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Opera & Musical Theater in the Later 19th Century
Transcript of Opera & Musical Theater in the Later 19th Century
in the Later
The Late 19th Century
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Later Italian Composers
Opera in Other Nations
Music for the Stage & Its Audiences
-Europe & the United States became industrial leaders.
-Railroads on both continents transported people & goods rapidly.
-New technologies, such as the electric lightbulb & telephone, altered daily life & created new industries.
-Life expectancy & population numbers rose dramatically.
-The modern corporation emerged.
-Mass consumption became a driving force for the economy.
-Greater freedoms were granted to people in Europe & America.
-Russia abolished serfdom in 1861; the United States abolished slavery in 1865.
-Workers gained new rights, & women demanded equal treatment.
-Expanded exploration came at the expense of indigenous populations.
-Germany united under Bismarck between 1864 & 1871.
-Italy unified under Victor Emmanuel II in 1859-61.
-While a common heritage helped unify Germany & Italy, the variety of ethnic groups worked against political unity in Austria-Hungary.
-Music played a role in promoting nationalism, & nationalism had a profound impact on all the arts.
OTHER THEMES IN THE ARTS
-Realism was a strong movement in art & literature.
-Exoticism, fantasy, & the distant past provided escapes from modern city life.
-Impressionism depicted outdoor scenes.
-Strong national schools continued in Italy, France, & Germany.
-Nationalism linked opera to political & cultural currents.
-A core repertory of operas developed.
~The number of new operas declined as composers took more time to write.
~Originality became more important than conventions.
-Singers had to have more powerful voices as opera houses became larger & orchestras louder.
-Melodies were more syllabic & less ornamented.
-Subjects ranged from fantastic to realistic.
-Electricity made it possible to dim the house lights.
-It gradually became unacceptable to talk during performances.
WAGNER WAS A CRUCIAL FIGURE IN 19TH-CENTURY CULTURE & ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSICIANS OF ALL TIMES.
-He brought German Romantic opera to a new height.
-He created the music drama.
-His rich chromatic idiom influenced later composers
-He was born in Leipzig, Germany, the ninth child of a police actuary.
-Wagner began writing operas in the 1830s & held positions with several regional companies.
~Wagner felt that Beethoven had exhausted instrumental music.
~The Ninth Symphony showed the path to the future with its union of music & words.
~He saw himself as the true successor to Beethoven.
~Wagner felt that poetry, scenic design, staging, action, & music should work together to create a Gesmatkunstwerk (total or collective artwork).
~The words related the events & situations, while the orchestra conveyed the inner drama.
~Wagner wrote about politics & morals in several essays.
~He attacked both Meyerbeer & Mendelssohn for being Jewish & lacking national roots, although he admired & was influenced by both.
-Die fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman, 1843)
~Wagner wrote the libretto.
~Themes from one of the vocal ballads appear in the overture & recur throughout the opera, functioning like reminiscence motives.
DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN (THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG)
-Wagner composed four music dramas based on Teutonic & Nordic legends.
~Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
~Die Walkure (The Valkyrie)
~Gotterdammerung (The Twilight of the Gods)
-Wagner built his own theater in Bayreuth, where he gave the first performance of the Ring cycle in 1876.
THE LEITMOTIV (LEADING MOTIVE)
-A leitmotiv is a musical theme or motive associated with a person, thing, emotion, or idea in the drama.
-All of the music dramas are organized around these themes.
-Use of leitmotives
~The meaning of the motive is usually established the first time it is heard.
~The leitmotiv recurs whenever its subject appears or when it is mentioned.
~A leitmotiv can be transformed & varied as the plot develops.
~Similarities among leitmotives may indicate connections between the subjects they portray.
-Leitmotives differ from reminiscence motives.
~Leitmotives are for the most part short & characterize their subjects at various levels
~Leitmotives are the basic material of the score & are used constantly.
~The musical material surrounding the leitmotives & their developments creates a sense of an "endless melody."
OTHER MUSIC DRAMAS
-Tristan und Isolde (1857-59)
~Wagner wrote the libretto, basing it on a 13th-century romance by Gottfired von Strassburg.
~It became one of Wagner's most influential works.
-More has been written about Wagner than any other musician.
