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Transcript of Handel
in 1703 to become a court musician. There he met Gian Gastone de Medici.
invitation moved to
in 1706 where he was exposed to Italian OPERA SERIA. In a period of three years, he composed and produced four operas.
An Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770. (The term itself was rarely used at the time and only became common usage once opera seria was becoming unfashionable and viewed as a historical genre.)
no repeated words
natural pace, realistic time
(no metric structure)
accompanied by continuo (cello & harpsichord)
Musical Structure of
18th-century Italian Opera
lyrical, reflective, stylized
accompanied by orchestra
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, (1698 – 1782)
An Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti. The chief composers of the day set his dramas to music. His achievements culminated in an appointment in 1730 as court poet to the Imperial Theater in Vienna. He helped reform and standardize the poetic and musical conventions for opera seria, most notably by eliminating all comic elements and establishing a strict separation between moments of dynamic action (recitative) and lyrical reflection (aria).
in 1712, after his Rinaldo (1711) enjoyed a major success. To establish opera seria in England, Handel founded in 1719 the Royal Academy of Music, for which he composed in rapid succession
Giulio Cesare (1724), Tamerlano (1724)
and Rodelinda (1725).
Act 1: Egypt, 48 B.C
Chorus "Viva, Viva" (3:14-4:44)
Aria (4:44-6:40): "Presci omai L'Egizia terra." Julius Caesar and his victorious troops arrive on the banks of the River Nile after defeating Pompey's forces.
Recitative (6:40-10:05): Pompey's second wife, Cornelia, begs for mercy for her husband's life. Cesare agrees, but on condition that Pompey must see him in person. Achilla, the leader of the Egyptian army, presents Caesar with a casket containing Pompey's head. It is a token of support from Ptolomy, the co-ruler of Egypt (together with Cleopatra, his sister). Cornelia faints.
Aria: "Empio, dirò, tu sei" (10:05-13:35) Caesar is outraged by Ptolomy's brutal gesture.
Aria: "Priva son d'ogni conforto" (14:10-20:20) Grief stricken, Cornelia laments that another death would not relieve her pain.
Aria: "Svegliatevi nel core" (20:50-24:45) Sesto, son of Cornelia and Pompey, swears in his to take revenge for his father's death.
(for precise times, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=orfVtWfHs2Q)
Giulio Cesare (1724)
libretto by Nicholas Haym
Georg Friedrich Handel
one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today. Ballad operas were satiric musical plays that used some of the conventions of opera, but without recitative. The lyrics of the airs in the piece are set to popular broadsheet ballads, opera arias, church hymns and folk tunes of the time. The Beggar's Opera premiered at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in theater history up to that time.
The Beggar's Opera (1728)
text by John Gay;
music arranged by
Johann Christoph Pepusch
Handel's contract at The Royal Academy ended in 1729, but he soon became joint manager of The Queen's Theatre at the Haymarket. Between 1711 and 1739, more than 25 of his operas premiered there. Responding to the shifting taste to English-language entertainments, Handel expanded his
Acis and Galatea, set to John Gay's English text, which enjoyed his greatest popular success. But the company still failed to compete with the Opera of the Nobility, a rival company that engaged composers such as Johann Adolf Hasse, Nicolo Porpora and the famous castrato Farinelli (see excerpts from the movie in the Castrati folder).
Handel started his third company at Covent Garden Theatre in 1734, but Italian opera was falling out of favor. He gradually devoted more time to
. He composed the last of his 52 operas in 1741, the same year he created the work for which he is now most famous, Messiah.
a courtly entertainment about the simplicity of rural life and contains a significant amount of wit and self-parody
The Queen's Theater and Covent Garden
J. S. Bach
organist and concertmaster in
off and on from 1703-1717
ORATORIO: a large musical composition that, like an opera, includes a chorus, soloists, an orchestral ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theater, while oratorio is — or at least was — strictly a concert piece. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. Opera generally dramatizes historical and mythological subjects, including romance, deception, and murder; whereas the plots of oratorio usually present sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church.
Recently, certain especially dramatic oratorios have been staged as operas
(see the video excerpt from Handel's Theodora at right).
A theory in musical aesthetics popular in the high Baroque era (1700-50), derived from ancient theories of rhetoric and oratory and widely accepted by late-Baroque theorists and composers. The essential idea is that a composer could create just one unified and "rationalized" Affect in any single piece or movement of music, and that to attempt more was to risk confusion and disorder. This belief strongly influenced the structure of Baroque opera seria as a series of discrete arias, each devoted to the intense expression of a single emotion.
For example, Handel's "Empio, Dirò, tu sei" from Giulio Cesare solely expresses Caesar's furious indignation at Ptolemy's cruelty (Norman Treigle, bass).
Doctrine of the Affections
Performance of NITTETI
(music by Nicola Conforto, libretto by Metastasio)
Madrid, Real Coliseo del Buen Retiro, 1756
Bach and Handel were born in the same year in the same region of Saxony, yet their lives followed dramatically different paths, which mirrored, and no doubt shaped, their respective artistic development. Bach's Passions and cantatas feature an even more
flexible — and at times strikingly dramatic — approach to setting text than do baroque operas (you're listening to a rather theatrical dialogue between Jesus and the Soul from
his Cantata 49). Though his work would influence later composers of opera,
especially in German, he evidently never
considered writing one and
aside from a few trips to
Northern Europe, lived
most of his life close to
Handel received his musical training in Halle, Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712 and becoming a naturalized British subject in 1727. He is regarded as as one of the greatest composers of all time; many of his works, such as Messiah, remain a pillar of the world's musical culture. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years. His successes stand as the pinnacle of achievement in opera seria; his struggles attest to the changing social, economic and artistic culture of 18th-century England, which in turn anticipates subsequent cultural changes across Europe. Handel's life experiences thus offer a window into the development of opera over the first half of the 18th century.
You are listening to the secco recitative from Handel's Giulio Cesare, in which Ptolemy has the head of the defeated Pompeii presented to a shocked and indignant Julius Caesar in the presence of Pompeii's wife Cornelia and his son Sesto.
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings the recitative "Ah! Whither should we fly, or fly from whom?" and aria "As with rosy steps the morn" from the 1996 Glyndebourne production of Handel's oratorio
(1749). Staged by Peter Sellars.
"Ombra mai fu," from Serse (1738)
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson,