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Development of Musical Theatre Outside America: 5th cent B.C. to circa 1600

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Rick Gomez

on 9 January 2015

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Transcript of Development of Musical Theatre Outside America: 5th cent B.C. to circa 1600

Development of Early Musical Theatre: Outside America, Part 1
5th Century B.C.
Athens, Greece: 5th Century B.C.
Athens was a thriving city-state of approximately 100,000... It's cultural center ...the Acropolis (a citadel best known for the temple to Athena, the Parthenon), is a massive, flat-topped rock that rises some five hundred feet above sea level and serves as the spiritual heart of [Athens]. Kenrick, p. 19
Rome: Circa 3rd Cent. to 1st Cent. B.C. (and 1962?)
The Roman Musical: Romans borrowed from the Greeks mix of dialogue, song and dance, but eliminated the Greek Chorus. This increased the interplay between actors and audience. Kenrick, p. 25.
12th-13th Cent. Catholic Church: Liturgical Music Dramas
Liturgical Music-Dramas: By the time the Roman empire collapsed (circa 5th Cent. A.D.), Roman theatre had become so tawdry that the Catholic Church condemned it as a corrupt and sinful influence. The Church’s influence was such that professional theatre ceased to exist in Europe for several centuries. However, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Catholic Church saw new possibilities in theatrical performances, and actively encouraged the development and presentation of liturgical music-dramas. (Kenrick p. 26)
The late 16th C. to Early 17th C.:
The Florentine Camerata
During the Renaissance (beginning in 1573), Italians rediscovered ancient Greek drama and, seeing the extensive use of choral verse, assumed that these plays were originally all sung-through. Based on this well-meaning error... the Florentine Camerata (a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence) made Greek drama the model for what we now know as opera. So contrary to the widely held belief that musical theatre is a descendant of opera, it turns out that opera is actually an accidental descendant of musical theatre! (Kenrick, p. 28)
The late 16th Century
Ancient Greek playwrights [such as] Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, incorporated song and dance into their plays. Accompanied by harp, flute and other instruments, their works fit our definition of a musical. Kenrick p. 22
...the first stone theater ever built, a semicircular, open-air structure cut into the southern base of the Acropolis... dedicated to the [god] of agriculture, theatre, wine, and even joy itself--Dionysus. Kenrick, p. 19
Dithyramb: An ancient Greek tradition of honoring Dionysus with choral performances. Aristotle regards Thespis of Icaria as the fist soloist to step out of a dithyramb chorus to enact specific roles by singing and speaking, hence the designation of actors as thespians. Kenrick p. 19
Parabasis: A feature unique to Old Comedy in which the chorus offered three songs alternating with three speeches. These speeches might be integrated into the action of the play, or may be major departures. Aristophanes, The Birds (414 B.C.), makes use of this device, also incorporating a nightingale in the form of a flutist to play the introduction to the parabasis. Kenrick, p. 23
Initially, there were no permanent theaters. Roman establishment viewed theatre as a potentially dangerous influence. The Theater of Pompey (see 3-D rendering at left), built in 55 B.C. was Rome's first permanent theater structure. (Wikipedia-Roman Theatre) Before this time, Roman theaters were temporary wooden structures, built and and dismantled in a day. (Kenrick, p. 25)
The first tap shoe?: Ancient Roman performers attached metal chips called sabilla to their footwear to make their dance steps more audible.
Plautus win's a Tony?: The Romans borrowed from the Greeks, and Sondheim borrowed from the Romans. Plautus, active during the 3rd cent. B.C., is the best remembered Roman playwright. He was known for his use of Greek stock characters such as Pseudolus (the clever slave) Senex (the aging girl chaser) and Miles Gloriosus (the bragging soldier). In 1962, these characters appear in Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum (book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.) The musical won Tony's for best musical and best book.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2008 Production of The Play of Daniel.
The Play of St. Nicholas (Filius Getronus) as performed by Flores Harmonici (Switzerland).
Common Features:
Serious. No comedy.
Usually sung through.
Instrumentation included recorder, bagpipe, harp, and rebec (a type of fiddle). (Kenrick, p. 27)
The rebec.
Liturigical Music Dramas developed a notable technical innovation: In situations where
the outdoor stage could not be positioned to take full advantage of natural daylight, polished metal bowls were sometimes used to reflect sunlight on key performers—in effect, the first follow spotlights. (Kenrick, p. 28)
Jacopo Peri is credited with composing the first opera,
. Dafne no longer exists. Here is an excerpt from his second opera,
Monody: The Camerata felt that sung music had become overly complex and therefore, too difficult to understand. Their main goal was to simplify the musical accompaniment so that the
(the “affection”) could have greater impact. The musical style which developed from these early experiments was called monody: One voice over a simple accompaniment.
Note instrumentation in video: Typical instrumentation for an opera from the Camerata composers was viola da gamba (predecessor of the cello), lutes (predecessor of the guitar), and harpsichord or organ.
Q. When is Musical Theatre not Musical Theatre?
A. When it doesn't cultivate popular sources.

The Camerata was an eclectic mix of some of the finest scholars and artists in Florence. (As an example, one of the members was Vincenzo Galilei, the father of the astronomer Galileo Galilei.) While this group set out to simplify the heavy counterpoint and polyphony common in the day, they did not set out to create a genre of musical theatre with mass appeal. This new style, which was the birth of Opera, would eventually travel along a different trajectory than the genres that would lead more directly to Musical Theatre.
The intent was to make key Bible stories more accessible, but early attempts were in latin which had the opposite effect on the illiterate lower classes. Eventually the dramas appeared in the vernacular.
...and popularizing the cultivated.
...between cultivating the popular...
The tug and the pull...
An example of the complexities of polyphony and counterpoint the Camerata were fighting against: Giovanni Palestrina's
Exultate Deo
An example of monody and affetto in Giulio Caccini's
The Florentine Camerata, Part II
Definition of Polyphony: Music arranged for several voices or instruments.
Definition of counterpoint: Two or more musical lines, working together in harmony, but separately in rhythm.
In 1984, Stephen Sondheim's
Sunday in the Park with George
loses the Tony for Best Musical to...
An Important Place to Pause
Q. Does more popularity=better Musical Theatre?
A. Do you want fries with that?
More cultivated/less popular.
Jerry Herman's
La Cage aux Folles.
Less cultivated/more popular.
In 2005, Adam Guettel's
Light in the Piazza
loses the Tony for the Best Musical to...
Monty Python's
In 1998 Ragtime loses the Tony for Best Musical to...
Disney's The Lion King
What is the First Musical?
Another Question.
The Beggar's Opera?
The Black Crook?
Show Boat?
Musical (noun): a stage, television, or film production utilizing popular style songs to either tell a story (book musical) or to showcase the talents of writers and/or performers (revue) with dialogue optional (Kenrick, p. 14).
Siracusa (Sicily)
Greek Theatre - 2012
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