-His view of the total artwork affected all later opera.
-His emphasis on musical continuity was also important.
-A master of orchestral color, he influenced many composers.
-Unfortunately, Wagner's anti-Semitic writings also found followers, including the Nazis in Germany.
VERDI WAS THE DOMINANT OPERA COMPOSER IN ITALY FOR 50 YEARS.
-Verdi was born in northern Italy, the son of an innkeeper.
-He worked as a church organist at age 9 & later became music director in Busseto.
-After the death of his first wife, he went to Milan to pursue a career as an opera composer.
-Verdi composed 26 operas, beginning when he was 26 & ending when he was 80.
-Verdi's name became a patriotic rallying cry: "Viva Verdi" was an acronym for "Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re d'Italia" (Long live Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy)
-Although he supported the unification movement, nationalism was not an overt element of his operas.
-He composed memorable melodies that captured the character & feeling of the drama.
-Verdi preferred stories that had been successful plays, including works by Shakespeare, Schiller, & Victor Hugo.
-Verdi built upon the conventions of Rossini, Bellini, & Donizetti.
-Like Donizetti, Verdi often used reminiscence motives.
-Nabucco (1842) was his first triumph & launched his career.
-In the early 1850s, he entered a productive period that includes:
~Il trovatore (1853)
~La traviata (1853)
-In Il trovatore & La traviata, the overture is replaced by a briefer prelude.
-Verdi wrote only 6 new operas in the next two decades.
~The action becomes more continuous.
~Solos, ensembles, & choruses are freely combined.
~Harmonies are more daring.
~The orchestra is treated with great originality.
-Aida (1871) was commissioned for the Cairo opera.
~Verdi chose an Egyptian subject, which allowed him to introduce exotic color & spectacle.
~Verdi officially retired after this opera.
GIACOMO PUCCINI (1858-1924)
-Puccini is the most successful Italian opera composer after Verdi.
-Puccini blended Verdi's vocal style with Wagner's approach, including the use of leitmotives.
~La boheme (1896)
~Madama Butterfly (1904)
-Puccini's scenes are more fluid than in earlier operas.
-The distinction between aria and recitative is blurred.
-Madama Butterfly, Act I, excerpt
~This scene shows Butterfly's marriage to Pinkerton.
~The music moves seamlessly between dialogue & brief aria-like moments.
~The orchestra carries many of the main melodies, but still supports the voice.
~The music balances exoticism with a warm portrait of Butterfly
ALTHOUGH THERE WAS NO DOMINANT COMPOSER THERE, PARIS REMAINED A CENTER FOR PRODUCING NEW WORKS.
-Because of state subsidies, many of the works were by French composers, but nationalism was not reflected in their plots.
-Musical theaters presented a variety of musical entertainments.
-The genre remained prominent through the 1860s.
-The genre began to fade thereafter & blend with other types of serious opera.
-Ballet had long been a part of grand opera, but it became popular as an independent genre.
-A new operatic genre called lyric opera grew out of the romantic type of opera comique.
-Like opera comique, its main appeal is through melody.
-The subject matter is usually romantic drama or fantasy.
-The scale is larger than opera comique, but smaller than grand opera
CARMEN BY BIZET (1875)
-The opera was originally an opera comique with spoken dialogue.
-The dialogue was later set to recitative.
-Set in Spain, the opera combines exoticism & realism.
-The plot is a dark tale of seduction & murder.
-Carmen, a gypsy, works in a cigarette factory & lives for pleasure.
-Bizet created a Spanish character with his music.
~He borrowed three Spanish melodies, including the famous habanera.
~Bizet added other elements of gypsy & Spanish music.
-The opera provoked outrage because of Carmen's lack of morality, but it eventually became one of the most beloved of all operas.
-A new genre called opera bouffe emerged in the 1850s.
-The genre emphasized the smart, witty, & satirical elements of comic opera.
-Its composers used their freedom from government control to satirize French society.
-The founder was Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880).
POPULAR MUSIC THEATERS
-Cabarets, such as the Chat Noir (Black Cat, opened 1881)
~These nightclubs offered a variety of serious & comic entertainment.
~They promoted innovation & brought together artists & the public.
