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Opera

OPERA

OPERA. For much of the first three centuries of operafrom the early Renaissance to the time of Mozartthe art was never far from the seat of power. With few exceptions, the scale and expense of operatic productions required significant patronage from either the state or the moneyed few, an investment that in return elevated the prestige of regimes and sweetened the constraints of rule. From the mid-sixteenth century, rulers of Italian city-states sponsored intermedii, dramatic musical interludes that appeared alongside a welter of other entertainments such as banquets, balls, hunts, and ballets intended to commemorate, celebrate, and on occasion intimidate. A committee of poets recast Girolamo Bargagli's 1564 play La pellegrina, dedicated to Ferdinando de' Medici, as six intermedii for the 1589 marriage of the duke to Christine of Lorraine, which the maestro di capella at the Florence Cathedral, Cristofano Malvezzi, set to music. Other such intermedii marked similarly important events in the city throughout the sixteenth century. At the same time, a group of Florentine intellectuals called the Camerata set about re-creating ancient Greek drama, which they believed to have been a blend of chant, declamation, and dance. Funded by patrons like the wealthy Florentine humanist Giovanni de' Bardi and silk merchant Jacopo Corsi, the Camerata experimented with setting classic myths to music. This was the context that produced Orfeo (1607) by Claudio Monteverdi (15671643), a large-scale work of sophisticated design and dramatic mastery that many have called the first true opera. Initially staged "as a casual entertainment for courtiers" around Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua, Orfeo was later staged to celebrate Margherita of Savoy's entry into the city before her marriage to Ferdinando Gonzaga.

The grandest alliance of opera and power came during the reign of Louis XIV (ruled 16431715), whose musicians went well beyond the associations implicit in intermedii to cast the king himself in productions. Cardinal Jules Mazarin introduced Italian opera to France in the 1640s, and the Italian Jean-Baptiste Lully (16321687) later received carte blanche in the title of surintendant de la musique. Lully was decisive in forging the "French style," a stately aesthetic of pomp and magnificence that depended more on sensuous vocal and stage effects than on taut drama. Lully's most enduring operatic form, the tragédie lyrique, took its subjects from chivalric tales and ancient myths, with simple plots that turned on the loves of kings, queens, and divinities. Audiences were overwhelmingly noble, and the atmosphere both on the stage and in the hall radiated the Sun King's glory. The prologue to Lully's Thésée (1675) is set in the gardens of Versailles as Mars sings of the king's victories in battle, and Love, Grace, and Pleasure regret his absence; in Isis (1677) Neptune sings of struggles with Holland and Spain. With the eighteenth-century operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau (16831764), references to the French monarchy receded, but the Opéraofficially called the Académie Royale de Musiqueremained closely identified with the state.

A more popular aesthetic developed elsewhere, with the state less decisive in operatic production. The first public opera house in Europe opened in Venice in 1637 with the help of private sponsorship. By 1700 there were ten theaters in the city, with a keen entrepreneurial competition fueling new productions. The luster of Venetian power and the renown of its culture drew composers and performers. Its annual Carnival season, running from just after Christmas to Lent, brought reliable audiences that were well-to-do and ready to be entertained. The absence of a Venetian court and the city's mercantile character helped to account for its more earthbound productions, with fewer stage machines, less scenic grandeur, and more historical and comedic subjects than in France or other Italian city-states. The cult of personality prevailed particularly where commercial interest was present, and prima donnas and castrati (especially numerous in Rome, where by papal decree women were banned from the stage) reversed the priority given to the text over the music.

Political and social factors that encouraged early Italian and French opera did not prevail in England, where the Protectorate's ban on public entertainments and a limited monarchy in the later seventeenth century slowed the appearance of opera and hampered its progress well into the eighteenth century. The Restoration's entertainments bore little trace of the Stuart masque, an opulent and thoroughly aristocratic mixture of dance, song, and instrumental music staged at court and in great houses for weddings, receptions, and royal visits. With a few notable exceptions, government support was minimal. Attempting to replicate the French model, Charles II commissioned Albion and Albanius (1685), with text by John Dryden and music by Louis Grabu, to celebrate the naming of the duke of York as his successor. As England's first Continental-style opera, it left little trace: Its premiere was overshadowed by news of the Monmouth Rebellion, and it quickly fell into neglect. More common were so-called semi-operas, which mixed singing, dancing, and dialogue, often in fantastical settings. Armed with a royal patent to "reform" the plays of Shakespeare, the composer William Davenant, working with John Dryden, produced some of the earliest semi-operas in Macbeth (1663) and The Tempest (1667). Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1689), a miniature tragedy written for performance at a girls' school in Chelsea, was a rare instance of a fully sung work.

London's first public opera house, Dorset Garden Theatre (1671), depended heavily upon semioperas and comédies-ballets in the French style. Charles II's efforts to bring an Italian company to London in the 1670s met with public indifference, but thirty years later Italian opera seria came to dominate the English lyric stage. Advanced by the Italian dramatist Pietro Metastasio (16981782), opera seria reduced the baroque extravagances of courtly opera by streamlining plots, eliminating extraneous love intrigues, and peopling the stage with historical rather than mythic heroes. George Frideric Handel (16851759), drawn to London on the urging of the English ambassador to Venice, used the conventions of opera seria to fashion a highly individual idiom that combined a quickened dramatic pace with stunning vocal displays.

