Opera, starting out the Baroque period Essay

Opera, starting out the Baroque period, stemmed from Humanism in the Renaissance era. Opera went back to wanting to make people have a emotional response to the music they were listening to through the musical devices that they used to write the music.

They were becoming obsessed again with the Greek style of music however, they wanted to make it better and so they came up with some of their own new developments for example, one device they used was the stile rappresentativo. This is Italian for representational style. Stile rappresentativo was a style of singing similar to Italian monody that was then used in the very first operas.This style was used to move the plot of the opera along, it was not a full blown song however; it was more musical than normal speech. Musically the stile rappresentativo is a vocal line that gets to move freely over a basso continuo. This style eventually turns into our modern day recitative. Stemming off of the stile rappresentativo is monody which is just one voice singing with some type of accompaniment. This seems to be the basis for most of these early operas.

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Stemming off of both of the previous practices is the stile recitativo which is pretty much the exact same thing as the stile rappresentativo.The difference between these two styles is that the stile recitativo was more imitating natural speech inflections with music where the stile rappresentativo was not. Another development was known as prima practica, Italian for first practice. This referred to the style of the past, the ars perfecta or Renaissance polyphony. The pair to that is the seconda practica, Italian for second practice. This refers to the modern style of music that was used in the beginnings of opera.

This practica was more dissonant than the prima practica and they used such terms to distinguish the two different styles.Credit for the seconda practica goes to Claudio Monteverdi who also wrote the first major opera. The Florentine Camerata was a group of elite musicians who were all associated with the royals. The Camerata got together in order to figure out how to make music better and more emotional than it already was. The Camerata promoted monody because one of their members, Girolame Mei, wrote a book about the music of ancient Greece. From their promotion of monody came the other styles I discussed in the beginning of the paper.

This group also gave way to intermedii which are little musical plays and this group wanted the text to be super understandable. This eventually led to the first opera. Artrusi really did not like the new style that came about through the beginning of opera and decided to give Monteverdi a piece of his mind. He wrote a published work describing how he felt. In this work he calls Monteverdi incompetent because of how he was writing the music. Artrusi wanted to keep all the rules of the prima practica intact and thought that it did not get any better than that.

He believed that if they were not written in the style of the renaissance composers then they do not have a good foundation and will not pass the test of time and the composers who wrote in the second practice were going to make fools of themselves. Artrusi also says that this compositions are written by ignorant people and that these composers are kept in a state of intellectual darkness. Monteverdi responds to Artrusi’s statement by saying that he can over ride the rules because the most important thing is the text and the expression of said words.

He says that it is written in that style on purpose and not out of ignorance. Monteverdi pretty much responds with the baroque philosophy of music and that the goal was, what the article called imitazion della natura or the imitation of reality. Which did end up a huge success and he continues on to give an example of the emotion he wanted and how he planned on getting it. The elements above are conveyed in the opera L’Orfeo through the music. Also a little bit through the emotion on the faces of the singers and through some word painting a little bit.

I think that the word painting is effective and also the style. You can tell for sure that it is in the seconda practica style. However, when just hearing the opera I think the aria and the recitative become less effective I think to a person not musically trained. I think that if someone was just listening to the opera they would not be able to tell the difference between the two section of the opera.

The music we have been listening to up to this point in time has been very polyphonic and very constant not put on stage.The music of L’Orfeo is monodic although it does have a few polyphonic parts. This music also has a lot more dissonance to better create the darker moods and the people can not only listen to what the music is trying to portray but can also see it on the stage and understand everything better. They do not have to guess as to what is going on. It is all laid out in front of them or visa versa they do not have to guess as to what the people on stage are trying to portray because they have the simple music lines underneath them singing.


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