Origins of Opera
• Originally (ca. 1600) an attempt to revive ancient Greek method of performing drama.

o By about 1610, leads to standardized ensembles, aria forms, declamation styles (such as recitative)…

Dido and Aeneas (1689) by Henry Purcell (1659-95)
• Last internationally renowned English composer until the 19th Century

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• Successful despite suspicion of staged plays in the Commonwealth

• Originally performed in an all girls boarding school

• Ground bass: repetitive phrase in the bass line that gives structure to a work

o Lament: subtype featuring a chromatically descending tetrachord

Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)
• Extraordinary child prodigy; one of the most universally gifted composers of all time.
• First opera at age 10 or 11.
• Outstanding in all genres: songs, symphonies, operas, cantatas, etc.
• Embodies the Classical Style:
o Simple, songlike melodies
o Wide range of moods (often within a single piece)
o Masterful counterpoint
o Dramatic yet elegant structures
Opera seria (see half sheet)
• Artificial and improbable plots
• Rigid alternation between recitative and aria
• Mythological settings and characters
• Almost ALWAYS performed in Italian
• Internationally popular, but sung in Italian
Comic opera (see half sheet)
• Performed in the local vernacular (nation’s language)
• More ensemble scenes and comic relief
• Realistic characters and settings, though complex plots
• Focus more on middle class, rather than nobility
• Greater vocal variety, esp. with bass voices
• Italy = opera buffa
• France = opera comique
• England = ballade opera
• German = Singspiel
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

About him

a) One of the 19C’s two most influential Italian opera composers (Rossini is the other)
i) Approached opera as a unified whole, rather than series of numbers
ii) Generally willing to let the drama guide the musical form (uses drama to determine forms)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

about Rigoletto

i) One of Verdi’s most progressive operas
(1) Conventional aria forms are generally avoided [ex. De capo aria (ABA’), la solita forma/ cavaruba cabaletta form (putting two or more arias back to back)]
(2) Use of tonal-dramatic association and reminiscence music
(a) Choice of key can be used to underscore emotions and drama in the score (when Rigoletto is cursed, changes briefly from Db to D)
(b) Reminiscence music- reference to music previously in score, repeating specific chord, note, motive, etc. to unite moments within opera, tie to previous
(3) Tight musico-dramatic continuity
(a) Broadly arioso style, always sense of progression and change and dramatic progression
(4) Unsympathetic protagonist
(a) Made apparent in first scene, then second scene show Rigoletto and his daughter, and we see a softer, more tender side of him
Richard Wagner (1813-1830)

about him

• Arguably the 19C’s most influential composer
o Reputation built as an operatic reformer
• Believed that music had dominated the drama in opera too much… the drama is the most important
• Awful human being, but one of the greatest artists ever
• Proposed a synthesis of art, music, drama (Gesamtkunstwerk, or “unified artwork”… all parts are of equal importance)
Der Ring Des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle)
• Consists of four operas, all based on stories taken from Norse mythology
o Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
o Die Walkure (The Valkyrie)
o Siegfried
o Gotterdammerung (The Twilight of the Gods)
• Where opera stereotypes come from… lady in horns holler at the top of her lungs for twenty minutes…
• Time equivalent equal to the Special Edition Lord of the Rings Cycle
• Took 26 years to complete (1848-1874)
Traits of Wagnerian Opera
o Use leitmotives (“leading motive”)
• Short, distinctive melodic fragments used to represent people, objects, ideas (a noun of some kind)
• May be combined and transformed
• Often used to build up complex symphonic and vocal textures
• Wagner used term “grundthems” which means ground theme or basic theme instead of leitmotives
• Need to listen to the whole opera to understand leitmotives of an opera
o Use of Stabreim (“stem rhyme”)
• Alliterative phrases, which Wagner believed imposed emotional unity on a passage
o Dramatic theme of redemption by love
o Enormous performing resources
• Orchestra of equal importance to the vocalists
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
• Last of the great Romantic/Italian opera composers
• Jules Massenet – composer that Puccini admired
• Many “season-savers” to his name, including Tosca, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Turandot
• First and Second operas he wrote bombed.
• Ricordi = opera publisher (wanted to drop Puccini after first two operas… but owner didn’t drop him)
• Third opera = Manon Lescaut (very very successful)
• Le Boheme… the best opera ever.
• Madame Butterfly: progressive opera in a musical aspect
• Likes to double the melody (voice) in octaves… especially in the strings
• Puccini’s style traits
o Primary focus: simple, diatonic vocal melody
• Contours rise quickly and fall slowly
o Tonally-oriented harmony, but enriched by “exotic” scales (ex. Pentatonic)
o Extensive use of local color for exotic effect
o As with Verdi, vocalists also need to be good actors
o Straightforward Storylines (not many subplots if any)
Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) and West Side Story
• Conductor, composer, pianist, lecturer
• Middle Class upbringing in Boston, went to Harvard and got his BA
• 1943: assigned to be the assistant director of the Philharmonic – had to take over at a moments notice as primary director and became famous over night
• WSS a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet
o Libretto by Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins
• Combines elements of musical theater and opera
o Opera: complex, sophisticated music and storyline
o Musical Theater: spoken dialogue, contemporary setting, influence of popular music
Classical Keyboard Works
• 18C a time when forms and conventions are established
• First movement – sonata allegro for example
• Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A Major, K. 331
o Nickname: “Turkish March”
o Unorthodox rondo (ABCBAB – coda… so the B theme comes back the most often)
o Evocation of Turkish culture and the Janissary (i.e., military) band
• Rolled chords, quick ornamentation, fast streams of notes
• Use brass instruments
• Is western music but tries to show Turkish culture through western music
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

