Opera - Ópera

Opera (from the Italian opera , 'musical works') designates a genre of theatrical music in which a stage action is harmonized, sung and has instrumental accompaniment. The performances are usually offered in opera houses , accompanied by an orchestra or a minor musical group . It is part of the tradition of European and Western classical music .


Unlike the oratorio , the opera is a work destined to be performed. Some genres of musical theater are closely related to opera, such as the Spanish zarzuela , the German singspiel , the Viennese operetta , the French opera-comique , and the English and American musical . Each of these variants of musical theater has its own characteristics, without such being exclusive to them and, on many occasions, resulting in the boundaries between such genres not being clear. In opera, as in several other genres of musical theater, it joins:

  • The music (orchestra, soloists, choir and conductor).
  • Poetry (through the libretto ).
  • The performing arts, especially acting, ballet, and dance.
  • The scenographic arts (painting, plastic arts, decoration, architecture).
  • Lighting and other scenic effects.
  • Makeup and costumes.

Opera is usually differentiated from other genres of musical theater, accepting that opera is a performance completely accompanied by music. The history of the genre shows that such a statement is not correct. Although the opera differs from the recited theater by the extraordinary participation of music in its constitution, bordering forms such as the masquerade , the ballad opera , the zarzuela and the singspiel were already known since the baroque period, which are confused in many cases with the opera. Thus, Singspiele of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is considered the operas as zarzuelas of Jose de Nebra , whileKurt Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper ( The Three-Penny Opera ) is actually much closer to recited theater than to opera. Finally, there are other genres close to opera such asFrench baroque opera-ballet and some neoclassical works of the 20th century, such as some works by Igor Stravinsky . However, in these works the main expressive part falls on dance while singing is relegated to a secondary role. Regarding the difference between opera and zarzuela, operetta, singspiel, and English and American musicals, the delimitation stems from a formal difference.

Opera genres



Claudio Monteverdi.

The word ' opera ' means 'work' in Italian (from the Latin word ' opus ', 'work' or 'labor') suggesting that it combines the arts of choral and solo singing, declamation, acting and dance in one stage performance.

Some authors point out as formal precursors of the opera to the Greek tragedy , the Italian carnival songs of the 14th century (the Italian mascerata ) and the middle of the 15th century (small musical pieces that were inserted during the theatrical performances). [ 1 ]

Dafne by Jacopo Peri was the first composition considered opera, as we understand it today. It was written during 1597 , under the great inspiration of an elitist circle of Florentine humanist writers, known as the " Camerata de 'Bardi " or "Camerata Florentina". Significantly, Daphne was an attempt to reviveclassical Greek tragedy , part of the larger revival of the characteristics of antiquity, typical of the Renaissance.. The members of the Camerata considered that the choral parts of the Greek tragedies were originally sung, and possibly the entire text of all the roles; the opera was then conceived as a way to "restore" this situation. Dafne was performed privately for the first time on 26 of December of 1598 in the Tornabuoni Palace of the city of Florence (Italy), and in public on 21 of January of 1599 in the Pitti Palace , Florence. [ 2 ] Dafne is lost. A later work by Peri, Euridice , from 1600, is the first opera that has survived. The honor of being the first opera still performs regularly corresponds to L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi composed for the court of Mantua in 1607 .

Italian opera

Thematic in the baroque

The opera was not to remain confined to court audiences for long; however in 1637 the idea of ​​a "season" ( Carnival ) of "public interest" operas, sustained by ticket sales, arose in Venice . Monteverdi had settled there, and composed his last operas, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and L'incoronazione di Poppea , for the Venetian theater in the 1640s. His main follower, Francesco Cavalli, collaborated in the propagation of the opera in Italy. In these early baroque operas, broad comedy was combined with tragic elements in a mix that shook some educated sensibilities, the first of several reformist opera movements to appear. Such a movement was sponsored by the Arcadian Academy of Venice , which was associated with the poet Metastasio . This author's librettos helped crystallize the serious opera genre , which became the dominant form of Italian opera until the late 18th century. Once the metastasian ideal was firmly established by the entire family of comedy in the baroque era opera it was reserved for what would become known as opera buffa .

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Before these elements were expelled from serious opera, many librettos offered a separate comic plot, as a kind of "opera within an opera." A compelling reason for this was the attempt to attract members of the growing merchant class, once again vigorous but still less cultured than the noble classes, to public opera houses. These separate arguments were almost immediately resurrected in the separate development of a new tradition, which derived in part from the commedia dell 'arte (as indeed such plots had always been), a long-flourishing stage of the Italian tradition. Hardly these "intermediates" were once presented in the middle of the acts of a stage performance, the operas in the new genre of the "intermezzi 'were widely developed in Naples during the 1710s and 1720s, initially being presented during the intermissions of the serious opera. They became so popular, however, that they were soon being offered as separate productions.

Serious opera was elevated in tone and highly stylized in form, generally consisting of a recitative " secco " interspersed with long arias " da capo ." This produced great opportunities for vocal virtuosity, and during the golden age of serious opera the singer became a star. Hero roles were usually written for the castrato voice , such as Farinelli and Senesino , as well as soprano heroines such as Faustina Bordoni, were highly demanded throughout Europe, while serious opera ruled the stages of every country, except France. In fact, Farinelli was the most famous singer of the 18th century. Italian opera set the baroque standard. Italian librettos were the norm, even when a German composer like Handel found himself writing for London audiences. Italian librettos continued to dominate in the classical period , for example with operas by Mozart , who wrote in Vienna almost a century later. The main Italian native composers of serious opera were Alessandro Scarlatti , Antonio Vivaldi and Nicola Porpora .

