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CLassical period


The opera during classical period

There were three distinct types during classical period:

The serious opera (opera seria: cerca 1710-1770)
As a genre derived from the Baroque era it  was crystallized  in its form in 1720' s . Opera seria mostly  dealt with historical  and  not so often with mythological events.  Arias were written in da capo form (ABA). There were two types of Recitative, as in the Baroque period. a) secco and b) accompanied (accompagnato: more melodic, with orchestral accompaniment). Usually serious operas were  composed  in three acts.
Initially, the opera seria had been an art work  for the court, monarchy and nobility audience.  Of course,  there were some exceptions.  For example, Handel and composers of the Venetian republic had composed for a wide and diverse audience. Indeed, they took much  into account  the audience's taste. But,  generally,  opera seria was largely  a synonym of opera for court. There were some consequences because of this. A  monarch  might demand his own nobility to be reflected  onstage. In many cases the story of the play was formed based on this criterion. For example, the opera "ill pastore" (you tube)  highlights the glory of M. Alexander and the work "La clemenza di Tito" you tube (both texts were written by Metastasio) does the same for the Emperor Titus. However the audience while  watching  an opera   referring to  the ancient world could easily recognize its  own good and gentle despot therein.

This changed with the French Revolution. On the occasion of this historic event were major upheavals in Italy. Old autocracies declined and new regimes  were established, more equal . The "Arcadian" ideals of opera seria seemed to be irrelevant in this climate (the rulers were no longer away from violence and death). Opera seria declined.
Opera seria was associated with the voice of Castrato  and primpa donna.

2. The Italian opera buffa
This type of opera started as intermezzo (a entertainment between the acts of opera seria). The characters were contemporary, and often  they depicted the low social classes or a mix of low and higher classes, with the characters of low social class to dominate, in some way. example: a young housemaid  overcame her master concerning cuteness. Social class and male/female gender were important and integral components of the opera buffa. Arias continued for a while, to be composed  in da capo form, but gradually they became, more complicated and artful.  Opera buffa was downgraded during romantic period.

3) Singspiel
In 1750  the term was used  to define the German-language opera with spoken dialogues, written in accordance with the models of the English ballad-opera or French opera comique. It Reached its artistic edge in 1782 with the "Abduction  from  the seraglio" by Mozart (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). Τhe romantic character of many of the librettos, mainly in northern Germany, made the singspiel one of the main forerunners of the German romantic opera. Usually  Singspiel  was in two acts.

differences between opera buffa and opera seria

While the stories in the opera seria focused on ancient gods and heroes (with some comic elements to interfere), stories in opera buffa consisted mainly of comical scenes. On the other hand, the stories in opera buffa  were of  that contemporary era. Traditionally, a serious opera consisted of three acts. It dealt with serious mythological or historical themes. In serious  opera high voices (castrato and soprano) were used for the main roles, even for those of the monarchs.
Instead, most of  opera buffa had two acts and those works  were dealing with comical situations. Castrato voices had been rejected in favor of  lower male voices. This led to the use of basso buffo (lyric role requiring specific technical skills, for example: The Leporello,   in "Don Giovanni" by Mozart)

                        W A Mozart, Il Re pastore, aria L'amerò, sarò costante

                         Pergolesi: La Serva Padrona, intermezzo in two parts
                        see also  Querelle des Bouffons

1.Willi Apel: Harvard Dictionary of music, second edition, Eighth printing,1974, ISBN 0-674-37501-07
2.Ellen T. Harris: Introduction to western music, lecture VI, spring 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3. operabase

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