Opera was born in Italy around 1600 , where it continued to be or have a dominant role in the history of the genre to this day. The works of Italian composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries , such as Rossini , Bellini , Donizetti , Verdi and Puccini , are among the most famous ever written, and to this day they are performed in major opera houses around the world. world.
Also, this name is sometimes used to refer to the entire opera written in the Italian language . Many famous operas written in Italian were created by foreign composers, including Handel , Gluck, and Mozart .
During the Renaissance some Italian poets and intellectuals tried to create musical drama. They were inspired by the example of the ancient world, because they knew that the Greek tragedies that had come down to them had originally had musical accompaniment. However, little Greek music had survived to guide them. Then, in the Italian Renaissance , intermezzo emerged , a sumptuous musical entertainment consisting of song, dance and stage effects that were inserted between the acts of a play. Another experiment was the madrigal comedy , in which a series of madrigals were chained, generating a narrative, the most famous example of this genre is inL'Amfiparnaso by Orazio Vecchi (1594). The disadvantages of using madrigals for drama, with several voices singing at once, soon became obvious. A more fruitful direction was taken when musicians began to experiment with monody , in which a solo voice recited verses over an instrumental line. This line of experimentation was led by a group of musicians and theorists known in Florence as "La Camerata". Among them were Giovanni de Bardi , Vincenzo Galilei , the poet Ottavio Rinuccini, and the composer Jacopo Peri.. Peri, Mancilla and Rinuccini together were the authors of what is considered the first opera, Dafne . It was released in a semi-private presentation in 1598.
Florence and Mantua
Dafne's music is currently missing. The first opera whose music has survived was performed in 1600 at the wedding of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici at the Pitti Palace in Florence . The opera Eurídice , with a libretto by Rinuccini, set to music by Peri and Giulio Caccini, tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The singing style favored by Peri and Caccini was an augmented form of natural speech, dramatic recitatives supported by instrumental string music. The recitative thus preceded the development of arias, although it soon became the basis for including separate songs and instrumental interludes at times when voices were muted. Both Dafne and Euridice also included choruses of commentary on the action at the end of each act, in the manner of the Greek tragedy. The theme of Orpheus, the demigod of music, was understandably popular and attracted Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) who wrote his first opera, La Favola d'Orfeo.(The Fable of Orpheus), in 1607 for the court of Mantua .
Monteverdi insisted on a strong relationship between lyrics and music. When Orpheus performed in Mantua, an orchestra of 38 instruments, numerous choirs and recitatives were employed to make a lively drama. It was a more ambitious version than the previous ones - more opulent, more varied in recitatives, more exotic in scenography - with strong musical climates that allowed the maximum reach of the virtuosity of the singers. The opera had revealed its first mature phase at the hands of Monteverdi.
In a few decades the opera spread in Italy. In Rome , he found a lawyer in the prelate and librettist Giulio Rospigliosi (later Pope Clement IX). Rospigliosi was sponsored by the family Tuscan of the Barberini , prominent figures in Roman society in the early decades of the seventeenth century.
The composers who worked in Rome at that time were Luigi Rossi , Michelangelo Rossi , Stefano Landi , Marco Marazzoli, and Domenico and Virgilio Mazzocchi . In 1630, the theme of the operas began to change significantly: instead of the pastoral tradition of Arcadia , themes of chivalric poems were preferred, especially those of Ariosto and Tasso , as well as themes taken from the lives of Christian saints. and the comedy of art. The number of characters increased, and therefore, the dramatic plot became more complex. A new method of declaiming the recitatives was developed, more dramatic and flexible. Roman opera was noted for its huge choirs and elaborate stages.
