A Short History of Opera
With an extensive multilanguage bibliography, more than one hundred musical examples, and stage illustrations, this authoritative one-volume survey will be invaluable to students and serious opera buffs. New fans will also find it highly accessible and informative. Extremely thorough in its coverage, A Short History of Opera is now more than ever the book to turn to for anyone who wants to know about the history of this art form. User Account Log in Register Help. Search Close. Advanced Search Help. Show Summary Details When first published in , A Short History of Opera immediately achieved international status as a classic in the field.
This thoroughly revised and expanded fourth edition examines not only the standard performance repertoire, but also works considered important for the genre's development, from its Greek forerunners to the present day. Add to Cart. Prices are subject to change without notice. Prices do not include postage and handling if applicable.
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There were also comic insertions, improvised antics or farces, often of an indecent nature. Finally, the mysteries went so far as to permit mockery of the church and priests and the introduction of pagan deities on the stage. The awakened conscience of the church, together with the revival of classic ideals of the drama, eventually led to the condemnation of the mysteries on both moral and aesthetic grounds.
By the end of the sixteenth century they were virtually extinct, though some remnants of the medieval love of profusion and grotesquerie survived in the operas and ballets of the seventeenth century. Music in the mysteries was less extensive than in the liturgical dramas. In most cases its function was incidental, and since little of it has come down to us, we learn of its existence only by references in the stage directions and from other indirect sources.
Hymns and other parts of the liturgy were sung, as in the Mystery of the Resurrection fifteenth century , where all the spirits sing Veni creator spiritus at the moment when Christ descends into Hell. In the Mystery of the Passion Anglers, , the voice of God is represented by three singers, soprano, tenor, and bass—this doubtless being intended to symbolize the Trinity.
In addition to music of this kind, the mysteries included popular airs, in the singing of which the audience joined. In Germany, where the Nativity plays were especially cultivated, one such song was the well-known In dulci jubilo.
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There was also a considerable amount of instrumental music in the mysteries. Before the performance there would be a procession monstre through the town, with music by pipe and tabor. Entrances of important personages were announced by a silete , similar to the flourish of trumpets in Shakespeare. Instrumental music accompanied the procession of the actors to a different scene on the stage. Angels played concerts of harps—or rather pretended to play them—while musicians concealed behind the scenes furnished the music.
For the monstre of the Mystery of the Acts of the Apostles , there was an orchestra of flutes, harps, lutes, rebecs, and viols.
Trumpets, bucinae , bagpipes, cornemuses , drums, and organs are also mentioned; in the Mystery of the Passion , the march of Jesus to the temple is accompanied by a soft thunder of one of the large organ pipes, and in the Mystery of the Resurrection , the descent of the Holy Ghost is similarly signalized.
There was at least one mystery in which music, instead of being merely incidental, was used throughout. This was the El misterio de Elche , a Spanish mystery of the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, which had instrumental pieces, unaccompanied plainsong solos, and a number of three- and four-part choruses by the Spanish composers Antonio Ribera, David Perez, and Lluis Vich.
Some of the Italian sacre rappresentazioni and similar pieces of the fifteenth century seem to have been sung throughout.
This play is performed annually on the feast of the Assumption in mid-August at the basilica of Santa Maria in Elche. It is staged in the nave of the church on a specially erected stage at the crossing. To allow the angel to descend from a cloud in Heaven and the soul of the Virgin to ascend to Heaven, a device known as an aracoeli is used. The medieval liturgical dramas and mysteries, although they did not lead directly into the opera, are more than merely isolated precursors of the form.
The Italian sacre rappresentazioni were the models from which the first pastoral dramas with music were derived. We shall have occasion later to see how the traditions and practices of such works manifest themselves in some of the operas of the seventeenth century.
But their music was completely unsuited to modern dramatic expression. The immediate predecessors of the opera must be sought in the secular theater of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is probable that Adam himself wrote neither the words nor the music of the songs, but simply selected them from a current common repertoire. Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion is an early example of the use of chansons in a dramatic framework. Chansons, for the most part of popular nature and uncertain origin, were frequently inserted in morality plays, farces, sotties , and like entertainments of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in France.
See also Simon, ed. It has been suggested that the term liturgical drama is not appropriate when applied to plays developed from paraliturgical material and tropes passages added to the regular liturgy ; however, since this term is well established, there seems little point in attempting to replace it by the more accurate designation of ecclesiastical drama or church drama. Response : He is not here, he has risen as was foretold; go, make known he has risen. In some manuscripts, de sepulchro from the tomb is added after surrexit he is risen.
See, for example, the St. Gall MS. This morality play predates by some two hundred years other extant works in the genre. The monk Volmar, who served first as a teacher and then as a secretary for Hildegard, may have played the role of the Devil. Other candidates for this role include her nephew, Wezelin, whose copying of the Ordo Virtutum found in the Risendkodex in the Hessische Landesbibliothek provides the only reliable source for a modern edition.
See Davidson, ed. Very few liturgical plays based upon personages in the Hebrew Scriptures were written before the beginning of the fourteenth century. Charles Burney attended an outdoor production of this kind in a town north of Florence, where a popular mystery play based on the biblical story of David and Goliath was given in the town square. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, music was a feature of courtly entertainments, banquets, tourneys, festivals, triumphal entrances, and similar brilliant occasions.
