Apostolo Zeno

First opera seria librettist reformer

Opera Seria (1)

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4 points and when does it become true Opera Seria

Late 17th Century

a. Cuts out comic elements
b. Reduced number of subplots
c. Morality a factor: characters choose between virtue and vice
d. Main characters (of which there were few): kings, princes, war heroes

Pietro Metastasio

Continued Zeno’s reform of Opera Seria

1. Libretti deal with love, politics, all with happy endings
2. Metastasio’s poetry (written to be set to music) consists of alternation of recitative with arias

i. Formalizes scene structure: Each scene begins with recitative and concludes with an aria
ii. Typically every scene ended with an aria for a star singer (no ensemble finales)

3. Thus, Metastasio’s libretto formula crystallized the structure of opera seria

What drives Opera Seria to change after Zeno and Metastasio’s Reform?
While a new level of literary advancement was achieved; the opera’s are even more aria driven making them have no through line, very stop and start

The abuse of virtuosity in the Aria also leads to reform

Opera Seria Arias (points about them [3] and who is singing them?)
1. Regardless of dramatic situation, almost all are da capo
2. Not part of a larger musical scheme: interchangeable.
3. Dramatic continuity suffers

The Castrati are singing them.

Opera Seria Recitative Types (2)
Secco and Accompagnato
With the two main Librettists of Opera Seria, who was writing the music?
Johann Adolph Hasse

a. Studied and worked in Naples and Venice before residing in Dresden
b. 75 operas: serious and intermezzi
c. Studied with A. Scarlatti, assimilated Italian style

Where did one find comedy in this world of Opera Seria?
1) intermezzi

2) full-length forms like: opera buffa, opera comique, Singspiel, the ballad opera

skits performed between acts of a serious opera.
a. Created continuous plot so that two operas proceed in alternation
b. In 2 sections (for each intermission of 3 -act opera seria)
c. Characters derived from commedia dell’arte
d. No virtuoso arias
e. Fast, speechlike recitative, limited vocal range, only sparse accompaniment

Most famous intermezzi = La serva padrona (1733); Music by Pergolesi (1710-36)

Musical style:
a. Animated and comic

b. Variety of aria types (not just da capo)

c. 2 singers and an actor

d. No overture

e. Used recitative (other national styles use spoken)

Full Length Comic Operas
Full length comic operas

1. Post-1760, comic opera gains in importance and will eventually supercede seria

2. Comic also undergoes change
a. Introduction of some seriousness to make it sentimental
b. Parodies conventions of serious opera
c. Ensemble finales are musically elaborate, move action: Helps overcome stop-start motion
<>National styles of comic opera: See hand out posted on Blackboard

Italy: Opera Buffa
France: Opera comique
Germany: Singspiel
England: Ballad opera

Gluck (dates and facts)

a. Greatest opera composer between Handel and Mozart: bridges Monteverdi to Wagner.
b. Gluck is basically reforming Metastasio
c. Interest in continuity of drama and music

Gluck’s Reform Ideas
1. Overture must relate to drama
2. Not as much rigid repetition of da capo aria format
3. More attention to the relationship of parts to the whole
4. Focus on a single dramatic idea
5. New equilibrium between music and drama
Important Gluck events with dates
1. In 1752 Gluck settled in Vienna
2. In 1761, Calzabigi (1714-95) arrived in Vienna: poet, librettist, businessman
3. Partnered with Gluck, providing libretti for 3 of Gluck’s greatest operas
Gluck’s two most important operas with dates
1. Orfeo(1762)
a. Includes dance = synthesis of French with Italian
b. Orchestra comments on drama: Music appropriate to drama
c. Free flow between aria and recitative.
d. What helps this? Secco is out, and recitative is accompanied.

2. Alceste (1767)
>>Actually came with list of reform aims:
1. Music devoid of superfluous ornamentation, expressive of text, and appropriate to dramatic circumstances

2. Arias in form suited to situation rather than relying on traditional da capo

3. Less contrast between recit and aria (avoid secco)

4. Relate overture to ensuing drama

Sonata Form
a. Strict formal design added to “weight” of the first movement
b. A large-scale ternary format on 2 levels:

1. Tonal
2. Thematic

Tonal basics of this ternary form:
1. Establish home key (in Exposition)
2. Modulate to another key area (in Development)
3. Return home (in Recapitulation)

Thematic basics of ternary form:
1. Expose theme(s) (in Exposition)
2. Develop exposed thematic material (in Development)
3. Recapitulate thematic material (in Recap)

<>Details of 3 major sections of sonata form:

I. Exposition: Expose theme(s) in tonic key, modulate to a related key, repeat
>Traits of “exposed” themes (contrasting in character):

a. Must be manageable with a “question/answer” feel
b. Must allow for modifications

II. Development: Manipulate theme(s), present new material, modulate back to tonic key

>>Traits of development: drama and conflict
a. Explores various keys with no set pattern
b. Resolves to tonic to prepare for Recap