Gluck and Mozart reforms

See also Opera Reform

Orfeo ed Euridice : Illustration of the cover of the first edition of the score (Paris, 1764).
Don Giovanni Overture , one of Mozart's most famous pieces (1787).

The "serious opera" had its weaknesses and criticisms, its taste for the vocal adornment of superbly trained singers and the use of the spectacle as a substitute for dramatic purity and unity being attacked mainly. An Essay on Opera (1755), by Francesco Algarotti , proved to be an inspiration for Christoph Willibald Gluck's reforms . He argued that "serious opera" had to return to its foundations, the metastasian ideal, and that all the various elements — music (instrumental and vocal), ballet, and staging — should be subordinated to drama. His ideas were not accepted by all composers, giving rise to the quarrel of gluckists and piccinists . Similarly, various composers of the period, includingNiccolò Jommelli and Tommaso Traetta , tried to put their ideals into practice. The first to have consent and to leave a permanent mark on opera history, however, was Gluck. Gluck tried to create a "beautiful simplicity." This has been illustrated in the first of his "reformed" operas, Orfeo ed Euridice , where unvirtuous vocal lines are supported by simple harmonies and a noticeably richer orchestral presence than usual.

Gluck's reforms have had resonance throughout operatic history. Weber, Mozart, and Wagner, in particular, were influenced by his ideas. Mozart, in many ways Gluck's successor, combined a magnificent sense of drama , harmony , melody and counterpoint to compose a series of comic operas, notably Le nozze di Figaro , Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte (in collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte ), which remained among the most popular, loved and known in the repertoire. But Mozart's contribution to "serious opera" was less clear, despite his excellent works Idomeneo andLa clemenza di Tito . His state of health and his early death did not allow him to revive the genre.

Bel canto , Verdi and verismo

The woman is mobile
Enrico Caruso interprets "The woman is mobile", de Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (1908)
No, I'm not a clown
De Pagliacci de Ruggiero Leoncavallo. Interpreted by Enrico Caruso

Giuseppe Verdi, by Giovanni Boldini , 1886 (National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome).

The bel canto operatic movement flourished in the early 19th century, being exemplified by the operas of Rossini , Bellini , Donizetti , Pacini , Mercadante, and many others. Bel canto , in Italian, means "beautiful song," and the opera derives from the Italian singing school of the same name. Bel canto lines are typically flowery and intricate, requiring supreme agility and tone control.

Continuing the era of bel canto , a more direct and vigorous style was quickly popularized by Giuseppe Verdi , beginning with his biblical opera Nabucco . Verdi's operas resonated with the growth of the spirit of Italian nationalism in the post-Napoleonic era, and he quickly became an icon of the patriotic movement (even though his own policies were perhaps not so radical). In the early 1850s, Verdi produced his three most popular operas: Rigoletto , Il trovatore, and La traviata . But he continued to develop his style, composing perhaps the greatest French Grand Opéra , Don Carlo, and culminating his career with two works inspired by works by Shakespeare , Otello and Falstaff , which reveal the great growth in sophistication of Italian opera since the early nineteenth century.

After Verdi, the "realistic" sentimental melodrama of Verismo appeared in Italy. This was a style introduced by Pietro Mascagni with his Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo with Pagliacci , style that came virtually to dominate the world 's opera stages with such popular works such as La Bohème , Tosca , and Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini . Later Italian composers, such as Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono , experimented with modernism . In Spain, a recent example of this verismo is the OperaLa Casa de Bernarda Alba performed in 2018 at the Teatro de la Zarzuela with music by Miquel Ortega.

German opera

Tristan and Isolde: Preludio

Lithograph of an 1822 representation of Der Freischütz

The first German opera was Dafne , composed by Heinrich Schütz in 1627 , whose music has been lost. Italian opera continued to have a great presence and influence over German-speaking countries until the end of the 18th century. However, native forms were developed. In 1644 , Sigmund Staden produced the first Singspiel , Seelewig , a popular form of opera in the German language, in which singing alternated with spoken dialogue. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Theater am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg presented German operas by Keizer , Telemannand Handel . Even many important German composers of the time, including Handel himself, Graun , Hasse, and later Gluck , chose to write most of their operas in foreign languages, especially Italian.

Mozart's "Singspiele" , Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782) and Die Zauberflöte (1791) were a major leap in achieving international recognition for German opera. The tradition was developed in the 19th century by Beethoven with his Fidelio (1805), inspired by the climate of the French Revolution . Carl Maria von Weber established opera within German Romanticism opposing the domination of the Italian "Bel canto". His Der Freischütz (1821) shows his genius for creating supernatural atmospheres. Other composers of the time were Marschner, Schubert , Schumann and Lortzing , but the most significant figure was undoubtedly Richard Wagner .

Richard Wagner. 1861.

Wagner was one of the most revolutionary and controversial composers in the history of music. Beginning under the influence of Weber and Meyerbeer , he gradually developed a new concept of opera as a " Gesamtkunstwerk " ("complete work of art"), a fusion of music, poetry and painting. In his mature musical dramas, Tristan und Isolde , Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg , Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal , he abolished the distinction between aria and recitative in favor of a continuous flow of "endless melody". It greatly increased the prominence and power of the orchestra, creating scores with a complex network of leitmotifsRecurring themes often associated with the characters and concepts of the drama; and he was prepared to skip accepted musical conventions, such as tonality , in this case, for more expressiveness. Wagner also brought a new philosophical dimension to opera in his works, which are usually based on stories from Germanic mythology or Arthurian legends . Wagner built his own theater in Bayreuth , dedicated exclusively to performing his plays in the style he desired.

