Opera emerged as a new vocal form in the Baroque Age. The forerunners of opera are: Monody (solo song accompanied by one instrument like lute or guitar), musical dialogues, classical tragedies of the ancient ages, intermezzo (a comic play between the acts of tragic plays), pastoral poems (sung stories about shepherds and nature), and cantatas (a theatrical composition of sacred or secular subject to be performed without staging or costumes, within 15 to 20 minutes duration with soloists and a small group of instruments).
An opera is a dram, written by a text (libretto), set to music, with soloists, chorus, costumes, scenery, action and orchestra. Its dictionary meaning is "Opus"(work). Music in an opera is integral, not incidental, as in a musical or play with music. The early operas consisted of recitatives (musical declamation which reflect the movement and accent of speech, rather than that of a regular musical rhythm. Then aria gained importance. In contrast to the wandering recitative, aria had some consistent, regular and extended plan. It leaned towards song and dance rhythms. It had a continuous melodic material. The audience came to opera to hear the well-known performers singing the expressive arias. This was the origin of the star performer today.
The first opera was written in 1600. Peri and Caccini jointly set to music a pastoral mythological drama, Euridice. It was publicly performed in Florence, in honor of the marriage of Henry the Fourth of France and Marie de Medici. Its libretto was written by Rinuccini. This is the first complete opera of the earliest surviving. In the early Baroque (1600-1650) Monteverdi; in the mid Baroque (1650-1700) Lully (with his comedie ballet and tragedy lyrics); in the late Baroque (1700-1750) G. F. Handel were the masters of “opera”.
For the court, “opera” was a grandoise entertainment; for the church it was attractive to bring the people once more to its orbit. Church used the techniques of the opera in the oratorio and staged operas on sacred subjects.
In an oratorio, the action was narrated or suggested by a chorus and soloists, but not presented as in the opera. Early oratorios had sacred subject matter and used chorus for the dramatic purposes. The main difference between an opera and oratorio is that oratorio never meant to be staged. There is chorus, soloists and orchestra and a text in saecred subject.

By the middle of the 18th century, many composers felt a need to reform opera and bring it into line with changing attitudes toward music and drama. Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1767) achieved an international style that remained influential throughout the classical period. Gluck was born in Bohemia, studied in Italy, visited London and toured in Germany as a conductor of an opera troup, became court composer to Vienna, triumphed in Paris under the patronage of Marie Antoinette. His operas are under the influence of the reform in opera so they carry more radical ideas of the time. Gluck achieved his mature style with the operas of Orfeo and Alceste, assimilating Italian melodic grace, German seriousness and magnificance of French tragedy lyric.
The goals of operatic reform were to restore the poetry to its central place, to remove excessive vocal acrobatics, and to emphasize the drama. These goals required, in Gluck's words, a "beautiful simplicity" in the music, which became characteristic of classical opera. His influence on the form and spirit of opera was transmitted to the 19th century through Cherubini and Berlioz.
Opera Seria (Serious Opera)
The new Italian opera, eventually dominated the stages of Europe in the 18th century. Opera seria was the product of the same forces, that were reshaping all other forms of music in the age of the Enlightenment: It aimed to be clear, simple, rational, faithful to nature, of universal appeal and capable of giving immediate pleasure to its audience.
The musical interest of the Italian opera in the Baroque Age was centered in the arias. (Aria is a solo vocal piece in A-B-A form.) Operatic arias became more elaborated in the Classical Age. The orchestra had not much to do but accompany the aria singers. (Except for the overture which is an instrumental opening of the opera). Recitatives (musical dialogues) were accompanied by a harpsichord. Among the singers there were famed Italian castrati-plural of castrato (male soprano and alto). One of the most original composers of the new style was Pergolesi. Althought he is best known for his comic intermedi (plural of intermezzo), he also composed opera seria.
Comic Opera
The 18th century comic opera consisted of the works that were lighter in style than the serious opera. They presented familiar scenes and characters rather than heroic or mythological material; also required modest performing resources (like a modest setting). First it was a revolt against the tragic Italian opera. Librettos were in national tongue and the music suggested national tunes. Comic opera took different forms in different countries and continued in the 19th century with the same manner.
In Italy the important type was intermezzo. It began as presenting comic-short musicals between the acts of a serious operas. An early master of this style was Pergolesi, and his work La serva Padrona (The maid as mistress) is still popular. In Vienna, the opera buffa came a long way in the course of the century. Later, in Vienna, Mozart made good use of its mingled heritage of serious, comic and sentimental drama and widely acceptable musical style.
In France, the national form of light opera known as opera comique. Popular tunes and simple melodies were used for the entertainment. The opera comique flourished through the Revolution and the Napoleonic era and took on even greater musical significance in the Romantic period. In England, ballad opera of which Thomas Arne was the principal composer rose to popularity after the extraordinary success of the Beggar's Opera in London (1728). Ballad opera consisted of popular tunes, ballads with a few numbers parodied from familiar operatic arias. In Germany, there were singspiels, as they called opera in the 1700. These were theatrical plays (spoken dialogues) with music. In 1800, the 18th century singspiels found their ways into German song collections, thus in the course of time have become practically folk songs. The history of singspiel merged with that of early 19th century German Romantic opera.
It remained for Mozart, however, to bring classical opera, in most of its forms, to perfection. His melodical gift--a keen dramatic sense, skillfully wrought ensembles, and perfect, formal construction--contributed to the creation of music that has never been surpassed.

