Definition: an extended dramatic composition, in which all parts are sung to instrumental accompaniment, which usually includes arias, choruses, and recitatives, and that sometimes includes ballet.
Opera is a mixed-media form of art and often involves actor-singers, musicians, often dancers, scenery, lighting, props, production staff, and assorted paraphernalia.
“Opera is a veritable symbiosis in which sense and sound unite as equals” Weisstein
Opera has been regarded as “essentially a literary genre”, involving the perception of dramatic poetry rendered through music. (Weisstein)
In the later Baroque period, and up to the present, another view has been that opera, is “primarily spectacle”
Moreover different societies and languages possess different kinds of voices and voice-production techniques, so that in spite of globalization and jet-setting soloists, opera still retains a measure of national difference.
“The crowning glory of the opera is the big ensemble”- opera houses normally employ singers purely in order to participate in choral music.
“Grand opera was born…in the era of electoral politics, and its choral forces dramatize the political order of that era.”
Opera has unique ways of representing characters and their relationships.
How do opera and music theatre fit into history?
“We do not know when music-drama began….we do not know of a time when man had no music-drama” John Drummond
First experimental opera dates 1597AD (Dafne) - Opera is therefore around 400yrs old.
Public opera, for a paying audience began in 1637 in Venice very expensive: demographic= autocracy
The theatre’s finances were guaranteed by private capital + financial stability was attempted by a system of subscriptions.
How far is opera relevant to society now? What is the opera like today?
Comedy, it seems, is always vital to the future of musical theatre.
Technology has quite recently made opera more intelligible, as well as more audible= subtitles on DVD’s
Modern opera inevitably reflects the movement of twentieth-century drama in all its diversity.
One recent phenomenon stands as an answer to those pressures: minimalism in operatic music, applied wholesale to dramatic canvases lasting a complete evening.
What systems are there for analysing music theatre?
Petrobelli’s “Three systems”:
The dramatic action, in which the events on stage unfold.
The verbal organization of the dialogue which embodies the way the characters interact on stage.
The music, including the instrumental accompaniment, which establishes the “temporal dimension” of events, but also characterizes them as well.
How did opera cope with the twentieth century?
Since the 1920s “opera’s place and function (have) become questionable in today’s society.” In a survey of post-1945 opera Paul Griffiths in 1994 argued that the perpetual search for “new kinds of musical-dramatic expression” among