzhskii created Russia’s first slice-of-life drama, The Mermaid (1855).
The flowering of Russian opera during the 1860’s is associated with the composers known as the Russian Five. Many masterpieces of classic opera were composed, old genres were revived, and new ones were created. Among the new genres were Mussorgsky’s folk music dramas (Boris Godunov, 1869; second version, 1872; and Khovanshchina, completed by N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, 1883), which, with unprecedented power, sounded the theme of the struggle and suffering of the people. Also representative of the new operatic genres established in Russia were A. P. Borodin’s epic Prince Igor (completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and A. K. Glazunov, 1888) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas, including the fairy-tale opera The Snow Maiden (1881), the opera-bylina (epic folk song) Sadko (1896), the operatic legend The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia (1904), and the satiric opera The Golden Cockerel (1907).
Among the greatest phenomena in the Russian musical theater was the operatic creativity of P. Tchaikovsky. Subtle psychology and a profound revelation of man’s spiritual world are the hallmarks of his operas (Eugene Onegin, 1878; The Sorceress, 1887; and The Queen of Spades, 1890). He also turned to historical patriotic themes (The Maid of Orleans, 1879; Mazeppa, 1883), as well as folk and everyday themes (The Little Shoes, 1885). The operatic repertoire was also enriched by A. G. Rubinstein (The Demon, 1871), A. N. Serov (The Power of Evil, 1871), S. I. Taneev (Oresteia, 1894), and S. V. Rachmaninoff (Aleko, 1892).
In Italy, the classic composer of realistic operas was Verdi, the creator of diverse types and genres of operatic drama (Rigoletto, 1851; La Traviata, 1853; Aïda, 1870; Otello, 1886; and Falstaff, 1892). Characteristic of French musical theater of the second half of the 19th century is the lyric opera, a genre that replaced the grand opera, of which it was, to a considerable degree, the antithesis. The French lyric opera is represented by C. Gounod’s Faust (1859), L. Delibes’ Lakmé (1883), and J. Massenet’s Manon (1884). The acme of operatic realism in 19th-century French music is G. Bizet’s Carmen (1874). The vivid, emotional quality of its images and the originality of its musical language have won it a place among the greatest operatic classics.
German opera of the second half of the 19th century is associated with Wagner, who had a tremendous impact on European musical art. Like Gluck, Wagner fought for the unity of music and drama. A system of leitmotivs was the foundation of his operatic drama. Striving for wholeness, or unity, in the development of musical ideas, he rejected the practice of dividing acts into separate numbers. He assigned the orchestra a special role in his complex, psychologically refined operas. However, scrupulous adherence to these principles gave rise to contradictions in his creative work. His reformist operas are Tristan und Isolde (1859), the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (1854–74), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1867), and Parsifal (1882).
In the last decade of the 19th century a new tendency known as verismo emerged in Italian opera. Outstanding veristic operas include P. Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (1890) and R. Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci (1892). Elements of verismo are also encountered in the work of G. Puccini (Manon Lescaut, 1892; La Bohème, 1895; Tosca, 1899; and Madame Butterfly, 1904).
The liberation movement in 19th-century Eastern Europe gave rise to national schools of opera. Czech, Polish, and Hungarian opera entered the international repertoire: Smetana’s The Brandenburgers in Bohemia (1863) and The Bartered Bride (1866), S. Moniuszko’s Halka (1847), and F. Erkel’s Hunyadi László (1844) and B ánk b á n (1852).
In prerevolutionary Russia a similar process led to the establishment of national operatic cultures among a number of peoples. Representative of these national schools are the Ukrainian composers S. S. Gulak-Artemovskii (The Zaporozhian Cossack Beyond the Danube, 1863) and N. V. Lysenko (Natalka Pol-tavka, 1889), the Georgian composer M. A. Balanchivadze (Perfidious Daredzhan, 1897), the Azerbaijani U. Gadzhibekov (Leili and Medzhnun, 1908), and the Armenian A. T. Tigranian (Anush, 1912).