Italy continued to set the terms for operatic development elsewhere in Europe. Inspired by the irreverence of commedia dell'arte, comic intermezzi and buffa operas mocked the arrogant with fast-paced patter, sprightly tunes, and simple plots involving ordinary mortals. The appearance of a buffa troupe from Italy at the French Opéra in 1752 produced outrage and indignation among France's cultural conservatives and gave the philosophes an opportunity to bait their opponents. Citing Italian intermezzi as his standard, and with the ideological apparatus of the Académie Royale his unnamed target, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, "I conclude that the French do not have music and can never have it; if they ever do, it will be all the worse for them." In the German-speaking lands, opera buffa fused with an older tradition of mystery plays in the form of the Singspiel, a blend of highbrow and common that combined spoken dialogue, dances, marches, and narrative song. Die Zauberflöte (The magic flute, 1791) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (17561791) is in this tradition, and its popularity is in part a reflection of the genre's enormous popular success: In its first ten years at Vienna's Theater auf der Wieden, it enjoyed 223 performances.

Mozart's operas, without precedent and unrivaled in so many aspects, cannot be called revolutionary in either dramatic content or musical execution. In Le nozze di Figaro (The marriage of Figaro, 1786), called by Mozart an opera buffa, Count Almaviva, the nobleman thwarted in his attempt to exercise his droit du seigneur, is more laughable than tyrannical. Whatever reversals might be implied in Figaro's menacing vow to teach the count to caper are quickly erased with the opera's happy ending, which articulates a moderate, secular view that affirms social differences and sanctifies forgiveness. Don Giovanni (1787), whose original title was Il dissoluto punito, o sia Il Don Giovanni, ultimately depicts the limits of radical Enlightenment sensualism, a message that Mozart's richly seductive and resolutely nonmoralizing music does much to complicate.

See also Dryden, John ; Gluck, Christoph Willibald von ; Handel, George Frideric ; Haydn, Franz Joseph ; Lully, Jean-Baptiste ; Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus ; Music ; Purcell, Henry ; Rameau, Jean-Philippe ; Songs, Popular .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anthony, James R. French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau. Portland, Ore., 1997.

Charlton, David. French Opera, 17301830: Meaning and Media. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt., 1999.

Heartz, Daniel. Mozart's Operas. Edited by Thomas Bauman. Berkeley, 1990.

Isherwood, Robert M. Music in the Service of the King: France in the Seventeenth Century. Ithaca, N.Y., 1973.

Rosand, Ellen. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre. Berkeley, 1991.

Till, Nicholas. Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue, and Beauty in Mozart's Operas. London and Boston, 1992.

Tomlinson, Gary. Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance. Berkeley, 1987.

James Johnson

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Opera

OPERA

Opera reached Russia in 1731, when an Italian troupe from Dresden visited Moscow. In 1736 it was established at the tsarist court in St. Petersburg. Early Russian opera was mostly in Italian and French. Works in Russian were usually set in Russia, but representations of Russian history on the operatic stage began only in 1790 with The Early Reign of Oleg, a collaboration of the court composers Vasily Pashkevich (a Russian), Carlo Canobbio, and Giuseppe Sarti (both Italians) on a Russian libretto written by Catherine II.

The popularity of the court theaters in the early nineteenth century made their stages a possible venue of propaganda. This potential was fully realized in Mikhail Glinka's first opera (1836), with a libretto written by Baron Rosen, secretary of the

successor to the throne. Initially named for its protagonist, Ivan Susanin, the opera was renamed A Life for the Tsar when Glinka dedicated it to Nicholas I (Soviet legend had it that the new title was imposed against Glinka's will). In its wholesale affirmation of the doctrine of "official nationality" as proclaimed by Nicholas, the opera became a symbol of Russian autocracy.

Opera was now the most popular form of entertainment in Russia, but apart from Glinka there were no notable domestic composers. To satisfy the demand, a new Italian troupe was established in St. Petersburg in 1843. Its repertory was the same as that of other Italian enterprises abroad; except for censorial changes to libretti, there was nothing Russian about it. This artistic showcase, cherished not only by the aristocracy but also by the radical intelligentsia, slowed down the development of Russian opera (and Russian music in general). Russian musicians, then mostly amateurs (composers and performers alike), even suffered from legal discrimination: Until 1860, "musician" was not a recognized profession; moreover, for a long time a limit was imposed on the yearly income of Russians (but not of foreigners) in the performing arts, and Russian composers were expressly forbidden to write for the Italian company. Only after the establishment of conservatories in the 1860s did Russian opera become really competitive; performance standards rose, and gradually a Russian repertory accumulated.