Mozart Operas
Mozart’s chief passion lay in his operas. He wrote a school opera in Latin when he was eleven, and a full scale comic opera at 12. The operas, however which always stood firmly in the public taste are three: The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. The Magic Flute is regarded as the first and one of the greatest of modern German operas for its rich music and profound, symbolic meaning.
Comic opera had a device of putting all the characters on the stage together by singing against each other. Mozart used this device to have a dramatic complexity in his Figaro. Mozart has two type of operas: Italian and German. Not only in language but also in style they belong to different countries.
German Operas: The Magic Flute and Abduction from the Seraglio (Saraydan Kız Kaçırma). He wrote the Abduction in the style of singspiel (singing play) which means it is originally a school play, using spoken dialogues in the native language.
Don Giovanni: (1787) Don Juan is a drama written for Prague by Mozart. Tragedy of Everyman. (Inspired by the moral plays of the middle ages). It is a sub type of comic opera with the presence of some serious character. When the great seducer is eventually dragged down to hell by the statue of the man he killed, the remainders of the characters come on to the stage, and warn the audience to learn from this and to behave themselves. This they do in a solemn tone but the music is so cheerful as an opera comic kind.
The Magic Flute: (1791) It looks like an English pantomime. (a singspiel with spoken dialogues) It is highly moral with personifications of good and evil on the stage, it takes the form of a popular entertainment with songs; it suggests the working of the supernatural forces in the middle of a tale about ordinary human beings. The action takes place in ancient Egypt, near a temple of Isis and Osiris. a spectacular fairy tale for the public rather than the aristocracy of Vienna. Thus it is written in German rather than Italian, used spoken dialogues instead of recitatives and made a comedy burlesque rather than wit. One of the opera’s most enchanting qualities is its use of popular songs, fancy coloratura (acrobatic soprano), slow marches and a glockenspiel (a percussive instrument like xylophone with bells)
Mozart wrote 24 operas.
Serious operas:
Idomeneo; La Clemenza di Tito
Comic Operas:
Cosi Fan Tutte (All women are like this); The Marriage of Figaro; Don Govanni.
Singspiel (a German style with spoken dialogues)
Abduction from Seragglio; The Magic Flute.

Mozart was inspired by the percussive effects of the Janissary band. He used the percussiveness thru the rhythms and instruments.

Zaide (an unfinished opera)
Abduction from the Seraglio (opera-singspiel style-spoken dialogues)
Violin concerto no.5 (in the last movement cellos have percussive effect)
Piano Sonata K.331 (The last “all turca” section- right hand bells, left drums)

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