Musicology: Opera and Vocal

The outline that you find below has been a very helpful study guide to assist students using the book A History of Western Music. I strongly recommend this book. With its contents, art work, and media, it's just gorgeous!


  1. Italian Opera
    1. Background
      1. 1650-1700 opera spreads from Italy to other countries
      2. Venice is still the principal opera center for Italy
    2. Venetian Opera
      1. Elaborate sets and costumes
      2. Vocal virtuosity
      3. Almost no use of chorus (gradually disappears)
      4. Plots were a jumble of serious, comic scenes (mainly a pretext for solo singing and scenic effects)
      5. Aria reigns supreme
      6. Orchestra merely accompanies
      7. Importance of popular taste
    3. Agostini and Sartorio
      1. Chiefly interested with musical construction
      2. Il ratto delle Sabine (The Rape of the Sabine Women)
        1. Opera by Agostini (1635-1680)
        2. Aria style:
          1. Popular idioms: march or dance-like rhythms
            1. Gigue, sarabande, minuet rhythms
          2. Strophic forms
          3. Use of ostinato bass as unifying element
          4. Use of coloratura passages
    4. Sartorio
      1. Last of the Venetians to continue the heroic style of Monteverdi and Cavalli
    5. Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)
      1. More graceful style than Sartorio or Agostini
    6. Alessandro Stradella (1644-1682)
      1. Corispero
      2. Continuo aria
        1. Typical style of the period
        2. Aria accoompanied only by harpsichord and bass
        3. Sometimes uses an orchestral ritornello
    7. Pallavicino and Steffani
      1. Italian composers who carried the Italian opera tradition to Germany
      2. Carlo Pallavicino (1630-1688)
        1. worked chiefly in Dresden
    8. Agostino Steffani (1654-1728)
      1. worked chiefly in Munich and Hannover
      2. wrote lengthy arias and accompaniments rich in concertato texture
      3. works were highly influential on 18th c. composers
        1. Particularly Keiser and Handel
      4. Enrico detto il Leone (Henry the Lion, Hanover, 1689)
        1. Aria Un balen d'incerta speme
          1. Typical of Steffani's early style
          2. Da capo aria
            1. Contrasting middle section
            2. Coloratura passages used to express pictoral words 'flash', 'ray' and 'pain'
            3. Irregular phrase lengths
          3. Standard da capo features of this period
            1. Motto beginning: short musical phrase from which music is developed
            2. Running bass: steadily following rhythm of 8th notes
    9. Antonio Lotti (1667-1740)
      1. Characteristics of the late-17th c. style
        1. More regular phrasing
        2. Smoother, more controlled harmonic progressions
        3. Gradual disappearance of the continuo aria
          1. Accomp. was turned increasingly over to the orchestra which now played during strophs as well as during ritonellos
        4. Reduction of contrapuntal activity
    10. Venetian style of opera flourishes in Germany well into the 18th c.
      1. Constanza e fortezza (Constancy and Courage)
        1. Opera by Fux, composed for the coronation of Emperor Charles VI at Prague in 1723.
  2. The Neapolitan Style
    1. The dominant 18th c. Italian style
    2. Emergence of two distinct types of recitative
      1. Recitative secco (dry recit.)
        1. Accompanied only by harpsichord and sustaining bass
        2. Used to get through long streches of dialogue or monologue in as speechlike a way as possible
      2. Recitativo obbligato
        1. Also called accompagnato or stromentato
        2. Orchestrally accompanied recitative
        3. Used for especially tense dramatic situations
      3. Arioso
    3. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
      1. Represents transition from the 17th c. opera to the newer 18th c. style
      2. Early works are similar to those by Legrenzi and Stradella
      3. Later works
        1. Mitridate (Venice, 1707)
        2. Tigrane (Naples, 1715)
        3. Griselda (Rome, 1721)
      4. Use of the da capo aria
  3. Opera in France
    1. Background
      1. Italina opera accepted into every other country except France
      2. 1670: Louis XIV establishes a French national opera
      3. Early experiments in French opera were made by Robert Cambert (1627-1677)