The first successful Russian opera after Glinka was Alexander Serov's Rogneda (1865). Its fictional plot unfolds against the background of the "baptism of Russia" in 988. As affirmative of the official view on Russian history as A Life for the Tsar, it earned its creator a lifelong pension from Alexander II. Soon after, three composers from the "Mighty Handful" embarked on operas based on Russian history: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov (based on Ivan IV, after Lev Mey, 1873), Modest Musorgsky's Boris Godunov (after Alexander Pushkin's play, 1874), and Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor (premiered posthumously, 1890). While Prince Igor affirmed autocracy, the other two works did not; furthermore, their protagonists were Russian tsars, whose representation on the operatic stage was forbidden. The ban was partly lifted, which made the production of the two operas possible. It remained in force for members of the House of Romanov, however, and that is why, in Musorgsky's second historical opera, Khovanshchina (unfinished; produced posthumously in 1886), the curtain falls before an announced appearance of Peter I; the same happens with Catherine II in Peter Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (1891). The representation of Orthodox clergy was also forbidden; while the Jesuits in Boris Godunov presented no problem, the Orthodox monks had to be recast as "hermits," and a scene set in a monastery was omitted. But before 1917 no Russian composer ever withdrew an opera instead of complying with the censor's demands, nor did anyone try to circumvent the censorship by having a banned Russian opera performed abroad.

After the accession of Alexander III, the crown's monopoly of theaters was revoked (1882), and private opera companies emerged; Savva Mamontov's in Moscow became the most famous. In 1885 the Italian troupe was disbanded. Russian opera took over its representative and social functions as well as its repertory. While opera continued to be a favorite of the public, leading Russian composers gradually lost interest in it, turning to ballet and instrumental genres instead. Fairy-tale operas were favored over depictions of Russian history, but Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, The Golden Cockerel (after Pushkin, Moscow 1909), is often seen as a satire on Russian autocracy.

Censorship was restored after the 1917 revolution, although it took a different turn. A Life for the Tsar was banned until revised as Ivan Susanin with a new libretto by Sergei Gorodetsky (Moscow 1939). Other pre-1917 operas underwent minor modifications. There were also new operas interpreting history in Soviet terms and even "topical" operas intended to educate the public. Ivan Dzerzhinsky's "song opera" Quiet Flows the Don (Moscow 1934, after Mikhail Sholokhov's novel) was held up as a model against Dmitry Shostakovich's anarchic Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934; not based on history, but in a realistic historical setting), which was banned in 1936. Josef Stalin's megalomania shows through Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace (after Leo Tolstoy's novel). Composed in response to the German invasion of 1941, this most ambitious of Soviet operas was revised several times and was staged uncut only after the deaths of Stalin and Prokofiev (Moscow 1959).

During the Stalinist era an effort was made to establish national operatic traditions in the various Soviet republics. Russian composers were sent to the republics to collaborate with local composers on operas based on local folklore (and sometimes on local history) that generally sound like Rimsky-Korsakov.

In the post-Stalinist decades, major composers rarely tried their hand at opera. In the late 1980s Alfred Schnittke wrote Life with an Idiot, a surrealist lampoon on Vladimir Lenin after a story by Viktor Yerofeyev. It was premiered abroad (Amsterdam 1992), but in Russian and with a cast including "People's Artists of the USSR." Since the fall of the Soviet Union the musical has superseded opera as the leading theatrical genre. It even serves as a medium for patriotic representations of Russian history, such as Nord-Ost, the show staged in Moscow whose performers and audience were taken hostage by Chechen terrorists in 2002.

Outside Russia, Russian history has rarely served as the subject matter for opera. The earliest example is Johann Mattheson's Boris Goudenow (sic, Hamburg 1710), while the best-known is Albert Lortzing's Tsar and Carpenter (Leipzig 1837). Lortzing's comic opera exploits the sojourn of Peter I in the Netherlands disguised as a carpenter's apprentice. Because of its depiction of a tsar from the Romanov dynasty, it did not reach the Russian stage until 1908.

See also: glinka, mikhail ivanovich; mighty hand ful; music; nationalism in the arts; rimskykorsakov, nikolai andreyevich; tchaikovsky, peter ilyich; theater

bibliography

Buckler, Julie A. (2000). The Literary Lorgnette: Attending Opera in Imperial Russia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Campbell, Stuart, ed. (1994). Russians on Russian Music, 18301880: An Anthology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, Stuart, ed. (2003). Russians on Russian Music, 18801917: An Anthology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Morrison, Simon Alexander. (2002). Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London: Macmillan.

Taruskin, Richard. (1993). Opera and Drama in Russia: As Preached and Practiced in the 1860s, 2nd ed. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Taruskin, Richard. (1997). Defining Russia Musically. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Albrecht Gaub

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opera

opera. The general term, taken from the Italian opera meaning work, describes a staged drama in which the actors sing some or all of their parts. Opera involves a union of music, drama, and spectacle in varying degrees; although the first Florentine operas around 1600 emphasized the text through recitative—a form of heightened speech—music soon became the dominant partner. While all-sung opera has always been the norm in Italy, the strong British tradition of spoken drama favoured the masque, and spoken drama with music remained the pattern for dramatic works in English. Full-length, all-sung English operas were a rarity until the 20th cent.; for the previous 200 years the British operatic scene was dominated by Italian imports. Only since the outstanding success of Britten's Peter Grimes in 1945 has Britain played a major role on the international operatic stage—ironically at a time when opera-houses have become ‘museums’, relying on revivals of well-known works in preference to commissioning new operas.

