Gli amori di Aci e Galatea by Santi Orlandi was also performed in A dramma per musica as serious Italian opera was known at the time entitled Giuditta , based on the Biblical story of Judith , was performed in The composer was probably Virgilio Puccitelli. Cavalli's operas were performed throughout Italy by touring companies with tremendous success.
In fact, his Giasone was the most popular opera of the 17th century, though some critics were appalled at its mixture of tragedy and farce. Cavalli's fame spread throughout Europe.
One of his specialties was giving his heroines " ground bass laments ". These were mournful arias sung over a descending bass line and they had a great influence on Henry Purcell , whose "When I am laid in earth" from Dido and Aeneas is probably the most celebrated example of the form. Italian opera had already been performed in France in the s to a mixed reception and Cavalli's foreign expedition ended in disaster.
French audiences did not respond well to the revival of Xerse and the specially composed Ercole amante , preferring the ballets that had been inserted between the acts by a Florentine composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully , and Cavalli swore never to compose another opera. Cesti was more fortunate when he was asked to write an opera for the Habsburg court in Vienna in Il pomo d'oro was so grandiose that the performance had to be spread over two days. It was a tremendous success and marked the beginning of Italian operatic dominance north of the Alps.
In the late 17th century, German and English composers tried to establish their own native traditions but by the early 18th century they had given ground to imported Italian opera, which became the international style in the hands of composers such as Handel. Only France resisted and her operatic tradition had been founded by the Italian Lully. This set the pattern until well into the 19th century: the Italian tradition was the international one and its leading exponents e. Handel, Hasse, Gluck and Mozart were often not natives of Italy. Composers who wanted to develop their own national forms of opera generally had to fight against Italian opera.
Professor Francesco Izzo | Music | University of Southampton
Thus, in the early 19th century, both Carl Maria von Weber in Germany and Hector Berlioz in France felt they had to challenge the enormous influence of the Italian Rossini. By the end of the 17th century some critics believed that a new, more elevated form of opera was necessary. Their ideas would give birth to a genre, opera seria literally "serious opera" , which would become dominant in Italy and much of the rest of Europe until the late 18th century.
The influence of this new attitude can be seen in the works of the composers Carlo Francesco Pollarolo and the enormously prolific Alessandro Scarlatti. During the 18th century artistic and cultural life in Italy was heavily influenced by the aesthetic and poetic ideals of the members of the Accademia dell'Arcadia. The Arcadian poets introduced many changes to serious music drama in Italian, including:.
By far the most successful librettist of the era was Pietro Metastasio and he maintained his prestige well into the 19th century. He belonged to the Arcadian Academy and was firmly in line with its theories. A libretto by Metastasio was often set by twenty or thirty different composers and audiences came to know the words of his dramas by heart. In the 17th century comic operas were produced only occasionally and no stable tradition was established.
Only in the early years of the 18th century was the comic genre of opera buffa born in Naples and it began to spread throughout Italy after In the second half of the 18th century comic opera owed its success to the collaboration between the playwright Carlo Goldoni and the composer Baldassare Galuppi. Thanks to Galuppi, comic opera acquired much more dignity than it had during the days of the intermezzo. Operas were now divided into two or three acts, creating libretti for works of a substantially greater length, which differed significantly from those of the early 18th century in the complexity of their plots and the psychology of their characters.
These now included some serious figures instead of exaggerated caricatures and the operas had plots which focused on the conflict between the social classes as well as including self-referential ideas. Goldoni and Galuppi's most famous work together is probably Il filosofo di campagna This had two buffo characters, two nobles and two "in between" characters. The one-act farsa had a significant influence on the development of comic opera. This was a type of musical drama initially considered as a condensed version of a longer comic opera, but over time it became a genre in its own right.
It was characterised by: vocal virtuosity; a more refined use of the orchestra; the great importance given to the production; the presence of misunderstandings and surprises in the course of the drama. Opera seria had its weaknesses and critics; a taste for embellishment on behalf of the superbly trained singers, and the use of spectacle as a replacement for dramatic purity and unity drew attacks.
He advocated that opera seria had to return to basics and that all the various elements—music both instrumental and vocal , ballet, and staging—must be subservient to the overriding drama.
The first to really succeed and to leave a permanent imprint upon the history of opera, however, was Gluck. Gluck tried to achieve a "beautiful simplicity". This is illustrated in the first of his "reform" operas, Orfeo ed Euridice , where vocal lines lacking in the virtuosity of say Handel's works are supported by simple harmonies and a notably richer-than-usual orchestral presence throughout.
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