III. Recapitulation: Bring back exposition material (with alterations)
>But! Recap doesn’t modulate so first movement ends in tonic<
Sonata form options:
a. slow intro
b. coda

Multi-Movement Standards
Movement I:
>Typical Tempo: Fast
>Typical Form: sonata
>Key: Tonic

Movement II: Slow
>Typical Tempo: typically slow
>Typical Form: Theme and variations, basic ternary
>Key: related

Movement III:
>Typical Tempo: moderate to fast
>Typical Form: minuet and trio (M-T-M)
>Key: tonic

Movement IV: Finale
>Typical Tempo: fast
>Typical Form: rondo, sonata, sonata rondo
>Key: Tonic


Rondo Alternates repeating with contrasting passages:
[A-B-A-C-A-D-A, etc.]

[ABA-C-ABA: where ABA is exposition, “C” is unstable development equivalent, and ABA is recap]

Non-Sonata Classical Forms
1. String trio, quartet and quintet
a. Liberated from continuo accompaniment
b. Assuming form of high classic and Romantic periods

2. Songs: simple textually and musically
a. Appeals to widest possible public.
b. Breaks from domination of arias

3. Solo concerto (with violin most popular)
>Concerto-sonata form (double exposition) to replace ritornello.

4. Symphony (more to come)

5. Church music

What ideas bring about functional Harmony?
Recognition of triad as the harmonic unit
>>Also of concern:
1. Drive to a keynote
2. Each note’s relationship to tonic
3. Modulation creates sections in large structures
Opera Seria (2)
a. They often parody serious opera
b. Scenes and characters from everyday life replace mythical or heroic
c. Used popular idioms and accessible musical style
d. All except opera buffa (Italian style) use spoken dialogue
e. Greater concern for dramatic aspects of the story
f. More flexibility in forms (less rigid use of da capo format and recitative/aria template)
g. Less showy virtuosity
h. Orchestra takes on a more expressive role instead of merely accompanying
Opera seria vs. Comic opera
a. too much showing off in opera seria interrupts dramatic continuity
b. seria about mythological subjects instead of real people in everyday situations
c. seria utilized castrato
Alessandro Scarlatti

Keyboard Sonatas- Essercizi.
Wrote many Operas; Neopolitan (of Naples)

Opera Buffa
1. Opera buffa descended from comic operas that had been written through most of 17th and early 18th centuries and from intermezzi of 18th century
a. Intermezzi: skits done between acts of serious opera. Skits sometimes formed continuous plot so that in essence, 2 operas proceeded in alternation.
b. Most famous intermezzo is Pergolesi’s La serva padrona of 1733. Music is animated and comic, mostly in major keys, with a variety of aria types (in contrast to dominance of da capo aria in opera seria).
c. Special emphasis on the bass voice lays foundation for ensemble numbers that are typical of opera buffa.

2. c. 1740 intermezzo detaches from moorings, becomes an independent genre.

3. Around 1750 opera buffa undergoes its own reform movement under the composer Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785) and the dramatist Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793), who reject reliance on stock characters and plots in favor of more natural and refined comedy.

4. One of most famous buffa composers is Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816). His most famous opera was Il barbiere de Siviglia (1782 – based on the Beaumarchais play). It was so popular that Rossini had to overcome popular resistance to the notion of another setting even as late as 1816.

Opera Comique
1. Grew out of Italian farces and comedies performed in France in French, which relied heavily on popular tunes called “vaudevilles”.

2. Reached maturity in mid-18th century. Alternation of spoken dialogue with newly composed songs as well as mixing with older vaudeville music.

3. Rescue opera typical of the works of Andre Gretry (1741-1813), the leading composer of opera comique in the latter 18th century. Richard Coeur-de-Lion (1784) deals with the rescue of Richard from prison.

4. 1752: There was a tussle between supporters of Italian opera and French opera. Rameau and the King were on the French side, the Queen and Rousseau were on Italian side. This was called the “Querelle des Bouffons” (it went on for months)
a. Rousseau didn’t think French was a good language for singing, but he went ahead and wrote a popular opera in French anyway, Le devin du village.

b. The public began to tire of the pretense of tragedie lyrique (think: Lully), and the vaudeville was a parody of opera that became popular, just like the ballad opera in England. It also made fun of the conventions of opera, was a social satire, and used popular melodies.

Ballad Opera
1. As in France the public began to weary of Italian operatic conventions and some resented dominance of Italian opera. So, in 1728 The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay (text) and Christopher Pepusch (music) poked fun at conventions of Italian opera, satirized society and court, and used popular music (even recognizable street tunes) fitted with new text.

2. This gave rise to English ballad opera, and signaled the decline of Italian opera in London during 1730s (at which point Handel turned to oratorio).

