Inside Opera Masterpieces

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Inside Opera Masterpieces

<p>All six operas are well loved masterpieces: Bellini’s Norma, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi’s Aida and Il Trovatore, Puccini’s Turandot and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Each lecture

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All six operas are well loved masterpieces: Bellini’s Norma, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi’s Aida and Il Trovatore, Puccini’s Turandot and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Each lecture provides an in-depth analysis of arias, ensembles and scenes, highlighting the dramatic and musical means by which emotional content is conveyed. We’ll consider historical background, cognitive and structural principles and relationships of text and music, defining composers' styles.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Norma (1831): Bellini’s music and Romani’s libretto present a superb example of 19th century bel canto style. The heroine, conflicts overshadowing every aspect of her life, makes the ultimate sacrifice so that order is restored. Intensely emotional, vocally and lyrically uncompromising, and delightfully beautiful.
  • Lucia di lammermoor (1835): Donizetti’s setting to Cammarano’s libretto (after Walter Scott), featuring a woman driven to the edge by patriarchal oppression. Exceptional musical portrayal of characters, ingenious usage of timbres and textures, and the grandest mad scene ever.
  • Il Trovatore (1853): Cammarano’s words (after Gutierrez) and Verdi’s music produce a breathtaking masterpiece (often wrongfully scorned by musicologists), packed with “hit” numbers. Verdi’s relentless search for “the truth” reshapes arias, scenes, vocal requirements and orchestral role as we hum along, mesmerised.
  • Aida (1871): Verdi reaches new heights with this libretto, by Ghislanzoni. The protagonists are dealing with large scale passionate conflicts within a “Grand Opera” format, coloured by “oriental” touches. The musical expression of these elevated passions builds up incredible tension, entwined with irresistible lyricism.
  • Turandot (1924): Puccini’s unfinished swansong, is set not to a “verismo” drama, but to an old tale. Gozzi’s origin is transferred to ancient China by Adami and Simoni. Puccini’s fondness of “musical sex and violence” leads to some of the most thrilling and touching arias and scenes, affectingly using the contrast between diatonic and pentatonic scale systems.
  • Cavalleria rusticana (1889): The overwhelming short opera by Mascagni, is set to a “Verismo” libretto by Menasci and Targioni-Tozzetti. This concise and coherent opera takes place in a Sicilian village amongst “very ordinary” people. It is beautiful, warm and lyrical, yet marvellously “Veristic” in musical structures and intensity, befitting the darker side of love, full of jealousy, scorn, revenge and death.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Have acquired and understood operatic and musical terminology (e.g. aria, duet, recitative, finale, coloratura, motif, texture etc.)
  2. Will be familiar with all six operas discussed, and have a good understanding of the musical means employed to serve the drama.
  3. Students will be aware of the complexity of opera as a medium, and be able to consider and discuss composers' individual stylistic choices within it.
  4. Apply the learned “decoding tools” to other operas in the future, leading to great enjoyment and satisfaction.