Nevertheless, its connection with the history of opera is important, for these courtly displays of the Renaissance established the practice of bringing together many different artistic resources—singing, playing, dancing, scenery, costumes, stage effects—in a single spectacle calculated to appeal equally to the eye, the ear, and the imagination. Scenes of this kind—nondramatic displays with accompaniment of music—came into opera very early in the seventeenth century and have remained characteristic of opera ever since. In the sixteenth century the most important of the many types of entertainment in which music served were the ballet and the intermedio.
The ancestor of the ballet was the masquerade French mascarade , Italian mascherata , English masque. Originally a popular spectacle associated with Carnival time, the Italian mascherata had developed into a favorite court amusement, which was imitated by the French and English in the sixteenth century. The French mascarades frequently formed part of the ceremonies of welcome to a distinguished personage, as on the occasion of a visit of Charles IX to Bar-le-Duc in , when actors representing the four elements, the four planets, and various allegorical and mythological personages, including the god Jupiter, united in a sumptuous ceremony of homage to the king.
Mascarades of this sort later became the models for the French opera prologues.
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By the sixteenth century, as these mascarades show, aristocratic poetry had taken over the whole panoply of ancient pagan deities, demigods, nymphs, satyrs, and heroes, together with scores of figures from the pages of medieval epics and romances; all these were freely introduced on the stage, usually more lavishly than logically. In those mascarades where the purpose was the entertainment of an entire company rather than the complimenting of an illustrious guest, dancing was the chief attraction, and it was from mascarades of this sort that the characteristic French form of the ballet was derived.
The French word ballet comes from the Italian balletto , the diminutive of ballo dance. A complete account of this incredibly lavish production was published with the score in the following year. Slight as it was, this introduction of a dramatic action into the ballet might have led at once to the creation of French opera if only the musicians had undertaken to solve the problem of setting dramatic dialogue, thereby making continuous music possible. But neither their interest nor that of their audiences lay in this direction.
The dramatic ballet survived for a few decades in France, but by all pretense of a unified plot was abandoned, and the ballet reverted to a mere diversified spectacle for the amusement of the court. It consists of eight choruses, two dialogues with choral refrains, two solos, and two sets of instrumental dances scored in five-part texture and played by ten violons. The bass solos, as was customary in the period, simply follow the bass of the harmony.
Some of the soprano airs are highly ornamented—a style of writing frequently found in solo madrigals and also used by Monteverdi for one aria in his Orfeo. The most interesting pieces are the dances, with their formal, stately, geometrical rhythms. One of them, Le Son de la clochette, has retained its popularity to this day example 3.
The Ballet comique exerted considerable influence on the masques of Ben Jonson long before it was presented in London in in the form of a close adaptation by Aurelia Townsend entitled Tempe Restored. The English masque, somewhat similar to the Italian mascarade and the French ballet, made its appearance at the beginning of the sixteenth century as a form of courtly entertainment designed to pay homage to the royal family and to exalt the glories of the kingdom. It was allegorical in character, with the main interest focused on costumes and spectacle, and included spoken dialogue, songs, dances, and instrumental music.
The earliest masques consisted of a sequence of dance episodes or entries centered on a common theme, performed by masked courtiers. Although the masque was popular throughout the century, its heyday did not come until the next century, during the reigns of James I —25 and Charles I — Both the ballet and the masque exercised a strong influence on the formation of the respective French and English national operas, as will be discussed in subsequent chapters.
In such pieces as the masquerades and ballets, the function of music was essentially that of adjunct to a visual spectacle. There is another class of sixteenth-century works in which the role of music was to offer diversion in connection with a regular spoken play. As is well known, one of the features of the Renaissance was the revival of secular drama. The movement began in Italy toward the end of the fifteenth century with performances of Latin plays, in the original or in translation, under courtly auspices and at various centers, of which Ferrara, Rome, Florence, Mantua, and Venice were particularly prominent.
Many new plays were written, in Latin or Italian, imitating classical models. Practically all these plays made use of music to some extent, though often in a subordinate, decorative fashion. This action might not be possible to undo.
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Summary When first published in , A Short History of Opera immediately achieved international status as a classic in the field. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Includes bibliographical references p. ISBN alk. Williams, Hermine Weigel, II. G83 But consider the following: When I am laid in earth, [may] my wrongs create No trouble in thy breast. Remember me, but ah! Forget my fate. Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn [first published in ], Haweis, Music and Morals , See Webster, The Greek Chorus. Hamilton, The Greek Chorus. Aristotle, Poetics , a Lucianus, Lucian , The Liturgical Drama Like Greek tragedy, the liturgical drama grew out of religious ceremonies.
Responsio : Jhesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o celicolae. The Mysteries The mysteries the word is probably derived from the Latin misterium , service flourished during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Stevens and Rastall, Medieval Drama. Question : Whom do you seek in the tomb, O followers of Christ? Response : Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, O dwellers in heaven.
Introduction Opera in France and Italy. Opera in the GermanSpeaking Countries. Opera in the United States. Masters of the Early Eighteenth Century.
A Brief History of Opera
General Characteristics. The Operas of Gluck. The Nineteenth Century. Chinese Opera Xiqu. List yAbbreiiations. Sources and Translations ofMusical Examples.