Opera was never the same after Wagner, and for many composers his legacy was a heavy burden. On the other hand, Richard Strauss accepted Wagnerian ideas but took them in a very different direction. His first success was achieved with the scandalous Salomé and the black tragedy Elektra , in which tonality was pushed to its limits. Then Strauss changed course in what would be his biggest hit, Der Rosenkavalier , where Mozart and the Viennese waltzes became a major influence, like Wagner. Strauss continued to produce a highly varied body of operatic works, often featuring librettos by the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal., until Capriccio in 1942 . Other composers who made their individual contributions to German opera in the 20th century were Alexander von Zemlinsky , Paul Hindemith , Kurt Weill, and the Italian Ferruccio Busoni . The operatic innovations of Arnold Schoenberg and his successors will be discussed in the Modernism section.

French opera

Scene from the original of the 1885 production of Le Cid by Jules Massenet .
Jean-Baptiste Lully

Rivaling imported productions of Italian opera, a separate French tradition was founded by the Italian Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of King Louis XIV . Defying her foreign origin, Lully established an Académie Royale de Musique (National Academy of Music) and monopolized French opera from 1672. Beginning with Cadmus and Hermione , Lully and her librettist Quinault created the tragédie en musique , a way in which music for dance and for chorus they were particularly prominent. Lully's operas also show concern for the expressive recitative , which adjusted to the contours of the French language.

In the 18th century, Lully's most important successor was Jean-Philippe Rameau , who composed five tragédies en musique , as well as numerous works in other genres such as opera-ballet , all notable for their rich orchestration and bold harmonies. After Rameau's death, the German Gluck was convinced to produce six operas for the Parisian stages in the 1770s. These showed the influence of Rameau, but simplified and very focused on drama.

At the same time, in the middle of the century, another genre was gaining popularity in France: the opéra-comique . This was the equivalent of the German singspiel , where arias were alternated with spoken dialogue. Outstanding examples in this style were produced by Monsigny , Philidor and, above all, by Grétry . During the period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars , composers such as Méhul , Cherubini and Spontini , who were followers of Gluck, brought a new seriousness to the genre, which had never been comic, in that case.

In the 1820s, the Gluckian influence in France led to a taste for Italian bel canto , especially after Rossini's arrival in Paris . His opera Guillaume Tell helped found a new genre, the Grand Opera , a form in which the most famous exponent was also a foreigner, Giacomo Meyerbeer . Meyerbeer's works such as Les Huguenots emphasized virtuous singing and extraordinary stage effects. The light opera-comique also enjoyed tremendous successes at the hands of Boïeldieu , Auber , Hérold and Adam.. In this climate, the operas of the native composer Hector Berlioz struggled to gain an audience. Berlioz's epic masterpiece Les Troyens , the culmination of the Gluckist tradition, went unrepresented for nearly a hundred years.

Carmen : Song of the toreador
1911 Pasquale Amato's interpretation of the song of the Carmen Toréador (1875) by Georges Bizet .

In the second half of the 19th century, Jacques Offenbach created the operetta with witty and cynical works such as Orphée aux enfers , as well as the opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann ; Charles Gounod recorded massive hits with Faust ; and Georges Bizet composed Carmen , which, as soon as the audience learned to accept his combination of Romanticism and Realism , became the most popular of all opera-comiques . He made another less acclaimed but of great quality in 1863 , Les pecheurs de perles .Massenet composed Werther and Delibes with Lakme with the famous duet of the slave girls, as well as Saint-Saëns composed works that are part of the standard repertoire. At the same time, the influence of Richard Wagner was felt as a challenge to the French tradition. Many French critics angrily rejected Wagner's musical dramas, while many French composers closely imitated them with varying success. Probably the most interesting answer came from Claude Debussy . As in a work by Wagner, the orchestra plays a leading role in Debussy's only opera, Pelléas et Mélisande(1902) and there are no real arias, only recitatives. But the drama is incomprehensible, enigmatic, and completely non-Wagnerian.

Other prominent names of the 20th century are Ravel , Dukas , Roussel, and Milhaud . Francis Poulenc , one of the very few postwar composers of any nationality, whose operas (including Dialogues des carmélites ) have gained a foothold in the international repertoire. Saint François d'Assise (1983), Olivier Messiaen's extensive sacred drama , has also attracted wide attention. [ 3 ]

Russian opera

Fyodor Chaliapin as Ivan Susanin in A Life for the Tsar of Glinka.

Opera was brought to Russia in the 1730s by Italian operatic companies and soon became an important part of the entertainment of the Russian Imperial Court and the aristocracy . Some foreign composers such as Baldassare Galuppi , Giovanni Paisiello , Giuseppe Sarti , and Domenico Cimarosa , among others, were invited to Russia to compose new operas, most of them in the Italian language . Simultaneously some national musicians like Maksym Berezovsky and Dmitri Bortniansky were sent abroad to learn to write operas. The first opera written in the Russian languageit was Tsefal i Prokris by the Italian composer Francesco Araja (1755). The development of Russian-language opera was supported by native composers Vasily Pashkevich , Yevstigney Fomin, and Alexey Verstovsky .

Sergei Prokofiev

In any case, the real birth of Russian opera came with Mikhail Glinka and his two great operas A Life for the Tsar (1836) and Ruslán and Liudmila (1842). Later in the nineteenth century in Russia masterpieces were written in the operatic genre, as Rusalka and The Stone Guest of Aleksandr Dargomizhski , Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina by Modest Mussorgsky , Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin , Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , andThe Snow Maiden and Sadko by Nikolai Rimski-Kórsakov . These developments reflected the growth ofRussian nationalism along the artistic spectrum, as part of the more general Slavophilic movement.

