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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

Commercial name for the New York theater district. Few of the theaters are actually on Broadway, but many are in the Times Square area. The “Broadway” designation as a term, according to Actor’s Equity, refers to a theater with at least 500 seats; off-Broadway houses are smaller.

See Musical theater.

Article

Ian Bradley

English comic-opera collaborators. The impact of the comic operas of the librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) in the United States was immediate and lasting. H.M.S. Pinafore, the team’s second significant collaboration, established its transatlantic reputation. In the absence of international copyright agreements, a pirate production opened in Boston on 25 November 1878, exactly six months after the London first night. Within a few months Pinafore mania was sweeping the country. The opera was at one point being performed simultaneously in eight New York theaters within five blocks of each other. By the time the “authorized” version opened at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York on 1 December 1879, more than 150 productions had played across the United States.

It was a mark of the instant and intense popularity of the first of the major Savoy operas, as Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas became known, that the next work in the canon, ...

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 ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet and Thomas Bauman

Both universalist and emphatically humanist in outlook since its founding in 1540, the Society of Jesus has always functioned as one of the principal educational arms of the Catholic Church and the papacy. This role developed most fully in the colleges and seminaries established by the Jesuits in Catholic lands. Here instruction stressed not only theology and philosophy but also literature. As early as the 16th century, dramatic representations were staged at these institutions, drawing together elements from the humanist theatre, medieval mystery plays and Shrovetide entertainments. The Bible served as the basic source material, but secular and often local subjects were used too, invariably with a strong emphasis on the allegorical and symbolic, and music often had an important role.

Early examples of Jesuit drama with music are recorded from the Low Countries (Josephus by Georg Maropedius, given in 1544 in Antwerp and published in Utrecht, 1552–3), Spain (...

Article

John Rockwell

An operatic work in which the musical idiom is rock and roll. Such works have little direct connection to the opera as traditionally understood. They do not use operatically trained singers; the sound is amplified; some of the more interesting examples were never intended for live performance.

If opera derives from the mainstream of the Western classical music tradition, then ‘rock operas’ are part of the far larger alternative tradition of music-theatre works stemming from non-Western and vernacular musical cultures. They may eventually join the mainstream; they may borrow, sincerely, cynically or parodistically, the pretensions and cachet of mainstream nomenclature and styles, but for now they remain an outsider phenomenon. Rock itself, born of a marriage of lower-class American black and white musics, was in part a protest not only against standard Tin Pan Alley pop music, but against high art as well (in the words of Chuck Berry’s song, ‘Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news!’)....