The opera during 16th and 17th cen
Early Italian Opera
First Operas were performed in Florence: Daphne, libretto by Rinuccini and music by J. Peri (1557. music of this Opera has been lost). Eurydice, libretto by Rinuccini and music by G. Caccini (performance 1602). Eurydice, libretto by Rinuccini and music of Peri-
Generally, opera music in Florence consisted mostly of recitatives over a basso continuo. One could say that the harmony was rather colorless. It was performed by a small orchestra. Under the influence of the idea to revive the ancient Greek drama, the voice melody was too close to the hinge and the natural speech rhythm. Therefore, while perfect concerning clarity of pronunciation, even expressive sometimes, it lacked the distinctive melodic character and music organization in general.
Monteverdi was the one who introduced completely the musical means of operatic expression. His work "la Favola d'Orfeo" (Mantua 1607, libretto by Alessandro Striggio) had the same story and generally the same style with the early versions of "Eurydice." However, there was a considerable progress in regard with dramatic character and musical form.
Around 1620 the operatic interest turned to Rome. (La Catena d 'Adone by Mazzocchi, Il San Alessio by Landi). In Roman Opera an extensive use of vocal ensembles was included. The first comic operas were also produced in Rome.
In 1637 the first opera house opened to the public in Venice (teatro San Cassiano). The Opera's transformation from court entertainment for certain guests to a public spectacle for the general public, had a significant influence both in music and libretto. The first composers in Venice were: Claudio Monteverdi (il Ritorno d' Ulisse in Patria, 1641), P.F. Cavalli (Giasone, 1649, Xerse, 1654).
Public taste began to influence the opera form as it seems in works of Cavalli and Cestί; large duration, extensive plot, luxury scenery, many characters and comic episodes.
The virtuoso soloist began to stand out. Recitative and aria became quite distinct and the aria was crystallized concerning the form (strophic, da capo etc). There were arias with a "light" melodic style and "serious" arias. The orchestral introduction of an aria as well as small orchestral interludes between acts were founded.
Later in 17th century Venice remained central but not the only operatic center in Europe. Towards the end of the 17th century, Italian opera was considered "dominant" in the country. The forms of music and drama that had been developed by then served as the "basis" to further evolution of opera and they also had a great influence to operas of other countries.
1. Willi Apel Harvard dictionary of music , second edition, eighth printing
3. La favola d' Orfeo