In the 20th century , Russian opera traditions were developed by various composers, including Sergei Rachmaninov with his works The Greedy Gentleman and Francesca da Rimini , Igor Stravinsky with The Nightingale , Mavra , Oedipus rex , and The Rake's Progress , Sergei Prokofiev with The player , The love of the three oranges , The angel of fire , Engagement in a monastery and War and peace ; as well as Dmitri Shostakovich withLa nariz y Lady Macbeth de Mtsensk , Edison Denisov con The foam of days , y Alfred Schnittke con La vida con un idiota , e Historia von D. Johann Fausten .

Spanish opera

Since the first half of the seventeenth century, hundreds of works have been released in Spain in which there are their own stylistic features, and sometimes very unique ones. In Spain it does not happen as in the rest of the European countries, which imitate Italy when it comes to producing theatrical and lyrical works, but these scenic and sung genres appear almost simultaneously in both countries, Spain and Italy, as the Spanish empire has territories. in Italy, which had led both countries to have numerous cultural exchanges. The opera buffa Italian, the opera-comique French, the Singspiel German, the musical comedy , the operettaFrench etc. are genres that give rise, all of them, to alternately sung and spoken theatrical forms, but they emerged in the 18th century (in the case of the operetta) when, since the 1620s, Italy and Spain already had operas properly speaking and when since the In the 1640s, Spain was already producing zarzuelas . The appearance of the latter is crucial, the zarzuela, a lyrical genre that alternates parts sung with parts spoken in Spanish, even before the German Singspiel and the French opera-comique , lyrical genres that also share that characteristic.

Due to its success, this Spanish lyrical legacy, composed of operas and zarzuelas, makes it possible to qualify Spain as one of the countries most interested in any type of sung theater, and this from the very birth of lyrical art. Thus, in the middle of the Golden Age , in 1622, a work considered to be the precursor of all Spanish operas was premiered at the Palacio de Aranjuez : La gloria de Niquea (with music by Mateo Romero , Juan de Palomares , Juan Blas de Castro and Álvaro de los Ríos ). [ 4 ] This 1622 premiere follows briefly the first operas performed in Rome., but it precedes the first to be represented in Venice . France and Germany will still have to wait to attend the premiere of their respective first works of lyrical art. A The glory of Niquea happened in 1627, the forest without love , [ 5 ] another play entirely sung libretto by Felix Lope de Vega . The work was represented in the Alcázar of Madrid .

Félix Antonio Máximo López Crespo (1742-1821), oil (1820) by Vicente López Portaña in the Prado Museum.

Shortly after, it was the Palacio del Buen Retiro which became the usual receptacle for the lyrical works of the Spanish court. This Madrid palace, nowadays disappeared (it was destroyed for the most part, in 1808, during the War of Independence ), included among its dependencies a covered theater, made following the fashion of the new theaters that were then beginning to be built in Italy . Many scores disappeared in the fire that destroyed the Buen Retiro in the 19th century, scores of works largely premiered in the palace theater, although some have been preserved by other sources. Among the composers of lyrical works of the seventeenth century, preserved to date, can be cited, among others, Cristóbal Galán ,Juan de Navas , Juan de Serqueira and, above all, Juan Hidalgo de Polanco (1614-1685). The latter is preserved Jealousy even from the air kill , [ 6 ] opera created in the theater of the Buen Retiro Palace in 1660, with a libretto by Pedro Calderón de la Barca and is considered the oldest sung opera that is preserved in Spain.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, other lyrical phenomena enriched the stages with a quantity of production that was difficult to quantify: three thousand tonadillas (songs performed by one or two interpreters with a tripartite structure imitating the language of the people) and twelve thousand zarzuelas stand out. In addition to praises, dances, jácaras and mojigangas cars. These data represent us a people who live the lyric. Without leaving behind that the statistics of consumption, of active musical theaters, singers and edition of musical theater scores are equally impressive. The figures of Lope de Vega (1562-1635) and Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) stand out especially.

In the 18th century, influences were mixed between Spanish zarzuela and Italian opera. Due to its empire and its cultural permeability with Italy, Spain was enriched by Italian composers who composed operas with a libretto in Spanish, such as Francesco Corradini (1700-1769) or Luigi Boccherini(1743-1805), although in peninsular Spain, the metropolis of the empire, librettos were also written or performed in Italian. In 1799 the representation of works that had not been translated into Spanish was finally prohibited, which made many of the playwrights who wrote sainetes, to translate works from Italian into Spanish, nationalizing them. The Spanish operatic creation that took place throughout the first half of the 18th century saw the appearance of such relevant musicians as Sebastián Durón —author of the first repertory work to bear the Spanish qualification of "opera", La guerra de los giants , premiered in 1700—, Antonio Literes , José de Nebra , Antonio Rodríguez de Hitaor Domingo Terradellas , culminating in the last decades of the 18th century in two creators of the stature of Vicente Martín y Soler and Manuel del Pópulo Vicente García .

The 19th century brought with it a need for liberation from Italian dependence, the need for a lyrical creation of our own. Theaters were built and there was great critical activity with numerous polemics and writings. For all these reasons, opera and zarzuela (the two pillars of Spanish lyrical art) were the main genre of Spanish music in the 19th century. The first half of the century (culminating in 1850 with the inauguration of the Teatro Real) was a period of great vitality around the Spanish national opera. From then on, the dualism of opera and zarzuela provoked a clear division of forces. For a few years, the most prestigious musicians chose the path of the zarzuela because it was the only one that really guaranteed their success and subsistence. The great opera specialists, Ramón Carnicer i Batlle and Baltasar Saldoni , tried from 1838 to become the first Spanish nationalist opera composers encouraged by the intellectuals of the time, followed later by Miguel Hilarión Eslava , Emilio Arrieta (author de Marina ), Antonio Reparaz orValentine Zubiaurre . The period of the Bourbon Restoration (begun in 1874) allowed the wealthy class to attend the shows again, and the Royal Theater to become with renewed strength what it really served for: to be a place of scenic and lyrical representation. In the following fifty years, the cultivation of music as an art was promoted in Spain and that has been, until now, the most prolific period of Spanish opera.