Music featured in Shakespeare's works and in Elizabethan choirboy plays, and the Stuart masques drew on this tradition. Even at the end of the 17th cent., Purcell's dramatic music for the professional stage fell into the category of ‘semi-opera’: spoken plays reworked to include a series of masques for subsidiary characters. French influence is apparent in both the staging, with elaborate sets, machinery, and costumes, and the music, including choruses and dances. Purcell's finest semi-opera The Fairy Queen (1692), an arrangement of A Midsummer Night's Dream, sets none of Shakespeare's text to music; nevertheless allegorical figures such as the Four Seasons are skilfully characterized by contrasting vocal styles and orchestration. Purcell's only ‘true’ opera, Dido and Aeneas, was performed at a girls' school in Chelsea (London) in 1689 and is modelled on Blow's court masque Venus and Adonis.

Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes (1656) was the first full-length, all-sung English opera, set ‘in recitative musick’ by several composers to overcome the Commonwealth ban on spoken drama. It included probably the first woman to appear on the public stage in London; the music is now lost. Its occasional successors did not catch on, and the early 18th-cent. London public turned to imported Italian opera. Handel's Rinaldo (1711), with its spectacular magic effects, was a stunning success, and for the next thirty years he produced a string of fine works, emphasizing the arias by reducing the amount of recitative in his opera seria librettos. Handel and the rival Opera of the Nobility imported leading Italian stars, including the famous castrati Senesino and Farinelli.

John Gay's enormously popular The Beggar's Opera (1728) began a brief vogue for ballad opera, with simple, popular tunes sung by actors interspersed with spoken English dialogue. The satirical treatment of London's low life appealed to a wider social range than the aristocratic opera seria, and the following decades spawned many short English works. These were often presented as afterpieces following spoken plays, such as Arne's patriotic Thomas and Sally (1760), while both serious and comic Italian opera, particularly the pasticcio using arias by various composers, remained dominant until the end of the 19th cent. Five Rossini and two Verdi operas were performed in the first Royal Italian Opera season at Covent Garden in 1847; even works by Mozart and Wagner were translated into Italian, although a German Ring was produced in 1882. Some English dialogue operas were successful— Balfe's The Bohemian Girl (1843) remained in the repertoire for nearly a century—and works such as Macfarren's Robin Hood (1860), MacCunn's Jeanie Deans (1894), and Stanford's Shamus O'Brien (1896) cultivated romantic nationalism in their choice of plots and use of folk-song. The most outstanding English works, however, were the brilliant operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, achieving lasting popularity through their blend of W. S. Gilbert's satirical texts with Arthur Sullivan's tuneful music.

In the early 20th cent., Stanford, Ethel Smyth, and Delius produced all-sung works that were strongly Germanic, although Vaughan Williams and Holst used folk-song to impart an English flavour. The reopening of London's Sadler's Wells theatre in 1945 with Britten's Peter Grimes heralded a renaissance in English opera, presenting a powerful drama full of well-drawn characters. Britten's setting of the English language (influenced by Purcell) and his large-scale motivic and tonal planning gave his operas an unrivalled power and direct appeal. His choice of plots with a strong social dimension is shared by Michael Tippett, whose Jungian symbolism and complex contrapuntal musical style are exemplified in his psychoanalytical The Knot Garden (1970). Other recent operatic composers include Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle.

Eric Cross

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Opera

Opera

Just as one cannot separate words and music to get at the mystery of opera, food and opera are more compelling together than they are apart. The most immediate connection between the two is at the mouth and throat. Singers are understandably focused on these areas and seek gustatory gratification as a means of dealing with preperformance jitters and postperformance elation and exhaustion. It is not uncommon for a singer to lose five pounds during a long evening of exertion while wearing a thirty-pound costume under hot lights.

Singers and audience members both have their dining traditions. Each tends to eat sparingly before a performance: singers to avoid feeling full (although Beverly Sills famously ate steak before going onstage) and operagoers so that they will not doze off while digesting a large meal. At intermissions some audience members have a light snack and a refreshment. Singers will seek liquid refreshment during performancesBirgit Nilsson often had a beer waiting at the side of the stage to slake her thirst. American tenor Richard Leech chomps on ice cubes to keep his mouth and throat cool.

Following performances, there isespecially in Europea tradition known as "souper." This is late-night eating in which the food is more festive than gastronomically challenging. The idea is to continue the sense of occasion that a night at the opera can foster. At a souper meal, whether attended by musicians, audience members, or both, dishes might include smoked fish, boiled shrimp with piquant sauces, rollmops, broths, risotto or pasta with truffles and cheese, boiled beef, and cakes, all washed down with copious amounts of wine, beer, and, especially, sparkling wine. The goal is that the food be tasty and arrive quickly. The most famous operatic depiction of souper is in the second act of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr., in which party guests dance, sup, and sing in praise of champagne.

