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Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

[ballet en action, ballet pantomime; pantomime ballet] (Fr.)

A stage work in which a dramatic story is conveyed through gesture, dance and instrumental music. It developed in part as a reaction against the divertissement in opera, in which dance is designed to delight the eye and depict a general mood, and the opera-ballet, where vocal music has an important role and plots are loosely constructed. Some consider it as analogous to the ‘reform opera’ of Gluck. Key exponents in France in the second half of the 18th century and the first part of the 19th were the choreographers Jean-Georges Noverre, Gaetano Vestris and the Gardel brothers. Their successors, among them Pierre Aumer and Filippo Taglioni, followed this tradition, and with changes in technique and costuming are credited with the creation of the Romantic ballet....

Article

Hugo Cole

Since medieval times children have participated in musical dramas, whether such involvement originated within a church, a school or, later, a theatrical context. This article primarily discusses the history and development of operas for children to perform, rather than works that are particularly suitable for children to watch, such as Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel or Menotti’s Help, Help, the Globolinks! Because of the very close links between school music education and the writing and performing of operas for children, especially from the end of the 19th century onwards, much of the article is concerned with the later history of the genre.

At certain medieval festivals, choirboys in France and England would elect their own boy bishops and might enact their own ludi theatrales. Thus, church records of 1497 tell us that at St Martin of Tours, on the second day of Advent, masked ‘innocentes’ would go into the city, where farces, moralities and miracles would be played – certainly with music. In Tudor times, choristers’ masques were often played at court, the Children of Paul’s appearing before Queen Elizabeth more often than any other company. In the mid-16th century, they and the Children of the Chapel Royal began to give regular performances in private theatres, and occasionally to visit the provinces, forming what were virtually professional companies. Many of the boys were also skilled instrumentalists and music played a vital part in their plays. The more elaborate were almost little operas, with songs, dramatic musical interludes, entr’actes and sometimes a final choral prayer. The last boys’ company was dissolved in ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

[comédie en musique; comédie mise en musique] (Fr.)

A type of French opera whose subject matter, treatment and tone reflect, more or less strongly, the norms of the current spoken comédie. In the 18th century comédie lyrique was applied to both opéras (e.g. Mouret’s Les amours de Ragonde, 1742, and Grétry’s Colinette à la cour, ou La double épreuve, 1782) and opéras comiques (e.g. Dezède’s Alexis et Justine, 1785). The term comédie [mise] en musique was almost always restricted to the latter. In opéras authors sought to emphasize the difference between their works, with contemporary or exotic settings and lighter plots, and the usual fare at the Opéra, such as tragédies lyriques. In opéras comiques (most prevalent in the 1780s and 1790s) they wanted to avoid the most common designation of the previous generation, comédie mêlée d’ariettes; they believed the style of their texts more ‘correct’ in a tone of ‘comique bourgeois’ or more rarely ‘comique noble’ rather than the ‘comique bas’, the plot construction more regular and coherent (judged by ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.: ‘comedy mixed with little songs’)

The most frequently used term for French operas with spoken dialogue during the late ancien régime.

At first, it was applied to works which parodied music from Italian opera buffa (e.g. C.-S. Favart’s Le caprice amoureux, ou Ninette à la cour, 1755), although another common term was opéra bouffon. Soon it came to be the designation for works with newly composed pieces (in contrast with the opéra comique in the conventional 18th-century sense, which used vaudevilles). Its ready acceptance was due to its combination of two key features of the new genre: ‘ariettes’ indicating the prominence of short vocal pieces in simple forms and ‘comédie’ pointing to the librettists’ desire to match the standards of spoken theatre – i.e. to produce a more ‘regular’, moral work, as defined in French dramatic theory, with a more coherent plot and in a politer tone than was usual in opéra comique en vaudevilles...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

A type of 18th-century play or opéra comique almost always in one act and using characters from the commedia dell’arte tradition (such as Pierrot, Columbine and Cassandre). In keeping with this the humour is broad and very close to farce. As opéras comiques, comédies-parades could either re-use pre-existing music in vaudeville fashion (for example, Les docteurs modernes by J.-B. Radet and P.-I. Barré, 1784) or be newly set (such as Champein’s Les amours de Colombine, 1785). They were popular at the fair theatres in the mid-century and at the Comédie-Italienne (later called the Opéra-Comique) up to the 1780s. By the 1790s the genre had virtually disappeared, although old favourites like Grétry’s Le tableau parlant (to a libretto by L. Anseaume, 1769) were sometimes revived and there was the occasional new one, such as Méhul’s L’irato, ou L’emporté (to a libretto by B.-J. Marsollier des Vivetières, 1801)....

