Music in History

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Opera's forerunners

Undoubtedly, the combination of music and drama  derives from distant past. Chorus , songs and dances of the earlier dithyramb had been incorporated  in ancient  greek drama.  The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides gave much  space  to  the chorus . On the other hand ancient theoretical treatises (like: Aristotle, Poetics) inform us nowadays  that music was an essential element of ancient drama. Unfortunately, only small amount of fragmented samples of Greek music in general survive until today. Even fewer are the samples of music for greek drama. A significant example is the A' stasimon, "Orestes" by Euripides.

During  middle ages the catholic church had incorporated  dramatic music in liturgical dramas (11th-13th c) and mysteries (14th-16th c). Traces of such a music can be found in some operas with  religious theme which performed in Italy ( Rome) and Germany during 17th century.

According to Willi Apel, forerunners of opera are also considered various types of secular, dramaturgical,  music events which occurred during the 15th and 16th century. They are divided into two basic categories. 1) works in which music existed  along with stage action  and dance, such as ballet. Ballet  moved from Italy to France and it   became  a key factor in French opera. 2) works in which the music existed as a kind of  break between acts. In this case, musical parts were a kind of  intermezzo  between acts.

THe same author indicates that  opera itself derives from a particular poetic form existing in pastoral poetry of the late 16th century. This form  essentially replaced the earlier dramatic types. We may find it in both "Aminta" (1573) by T. Tasso and "Il Pastor Fido" (1581-1590) by B. Guarini.
The first operatic poems were pastoral ones , based on the model of these two works mentioned above. The appropriate musical style for opera developed by the Florentine camerata.
The first operatic work is known today as  an opera  is dating   to  late 16th century.


                                   L' ORFEO: Favola in Musica (Claudio Monteverdi)

                                   Lully - Cadmus et Hermione

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