It is not surprising that chefs vied to create dishes to honor singers, composers, and opera characters. While performing at Covent Garden in London, the famous Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba dined at the nearby Savoy Hotel where the French chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier created in her honor both a form of well-browned, very dry "Melba" toast and a dessert he called "Peach Melba," consisting of a poached peach covered with vanilla ice cream and a special raspberry sauce and a garnish of chopped pistachios. Escoffier also created Sole Otello, combining the dark hues of truffle and mushroom (for Othello) with the pure white fish (for Desdemona). Luisa Tetrazzini had her famous turkey and noodles, and Gioacchino Rossini (opera's greatest gourmand) lent his name to any dish that featured truffles and foie gras. Enrico Caruso loved chicken livers, so preparations that included them bore his name. Wagner, a vegetarian, did not inspire chefs. Nor did Beethoven, who resented having to periodically stop composing to seek sustenance.

Although many operas seem to have drinking songs and choruses (in part because singers willingly consume thirst-quenching beverages onstage), there are not many eating scenes for the simple reason that food would obstruct the singers' vocal equipment. Mozart's Don Giovanni, who satisfies many appetites in the course of the opera, does dine heartily in the second act, although most interpreters of the role mime eating and ingest very little. Puccini's Tosca plays with her food in the second act until she discovers the knife that she will use to kill Scarpia. The funniest eating scene in opera comes in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, in which the Italian Isabella feeds copious amounts of spaghetti to Mustafà, her Algerian captor, to distract him as she engineers her escape. As she runs to a ship in the harbor, Mustafà is dutifully twirling his pasta as he has been instructed. Surely the mezzo-soprano, once the curtain falls, will seek a bowl of noodles all her own.

See also Escoffier, Georges-Auguste ; Italy .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Plotkin, Fred. Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Fred Plotkin

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Opera

OPERA

OPERA performance in America has predominantly consisted of works imported from Europe. The earliest operas heard were English ballad operas brought over from London in the 1730s. French opera flourished in New Orleans from the 1790s through the nineteenth century. Italian opera was more popular in the north, first heard in English adaptations and then introduced in the original language in 1825. After the 1850s, German opera, particularly that of Richard Wagner, became more prevalent until it dominated the repertory toward the turn of the century. Twentieth-century audiences enjoyed a wide variety of foreign works in many languages as well as a growing number of American operas, particularly after the 1960s.

Early opera performances were typically produced by touring companies in temporary quarters until such institutions as the Metropolitan Opera (established 1883) were founded. The twentieth century saw the development of organizations including the San Francisco Opera (1923), the New York City Opera (1944), the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1954), and dozens of other regional companies, as well as summer festivals and opera workshops. Radio broadcasts since 1921 and television brought opera to a growing audience.


Opera composed by Americans prior to the twentieth century adhered to the style of imported works popular at the time, as illustrated by Andrew Barton's ballad opera, The Disappointment (1767), or the first grand opera, William Henry Fry's Leonora (1845), composed in the style of Vincenzo Bellini or Gaetano Donizetti. A number of operas acquired an American identity through plot or setting and often include indigenous musical elements, such as jazz and spirituals in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935) or Appalachian folk style in Carlisle Floyd's Susan-nah (1956). Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) exhibited a new musical style modeling the inflections of American speech. Many other composers did not attempt to develop a dramatic or musical style identifiable as "American" but pursued a variety of individual, even eclectic, approaches to opera on a wide variety of subjects.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dizikes, John. Opera in America: A Cultural History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993.

Kirk, Elise K. American Opera. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. 4 vols. New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 1992.

Sadie, Stanley, and H. Wiley Hitchcock, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. 4 vols. New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 1986.

Martina B.Bishopp

See alsoMusic: Classical .

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Opéra

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. Garnier and also called the Palais Garnier, it was built between 1861 and 1875. 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. Carpeaux entitled The Dance. An opulently ornamented neo-baroque style building, the Paris 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. Its corps de ballet is particularly famous. The Paris Opéra moved to the large, newly constructed Bastille opera house in 1990. The old Opéra building, used mainly for ballet performances for a few years, has been undergoing refurbishment and restoration since the mid-1990s, and both theaters now present opera and ballet.

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).

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"Opéra." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/opera

opera

opera, drama set to music.

Characteristics

The libretto may be serious or comic, although neither form necessarily excludes elements of the other. Opera differs from operetta in its musical complexity and usually in its subject matter. It differs also from oratorio, 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.

Early Opera

Florentine Beginnings

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 Galilei, Emilio del Cavaliere (c.1550–1602), Jacopo Peri, and Giulio Caccini. 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 baroque 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 recitative and aria 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 Monteverdi 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 Cavalli, 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 Stradella, 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 Lully in 1672 after the bankruptcy of its founders. Italian opera, the pastoral, French classical tragedy, and the ballet de cour (see ballet) 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 Rameau 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 Scarlatti. 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 Metastasio, 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 intermezzo), that were played between the acts of opera seria. Now it came into its own, with such works as Giovanni Battista Pergolesi'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 Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage, 1792). The characters were from commedia dell'arte, 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'Avenant, in 1656. The masque was the true antecedent of English opera, and John Blow'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 Purcell, 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 Handel. 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 castrato), 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 Gay and music composed partly by John Christopher Pepusch. 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 Mozart. 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 Telemann 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 Gluck. 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 Ponte, 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 Metastasio 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 Beethoven'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. Hoffmann's Undine (1816) and Carl Maria von Weber'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 Wagner, 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 Sachs 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 Cherubini, Étienne Nicolas Méhul, Jean François Lesueur, and Gasparo Spontini. 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 Auber's La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici, 1828), also known after its hero as Masaniello, Gioacchino Rossini's Guillaume Tell (William Tell, 1829), Giacomo Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable (1831), and Jacques Halévy'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 Berlioz'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 Thomas, Charles Gounod, Georges Bizet, Léo Delibes, and Jules Massenet 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 Chabrier and Vincent D'Indy show the influence of Wagner, while Gustave Charpentier'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 Debussy'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, Donizetti, and Bellini. 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 Verdi, 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 Boito, 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 Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, 1890) and Ruggiero Leoncavallo'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 Puccini. 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 Sardou, 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).

