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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 ...

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

Stephen A. Willier

(Fr. scène de folie; Ger. Wahnsinnszene; It. scena di pazzia)

An operatic scene in which a character, usually the soprano heroine, displays traits of mental collapse, for example through amnesia, hallucination, irrational behaviour or sleepwalking. The mad scene, which became particularly popular during the early 19th century – a symptom of the post-Revolutionary treatment of hitherto taboo topics – supplies a brilliant vehicle for the display of a singer’s histrionic and vocal talents. It traditionally involved elaborate coloratura writing and commonly the participation of a wind instrument, often the flute or, in particular, the english horn. The mad scene of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) is generally regarded as the locus classicus.

The treatment of heightened states of emotion has always been central to opera. In 17th-century opera the lament was a favourite device for a heroine in extremis, from Monteverdi’s Ariadne to Purcell’s Dido. In some works of this period fully-fledged loss of reason is displayed, for example in Cavalli’s ...

Article

Stephen C. Fisher

[potpourri overture]

An Overture (opera) (opera) consisting of a series of passages excerpted from numbers in the work it introduces. The medley overture should be distinguished from the fully worked-out overture on themes from the opera as found in Beethoven and Weber, but a medley overture may show some concern for formal construction without resorting to sonata procedures.

An English collection of Six Medley or Comic Overtures, by Charke, Arne and Lampe, appeared in 1763, but these are not medley overtures in the later sense since they quote from a variety of sources and are not confined to music used in the rest of the works they originally introduced. The overture to Monsigny’s Le déserteur (1769) is on the way to becoming a true medley overture, though most of its seven little sections evidently do not derive from the opera. Dibdin was using medley overtures by the late 1770s (...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

The French word for ‘opera’ carries meanings beyond those of its counterparts in Italian or English. It usually signifies a French lyric stage work sung throughout (if composed for the Académie Royale de Musique and its successors) or with spoken dialogue (if composed for the Comédie-Italienne, the Opéra-Comique and other theatres). Modern scholars sometimes restrict the term to the former, preferring to call the latter opéra comique. In the Baroque period opéra was also the French translation for ‘opus’ (it was gradually replaced in the later 18th century by ‘oeuvre’).

In the context of stage works opéra entered the French language as a translation of the Italian ‘opera’ in the mid-17th century. In the 18th century it had two primary meanings. First, it was ‘a dramatic and lyric spectacle in which the goal was to unite all the charms of the fine arts by depicting a passionate action’ (Rousseau); its component parts were the libretto (‘poëme’), the music, the choreography and the sets (see also Brossard and Diderot). Second, on a more restricted level, ...

Article

Elisabeth Cook and Stanley Sadie

The term is used in opera to signify a number of devices which have in common that they make reference to pre-existing material, and thereby make some specific effect through the relationship with the parodied model. The word can thus stand, for example, for an entire work based in some way (by drawing on the music, the characters or the text) on an existing one, or for one that alludes to aspects of an existing one, or for such devices as the quotation of themes that are familiar in themselves or evocative of a different milieu. The objective is to create a special effect, humorous, ironic or satirical; it may often involve ridiculing either the work that is drawn upon (or parodied) or some element within the work that itself embodies the parody.

Elements of parody appear in early Venetian opera through the juxtaposition of comic scenes with ones where serious characters express themselves in elevated fashion; they serve to ridicule those who take themselves over-seriously. This tradition persisted into the comic intermezzos of the early 18th century where, very often, their plots ran in parallel in some way with those of the parent, serious opera within which they were performed. Their characters, closely linked with those of the ...

Article

Julian Budden

(It.: ‘concerted piece’)

A large ensemble of soloists and chorus generally to be found as the second movement of a central finale, to which it forms the lyrical climax. It is sometimes called simply ‘concertato’, or ‘largo concertato’ (if in largo tempo). With rare exceptions it was a constant feature of Italian opera throughout the 19th century, sometimes cast as a ‘falso canone’ or Canon (opera), e.g. ‘Freddo e immobile’ (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, 1816) or ‘S’appressan gli istanti’ (Nabucco, Verdi, 1842), sometimes led by a single voice, e.g. ‘Chiuse al dì per te le ciglia’ (Maria di Rudenz, Donizetti, 1838) or ‘Di sprezzo degno’ (La traviata, Verdi, 1853), or more rarely by two, e.g. ‘Chi mi frena in tal momento’ (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, 1835), and sometimes choral from the start, e.g. ‘Schiudi, inferno, la bocca ed inghiotti’ (Macbeth, Verdi, ...

Article

The opera-based fantasy for the piano flourished during much of the 19th century. In an era when operatic music had a strong and immediate popular appeal, as well as an aura of glamour, yet was not generally accessible to a large part of the musical public, it is not surprising that alternative means were derived for its dissemination, mostly through the most popular domestic instrument. The repertory of operatic adaptations, of one kind or another, was very large, and used not only for domestic music-making but also at concerts by virtuoso pianists.

The simplest form of piano music derived from opera is seen in the variations composed during the Classical era, for example those by Mozart on opera themes by Salieri, Paisiello, Gluck and others, or by Beethoven on themes by Dittersdorf, Grétry, Salieri and others. Chopin continued this tradition in his variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ from ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

Term used to describe a French opera, ballet de cour or opéra-ballet performed during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV whose staging required complicated machinery to produce special effects usually associated with magic and the supernatural. Lully’s Les plaisirs de l’île enchantée (comédie-ballet, 1664) and Alceste (tragédie lyrique, 1674) and Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (tragédie lyrique, 1737) are examples. While contemporaries emphasized the importance of the ‘merveilleux’ and its scenic representation as features distinguishing French operatic dramaturgy from that of spoken theatre, the term itself is rarely found in treatises of the period: one notable exception is Perrault (1674) who defined it as a synonym for opera. The term’s application is limited to the Baroque. With the changing aesthetic of the late 18th century and the virtual disappearance of magic and gods as prime movers in the action, spectacle in French operas was made to serve other ends (such as the representation of natural disasters). Nevertheless, the continuing French interest in machines and the effects they could produce, which can be traced throughout ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.: ‘occasional piece’)

Term used in France for an occasional work intended to celebrate state events, laud rulers’ actions or arouse patriotism. The term itself rarely appears on the title-pages of scores or librettos (where the more specific type – drame lyrique, opéra etc. – was preferred), but it (or ‘ouvrage de circonstance’ or similar phrase) often occurs in contemporary reviews. Rather than portray the extra-theatrical referent directly (as faits historiques did), authors selected or invented an episode that permitted their audiences readily to grasp the intended analogy.

The close ties between the Académic Royale de Musique (the Opéra) and the monarchy ensured a long tradition of pièces de circonstance there, but they were also popular at the Comédie-Italienne and other theatres. The prologues to Lully’s tragedies lyriques often function as pièces de circonstance: that of Alceste (1674), for example, welcomes back the conquering hero, to be identified with Louis XIV. Rameau celebrated metaphorically his successor’s victory at Fontenoy in an ...

Article

Julian Budden

(It.: ‘tale’)

A term used in Italian 19th-century opera to denote a narrative aria, the form of which is determined by the events it describes, e.g. Massimiliano’s ‘Un ignoto tre lune or saranno’ (I masnadieri, Verdi, 1847), Azucena’s ‘Condotta ell’era in ceppi’ (Il trovatore, Verdi, 1853) and Amenofi’s ‘Di Gerzabel nell’oasi poco lontana’ (...