The History Of Opera

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Opera, as we know it today, with its blend of poetry, music drama and elaborate sets, has its roots in ancient Greek theatre. Great drama and tragedies of ancient Greece were punctuated by musical and lyrical interludes. This was the early conception of operatic ideas in using music and song to reflect characters’ emotions in narratives. The humanist movement in fifteenth-century Florence, Italy held works of the classical civilisations in high regard. The inspiration which stemmed from ancient Greece and Rome greatly influenced art, music and architecture.
The intermedi, which was a musical interlude that took place between acts of plays involving music, singing, elaborate costumes and sets, was popularised for Florentine public celebrations for the powerful Medici family in the sixteenth-century. It developed into ‘a play within a play’ and became a “precursor to the grandeur of Baroque opera productions.” (Bellingham, et al., 2004, p. 11)
Although we generally view a composer as the ‘author’ of an opera, music is but one of the elements which contributes to the eventual staging of the performance. It is therefore necessary to study an opera in its context, beyond its musical inflections.
“Opera is fraught with contradictions: between the composer’s intentions and their realisation by the performers; in the function of an opera audience, which takes part in a social performance that has often rivalled the performance on stage; and between the demands of ‘authenticity’ and the need for creative interpretation in performing older works.” (Raeburn, 2007, p. 8)
The development of opera practices in the seventeenth and eighteenth century is evidently affected by social, political, economic and cultural currents.
The earliest ...

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...ntury opera showed the value of music over text.
Though operatic practices had evolved greatly over a span of a hundred years, regardless the era, “Opera, by contrast, is notable for the multiplicity of forces that must be brought together openly for its making – for example, the financial powers that provide for its lavish needs; the diverse and often warring talents, drawn from a number of arts, who are expected to work together to create and perform its texts; the audiences who use it to satisfy both their aesthetic and their social cravings…The history of opera is thus not simply a conventional history of shifting period styles and competing national traditions, for it must accommodate countless “nonaesthetic” elements that help shape these styles and that these styles sometimes even shape in return.” (Lindenberger, Opera, The Extravagant Art, 1984, pp. 235-236)
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