    2. Distinguishing features of French opera
      1. Ballet
      2. Classical French tragedy
        1. Pierre Corneille (1606-1684)
        2. Jean Racine (1639-1699)
    3. Tragedie lyrique
      1. Blend of ballet and drama
    4. Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
      1. First important composer of French opera
      2. Jean-Phillippe Quinault
        1. Lully's librettist
        2. Librettos
          1. Combined serious plots on mythological themes
          2. Frequent long interludes of dancing and choral singing called divertissements
          3. Episodes of romantics and marvelous advernture
      3. Musical style
        1. Projections of highly formal splendor of the French court
        2. Large choruses
        3. Rhythmical dances and ballet scenes
        4. Lully accommodates Italian recit. to the rhythms of French
          1. Secco recit. and arioso of Italian opera were ill-suited to French declamation
        5. Rhythm
          1. Shifts between duple and triple meters
    5. French Overture
      1. Oftentimes appearing as independent compositions
      2. Original aim of the overture was to create a festive atmosphere for the opera
        1. Used to welcome the king to a performance
  4. English Opera
    1. Masque: aristocratic entertainment similar to the French court ballet
      1. A composite of dance, inst. pieces, songs, recitatives and choruses
    2. John Blow (1649-1708)
      1. Background
        1. Organist of Westminster Abbey
        2. Composer in the Chapel Royal
      2. Venus and Adonis (1684)
        1. Entitled 'masque', really a pastoral opera
        2. Overture and prologue modeled on French opera
    3. Henry Purcell
      1. Background
        1. Student of John Blow
        2. Organist of Westminster Abbey (from 1679)
        3. wrote odes for chorus and orchestra, cantatas, songs, catches, anthems, services, fancies, chamber sonatas and keyboard works.
      2. Dido and Aeneas (1689)
        1. Libretto by Nahum Tate
          1. Dramatization of Vergil's 'Aeneid'
        2. written for a girls' boarding school at Chelsea
        3. Opera in minature
          1. Orchestra consists of strings continuo
          2. Only 4 prinicpal roles
        4. Uses French overture
          1. Homophonic choruses in dance rhythms
  5. German Opera
    1. German tast was deeply rooted in Italian opera throughout the 17th c.
    2. Most important opera center was Hamburg
      1. 1678: first public opera house in Europe outside Venice
      2. 1738: Hamburg opera closes
    3. Native influences in the formation of German opera
      1. School dramas
        1. Little plays of pious, moral didactic character
        2. Musical numbers were insterted into the play
        3. Fairly ubiquitous in the 16th and early 17th c.
    4. Singspiel
      1. A play with music
      2. Uses spoken dialogue instead of recit.
    5. Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
      1. Foremost early composer of German operas
      2. wrote over 100 works for the Hamburg stage between 1696-1734
      3. Croesus (Hamburg, 1710)
        1. Keiser's most famous opera
  6. Cantata and Song
    1. Background
      1. Emerges from monodic strophic variation of the early 17th century
      2. Cantata develops into a form consisting of many short, contrasting sections
      3. 1650-1700: cantata settles into a clear pattern of alternating recit. and arias
    2. Important Italian cantata composers
      1. Carissimi
      2. Luigi Rossi
      3. Cesti
      4. Legrenzi
      5. Stradella
      6. Alessandro Scarlatti
    3. Alessandro Scarlatti
      1. wrote more than 600 cantatas
  7. Song in other countries
    1. Italian chamber cantata was imitated or adapted in other countries
    2. France
      1. Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1634-1704)
        1. Pupil of Carissimi
        2. Composed both secular cantatas and sacred oratorios in the Italian style
      2. Louis Nicolas Clerambault (1676-1749)
        1. Published five books of cantatas between 1710-1726
    3. Germany
      1. Keiser: wrote cantatas
      2. Adam Krieger (1634-1666)
        1. Leading 17th c. composer of German songs
        2. Neue Arien (New Airs)
          1. Collection of strophic melodies in simple, popular style
          2. Includes short 5-part orchestral ritornellos
          3. Publ. 1667 and 1676