The first national operatic conception of Spain was captured by Tomás Bretón with his opera Los lovers de Teruel . Premiered in 1889 at the Teatro Real, it is performed with great success in both Madrid and Barcelona. Next, the decade of the 1890s is in the history of Spanish opera rich and complex; one of the eras that has made the most contributions in the history of Spanish music. The Spanish musicians showed that they had an individual idea of ​​what Spanish opera should be, and for that reason they were prepared to, from a domain of the genre, use Italian, Wagnerian and populist formulas, but almost always with a strong nationalist stratum. . Consequently, Spanish opera produced diverse, varied and original works, signed for example byRuperto Chapí (author of Margarita la Tornera ) or Emilio Serrano . The 1890s also saw the advent, in the world of Spanish opera, of two of the most influential musical protagonists of the late 19th century, Enrique Granados and Isaac Albéniz .

During the 20th century, although the composers alternated with other musical formats, in opera already mentioned authors such as Isaac Albéniz , with Pepita Jiménez (1896) or Merlin (1902), and Enrique Granados with Goyescas (1916) stand out, apart from other authors as well. Outstanding figures such as Vicente Lleó Balbastre , with Inés de Castro (1903), Manuel Penella Moreno with The Wildcat (1916), Joaquín Turina Pérez with Jardín de Oriente (1922), Conrado del Campo with La tragedia del beso (1911), Amadeo Viveswith Artús (1897) and Maruxa (1914), Felipe Pedrell , Manuel de Falla with La vida breve (1913) and El retablo de Maese Pedro (1923), Jesús Guridi with Mirentxu (1913), Federico Moreno Torroba with La virgen de mayo (1925) and El poeta (1980) or Pablo Sorozábal with Adiós a la bohemia (1933) and Juan José (1968).

Chinese opera

Chinese opera is a form of drama in China. It has been practiced since the Tang dynasty with Emperor Xuanzong (712-755), who founded the "Pear Garden", the first known opera company in China. The company was almost exclusively in the service of the emperors. Today, the professions of opera are still called Disciplines of the pear garden. During the Yuan dynasty(1279-1368), varieties such as the Zaju were introduced to opera, with performances based on rhyming schemes and innovations such as the introduction of specialized roles such as "Dan" (female), "Sheng" (male) and "Chou" (clown). There are currently more than 300 varieties of Chinese opera, the best known in the Peking Opera, which took its current form in the mid-19th century and was extremely popular during the Qing dynasty.(1644-1911). In Peking Opera, traditional Chinese strings and percussion instruments provide a rhythmic accompaniment to the performance. The performance is based on allusions, gestures and other choreographic movements that express actions such as riding a horse, rowing a boat or opening a door. The spoken dialogue can be a recited text, used by the serious characters of the plot, or a colloquial text used by women and clowns. The roles are strictly defined. The elaborate makeups allow to distinguish the character that is being represented. The traditional repertoire of the Peking Opera includes more than 1000 pieces, the majority coming from historical accounts of political and military confrontations.

Opera in Latin America

On October 19, 1701 , the opera The Purple of the Rose , an opera in one act composed by Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco on a libretto by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, was premiered in the Viceroyalty of Peru . It is the first opera composed and performed in America and the only surviving opera by Torrejón y Velasco. The play tells the myth of the love affairs of Venus and Adonis , which provokes the jealousy of Mars and her desire for revenge. In 1711 the opera La Parténope with music by Manuel de Sumaya was premiered in Mexico City, master of the cathedral chapel and the greatest Mexican baroque composer. The special importance of this opera is that it is the first composed in North America and the first opera composed on the continent by an American. This opera begins the fruitful and still little studied history of Latin American operatic creation, uninterrupted since then for three hundred years. The first opera composed and premiered in Brazil was I Due Gemelli , by José Maurício Nunes García , the text of which was later lost. It can be considered as the first genuinely Brazilian opera with a Portuguese text A Noite de São João , by Elias Álvares Lobo .

Carlos Gomes

The most famous composer of Brazilian operas was Carlos Gomes . An important part of his operas were premiered in Italy with text in Italian. However, Carlos Gomes frequently used themes typically from Brazil. Such is the case of his operas Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo .

The opera Guatemotzín by the nineteenth-century Mexican Aniceto Ortega is the first conscious attempt to incorporate native elements into the formal characteristics of the opera. Within the Mexican opera production of the nineteenth century, the opera Agorante, rey de la Nubia by Miguel Meneses , premiered during the commemorative festivities for the birthday of Emperor Maximiliano I of Mexico , the operas Pirro de Aragón by Leonardo Canales , Keofar by Felipe Villanueva stand out. .

The operatic work of Melesio Morales is the most important in Mexico in the 19th century. His works Romeo y Julieta , Ildegonda , Gino Corsini , Cleopatra had great success among the public in Mexico City and were premiered in Europe.

In Colombia, the composer José María Ponce de León had presented an operetta since his childhood (An old-fashioned mayor and two modern-day cousins), already in 1874 he presented his first opera Ester and later in 1876 the zarzuela El castillo misterioso and in 1880 his major opera Florinda. In Venezuela composers such as Reynaldo Hahn , José Ángel Montero , Pedro Elías Gutiérrez , Federico Ruiz are mentioned . The first opera in Venezuela is El maestro Rufo Zapatero , a comic opera composed in 1847 by José María Osorio , although it is generally thought that it was Virginia , by Montero, premiered in 1877. Osorio had previously composed several zarzuelas, although it is believed that the first to be released was Los alemanes en Italia , by José Ángel Montero, in the 1860s.

