|The Chagall mural on the ceiling of the Paris Opera that I can stare at for hours!|
- The Opera House Gazetteer (This page)
- Quick link to Opera History and My Walk Through the Ages
|This incredibly large stage in a Czech castle is all but an optical illusion!|
THE OPERA HOUSE GAZETTEER
Opera has many definitions. It usually refers to a type of musical theater in the Western classical music tradition that originated in Italy, spread throughout Europe, and eventually to the world. However, it also has a wider meaning. Chinese opera, Javanese wayang, and even ancient Greek theater do not derive from this tradition, but they are definitely part of a global phenomenon of storytelling that link drama with music. I prefer to look at opera from this cross-cultural perspective. However, this nascent blog will focus, for the time being, on the Western tradition.
There are many facets to opera. These are the specific strands that will be explored in this blog. Each strand will have a "home page" of its own:
- Introduction to opera: this strand is designed for people who know nothing or little about opera, but would like to learn more. I developed this strand in my Facebook profile and intend to move the whole thing to this blog in the near future.
- The Voice Parade: this strand is an exploration of singers and their voices: soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone and bass are the main seven categories, but there are many sub-categories in between; for example, a coloratura as opposed to a soubrette soprano. Part of this strand will be a daily posting of an aria that corresponds to the voice assigned to a particular day. My system goes as follows:
- Soprano Sunday
- Mezzo-Soprano Monday
- Contralto Tuesday
- Countertenor Wednesday
- Tenor Thursday
- Baritone Friday
- Bass Saturday
- Opera Taken Apart: Using the NPR Curious Listener's Guide to opera, Chapter 4 "Opera Deconstructed" I will closely follow William Berger's program and illustrate his chapter with visual and audio samples that "reconstruct" opera by examining:
- The Story
- The Solo Voice
- The Combined Voices.
- The Chorus.
- The Orchestra Alone.
- History of Opera: Here we will explore the main musical periods in the history of music and their composers, namely the Baroque period, the Classical period, the Romantic period, the Modern period and the Contemporary period.
- The history of opera begins here! My latest project is a walk through the ages. Starting with "Dafna" the first known opera in the late 16th century, I have been following opera's progression. I got as far as England in the early 17th century before things started to get hectic at the end of my school year. I had to shelf the project for over a month. With summer around the corner, I plan to return to this blog site and continue my journey. Click on this link if you wish to join me on our Walk Through the Ages !
- Later on, we may devote a posting to a particular period (French Baroque) or take a close look at a composer (Bizet) or discuss a specific opera (Fidelio) or a series (the leitmotifs of the Ring of the Nibelungs). Although Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance music are not part of the traditional operatic repertoire, I have included these periods for the purpose of discussion, including an area for "World Music" or Non-Traditional Classical Western Music. The major divisions are:
- Ancient Music: reconstructions of what ancient Greek and Roman music used to sound like.
- Medieval Music: reconstructed sacred music. Byzantine songs in Greek and Gregorian chant in Latin. Some songs in the vernacular languages of Europe.
- Renaissance Music: mainly from the Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and German repertoires, from sacred music to dances and popular songs.
- Baroque Period Music: (1600-1750) namely the Italian, French, and English tradition. Composers include Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Lully, Rameau, Bach, Handel, & Purcell.
- Classical Period Music: (1750-1830) Mozart, Salieri, Haydn, Gluck, Cherubini, and even Beethoven and Rossini. The demarcation line gets fuzzy here!
- Romantic Period Music: (1800-1915) Weber, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Wagner, and many of the Russians like Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Also included here are the operettas of Lehar, Johann Strauss, Gilbert and Sullivan, plus the zarzuelas of the Spanish-speaking world.
- Modern Music (1850-Present) Using Wagner as the demarcation, this mainly concerns music as an experimentation with or departure from Western harmonic tradition: Richard Strauss and impressionists like Debussy and Ravel. Atonal music like Schoenberg and Berg and Minimalist music like Adams and also belong to this category.
- Contemporary Music (1900-Present) The line between "popular" and "serious" music is fuzzy. While keeping itself grounded, for the most part, in traditional Western harmony, this music is heavily influenced by jazz and its rhythms, originating from mainly Africa, and partially, from Asia. Here we have Joplin, Gershwin, Bernstein, the Cuban composer Lecuona, contemporary American and British musical theater from Rogers and Hammerstein, to Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and even Elton John!
- Other World Music: This categorizes everything that is not in the Western classical music tradition. Middle Eastern music, for example, has been influencing Western traditions ever since the siege of Vienna in 1683 with the Viennese listening to Turkish martial music outside their city walls. To read more about World Music follow this link...
- Opera for Educational Purposes: Being an educator myself, I see the value of opera as a supplement to educational subjects outside of music. Here are some of the topics I hope to cover:
- Teaching Music through Opera.
- Teaching Drama through Opera
- Teaching History through Opera.
- Teaching Modern Languages through Opera.
- Teaching Geography through Opera.
- Teaching World Literature through Opera.
- Teaching Visual and Cultural Literacy through Opera.
- Teaching Other Subjects through Opera.
- Indices and Appendices: Here are links to what I see will eventually include in this blog:
- Glossary of Operatic Vocabulary with examples
- Index to Male performers with examples
- Index to Female performers with examples
- See what librettos I've posted online
- See what full operas I've posted online
- Links to other opera sites