Venice: commercial opera
The opera took an important turn when it came to the republic of Venice . It was here that the first public opera house was opened, the Teatro San Cassiano , in 1637, by Benedetto Ferrari and Francesco Manelli. Its success removed the opera from aristocratic patronage and placed it in the commercial world. In Venice, the musical drama ceased to be addressed to an elite of aristocrats and intellectuals and acquired the character of entertainment. Soon several opera houses were springing up in the city, presenting works for a paid audience during the Venice Carnival season.. Opera houses used a very small orchestra to save money. A large part of his budget was used to attract the stars of the moment; this was the beginning of the reign of the castrato and the prima donna .
The main composer of Venetian opera was Monteverdi , who left Mantua for Venice in 1613, with other important later composers such as Francesco Cavalli , Antonio Cesti , Antonio Sartorio, and Giovanni Legrenzi . He wrote three works for public theaters: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640), Le nozze d'Enea with Lavinia (1641, now lost) and the most famous L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642). The themes of the new operas by Monteverdi and others were generally drawn from Roman history or legends about Troy., with the intention of celebrating the heroic ideals and noble genealogy of the Venetian State. However, they did not abandon their interest in love or comedy. Most of the works consisted of three acts, not like the previous ones that normally had five. The bulk of the versification was still in recitative, however, in moments of great dramatic tension there were often passages in arioso , known as arie cavate . Under Monteverdi's successors, the distinction between recitative and aria became more marked and conventional. This is evident in the style of the four most successful composers of the next generation: Francesco Cavalli , Giovanni Legrenzi , Antonio Cesti andAlessandro Stradella .
The expansion of the opera abroad
In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth , a tradition of operatic production began in Warsaw in 1628, with the performance of Galatea (of uncertain composer), the first opera in Italian produced outside of Italy. Shortly after this presentation, the court produced the opera La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina , by Francesca Caccini , which was written for Prince Vladislao Vasa three years earlier, when he visited in Italy. This is the first opera written by a woman that is preserved to this day. Gli amori di Aci e Galateaby Santi Orlandi was also presented in 1628. When Vladislaus was king (Vladislao IV) he personally supervised the production of at least ten operas between the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw a center of art. The composers of these operas are not known, they could be Poles working under Marco Scacchi's orders in the royal chapel, or they could have been among the Italians imported by Ladislao. A dramma per musica (as Italian opera was known at the time) entitled Giuditta , based on the Biblical story of Judith , was presented in 1635, its composer probably being Virgilio Puccitelli.
Cavalli's operas were performed in Italy by touring companies with great success. In fact, his Giasone was the most popular opera of the seventeenth century, despite the rejection of some critics for its mixture of tragedy and farce. Cavalli's fame spread throughout Europe. One of his specialties was giving his heroines the so-called "lament arias." These were sad arias sung over a descending bass line and had a great influence on Henry Purcell , whose "When I am laid in earth" by Dido and Aeneas is probably the most celebrated example of this form. Cavalli's reputation led Cardinal Mazarin to invite him to France in 1660 to compose an opera on the occasion of the wedding ofLuis XIV with María Teresa of Spain. Italian opera had already been presented in France in the 1640s at a mixed reception, and Cavalli's foreign experience culminated in disaster. French audiences did not respond well to the revival of Xerse (1660) and the specially composed Ercole Mistress (1662); they preferred the ballet that had been inserted between the two acts by a Florentine composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully . Cavalli vowed never to compose an opera again.
Cesti was more fortunate when he was asked to write an opera for the Habsburg court in Vienna in 1668. Il pomo d'oro was so celebrated that performances were extended for two more days. Its enormous success marked the beginning of the dominance of Italian opera in the northern Alps.. At the end of the 17th century, German and English composers tried to establish their national traditions, but at the beginning of the 18th century they had to give in to imported Italian opera, which became the international style imposed by composers such as Händel. Only France resisted (and its operatic tradition was founded by the Italian Lully). This was the pattern until much of the 19th century: the Italian tradition was the international one and its main exponents were, in many cases, non-Italian. Composers who wanted to develop their own national forms of opera generally had to fight against Italian opera. Thus, in the early nineteenth century, Carl Maria von Weber in Germany and Hector Berlioz in France, they felt they had to challenge the enormous influence of the Italian Rossini.