Article

Michael Talbot

(It.)

A term signifying ‘composition’, usually in reference to a dramatic poem to be set to music as a Serenata (opera). It occurs with particular frequency in the repertory of the Viennese court during the Baroque period. Componimenti da camera (or per camera) were written by Zeno, Pariati and Metastasio; ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

A type of late 18th-century French opéra or opéra comique, usually in one act, in which the action is based on a heroic event drawn from contemporary French history. Faits historiques were often vehicles to extol the valour of enlisted soldiers (rather than generals) or even the common people. An early example is L’incendie du Havre, set in vaudevilles to a text by Desfontaines (G. F. Fouques) and performed at the Comédie-Italienne (Salle Favart) in 1786, but the genre became much more popular during the Revolution when it reflected current military, political and social concerns. Faits historiques, particularly during the Terror, were the staple repertory of minor theatres and were also performed at the Opéra-Comique (Grétry’s Joseph Barra, 1794), the Théâtre Feydeau (Méhul’s Le pont de Lodi, 1797) and even the Opéra (Rochefort’s Toulon soumis, 1794). As pièces de circonstance, they were generally written and rehearsed in haste, and few enjoyed long runs or revivals....

Article

In opera, a title often given to the opening number when it involves more than two characters. It could be more or less complex in structure: it became particularly elaborate in the hands of Rossini (Il barbiere di Siviglia, 1816, and Semiramide, 1823), but during the first half of the 19th century the commonest formula was that of the ‘Introduzione e cavatina’, consisting of an opening chorus, a recitative and ‘cantabile’ for the soloist, a ...

Article

Julian Budden

(It.: ‘introduction’)

A title often given to the opening number of an opera when it involves more than two characters. An early example is ‘Che lieto giorno’ (La finta giardiniera, Mozart, 1775), which parades the whole cast. Sometimes it may consist merely of a chorus with or without the intervention of a minor character, as in Tancredi (Rossini, 1813), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini, 1830) and Maria Padilla (Donizetti, 1841); but already in Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) Rossini had evolved a more complex structure incorporating a tenor cavatina and ending with a stretta. A still more elaborate scheme is found in Semiramide (1823), proceeding from an initial recitative through a trio and quartet interspersed with brief choral movements to a headlong ‘stretta dell’introduzione’. The commonest formula during the first half of the 19th century, however, is that of the ‘Introduzione e cavatina’, consisting of an opening chorus, a recitative and ‘cantabile’ for the soloist, a ...

Article

Wilfrid Mellers, Walter Wells and Madeleine Ladell

Jazz and opera are generally viewed as separate traditions, too diverse in cultural origin to come together successfully. Yet throughout the 20th century both traditions have borrowed from each other, and have spawned a number of cross-breeds, which often find no home in either camp and end up on Broadway. In most cases musicians have tended to incorporate gestures rather than develop common ground.

Jazz, an amalgamation of tribal African musics with Euro-American styles, emerged at the beginning of the 20th century; created mainly by black musicians, it was essentially an urban American folk art. Aspirations to western art-music respectability came less from mainstream New Orleans jazz or blues musicians than from ragtime composers. This is not surprising, as ragtime itself is a hybrid of African rhythm and European harmony, and its best-known publicist, Scott Joplin, was trained by a German music teacher. Having started as an improvising bordello pianist, Joplin earned modest fame for his rag time compositions which he disseminated as sheet music. Gaining confidence from his success, he soon formed his own opera company, for whom he wrote ...