In the beginning of the 19th century the opera centers moved from Italy to France. Those composers who imigrated from Germany and Italy to Paris, carried their own cultural and technical background with them. They were also inspired by the general atmosphere of French nation. Napoleon wanted formal, highly melodious, very pompous music for his France. The military pomp and ceremony with heroic music appealed to the men; its human drama of forbidden passion, voiced in noble classical style with fervent singing and rich orchestral accompaniment, attracted the audience. So this was the birth of French Grand Opera.
GRAND OPERA- Crowded scenes, rich decoration, showy dances, crowded chorus, historical background, strong melodramatic climaxes and a splendid music (with rich orchestration) are the main characteristics of this style. Another important characteristic of the Grand Opera is that all dialogues are sung. There are no spoken dialogues on the stage. The Grand Opera was developing in France since the time of Lully.
Meyerbeer was the leader of this genre in Paris and quickliy became the dictator in Paris opera. In Italy Rossini was the leader of this genre. Later on Verdi (e.g.Aida) and Wagner operas can be classified as grand opera.
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), German composer, whose flair for the drama influenced the work of the German composer Richard Wagner. He was born in Berlin, went to Venice in 1815, where he adopted the melodic style of the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini. He wrote six Italian-style operas, then moved to Paris, and studied French opera, which differed from the Italian in its emphasis on extravagant settings and ballets (which were inserted as interludes between acts) and in the predominance of choral and instrumental music over solo arias. It also treated more serious subjects, usually historical ones. In his final phase, Meyerbeer composed six French operas that established the grand-opera style and gained him fame throughout Europe. His most important work was in rehearsal at the time of his death, L'Africaine –The African (1865).
COMIC OPERA: Side by side with the Grand Opera, there occured another genre in Paris which was called the “opera comique”. The main technical difference between these two genres are the way of handling the recitatives (musical declamations). In the Comic Opera there are spoken dialogues on the stage, where in the Grand Opera every word is sung. It is shorter than the Grand Opera, and the subjet matter is lighter, even comical. The melodical and rhythmical elements flow naturally in music, harmonic structure is not complicated. The orchestra is less crowded, the decoration and the dances are not exaggerated. Instead of lofty places the familiar scenes were preferred. Like the public square in a village took the place of an esteemed mythological palace setting.
Originally, Bizet’s Carmen was classified as a comic opera because of the spoken dialogues in it. Eventhough the subject matter is tragic, and realistic, from technical point of view, originally it was classified as a “comic opera”. After Bizet died, all of the spoken dialogues in Carmen were composed by some other composers. Now we don’t find any non-sung passages in new versions of this tragic-realistic opera.
The light operas of Jacques Offenbach are good example to the comic opera genre. They deal with the laxities of Parisians: “Orpheus in the Underworld” is light-hearted with its lively melodies like the legendary “can-can” dance in it.
Operetta is the Vienna product of comic opera. Johann Strauss composed Der Fledermaus (The Bat-Yarasa) in Vienna. Gilbert and Sullivan composed Mikado in England. And it opened the gates for Broadway musicals of USA in the beginning of the 20th century.
LYRIC OPERA-The romantic branch of the comic opera gave way to this genre. It is in between the Grand Opera and Comic Opera. It has attractive melodies with romantic, dramatic and fantastic subjet matter. In France, this genre was recognized only with dance and ballet scenes in it. Charle Gounod’s Faust is the best example for this sort.
ITALIAN ROMANTIC OPERA-The story of Italian music in the 19th century is essenitally the story of opera. The orchestra gains an important role with the Italian composers. They composed both for serious kind and for comic kind. Four important signitures dominate the operatic scene during the Romanticism of the 19th century: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi.
Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), Italian composer, the most successful operatic composer of his time. He was outstanding in his comic operas and was one of the great 19th-century exponents of the bel canto style (singing beatifully thru stressing vocal agility and precision), which emphasizes beauty of melodic line, rather than drama or emotional depth.
Born 1792, at Pesaro and trained at the Conservatory of Bologna, Rossini composed 37 operas. His most successful opera is The Barber of Seville, produced in Rome in 1816. No comic opera has ever been as much loved and performed. The brillant “patter song” sylabbles are articulated at a crazy speeed reflecting the comic effect. Beautiful melodies and symphonic writing are his characteristics. Of his other operas, those most frequently and successfully revived today are The Italian Girl in Algiers, (1813), Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy, 1814), and Cinderella (1817). After 1831, Rossini composed no further operas and during the rest of his life produced only two important works, the Stabat Mater of 1842 and The Petite Messe Solenelle (1864). Despite his long retirement, he remained one of the great personalities of the musical world. He died in France, on November 13, 1868.
