Over the years, Opera melodrama has become very known. I must say, I always look forward to seeing an Opera at the MUSON Centre. Unlike any other classical music concert, Opera is one of such where you get to be drawn into every act. The scenery, the costumes (which defines the general atmosphere of an operatic production), the amazing singers gushing out heavenly sounds, the drama lines which keeps you glued to your chairs, the feeling of watching singers take up different personalities and character is all what makes Opera dynamic.
Oh my, Ok.. today’s article is for those who’s been wondering what an opera really is. Well, so you don’t get lost, let me quickly give you a hint of what I’m talking about.
Opera is simply the fusion of music, song, and stage actions. It is also known as melodrama. The birthplace of Opera is generally considered to be Florence, Italy. It was in this city, at the end of the sixteenth century, that a group of intellectuals who met at the house of Giovanni Bardi first thought of ”renewing” the music of their times inspired by the classical culture. This group called themselves the Florentina Camerata; some of its members were actually mathematics or poets and all were singers.
The Camerata strove to create music that would accompany perfectly declaimed words according to their idea of ancient Greek drama. The dream became a reality with the dominance of monodic or single voiced song as opposed to the polyphonic or many voiced music then in vouge which was not suitable for dramatic performances. In the earliest days, Opera was tied to courtly life while Greek mythology was its primary inspiration.
Though there were earlier experiment in the genre, the first opera to come down to us in it’s entirety was ENRIDICE by Ottavio Rinuccini (1563- 1621) with music by Jacopo Peri (1561- 1633) which was performed at the Pitti Palace in 1600 during the marriage festivities of Maria de’ Medici and Henri IV of France. This was the first that helped to establish the new style of ‘recitar cantando'(acting while singing)
By the seventeenth century, Opera began to leave behind the pastoral setting of its earliest years, absorbing popular element and intermingling tragic and comic scenes. Among this was Monterverdi, who was the first great protagonist of the seventeenth century operatic history; two masterpiece llritiorno Di Ulisse in partria and L’ incoronazione di Propea (1643).
By the eighteenth century, Opera had spread from Venice to the entire Europe and Italian opera was the standard.
Dramma per musica (Opera) became definitively established by the rise of singers who were widely hailed as divi (gods and goddesses). By the end of the seventeenth century, famous singers were opera’s greatest attraction, which still is very true up till date. (I definitely love going to watch an opera especially if my favorite singer is performing).
Many of these artists were castrati, who took on both male and female operatic roles. The most famous castrati became known by their stage names such as Senesino (1680 – 1750) and Farinelli (1710 -1783).
The time known as the age of Bel Canto (beautiful singing) coincided with Te carreer of a great musician and the greatest operatic composer of the early seventeenth century, George Fredrick Handel whose operas consist primarily of arias (1685 – 1759).
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Opera Seria and Opera Buffa were the two style of opera with both having much strong Italian influence. Heroes, knights and mythological characters were the protagonist of Opera Seria which tended to represent an idealized world. While Opera Buffa had it’s origin in the comic performances.
The subject of the opera buffa were generally from the everyday world and thus quick to win favor from the audience.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) began his rich operatic output by taking on all the different genres from opera seria ( Idomeneo 1781 LA Clamenza di Tito 1791) to opera buffa ( The marriage of Figaro 1786). In Don Giovanni (1787), he created a unique fusion of the two styles which was off the hook. I don’t think I can ever get tired of watching that epic opera.
The dominance of Italian opera continued into the nineteenth century with great composers like Gioacchino Rossini (1792 – 1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797 -1848), Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901), Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) amongst others and by the 20th century the rise of an ltalian composer Giacomo Puccini ( 1858 – 1924) who gave opera it’s last popular successes with LA boheme (1896) Tasca (1900) and Madame Butterfly (1904) works that combine expert orchestration with inspired melodic vein.
Far fewer operas are written today than a century or two ago. But the drastic drop in production has not lessened interest in the four centuries of operatic repertoire that continues to hold the stage.
OPERA IN NIGERIA
In Nigeria, Opera is almost limited to be the sole property of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). You would almost conclude that no other group has the right to an Opera aside the Muson. This is beside the fact that Nigeria can boast of some notable Opera singers like Francesca Chiejina, Abiodun Koya, Omo Bello, Agatha Onyinye Ibeazor , Joseph Oparamunike and a host of others who individually are making immense contribution and impact in the world of classicals and Opera.
I look forward to seeing Nigerians appreciate classicals and in fact, Opera some day. Personally, I would give up some much to attend, let alone, participate in an Opera show. As a matter of fact, I can’t wait for the next Opera concert of the Graciedion Chorale Society in its annual Lift Up Every Voice (LUEV) coming up this October 2019.
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