Russian Opera

The 19th cent. also saw the beginning of Russian opera. Mikhail Glinka in A Life for the Czar (1836) and Russlan and Ludmilla (1842), Aleksandr Dargomijsky in Russalka (1856), and Modest Moussorgsky 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 Tchaikovsky in Eugene Onegin (1879), after Pushkin's poem, and The Queen of Spades (1890). On the other hand, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov added the dimension of folklore and fantasy in May Night (1880), The Snow Maiden (1881), and in his last opera, The Golden Cockerel (1909).

Twentieth-Century Opera

In the early part of the 20th cent. the foremost operatic composer was Richard Strauss. 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 Berg's Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (1937; posthumously completed in 1979) have been the most enduring of early atonal operas. Arnold Schoenberg's serial work (see serial music) 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 Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935) is considered the first great American opera, while Paul Hindemith'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 have emerged since World War II include Gian-Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber, Alberto Ginastera, and Hans Werner Henze. The former two have composed in traditional musical idiom, such as 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. Operas by the Americans Douglas Moore and Carlisle Floyd used 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 Britten. 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 Penderecki; Le Grand Macabre (1978) by the Hungarian György Ligeti; 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 Glass. Other operatic works by Americans in the same period include Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) by John Adams; The Ghosts of Versailles (1991) by John Corigliano; and McTeague (1992) and A View from the Bridge (1999) by William Bolcom. 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.

Bibliography

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).

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Paris Opéra

Paris Opéra. French opera house, its official title being Académie de Musique, Paris. Opened 1671. Controlled by Lully 1672–87. Destroyed by fire 1763, also the next building 1781. In 1794 moved to rue de Richelieu as Théâtre des Arts, then to rue Favart 1821 and to rue Lepeletier 1822. Great period in its history followed, with operas by Meyerbeer, Auber, and Hérold and commissioned works from Rossini (Guillaume Tell), Verdi (Don Carlos and Les Vêpres siciliennes). New th. opened 1875, commonly known as Salle Garnier (after its architect). Accommodates 2,600 people and has large stage (100′ wide and 112′ deep). With opening of Opéra Bastille in 1990, the Paris Opéra is now used mainly for ballet. See also Paris, Opéra-Comique.

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opera

opera Stage drama that is sung. It combines acting, singing, orchestral music, set and costume design, making spectacular entertainment. The best-known opera houses include La Scala (Milan), the Opéra (Paris), the Royal Opera (London), the State Opera (Vienna), the Festspiele (Bayreuth), and the Metropolitan Opera (New York City). Opera began in Italy in c.1600. The classical style evolved in c.1750; its greatest exponent was Mozart. Verdi and Wagner dominated 19th-century opera. The 20th century brought a profusion of styles by composers as diverse as Puccini, Strauss, Berg, and Britten.

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opera

o·pe·ra1 / ˈäp(ə)rə/ • n. a dramatic work in one or more acts, set to music for singers and instrumentalists. ∎  such works as a genre of classical music. ∎  a building for the performance of opera. o·pe·ra2 • plural form of opus.

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Opera

Opera. Monthly magazine covering news and reports of all operatic matters founded 1950 by Earl of Harewood, who was ed. until 1953, when he was succeeded by Harold Rosenthal. Rodney Milnes ed. from 1986.

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opera

opera (It., work, but actually plural of Lat. opus, a work; Fr. opéra; Ger. Oper). The term is an abbreviation of opera in musica. Opera is a drama set to mus. to be sung with instr. acc. by singers usually in costume. Recit. or spoken dialogue may separate the numbers, but the essence of opera is that the mus. is integral and is not incidental, as in a ‘musical’ or play with mus.