Rossini's operas were the last and best in the Italian comic opera style. Typically light and lively, their music is notable for its high degree of comic characterization. Rossini used the bel canto style to fashion bright melodies, which the singers could deliver with brilliant effects and stirring expression.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), Italian operatic composer, born in Bergamo, and educated in music at the Naples Conservatory. He composed 65 operas and operettas. He did not become widely known until his 33rd opera, which was Anna Bolena, was produced in 1830. Donizetti's musical style, considerably influenced by that of Rossini, is characterized by brilliant and graceful melodies, designed chiefly for virtuoso singers. He is a full blodded romantic, using sentimental effects with big and complex dramatic scenes. His grand opera Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), is his most popular work. The mad scene, the hysterical arias of Lucia is very typical in romantic operas. Some of his light operas are The Elixir of Love (1832), and Don Pasquale (1843).
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), Italian composer, born in Sicily, and trained at the Conservatory of Music, Naples. His opera Il Pirata (The Pirates) was composed for La Scala Opera House in 1827. In 1831 the premieres of two of Bellini's most famous operas, The Sleepwalker and his masterpiece, Norma, brought him international fame. In the aria of Casta Diva (Norma), the melody is in a tension, tries to breath but always climbs to a climax. The hysterical crises in this work are very typical of romantic opera. In 1835 he composed his final work, The Puritans. Bellini was a meticulous craftsman. He composed for singers who were masters of bel canto. He was highly sensitive to the relation between text and music, and his operas gain their greatest dramatic impact through his melodies, which are often admired for a characteristic concentrated beauty. He used to create melodies and store them, and after finding the proper setting he used them accordingly.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Italian operatic composer, whose works stand among the greatest in the history of opera. Born as the son of illiterate peasants on October 10, 1813, in Roncole in the French-governed state of Parma, he first studied music in the neighbouring town of Busseto. Then, upon being rejected in 1832, because of his age, by the Milan Conservatory, he became a pupil of Vincenzo Lavigna. He returned to Busseto in 1833 as conductor of the Philharmonic Society.
At the age of 25 Verdi again went to Milan. His first opera, Oberto, was produced at La Scala Opera House with some success in 1839. His next work, the comic opera Un giorno di regno (King for a Day, 1840), was a failure. In the mean time Verdi was lamenting also the recent deaths of his wife and two children, then he decided to give up composing. After more than a year, however, the director of La Scala succeeded in inducing him to write Nabucco (1842). The opera created a sensation; its subject matter dealt with the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, and the Italian public regarded it as a symbol of the struggle against Austrian rule in northern Italy. After this success he composed a couple of operas which have survived in the permanent operatic repertory.
Verdi's three following works, Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (1853), and La Traviata (1853), brought him international fame and remain among the most popular of all operas. Operas written in the middle of Verdi's career, including Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball, 1859), La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny, 1862), and Don Carlo (1867), exhibit a greater mastery of musical characterization and a greater emphasis on the role of the orchestra than his earlier works. Aïda (1871), also of this period and probably Verdi's most popular opera, was commissioned by the Hidiv of Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal; it was first performed in Cairo. Three years later, Verdi composed his most important non-operatic work, the Requiem Mass in memory of the Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni.
Verdi had been considered as a national hero because general public considered his operas with the historical subject matter, symbolizing the situation of Italians at the end of the 19th century. In all of his operas there is a powerful chorus which is the sound of general public. With his patriotic appeal he became a member of the parliment for long years, and “Viva Verdi” was an equal saying as “Viva Victoria Emmanuela Re d’Italiy”. Victoria Emmanuela, the king of Italy who saved his nation from the siege of Austurians.
In his seventies, Verdi produced perhaps the finest of his operas, Otello (1887), composed to a libretto skilfully adapted by the Italian composer and librettist Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. This was followed by Verdi's last opera, Falstaff (1893), also adapted by Boito from Shakespeare, and generally considered one of the greatest of all comic operas. Verdi died on January 27, 1901, in Milan.
In general, Verdi's works are most noted for their emotional intensity, tuneful melodies, and dramatic characterizations. He transformed the Italian opera, with its traditional set pieces, old-fashioned librettos, and emphasis on vocal display, into a unified musical and dramatic entity. His operas are among those most frequently produced in the world today.

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