In Brazil, opera composers from the first half of the 20th century stand out, such as Heitor Villa-Lobos , author of operas such as Izath , Yerma and Aglaia , and Mozart Camargo Guarnieri , author of Um Homem Só and Pedro Malazarte .

Colon Theater , Buenos Aires . The most important opera house in Latin America and one of the five most important on the planet. [ 7 ] [ 8 ]

Contemporary Brazilian opera follows avant-garde trends, as is the case with works such as Olga , by Jorge Antunes , A Tempestade , by Ronaldo Miranda , and O Cientista , by Silvio Barbato .

In the first part of the 20th century, nationalist operas were produced in Ecuador. Among them, three inspired by the novel Cumandá or a drama among savages by the Ecuadorian Juan León Mera due to Luis Humberto Salgado , Pedro Pablo Traversari Salazar and Sixto María Durán Cárdenas (1875-1947). Luis H. Salgado also composed the operas El tribuno , El Centurión and Eunice ; the operetta Ensueño de amor and the opera-ballet Día de Corpus .

In the first half of the 20th century, Julián Carrillo and composers close to him such as Antonio Gomezanda , Juan León Mariscal , Julia Alonso , Sofía Cancino de Cuevas , José F. Vásquez , Arnulfo Miramontes , Rafael J. Tello , stood out in Mexican operatic creation. Francisco Camacho Vega and Efraín Pérez Cámara .

All of them have been relegated by the official musical historiography that only recognized the work of nationalist composers. [ citation needed ] Since the late twentieth century in Mexico (and all of Latin America) there is a growing interest of composers to write opera. Among the Mexican composers of the early 21st century who stand out with their operas should be mentioned Federico Ibarra , Daniel Catán , Leandro Espinosa , Marcela Rodríguez , Víctor Rasgado , Javier Álvarez , Roberto Bañuelas , Luis Jaime Cortez , Julio Estrada ,Gabriela Ortiz , Enrique González Medina , Manuel Henríquez Romero , Leopoldo Novoa , Hilda Paredes , Mario Stern , René Torres , Juan Trigos , Samuel Zyman , Mathias Hinke , Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon , Isaac Bañuelos , Gabriel de Dios Figueroa , Enrique González-Medina , José Carlos Ibáñez Olvera , Víctor Mendoza and Emmanuel Vázquez .

Between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the operas: Los Enemigos (1997) by Mesías Maiguashca , based on the story The Secret Miracle by Jorge Luis Borges , Manuela y Simón (2006) by Diego Luzuriaga and the "Opera for the voice of the instruments" The tree of the birds (2002-2003) by Arturo Rodas .

Other national traditions

Stay, Prince and hear
A scene from Purcell's masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas . The witch's messenger, in the form of Mercury himself, tries to convince Aeneas to leave Carthage. Note the use of the Italian-style recitative, a rarity in English opera of that time.

Henry Purcell

One of the main operatic traditions is that of English opera . Although Great Britain was an active center of operatic life, it had few world-renowned composers. Henry Purcell was the most notable Baroque composer, his contributions include his masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas (1689) and his Shakespearean work The Queen of the Fairies (1692). Already in the 20th century, opera in English achieved its splendor mainly thanks to the contribution of Benjamin Britten , with operas including Peter Grimes and The Rape of Lucretia ; and the compositions of important American creators such asGeorge Gershwin , with his famous Porgy and Bess , Treemonisha (1972) by Scott Joplin , Candide (1956) by Leonard Bernstein , Orpheé (1993) and La belle et la bête (1994) by Philip Glass , or Gian Carlo Menotti with Vanessa and The medium .

Czech composers also developed a thriving national operatic movement in the 19th century, beginning with Bedřich Smetana who wrote eight operas, including the internationally popular The Sold Bride . Antonín Dvořák , most famous for Rusalka , wrote 13 operas; and Leoš Janáček gained international recognition in the 20th century for his innovative works, including Jenůfa , The Cunning Fox , and Katia Kabanová .

The key figure in Hungarian national opera in the 19th century was Ferenc Erkel , whose works focused mainly on historical themes. Among his most represented works are Hunyadi László and Bánk bán . The most famous modern Hungarian opera is Castle Bluebeard of Béla Bartók .

The most recognized composer of Polish opera was Stanisław Moniuszko , acclaimed for the opera Straszny Dwór . In the twentieth century, other operas created by composers Poles are King Roger by Karol Szymanowski and Ubu Rex of Krzysztof Penderecki .

Among the Dutch composers , Willem Pijper stands out , with his opera based on the Dutch folk legend of Halewijn , and his disciple Henk Badings , who composed several operas for radio.

Modernist and contemporary trends

Opera and cinematography

The relationship between these two artistic forms is more than apparent, both are integrative arts, that is, they include other artistic forms in their composition. The opera is constituted from a dramatic piece with a narrative structure that resembles a theatrical piece but with another component, music, which Claudio Monteverdi himself proposed in the seventeenth century, music is the main thing in opera. María Callas mentioned that all the dramatic intentions of the characters and the story in an Opera are in the score, in the relationship between the sounds. Cinematography is an audiovisual form where the narrative sequence is driven by the peculiar way in which the succession and construction of images occurs.

There are several approaches between both forms, but in many cases cinematography is used only as a visual record of the scenic representation.

