Chapter 13: Romantic Opera - MUS 231: Music in Western Civ

Chapter 23:
Romantic Opera: Italy
• The golden age of opera with composers such as Rossini,
Bellini, Verdi, Wagner, Bizet, and Puccini
• Bel canto: “Beautiful singing”
Term coined by Rossini
Early creators of bel canto include Donizetti and Bellini
Emphasis on beautiful vocal melodies
Orchestra provides simple harmonic support
Exalted the leading opera singers
Prima donna or diva: Lead soprano, usually the heroine
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
• Most popular opera composer throughout Europe
• His operas are performed more than any others
• Early operas supported Italian nationalism
– Promoted a united Italy
• Dramas turned to domestic themes and personal conflict
• Opera standards include: Rigoletto (1851), La traviata
(1853), Il trovatore (1853), Aida (1871)
Verdi’s Dramaturgy and Musical Style
• Conflict – personal or national – the root of every
• Clear expression of emotion
• Emotional states almost melodramatic
• Intense passion and nonstop action
– Recitativo accompagnato: Orchestra accompanies the
recitative; Smooth transitions between recitative and aria
– Arias push singers to the utmost of their range
– Bel canto style
La traviata (1853)
• “The Woman Gone Astray”
• Based on a story (Camille) by Alexandre Dumas the
• Pits passionate love against middle-class morality
• “Un di felice”
– Gala party at the end of the first act
– Alfredo and Violetta sing to each other
La traviata, Act I, Scene 6
•A Scena
– Slow aria (“Ah fors´è lui”)
– Recitative accompagnata (“Follie!”)
– Cabaletta (“Sempre libera”)
• A fast-paced concluding aria
• Virtuosity serves a dramatic purpose
• Allows character to rush off stage