Although literary dramas and sacre rappresentazione were its precursors in some respects, opera is generally said to have originated in Florence towards the close of the 16th cent. (see Camerata) with the earliest examples by Peri and Caccini. Recit. was the dominant feature, but with Monteverdi, whose operatic career extended from 1607 to 1642, opera developed rapidly, borrowing elements from the madrigal and from the ornate Venetian church mus. The aria became an important element, and in L'incoronazione di Poppea, the insight shown into the humanity of the characters anticipated 19th-cent. developments. Cavalli followed Monteverdi's lead, but a more formal approach was reintroduced by A. Scarlatti, who comp. 115 operas between 1679 and 1725. He introduced instr. acc. for recit. in 1686. During the 17th cent. opera was pioneered in Fr. by Lully and Rameau and in Ger. by Schütz and Keiser. But the next great figure in operatic history was Handel, whose operas were mostly comp. for London (between 1711 and 1741) in the It. opera seria style. His glorious solo arias were written for the brilliant techniques and skills of the great castrato singers of his day and for equally fine sops.; in addition, he imparted a lengthened degree of dramatic tension to the form both in arias and recits. It was left to J. C. Bach in his London operas of the 1760s to restore the ch. to a place in opera, as was done also by Gluck, whose operas were written between 1741 and 1779. Gluck's Orfeo, written for Vienna in 1762, is a revolutionary opera because it exploits to the full the mus. and dramatic possibilities of the lib. Gluck scrapped the da capo aria, which was a primary cause of holding up the dramatic development of the plot, and in his preface to Alceste (1767) he wrote of reducing mus. to its true function ‘which is that of seconding poetry in the expression of sentiments and dramatic situations of a story’. Although opera seria was to reach its culmination with Mozart's Idomeneo (1781), Gluck's reforms effectively killed it off, even if fashion still prevented him from carrying out his theories fully.

Haydn's operas, mostly written for Eszterháza, are rich in mus. content but were eclipsed by the works of genius with which Mozart ended the 18th cent., operas which brought the orch. into the forefront of the art, giving it a whole new dimension. Moreover they were works which defied classification under the old headings of opera seria and opera buffa. After Don Giovanni almost anything was possible.

The beginning of the 19th cent. was given a post-Mozartian sparkle by the brilliance, wit, and zest of Rossini's comic operas, and a generation of remarkable singers was served by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. In Ger. the romantic movt., with its interest in folklore and fantasy, found an operatic spokesman in Weber, whose Der Freischütz, Oberon, and Euryanthe opened the way for the colossal transformation wrought by Wagner, who in his maturity dispensed with the established number opera and converted recit. and aria into a seamless, continuous, and symphonic web of mus., with the orch. almost an extra character on the stage. He preferred the term ‘music drama’ to ‘opera’, wrote his own libs., and viewed opera as an amalgam of all the arts. In one sense his operas were a reaction against the spectacular ‘singers’ operas' of Meyerbeer which he had seen in his Parisian youth. Meyerbeer was Ger., but it is with Paris that he is assoc., enjoying success while the much more talented Berlioz had little operatic success in his lifetime, though his Les Troyens is now recognized as a major masterpiece. The operas of Massenet, Gounod, Bizet, and Saint-Saëns dominated Fr. mus. in the latter half of the 19th cent. But next to Wagner the outstanding figure was Verdi, also born in 1813, who learned much from Donizetti and refined and developed his art, keeping to a number-opera format, from Oberto of 1837–8 to the magical Falstaff of 1889–92.

Nationalist opera was principally an E. European development, beginning with Glinka's A Life for the Tsar in 1836 and continuing with Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Borodin's Prince Igor. Tchaikovsky's operas, of which Eugene Onegin is the best known, were not overtly nationalist, however. Smetana in Bohemia with Dalibor and The Bartered Bride est. a Cz. operatic tradition which reached its apogee in the first quarter of the 20th cent. with the powerful, realistic, and orig. operas of Janáček.

In Ger. the greatest post-Wagnerian figure in opera was Richard Strauss, whose first opera, Guntram, was prod. 1894 and his last, Capriccio, in 1942. He was continually trying to find new ways of reconciling words and mus., several of his works having the advantage of fine libs. by the Austrian poet Hofmannsthal. Other major operas from Ger. and Austria in the 20th cent. were written by Berg (Wozzeck and Lulu), Schoenberg, Pfitzner, Schreker, Korngold, Einem, Orff, and Henze.

After Verdi in It. came the verismo (reality) movt., in which operas, often but not necessarily in contemporary settings, strove to present the harsh realities of the situations with which they dealt. In many cases these derived from the realistic novels of Fr. literature in the late 19th cent., e.g. Zola, but like all such categorizations, verismo is hard to define and it could easily be said that Verdi's La traviata is verismo. However, the term is generally applied to the works of Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Montemezzi, Leoni, and, though he is a special case, to Puccini, whose operas achieved and have retained a wide popularity because of their mus. and dramatic colour and immediate appeal. La bohème in particular is among the most frequently perf. of all operas, with Madama Butterfly running it close.

Opera in Eng. was for many years mainly an imported commodity. Only Purcell's short Dido and Aeneas (1683–4) and the ballad-opera The Beggar's Opera (1728) were of any quality among native products, although Balfe's The Bohemian Girl (1843) achieved popularity. Sullivan wrote a grand opera (Ivanhoe) but won immortality through the light operas written in collab. with Gilbert in which his flair for parody and pastiche could be exploited to the full. Vaughan Williams comp. 5 operas which have excellent mus. qualities but are still held to be dramatically weak. Britten, with Peter Grimes in 1945, showed that Eng. had at last produced a natural operatic composer, as was shown by the eagerness with which these works were also staged abroad. He wrote several operas which needed only a chamber orch. and also developed a genre which he called ‘church parables’. These are midway between opera and medieval morality play. The example of Britten was followed by Tippett, Bennett, Walton, Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle, Oliver, Tavener, Weir, and many others.