Musical trends of the late 19th century and the early 20th were expressed in operatic art. The impressionist style is represented by C. Debussy’s operas (Pelléas et Mélisande, 1902), and the expressionist style, by the works of R. Strauss (Salome, 1905;Elek-tra, 1908), A. Schönberg (Erwartung, 1909; Die glückliche Hand, 1913), A. Berg (Wozzeck, 1921), and P. Hindemith (Cardillac, 1926; revised version, 1952). Tendencies toward neoclassical stylization were reflected in a number of works by I. Stravinsky, including the operatic oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927). Among the 20th-century composers of various nationalities and schools who have made important contributions to the development of opera are D. Milhaud (The Poor Sailor, 1927; Christopher Columbus, 1930), C. Orff (The Moon, 1938; The Prudent Woman, 1942), M. de Falla (La Vida breve [Life Is Short], completed in 1905 and staged in 1913), Z. Kodály (Háry János, staged 1926), L. Janá-ček (Her Foster-daughter, 1903), G. Enesco (Oedipe, 1932), and P. Vladigerov (Tsar Kaloyan, 1936). G. Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) has won recognition as a landmark in 20th-century opera. Written in a vivid musical language and based on folk music, it was the first American musical drama to deal with serious social problems.
The evolution of opera in the capitalist countries has been complex. Opera has been penetrated by various modernistic tendencies that have distorted and damaged it. Nonetheless, progressive artists continue to create valuable works by combining the achievements of modern music with the principles of operatic realism. Among these progressive works are operas by the French composer F. Poulenc (La Voix humaine, 1959), the Italian composer L. Dallapiccola (The Prisoner, 1948), and G. C. Menotti, an Italian-born composer who lives in the USA (The Medium, 1942; The Consul, 1950). The most important achievements in modern English opera are the works of B. Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1960) and A. Bush (Wat Tyler, 1950).
Soviet operatic art, which developed after the Great October Socialist Revolution, occupies a special place in the history of opera. Relying on classical traditions and the method of socialist realism, Soviet composers strive for a faithful depiction of reality and history in all their complexities. The Soviet musical theater developed as a multinational theater. In some republics, including Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Kazakhstan, Byelorussia, and Bashkiria, a national musical theater was created after the establishment of Soviet power.
Among the new currents in Soviet opera was a turn to contemporary themes. In the 1930’s the song opera (based on the song, the foundation of musical dramaturgy) took shape in works by I. I. Dzerzhinskii (The Quiet Don, 1934; staged 1935) and T. N. Khrennikov (Into the Storm, 1939, revised version, 1952). Among the outstanding achievements of Soviet opera are S. S. Prokofiev’s Simeon Kotko (1939) and War and Peace (1943; final version, 1952) and D. D. Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Katerina Izmailova, 1932; revised version, 1962). Brilliant national classics have been created—Z. P. Paliashvili’s Daisi (1923), A. A. Spendiarov’s Almost (1928), and U. Ga-dzhibekov’s Ker-ogly (1936). The heroic struggle of the Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) was reflected in Soviet operas, including D. B. Kabalevskii’s Taras’ Family (1947; revised version, 1950), Iu. S. Meitus’ The Young Guard (1947; revised version, 1950), and Prokofiev’s Story of a Real Man (1948; staged in 1960). Important contributions to Soviet opera have been made by R. M. Glière, K. V. Molchanov, V. I. Muradeli, S. M. Slonimskii, A. N. Kholminov, Iu. A. Shaporin, V. Ia. Shebalin, and R. K. Shchedrin.
Among the composers from the fraternal republics who have made major contributions to Soviet opera are F. Amirov, M. Ashrafi, S. A. Balasanian, E. G. Brusilovskii, V. A. Vlasov, D. G. Gershfel’d, N. G. Zhiganov, A. K. Zhubanov, M. O. Za-rin’, E. A. Kapp, B. N. Liatoshinskii, G. I. Maiboroda, and A. M. M. Magomaev. Other composers from the fraternal republics who have made important contributions to Soviet opera are A. Maldybaev, V. Mukhatov, D. Ovezov, Sh. M. Mshvelidze, V. J. Klova, Sh. Saifiddinov, Iu. V. Semeniako, A. L. Stepanian, O. V. Taktakishvili, E. K. Tikotskii, V. G. Fere, L. A. Khamidi, and A. G. Shaposhnikov.
The operatic art of the European socialist countries is developing in a socialist realist vein. Among the composers from these countries are P. Dessau (the German Democratic Republic), L. Pipkov (Bulgaria), E. Suchoň (Czechoslovakia), and S. Szokolai (Hungary).
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M. R. VOLKOVA
What does it mean when you dream about opera?
Dreaming about being in an opera, or even just watching an opera, can be about dramatizing our feelings, or dramatizing the roles we feel that we play in life. Alternatively, feeling like one is on stage, or the desire to be on stage (the desire to be noticed).
Opera(1) See Opera browser.
(2) (OPERA) (Open PLC European Research Alliance) An earlier European consortium dedicated to expanding power line communications (PLC). See broadband over power lines.