Church, Music and Oratorio

  1. Background
    1. Stile antico vs. modern style (17th c.)
      1. Roman Catholic Church Palestrina style was cultivated
      2. Composers such as Monteverdi, Carissimi and Schütz made use of new styles
        1. Basso continuo
        2. Concertato medium
        3. Multiple choirs and groups of solo voices and instruments
    2. Bologna (basilica of San Petronio)
      1. Center for 17th c. church music
      2. Marizio Cazzati (1620-1677)
        1. Direcotr of music at San Petronio
        2. Publ. 50 collections of sacred vocal music between 1641-1678
      3. Giovanni Paolo Colonna (1637-1695)
        1. Cazzati's successor
        2. Masses use 5-part inst. ensembles and double choirs
      4. Giacomo Antonio Perti (1661-1756)
        1. Colonna's successor
        2. Messa concertata
          1. Uses 4 trumpets and 2 horns plus strings
          2. Double choir and soloists
    3. Germany
      1. Missa di San Carlo (a.k.a. Missa canonica)
        1. Composed by Fux in 1716
        2. Each mov't is built on canonic development of original themes
    4. Vienna
      1. Antonio Caldara (1670-1736)
        1. Pupil of Legrenzi
        2. Stabat Mater
          1. Scored for 4-voice choir, strings, trombones, organ and basso continuo
      2. Pergolesi and Hasse
        1. Empfindsamkeit (sentimental style)
    5. Oratorio and Motet
      1. Oratorio used verse libretto and was not bound by the conventions of traditional liturgical music
        1. Oratorio often used as a substitute for opera during Lent or other seasons when theaters were closed
      2. After Carissimi, the Latin oratorio was abandoned in favor of the oratorio volgare (oratorio in Italian)
      3. Almost all Baroque opera composers also wrote oratorios
        1. Chorus more significant in oratorio
        2. Otherwise, oratorio constructed like opera, solos/duets
  2. French Church Music
    1. Background
      1. Develops differently from Italian and southern German sacred music
      2. Marc-Antoine Charpentier
        1. Student of Carissimi
        2. Introduces the Latin oratorio into France
        3. Employs prominent chorus in his oratorios (often double-chorus)
    2. Grand motets
      1. Motets written by Lully, Charpentier and Henri Dumont (1610-1684) during the second half of the 17th c.
      2. Style
        1. Motets for solo voices with continuo
        2. In the style of the secular cantata
        3. Utilized large orchestral forces and choruses
        4. Shift between duple and triple sections
    3. Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726)
      1. wrote more than 70 motets
      2. Favorite court composer of Louis XIV
      3. Techniques
        1. Syllabic recits
        2. Sweeping homophonic choruses
        3. Double fugues
    4. Francois Couperin (1668-1773)
      1. Lecons de tenebres (1714)
        1. Using texts form the Offices of Matins and Lauds
        2. For 1-2 solo voices w/accompaniment in a spare concertato style
  3. Anglican Church Music
    1. Principal forms of Anglican church music throughout 17th c.
      1. Services
      2. Anthems
    2. Principal composers 1650-1700
      1. John Blow
      2. Henry Purcell
  4. Lutheran Church Music
    1. 1650-1750 was the 'Golden Age' of Lutheran music
    2. Chorales
      1. Congregational hymn
      2. Notable chorale composers of the late 17th c.
        1. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)
          1. wrote hymn texts
          2. Johann Crüger (1598-1662)
            1. Set many of Gerhardt's texts to music
            2. Praxis pietatis melica
              1. 1647 collection of hymns
              2. Most influential Lutheran songbook of late 17th c.
        2. Freylinghausen collection
          1. 1704 collection of hymns for use in the home
          2. Influenced by Crüger's published collections
      3. Three musical-textual elements
        1. Concerted chorus on a biblical text
          1. Established by Schein, Scheidt, Schütz
        2. Solo aria with strophic nonbiblical text
        3. Chorale
      4. Three types of sacred concerto fashioned from the above elements
        1. Arias only or arias and choruses in the concertato medium
        2. Chorales only also in the concertato medium
        3. Both chorales and arias (often called cantatas, more properly called sacred concertos)
  5. The Lutheran Church Cantata
    1. Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756)
      1. Orthodox Lutheran theologian
      2. Introduced new kind of sacred poetry for musical settings, cantata
        1. Previous Lutheran texts had consisted chiefly of passages from the Bible or church Liturgy
        2. Neumeister added stanzas of poetry that dwelt on the given scriptural reading
        3. Added poetic texts were designed to be composed either as arioso or arias (usually in da capo form)
        4. Neumeister also wrote cycles intended for the church year
    2. New cantata was important impetus for Lutheran church music
    3. Cantata composers prior to Bach
      1. Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725)
      2. Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722)
      3. Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712)
    4. Contemporaries of Bach
      1. Christoph Grapner (1683-1760)
      2. Johann Mattheson (1681-1764)
      3. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
        1. Publ. four complete annual cycles of cantatas (1725,1731,1744,1748)
        2. Immense musical output
          1. 30 operas
          2. 12 cantata cycles
          3. 46 Passions
          4. Oratorios
  6. The Passion
    1. Historia
      1. Musical setting based on some biblical narrative
      2. Story of Christmas or Easter
    2. Johann Walter
      1. Adapted the dramatic Passion to Lutheran use with German text in his 1550 St.Matthew Passion
    3. Motet Passion
      1. Settings made by Catholic composers from mid-15th c.
      2. Passion text set as a series of polyphonic motets
      3. Celebrated motet Passion composers
        1. Joachim a Burck (1568)
        2. Leonhard Lechner (1594)
        3. Christoph Demantius (1631)
    4. Oratorio Passion
      1. New type of Passion in the late 17th c.
      2. Approximated the form of the oratorio
        1. Employs recit., arias, ensembles, choruses, etc.
        2. Schütz's Seven Last Words
          1. Early approach to this type of musical treatment
          2. Text is a composite of all 4 gospels
    5. Late 17th c. Passions
      1. Johann Sebastiani (1622-1683)
      2. Johann Theile (1646-1724)
    6. New Passion texts
      1. The Bleeding and Dying Jesus (1704)
        1. New Passion text by Hunold-Menantes
        2. Biblical narrative was freely paraphrased
      2. B.H.Brockes (1712)
        1. wrote a popular Passion text
        2. Keiser, Telemann, Handel and Matteson use his text in musical settings
        3. Bach draws upon it for aria texts in his St.John Passion

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