At the end of the seventeenth century some critics believed that a new and higher form of opera was necessary. His ideas gave birth to a genre, Serious Opera, which would be dominant in Italy and much of the rest of Europe during the 18th century. The influence of this new attitude can be seen in the works of the composers Carlo Francesco Pollarolo and the enormously prolific Alessandro Scarlatti .
During this century the cultural and artistic life in Italy had been deeply influenced by the aesthetic and poetic ideals of the members of the Academy of Arcadia . The Arcadian poets introduced several changes to the serious musical drama in Italy, including:
- The simplification of the frames.
- The elimination of comic elements.
- Reducing the number of arias.
- A predilection for arguments drawn from the classical era or modern French tragedy, in which the values of loyalty, friendship, and virtue were exalted, and the absolute power of the sovereign was celebrated.
By far the most successful librettist of the time was Pietro Metastasio , whose prestige lasted until the 19th century. He belonged to the Academy of Arcadia and was a firm follower of its theories. A Metastasio libretto was often adopted by twenty or thirty composers, and audiences attended performances to memorize them.
In the seventeenth century comic operas were rarely performed and no stable tradition had been established. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that the comic genre of Opera buffa emerged, born in Naples that would spread throughout Italy after 1730.
The buffa Opera differs from the Serious Opera by numerous characteristics:
- The importance given to the action on stage and the consequent need to follow the changes in the drama with the music, emphasizing the expressiveness of the words.
- The choice of singers who were also excellent actors, capable of convincingly interpreting the drama.
- The reduction in the use of scenery and machinery on stage, and in the number of performers in the orchestra.
- The use of a small cast of characters (at least in the short form of comic opera known as interlude ) simple frames and (a good example would servo padrona , 1733, of Pergolesi ).
- Libraries inspired by the Comedy of Art, with realistic themes, colloquial language and slang expressions.
- The absolute rejection of vocal virtuosity; tendency to mispronunciation of words; frequent presence of rhythmic and melodic tics; the use of onomatopoeia and interjections, in relation to song.
- The scant use of castrati singers .
In the second half of the 18th century, comic opera owed its success to the collaboration between the librettist Carlo Goldoni and the composer Baldassare Galuppi . Thanks to Galuppi, she acquired much more dignity than during the days of the intermezzo. Operas were now divided into two or three acts, creating librettos for larger works, which differed significantly from the turn of the century in the complexity of their plots and in the psychology of their characters. These now included some serious figures instead of exaggerated caricatures and the works had plots that focused on conflicts between social classes as well as self-referential ideas. The most famous joint work of Goldoni and Galuppi is Il philosoofo di campagna (1754).
The collaboration between Goldoni and another famous composer Niccolò Piccinni produced with La Cecchina (1760) another new genre: the semiseria opera . This had two buffo characters , two noble and two intermediate.
The one-act farce had a significant influence on the development of comic opera. It was a type of musical drama at first considered a condensed version of a longer comic opera, but over time it became a genre on its own. It was characterized by: vocal virtuosity, more refined use of the orchestra, the great importance given to production, the presence of misunderstandings and surprises in the course of the drama.
Gluck and Mozart reforms
Serious opera had its weaknesses and criticisms, and the taste for adornment by superbly trained singers, and the use of spectacle instead of purity and dramatic unity, sparked attacks. Essay on the Opera (1755) of Francesco Algarotti proved to be an inspiration for reforms of Christoph Willibald Gluck . He argued that the serious opera had to return to its foundations and that all its various elements - music (instrumental and vocal), ballet, and staging - had to be subordinated to the context of the drama. Various composers of this period, including Niccolò Jommelli and Tommaso Traetta, they tried to put these ideals into practice. The first to really succeed and make a permanent impression on opera history, however, was Gluck. He tried to coin a "beautiful simplicity". This is illustrated in the first of his "reformed" operas, Orfeo ed Euridice , where vocal lines lacking the virtuosity of Handel's works are supported by simple harmonies and a remarkably rich orchestral presence.