Keyboard Sonatas
a. Popular with amateurs
b. Shows a new interest for contrasting tonal areas and modulation
c. Hear periodic phrasing (cadences, rests create balanced phrases)
d. Even greater contrast within movements
e. Charles Rosen hears “dramatic contrast”!!


Musical style:
1. One movement, binary form: Not the standardized multi-movement sonata of the later Classic period
2. Some jarring dissonances (perhaps that is the drama??)
3. Texture quite homophonic: melody with accompaniment
4. Symmetrical, periodic phrasing

Who’s writing Symphonies?
England: JC Bach
b. Germany: CPE Bach writes with empfindsamer emotion
>A representative piece: Symphony # 3 in F major
1. Still a 3-movement form
2. Exaggerated dynamics, sudden pauses
3. Forceful passages countered by lyrical phrases

c. Italy:
1. Lighter style than German
2. 3-movement plan lingers (slow middle movement)
3. Representative composer: Sammartini (1701-75)
>A representative piece: Symphony #32 in F Major (required listening)
Sammartini’s style is a model of the prevailing Italian style:

a. Scored for strings only
b. Triadic main themes
c. Remnants of the Baroque:
1. Bass line still has basso continuo character (Review!)
2. Violin sequences

a. Musical center where composers of different origins worked
b. A representative composer here: Stamitz (violinist and first director of Mannheim orchestra)
c. A representative piece: Sinfonia a 8 in E-flat Major, Op. 11, NO. 3; 1st movement (1755) [Required listening]
First evolution of Symphony
a. “Modern” history dates to first symphony of Haydn in 1759
b. But, another instrumental form whose roots are in Baroque music: related to the Italian opera overture (Review those details!)
c. By 1740s, symphonic style defines as a 4-movement plan begins to rival 3-movement
Second Evolution of Symphony
1. Gradual standardization of the orchestra:
a. More balance of strings and winds
b. Other instruments given new roles (i.e, bassoon becomes a melody instrument—imagine!)

2. 4-movement plan the norm
a. 1st is typically a sonata form
b. 3rd is dance movement in ABA (or Minuet-Trio-Minuet) form

Empfindsamer stil (“sentimentality”)
a. Centered in Northern Germany at Frederick’s court near Berlin
b. Impacted classical composers, especially CPE Bach
c. Aligns with “Sturm und Drang”: literary movement in Germany emphasizing intense emotion

a. Chromaticism, surprising harmonies
b. Short phrases, quickly changing dynamics and rhythms
c. Several emotions explored in single movement
d. Especially prevalent in slow movements
e. Suited to small groups or solo rather than large, public forces

a. Rococo describes visual art; style galant the term used for music
a. “Rococo” a French term, but stylistic implications all over, c. 1720-75: think how mobile artists and musicians were tending to be

a. Homophonic texture prevalent
b. Symmetrical melodic phrasing
c. Slower harmonic rhythm

Stylistic Points of the Classical Era
1. Balance, restraint, attention to formal logic in art
[Inspiration for? Ancient Greeks and Romans as models:
a. Study of Republican Rome brought admiration for value of civic virtue (morality, devotion to duty)
b. In music: idealization of balance, restraint, order, form

2. Short and melodic musical phrases

3. Favored “absolute” music over programmatic

4. The age of tonal music: Major treatise by Rameau (1683-1764)
a. Expect simple harmonies centered on primary triads
b. Well-prepared modulations
c. Pieces that move away from tonic key, but return
d. More on this with tonal principles and sonata form review

5. Music moving to concert hall: a more public domain
6. 5 principle genres of Classical Era:

Opera, symphony, concerto, sonata, string quartet<<
a. All multi-movement forms, each with roots in the Baroque era (review!!)
b. Secular genres (reflects ideals of the age)

Philosophical and Social Currents of the Classical Period
1. The Enlightenment is in play since 1680s:
a. Human over divine, reason over religion, clarity over complexity
b. Move to improve education, break down class structure
c. Freemasonry: Fraternal order emphasizing tolerance, brotherhood, equality

2. Flourishing economy: aids middle class, who in turn becomes an important consumer of music

3. On the horizon… French Revolution, Napoleon, Industrial Revolution (revolutions parallel the shifts in style in visual arts, which will in turn transfer to music)

Basics of Classicism
The object:
1. To consider the “who, what, why, when, where” of 1750-ish until yesterday
2. Consider composer motivation, composer intention
3. Most importantly: to put music within a social, political, and historical context to get the “bigger picture” (think: various revolutions, the Enlightenment, Freemasonry, the new middle class music “consumer)

a. Consider how the classical style is an outgrowth of the Baroque aesthetic
b. Consider how the classical style was a reaction against the Baroque aesthetic

a. In general a very uniform period

-Logical harmonic progressions of tonal music
-Instruments, number of movements, length of works all fixed by convention

b. Vienna the musical center of Europe by end of 1700s