A Brief History of Opera
Time period: Mid-late 1700s
In favor of writing music that was clear and simple to follow, composers of the Classical period rejected many musical techniques that defined Baroque music.
Christoph Willibald Gluck was born in Germany and sent to Prague to study music and philosophy. He composed prolifically in the opera seria style. He settled in Vienna where he composed his most famous opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, which illustrates his ideas about a new style of opera. Gluck's opera reforms (a shift in importance form the performers to the drama, the reduction of recitative) were considered controversial; however, they were to lay the foundations for the progression of the art form.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prolific composer during this time, creating more than 20 Italian operas and popular German music theater pieces before his death at the age of 35. Many of his operas depict ordinary people rather than mythological, Biblical, or historical figures. Mozart's operas continue to be popular; Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), and Don Giovanni are among the most frequently performed operatic works today.
Listen to "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, featuring David Pittsinger as Don Giovanni, Christine Brandes as Zerlina, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Corrado Rovaris. Excerpt courtesy of Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Opera America Sample: "La ci darem la mano"
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