However, there have been several tapes that take advantage of the qualities of cinematographic syntax, achieving an interrelation between images, text, actions and musical drama. An example of this is the 1963 film from Leonard Berstein's opera West Side Story . A version of La Bohème de Puccini has recently been produced , with the singers Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, where this integration of the three narrative conductors together with the text occurs.

A significant proposition was that made by Philip Glass when he took the film La belle et la bête by Jean Cocteau , timed the dialogues and, in the same space of time, put them in a musician subway. The premiere of the new opera was held by presenting the film on stage while musicians and singers performed the opera from the orchestra pit. The work has opened up new possibilities for the integration of the arts. Although, in this case, the cinematographic opera uses an existing material, in the case of the Black Ball opera the conception advances a step beyond that proposed by Philip Glass. The Black Ball operaIt was conceived from the beginning as a cinematographic experiment by the author of the libretto Mario Bellatín and the composer Marcela Rodríguez . That is, no existing material was used, as in the case proposed by Philip Glass, but the opera was conceived, in all its parts, as a cinematographic proposition.

Also inspired operas or stories that inspired movies are Death in Venice , Dead Man Walking and Brokeback Mountain .

Operatic voices

The voice for operatic singing requires certain characteristics and qualities. It is developed with long years of study and training because it involves a muscular development of the entire apparatus or voice-emitting organ that includes, in addition to the vocal cords, the use of the diaphragm and the resonance of the oral cavity and paranasal sinuses. The result of all this is the peculiar type of voice that is called "imposted", that is, it is the product of the specific and controlled placement and projection of the air. It is divided into three parts, chest voice, throat voice and head voice.

Each singer has an extension and a particular register. Within that range (number of notes covered, ranging from 2 to 3 octaves), are the changes of each of the three placements of the voice.

Therefore, the operatic voice demands constant and continuous training known as vocalization, since the abandonment of said training leads to a decrease in muscular and respiratory capacity.

The lyrical singer, whether in opera or recital, does not use a microphone but rather the natural flow of his voice taken to its maximum possibility.

Vocal classification

The opera singers and the roles they play are classified as voice type , based on characteristics such as tessitura , agility, power and timbre of their voices.

Males can be classified by their vocal range as bass , bass-baritone , baritone , tenor, and countertenor , and females as alto , mezzo - soprano , and soprano .

Males can sometimes sing in the female vocal register, in which case they are called sopranist or countertenor . Of these, only the countertenor is commonly found in opera, sometimes singing parts written for castrato (males castrated at an early age to give them a higher than normal vocal range).

The classifications may be specific, for example, a soprano can be described as light soprano , soprano coloratura , soubrette , soprano , spinto soprano , dramatic soprano or soprano lyric-light . These terms, although they do not fully describe the voice, associate it with the most suitable roles for the vocal characteristics of the singer.

The voice of each singer in particular can change drastically throughout his life; vocal maturity is rarely reached before the third decade, and sometimes until middle age.

The vocal spectrum could be summarized in vocal registers thus arranged from the highest voice to the lowest:

Historical use of vocal parts

The soprano voice has typically been used throughout operatic history as the voice of choice for the female lead of the opera in question. The current emphasis on a wide vocal range was primarily a Classical Period invention . Before that, vocal virtuosity, not breadth, was the priority, with soprano parts rarely extending to a high F ( Händel , for example, only wrote a role that extends to a high C), although castrato Farinelli was listed as having a sharp re.

The mezzo-soprano, a comparatively recent appellation of origin, also has an extensive repertoire, starting from the female lead role of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas to "heavy" roles such as Brangäne in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (both roles are often played by sopranos ).

For true contraltos, the number of parts is more limited, which has led to the joke that contraltos only sing roles of "witches, wicked, and men ." In recent years many of the "trouser roles" of the Baroque era, originally written for women, and originally performed by "castrati", have been reassigned to countertenors.

The tenor voice, from the classical era onwards, has traditionally been assigned to the male lead. Many of the most challenging tenor roles in the repertoire have been written during the era of the bel canto , as the sequence of nine do above middle C in the sequence of La fille du régiment of Donizetti . With Wagner comes the emphasis on vocal influence for his protagonists, with the vocal category called heldentenor ; this heroic voice had its Italian counterpart in roles like Calaf in Puccini's Turandot .

The bass voice has a long history in opera, having been employed in supporting roles in "serious opera", and sometimes for comic relief ( buffo bass ) providing a contrast to the preponderance of high voices in this genre. The bass repertoire is wide and varied, ranging from the comedy with Leporello in Don Giovanni to the nobility of Wotan in Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung .

In the middle of the tenor and the bass is the baritone, which varies in "weight", from Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte to Posa in Verdi's Don Carlos ; the current designation "baritone" was not used until the middle of the 19th century.

Famous singers

Senesino, Cuzzoni and Berenstadt (caricature of a representation of Flavio de Handel).

The first operatic performances were too infrequent for singers to live exclusively on the style, but with the birth of commercial opera in the mid-17th century, professional performers began to emerge.

The main male hero role was usually entrusted to a castrato, and as early as the 18th century, when Italian opera was performed throughout Europe, the main castrates, who possessed extraordinary vocal virtuosity, such as Senesino and Farinelli , became international stars.

The career of the first great female star (or prima donna ), Anna Renzi , dates back to the mid-17th century. In the 18th century, a number of Italian sopranos gained world renown and frequently became embroiled in fierce rivalries, such as Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni , who began a fist fight during a Handel opera performance.

The French did not like the “castrati”, they preferred that their heroes be played by a haute-contre (high tenor), of which Joseph Legros was a prominent example. [ 9 ]

In the 19th century there was a female figure of great commercial success by the parameters of the time, María Malibrán , for whom some renowned composers such as Félix Mendelssohn performed pieces. It had a wide register of almost 3 octaves. La Malibrán was the daughter of the singing teacher Manuel García and sister of the also famous Pauline Viardot . Other famous divas of the time were Giuditta Pasta , Jenny Lind and Giulia Grisi .

