Classical Opera and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Opera seria
- Serious, or tragic opera was the type which initially emerged in Italy consisting of mainly arias and recitatives which clearly displayed the virtuosity of the singers to their audience which consisted of mainly aristocracy. The plots were built from heroic tales of kings and heroes and topics could be based on historical fact but the most popular subjects centralized around mythology.
- Opera buffa
- Simplicity and naturalness was an increasing need and opera buffa fulfilled this need with its down to earth plots that its audience could relate to. “Buffa” was the term the Italians used to refer to comic opera.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
This child prodigy who spent his early years performing the piano for the nobility began his career under the patronage of the archbishop of Saltzburg. During his time in Saltzburg, the young composer was able to produce chamber music, of which he favoured the string quartet. After his employment was terminated, Mozart moved to Vienna where he lived the life of a free lance musician. During this time he wrote many operas. During his lifetime, Mozart contributed to opera seria (“Idomeneo” and “Silla Lucia”), opera buffa (“Don Giovanni”, “Cosi fan tutte”, and “The Marriage of Figaro”), and singspiel (“Il Seraglio”, “The Magic Flute”, and “Bastien und Bastienne”) Mozart also wrote some solo piano works and symphonies. His music is characterized by simple, songful melodies and he used moderate chromaticism in the development sections of his sonata-forms. His instrumental music boasted of a sense of drama by the use of extreme dynamics and colourful orchestration.
“The Marriage of Figaro” (review, overture, and act 1, scenes 6-7 only)
This three act opera was based on a play by Beaumarchais which contained controversial content as the plot mocked the upper class with sarcasm and allowed a servant to outwit his master. The librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and Mozart cleverly wove together text and music that the public received; what was not accepted in speech was allowed to be sung. The opera was completed in 1786. The principal characters for the opera:
- Figaro, the Count’s personal valet, baritone
- Susana, Figaro’s fiancee and the Countess’s maid, soprano
- The Count Almaviva, master of the house and attempts to seduce Susana throughout, baritone
- The Countess Almaviva, the Count’s wife, soprano
- Cherubino, the Count’s page, mezzo-soprano trouser role
- Basilio, the music master, tenor
- Dr. Bartolo, desires revenge against Figaro for some past animosity, bass
- Marcellina, holds a contract of marriage to Figaro, soprano
The plot opens with Figaro who is measuring his future bedroom for a bed. Throughout the opera, Count Almaviva is attempting to seduce Susana, who is engaged to Figaro while Cherubino is infatuated with the very notion of love and also with the Countess. Dr. Bartolo wishes to gain vengeance on Figaro for some animosity between them in the past and his housekeeper, Marcellina, conveniently holds a contract of marriage from Figaro. Figaro cleverly outwits the Count into abolishing the feudal privilege of first rights over a young woman and providing the valet with his untouched bride. Marcellina’s contract is proven to be void by Figaro and the opera concludes with the Count and Countess reunited and Figaro and Susana happily wed. The opera opens with an overture which sets the mood for the opera to come with its agitated and busy character. Tempo: Allegro Meter: 4/4 Key: D major Form: Sonata-type, lacking the Development Exposition. Theme 1a. The first section of theme one is agitated in character presented in pianissimo dynamics in strings. Theme 1b. The second section of theme one is lyrical and is presented in the winds building to a climax. Bridge. The key modulates to the dominant: A major. Theme 2. is a static melody with accents and a jilted rhythm. Closing. The first part is a rising motive that repeats while the second part is cute in character and lyrical. Recapitulation. Theme 1a. returns in the tonic: D major. Theme 1b. remains in D major. Bridge. Does not modulate. Theme 2. is presented in D major this time. Closing. Codetta. features a descending scale passage and forceful chords leading to the conclusion.
Act I, scenes 6-7
Cherubino’s Aria, “Non so piu” Key: Eb major Form: A-B-A-C This aria is about a young man who is infatuated with the very notion of love and is full of nervousness and excitement. A. opens with quick rhythms and an agitated character B. is more lyrical than part A and is in the dominant key: Bb major. A. returns with its quick rhythms in the tonic key: Eb major. C. begins softly then climaxes and modulates suddenly at the conclusion of the piece Recitative Accompagnato: Susana, Count Almaviva, Basilio The recitative opens with Cherubino with Susana in her future bedroom. The count is heard coming and Cherubino darts to hide behind a chair, not wanting to be discovered with Susana, alone. Count Almaviva has arrived to attempt to seduce Susana but shortly after he arrives in the room, Basilio is heard coming and the Count moves towards the same chair Cherubino is hiding behind forcing the page to slip to the front of the chair where Susana is prepared to cover him with a throw. With the Count hiding behind the chair and Cherubino hiding on top of the chair, Basilio enters in search of the Count. He reveals some secrets about Cherubino’s fondness for the Countess, which enrages the Count and he reveals himself. Terzetto: Susana, Count Almaviva, Basilio Form: Sonata-type, with development and recapitulation The trio features an emotional commentary by each character revealing their personal feelings. Susana is aghast and terrorized that Cherubino will be discovered, the Count is enraged with Cherubino’s behaviour, and Basilio is humoured by the situation. During the song the Count refers to Cherubino and reveals the page in his hiding place and becomes even further enraged. Susana then falls faint and the two men comfort her by manner of imitation in the music.