about him, characteristics of early works

• Essentially a Classical figure, but with a strong rebellious streak
o Drove the transition from the Classical to Romantic eras in several genres (piece is a direct extension of the artist idea)
o Redefined the symphony and string quartet
o Helps establish aesthetic notion that art should be an extension of the artist’s ego
• Early works (Period of Imitation, ca. 1784-1802)… when he started going deaf
o Exceptions to formal patterns
o Unexpected second key areas
o Stretches proportional limits
o Elements of theatricality/humor
o Possible mixing of genres
• Unlike predecessors, is willing to break formal conventions
o Possibly linked to improvisatory skills
Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor (“Moonlight” 1801)
o What is “disruptive”?
• First movement
• Slow tempo, loose sonata form, songlike melodic line
• Second movement
• No strong move to V, chromatic progression in trio, syncopation
• Third movement (edgy, nervous, active)
• Highly virtuosic, surprising accents; unexpected modulations (minor v), subtle recall of first movemnt, alteration to thematic progression in recap (m.116), big coda (m. 159ff)
• 3x and long as first movement and 4x as long as second music
• Internally unbalanced (50-percent of work and the first and second movement combined is the other 50-percent)
• Taking steps towards Romanticism…(transitional figure)
more about Beethoven
• Born in era of Haydn and Mozart and studied with Haydn… but pushed convention and rebelled a little bit
• Ended up going deaf
• Bad relationship with father
• Huge part of Classical to Romanticism transition (esp. how the artist is perceived)
• Most influential contribution… music should reflect person’s thoughts, should be a direct extension of the artist
• Rude, huge jerk, socially inept, lower-class, cheap, moody… possibly because he is deeply sensitive and used as a defense mechanism
Frederic Chopin (1810-49)
• Born in Poland, but based in France
o Popular in part because of perceived “exoticism” (travel is hard)
• General style traits:
o Relatively small scale; delicate and refined
o Melodically colorful and harmonically complex
• “Harmonic parentheses”: passages that interrupt tonally coherent harmony. I vi ii6 (Huh?…random chords like io7) V I
o Technically quite difficult
Clara Schumann (1810-96) and Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-69)
• Both were virtuoso pianists and composers
• Music reflective of different Romantic tendencies
• Character pieces for piano in 19C
o Nocturne: more relaxed with a freer rhythm (Clara Schumann)
• The Banjo…Gottschalk (another character piece)
Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
• First prominent African-American composer
• King of ragtime
o Musical style, typically for piano, featuring sectional forms and extensive syncopation over a steady bass line accompaniment
o Forerunner of jazz (leads to it)
• Wrote an opera… Treemonisha (1911) with an all black cast
• Maple Leaf rag
what is an arioso?
piece that’s function falls between a recitative and an aria
Accompanied vocal style featuring a solo line with instrument (narrative and trying to tell a story)… not opera but leads to opera
• Originally applied to short poems; later demonstrated to work with larger forms