-Music halls, such as the Moulin Rouge, offered revues, featuring a series of dances, songs, comedies, & other acts, usually with some common theme.
CZAR ALEXANDER II FREED THE SERFS IN 1861 & SOUGHT TO MODERNIZE RUSSIA.
-Russia became split.
~Nationalists, or "Slavophiles," idealized Russia's distinctiveness.
~Internationalists, or "westernizers," sought to adapt Western technology & education.
-The split affected composers, although all were in debt to Western traditions.
-The nationalists rejected formal Western training.
PIOTR IL'YICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
-Tchaikovsky studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory & taught at the Moscow conservatory.
-His patron was a wealthy widow.
-He sought to reconcile nationalist & internationalist tendencies.
-Eugene Onegin (1879) is based on a Pushkin story.
~The chorus has folklike music, and the soloists sing in a Russian style.
-Tchaikovsky's ballets combine hummable melodies with colorful orchestrations, which are well suited to his fairy-tale subjects.
~Swan Lake (1876)
~The Sleeping Beauty (1889)
~The Nutcracker (1892)
THE MIGHTY FIVE
-A group of 5 composers stood against the professionalism of the conservatories.
~Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
~Aleksander Borodin (1833-1887)
~Cesar Cui (1835-1918)
~Modest Musorgsky (1839-1881)
~Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
-Only Balakirev had conventional training in music, but they all studied Western music on their own
-They incorporated aspects of Russian folk song, modal & exotic scales, & folk polyphony.
-Musorgsky was the most original of the Mighty Five.
~Boris Godunov was based on a Pushkin play.
-The realism of Russian literature is reflected in Boris Godunov.
-He had a career in the Russian Navy, & became a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1871.
-He was an active orchestra conductor & a master of orchestration.
-As professor & conductor, he championed the works of Glinka & other Russian nationalists.
-He wrote a harmony treatise & taught some important students, including Stravinsky.
BOHEMIA (NOW THE CZECH REPUBLIC)
-Bohemia was an Austrian crown land, & German was the official language.
-Mainstream opera was performed in Prague, including the premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
-A movement to promote Czech language in the theater began in the 1860s.
-Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
~Dvorak composed 12 operas, some of which are based on Czech legends & Slavic history.
-Poland was ruled by Russia, & opera was part of its national cultural revival.
-Although politically independent, Spain adopted the musical styles of France, Italy, & Germany.
-Britain was dominated by foreign opera, despite numerous nationalist movements.
THE NEW WORLD
-The New York Metropolitan Opera Company opened in 1883 & performed European opera.
-Lighter forms of musical theater flourished in nearly every country.
-Operetta was a type of light opera with spoken dialogue.
-Modeled after the opera bouffe of Offenbach, it could be both funny & romantic.
-In England, Gilbert (librettist) & Sullivan (composer, 1842-1900) created a string of popular successes.
~HMS Pinafore (1878)
~The Pirates of Penzance (1879)
~The Mikado (1885)
OTHER TYPES OF MUSICAL THEATER
-Diverse musical entertainments could be found throughout Europe.
-The United States also featured a variety of musical theater.
~European opera was heard in several major cities.
~Minstrel shows continued, including all-black troupes.
~Operettas were imported from Europe, & Americans composed new operettas, such as El Capitan by John Philip Sousa (1854-1932).
-Variety shows became more respectable, & vaudeville, became a dominant type of theatrical entertainment.
STANDARD OPERA REPERTORY
-Verdi & Wagner created works that were never surpassed.
-Their operas have achieved a permanent place in opera repertory.
-Excerpts from Wagner's operas have also become part of the standard repertory of orchestral concerts.
-Puccini is the only Italian after Verdi to maintain an international reputation.
-Traditional operas by a number of other composers have entered the permanent repertory.
-Wagner obscured his nationalism with his claim to universality.
-Composers from "peripheral" countries used nationalism that was effective in their own countries, but generally did not win international recognition.
AUDIENCES BEGAN TO SPLIT BETWEEN ELITE & POPULAR MUSICAL THEATER.
-Verdi's operas appealed both to the elite & to the general public.
-Wagner aimed at only the elite.
-Popular genres, such as operetta & vaudeville, became increasingly more important.