The 20th century began with the hand of what many consider to be the greatest tenor and whose phonographic records are available, the Italian Enrico Caruso , who triumphed in the main opera houses in Europe, as well as in New York and Buenos Aires and was the first artist to sell 1 million copies of a recording on disc. In the years leading up to World War II , the opera featured a heyday period represented by singers such as Kirsten Flagstad , Miguel Fleta , Feodor Chaliapin , Frida Leider , Lotte Lehmann , Giuseppe Martinelli , Maria Jeritza , Melico Salazar andGonzalo Castellón .

In the immediate postwar period, the soprano Maria Callas was a fundamental figure , whose fame transcended the musical world to the world of politics and entertainment, as well as her rivalry with the Italian Renata Tebaldi evoked the confrontations of divas of the 18th century. More important female voices of the second half of the 20th century are the Swedish singer Birgit Nilsson , the Americans Beverly Sills , Renée Fleming , Jessye Norman , Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle , the Catalans Montserrat Caballé and Victoria de los Ángeles , the Italians Mirella Freni ,Cecilia Bartoli and Renata Scotto , the Bulgarians Ljuba Welitsch and Ghena Dimitrova , Angela Gheorghiu , Diana Damrau , the French Régine Crespin and Natalie Dessay and Anna Netrebko . Some singers have been distinguished for their services by the British crown with the title of Dame DBE , among others Dame Clara Butt , Eva Turner , Joan Sutherland , Kiri Te Kanawa(who sang at the wedding of Prince Charles to Princess Diana and it is estimated that this performance was seen by 600 million viewers on television), Gwyneth Jones , Janet Baker , Elisabeth Schwarzkopf , Margaret Price and Sarah Connolly . In the Germanic area the title Kammersänger (or Kammersängerin for female singers) translated as court singer is awarded .

In the male field there is an extensive list as well, mentioning a contemporary baritone of María Callas, Tito Gobbi who shared in several operas with Callas including his last live performance in 1964 performing Tosca . In the 1930s we will include the Mexican Juan Arvizu . [ 10 ] [ 11 ] In the 1940s will include a Chilean Ramón Vinay , the Danish Lauritz Melchior and Mexican Nestor Mesta chayres . [ 12 ] In the 1960s we will include the Spanish Alfredo Kraus , the German Fritz Wunderlichand the Italian Giuseppe Di Stefano . The 1970s were the takeoff and the great marquee of some of the most famous singers recognized both by the great amateur public and supported by the knowledgeable and specialist public. These are the Mexican Francisco Araiza , recognized worldwide for his participation in the operas of Mozart and Rossini, José Carreras , Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo . At the beginning of the 90's, Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo joined to form the first mass-operatic event known as Los Tres Tenores in 1990. In the musical environment of Mexico, several singers were recognized in the United States and Europe to a degree. that one of them, the tenorRamón Vargas participated in the commemorative concerts of the mourning centenary of Giuseppe Verdi in 2001. There are also Fernando de la Mora and David Lomelí.

The tradition continues in the 21st century in tenors such as the German Jonas Kaufmann , the Peruvian Juan Diego Florez , the Mexicans Rolando Villazón and Javier Camarena , the Costa Rican Gonzalo Castellón and Íride Martinez, the American Michael Fabiano and the Polish Piotr Beczala . It is worth noting the emergence of countertenors thanks to the rise of early and baroque music in the figures of Andreas Scholl , David Daniels , Philippe Jaroussky and the Argentine Franco Fagioli, among others.

Although the patronage of opera has declined in the past century in favor of other arts and media, such as musicals, film, radio, television, and recordings, the media has also supported the popularity of famous opera singers thanks to broadcasts. on television and in cinemas from the great opera houses as well as in massive stadiums.

See also



  1. ^ Grabner, Herrmann (2001). General Theory of Music . Madrid: Akal. pp. 236-237. ISBN 84-460-1091-7 .
  2. ^ "Jacopo Peri" , biographical article in English published on the NNDB website.
  3. General references for this section in The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera , Caps 1–4, 8 and 9; and The Oxford Companion to Music (10th ed., 1968); specific references for each composer in The Viking Opera Guide .
  4. ^ Pierre-René Serna, Guide de la Zarzuela: La zarzuela de Z à A , pp. 16 and 24 (in French)
  5. ^ Pierre-René Serna, Guide de la Zarzuela: La zarzuela de Z à A , pp. 17 and 24 (in French).
  6. ^ Pierre-René Serna, Guide de la Zarzuela: La zarzuela de Z à A , p. 256 (in French).
  7. http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/683089.html
  8. «Archived copy» . Archived from the original on August 8, 2017 . Retrieved November 2, 2012 .
  9. The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (ed. Parker, 1994), Cap. 11.
  10. The Free Library - Mexican Musicians in California and the United States 1910-50 - Two Mexican Tenors - Juan Arvizu tenor de ópera en thefreelibrary.com(en inglés)
  11. Agustin Lara: A Cultural Biography - "Juan Arvizu Biography and opera tenor". Andrew Grant Wood. Oxford University Press New York 2014 p. 34 ISBN 978-0-19-989245-7 at books.google.com (in English)
  12. El Siglo de Torrén - Néstor Mesta Cháyres - Biography of Néstor Mesta Cháyres - opera tenor at the National Conservatory of Music and Chicago Opera (1949) at elsiglodetorreon.com


  • Casares Rodicio, Emilio and Álvaro Torrente: The Spanish Opera: The Opera in Spain and Hispano-America , vol. I and II

external links