In the USA, native opera took even longer than in Brit. to find its feet. Gershwin's Porgy and Bess has a claim to be the first successful Amer. opera. Operas by the It.-born Menotti and by Barber and Argento followed the European tradition, and qualities of exuberance, raciness, and wit which the Americans bring to mus. have been channelled most effectively into the genre of ‘musical’ such as Oklahoma! and Kiss Me Kate. This genre was sophisticated by Sondheim's A Little Night Music. The ‘minimalist’ composers Philip Glass and John Adams have written successful operas, notably the former's Akhnaten and the latter's Nixon in China. A NY Met commission which scored a success was Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles.

Some great composers have written only one opera, the supreme examples being Beethoven, whose Fidelio is regarded by many as the greatest of all operas, and Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande), while others have written none, e.g. Brahms, Bruckner, Elgar, Mahler, Ives, and Rubbra. Yet opera remains for most composers the greatest and most attractive challenge. With the development of mechanical and elec. techniques and the advance of the stage producer to an importance comparable with that of the cond., the staging of operas has grown more exciting and controversial, and has been exploited in the works of Henze, Maxwell Davies, Ginastera, and others. It has also become more expensive. Finance was a contributory cause of Britten's development of chamber operas, and has also led to the emergence of music theatre, a genre in which works of quasi-operatic character, sometimes involving only one singer or reciter, can be perf. either with a minimum of stage trappings (costumes, etc.) or with none at all but purely as a concert performance. A remarkable example of mus. theatre at its best is Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King. Yet even here it can be argued that 20th-cent. mus. theatre is merely a reversion to Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

The term opera not only covers the form of mus. composition but the whole business of performing opera. Thus it embraces the famous opera houses and cos. of It. in Milan, Rome, Naples, and Venice, of other parts of Europe in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt, Munich, Bayreuth, and Paris, of Russia in Moscow and Leningrad, in the USA in NY and Chicago, and in Eng. in London. Two prin. cos. work in London, the Royal Opera at CG, and ENO at the Coliseum. Outside London there is the summer fest. at Glyndebourne, Sussex, but opera is provided on almost an all-the-year-round basis by the regional cos., Scottish Opera (based in Glasgow), WNO (Cardiff) and Opera North (Leeds). These cos. also tour. There are also many other cos., e.g. GTO and ETO, which provide excellent perfs. and reflect the immense development of operatic life in Britain since 1945. All these activities, except Glyndebourne, are heavily subsidized. Commercial sponsorship of opera has become a valuable and necessary contribution to its continuance.

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opera

opera XVII. — It. :- L. opera labour, work produced, fem. coll. corr. to opus, oper- work (see OPUS).
Hence operatic XVIII. irreg., after dramatic. So (dim.) operetta XVIII. — It.

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opera

operaAltamira, chimera, clearer, Elvira, era, hearer, Hera, hetaera, interferer, lempira, lira, lire, Madeira, Megaera, monstera, rangatira, rearer, scorzonera, sera, shearer, smearer, sneerer, steerer, Thera, Utsire, Vera •acquirer, admirer, enquirer, firer, hirer, inquirer, requirer, wirer •devourer, flowerer, scourer •Angostura, Bonaventura, bravura, Bujumbura, caesura, camera obscura, coloratura, curer, Dürer, durra, Estremadura, figura, fioritura, Führer, insurer, Jura, juror, Madura, nomenklatura, procurer, sura, surah, tamboura, tempura, tourer •labourer (US laborer) • Canberra •Attenborough •Barbara, Scarborough •Marlborough • Farnborough •Deborah • rememberer •Gainsborough • Edinburgh •Aldeburgh • blubberer •Loughborough •lumberer, slumberer •Peterborough •Berbera, gerbera •manufacturer • capturer • lecturer •posturer • torturer • nurturer •philanderer • gerrymanderer •slanderer •renderer, tenderer •dodderer •squanderer, wanderer •borderer • launderer • flounderer •embroiderer • Kundera •blunderer, plunderer, thunderer, wonderer •murderer • amphora • pilferer •offerer • sufferer •staggerer, swaggerer •sniggerer •lingerer, malingerer •treasurer • usurer • injurer • conjuror •perjurer • lacquerer •Ankara, hankerer •bickerer, dickerer •tinkerer • conqueror • heuchera •cellarer • cholera •camera, stammerer •armourer (US armorer) •ephemera, remora •kumara • woomera • murmurer •Tanagra • genera • gunnera •Tampere, tamperer •Diaspora •emperor, Klemperer, tempera, temperer •caperer, paperer •whimperer • whisperer • opera •corpora • tessera • viscera • sorcerer •adventurer, venturer •batterer, chatterer, flatterer, natterer, scatterer, shatterer •banterer •barterer, charterer •plasterer • shelterer • pesterer •et cetera • caterer •titterer, twitterer •potterer, totterer •fosterer •slaughterer, waterer •falterer, palterer •saunterer • poulterer •bolsterer, upholsterer •loiterer • roisterer • fruiterer •flutterer, mutterer, splutterer, stutterer, utterer •adulterer • musterer • plethora •gatherer • ditherer • furtherer •favourer (US favorer), waverer •deliverer, shiverer •hoverer •manoeuvrer (US maneuverer) •discoverer, recoverer

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