Gluck's reforms resonated throughout operatic history. Weber, Mozart, and Wagner, in particular, were influenced by his ideals. Mozart, in many ways Gluck's successor, combined a magnificent sense of drama, harmony, melody, and counterpoint to write a series of comedies, such as Le nozze di Figaro , Don Giovanni , and Così fan tutte (in collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte ) that remain among the most loved, popular and well-known operas to this day. But Mozart's contribution to serious opera was more mixed; at this time he was dying, and despite his fine works such as Idomeneo and La clemenza di Tito, could not revive this art form.
The romantic opera , emphasized in the imagination and emotions, began appearing at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and its arias and music, I provide greater dimension to the extreme emotions characteristic of the theater of that era. Furthermore, the fine music was said to often excuse conspicuous flaws in character definition and plot lines.
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) started the romantic period. His first success was an "opera buffa", La Cambiale di Matrimonio (1810). His reputation subsists to this day thanks to El barbero de Sevilla (1816) and La Cenerentola (1817). But he also wrote serious opera, Tancredi (1813) and Semiramide (1823).
It was Giuseppe Verdi who transformed the entire nature of operatic writing during the course of his long career. His first great successful opera, Nabucco (1842), wowed audiences with the vigorous dynamics of his music and his great choirs. Va, pensiero , one of the refrains, was reinterpreted and gained an advantageous meaning for the fight for Italian independence and to unify Italy.
After Nabucco , Verdi based his operas on patriotic themes and on several of the usual romantic sources: Friedrich Schiller ( Giovanna d'Arco , 1845; I Masnadieri , 1847; Luisa Miller , 1849); Lord Byron ( I due Foscari , 1844; Il corsaro , 1848); and Victor Hugo ( Ernani , 1844; Rigoletto , 1851). Verdi experimented with musical and dramatic forms in order to discover things that only opera could achieve.
In 1887, he created Otello which completely replaced Rossini's opera of the same name , and which is described by critics as the finest Italian romantic opera, with the traditional components: solo arias, duets and choruses fully integrated within the flow. melodic and dramatic.
Verdi's last opera, Falstaff (1893), freely broke with joint conventional forms, and found music that followed the rapid flow of simple words and, by its respect for the ordinary speech pattern, created a threshold for a new operatic era. in which speech patterns are supreme.
The opera became a marriage of the arts, a musical drama, filled with glorious songs, costumes, orchestral music, and cheers; sometimes without the contribution of a plausible story. From its conception during the Baroque period to its maturity in the Romantic period, it was the means by which legends and myths were revisited, history was recounted, and imagination was stimulated.
The greatest Italian operas of the 20th century were written by Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924). These include Manon Lescaut , La Bohème , Tosca , Madama Butterfly , La fanciulla del West , and the unfinished La Rondine and Turandot .
Other contemporary Italian composers:
- Luciano Berio (1925 - 2003) wrote two operas: Un re in ascolto and Opera .
- Lorenzo Ferrero (b.1951–) escribió doce óperas: Rimbaud, ou Le Fils du soleil (1978), Marilyn (1980), The wizard's daughter (1981), Mare nostra (1985), Night (1985), Salvatore Giuliano ( 1986), Charlotte Corday (1989), Le Bleu-blanc-rouge et le noir (1989), The birth of Orpheus (1996), La Conquista (2005), The little stories: On the edge of wars (2007), Risorgimento! (2011).
- Luigi Dallapiccola (1904 - 1975) escribió dos óperas: Ulysses (1960 - 1968) and The prisoner (1944 - 1948).
- Salvatore Sciarrino (1947–) wrote various works, including Luci mie traditrici .
- Sylvano Bussotti (1931–) had a prolific historical work: Le Racine , Pianobar pour Phèdre , Nympheo , Sicilian Bozzetto .