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Thomas Bauman

(‘The Miners’)

Original-Singspiel in one act by Ignaz Umlauf to a libretto by Paul Weidmann; Vienna, Burgtheater, 17 February 1778.

Old Walcher (bass) opposes the suit of the young miner Fritz (tenor) for the hand of his ward Sophie (soprano), whom he secretly wishes to marry himself. After thwarting one rendezvous he ties Sophie to a tree. The gypsy Zelda (soprano) frees her and takes her place. When discovered, she reveals to Walcher that Sophie is his own daughter, stolen by gypsies. An attempt by Fritz to gain Walcher’s consent miscarries but when a mine shaft caves in on Walcher, Fritz rescues him and earns his blessing.

Umlauf composed Die Bergknappen as a trial piece for the National Singspiel, the German opera company Joseph II hoped to create alongside the theatrical company (Nationaltheater) he had established in 1776. The opera enjoyed immediate success, ensuring a fair start for the enterprise with Umlauf as its music director. The work is notable for its musical portrayal of Walcher, for the brilliance of Sophie’s part (written for Caterina Cavalieri, Mozart’s original Konstanze in ...

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Julian Budden

(It.: ‘flowery song’)

A style of vocal writing characterized by abundant melismatic ornamentation and chiefly associated with Rossini and his followers during the 1820s, e.g. ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’ (Semiramide, Rossini, 1823). Examples can be found in the early works of Donizetti and Mercadante. From 1830, under the influence of Bellini, there was a steady move towards a more syllabic manner of verse-setting in which moments of ...

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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 ...

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Claque  

John Rosselli

An organized body of operagoers who hire themselves out to provoke or prolong applause (or to boo, hiss, catcall or whistle at the rivals of the artist they support). It is distinct from (but may shade into) factions of admirers who applaud (or boo) out of conviction or friendship with management or artists. Faction thrives when opera rouses strong passions in a knowledgeable audience; a listless or ill-informed public provides suitable conditions for a claque. Hence the true claque flourished at the Paris Opéra at least from the 1830s, and at the New York Metropolitan for most of this century; two managers of these houses admitted that they had on occasion used it. The claque also thrived in modern Rome with its audience dominated by bureaucrats. The organizing principle was the payment by management or artists of a claque leader, both in money and in tickets which he gave out or sold at minimal prices to a semi-permanent group of underlings; these he marshalled in the theatre to provide degrees of applause in accordance with a tariff. On special occasions the underlings might be paid. The claque leader Auguste Levasseur (...

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Theatre in Florence (opera) , in the via del Cocomero, opened perhaps as early as 1654. In the 18th century it served as the national theatre of Tuscany; it was twice restored in the 19th, and in 1859 renamed after G. B. Niccolini. Opera ceased to be performed there in 1935.

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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)....

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John Rosselli

Though the term has at times been used of Travelling troupes , in English it is more often applied to groups of singers who put on opera in a single theatre.

In Italy, where public opera was for many years given only during a season of about two months, a company was as a rule the group of singers contracted for that season only, most of whom moved on after it had ended. At most, the Naples royal theatres (S Carlo and Fondo) between about 1740 and 1860 engaged artists for a year. Opera houses capable of fielding two groups of soloists (the S Carlo and La Scala, Milan, in most years) were said to have a ‘double company’. After the breakdown of the seasonal system in the late 19th century a company was a group assembled, however briefly, to perform an opera or operas ( see Season ).

In Central Europe, where opera was long centred on courts, companies were more nearly permanent. At Eszterháza during Haydn’s tenure the median length of stay of Italian singers was between two and three years, but German singers stayed much longer (as did a very few Italians). Haydn could therefore count on a known array of (by and large mediocre) resources. In Paris, singers engaged by the opera houses under royal or, after the Revolution, government patronage were paid monthly salaries and approximated to the condition of civil servants; some stayed on for many years. Provincial French opera houses from the late 18th century to the early 20th usually engaged a company once a year for a season that might last from four to ten months. Much the same was and to some extent is still true of Central Europe. Since the 1950s, however, singers have been highly mobile; even those formally attached to a company (those of the two London opera houses included) may at times perform elsewhere....