The birth of Opera started in the 1600’s in Florence, Italy. Philosophers, poets and musicians gathered collectively to try and revive drama and music. They came up with an opera. An opera is an onstage play that is sung from beginning to end. It is a drama, either tragic or comic, of which music forms an essential part. It is also a drama wholly or mostly sung. The whole purpose of an opera was to convey a story through characters who expressed their feelings through song. An example of one of the first operas is Monteverdi. Monteverdi is one of the most frequently performed plays and most popular.
In most operas homophonic texture is used. The homophonic texture allows the singers voices be heard more clearly to the audience. There are musical instruments that accompany the singer. For example, the cello or viola will continuously be playing in the background. As far as the style of singing, recitative is heard frequently. Recitative is a mix between the singing and the speaking. It allows the words to be more projected with clarity. Incorporating recitative style makes the texture polyphonic. Working both homophonic and polyphonic textures into opera is typical throughout the Baroque Era. Aria is also heard in opera. Aria is a fully sung vocal selection.
Music in the Baroque Era incorporates both new and old styles. Combining different styles and textures defines the music of the Baroque Era. The most important Baroque operas were in French and Italian. George Frideric Handel wrote many operas in Italian. He based his operas on Roman emperors or myth. Jean-Philippe Romeau was the greatest composer of his time. He incorporated both music and voice in his opera “Rossignols amoreaux”, to imitate the sound of the nightingale.
During the Classical Era, opera still remained the most prestigious genre. When comparing and contrasting the two Era’s and opera, the differences would include things like texture, harmony and rhythm. For example, the Baroque Era texture combined polyphonic and homophonic texture while the Classical Era texture was mainly the homophonic texture. The rhythm in the Baroque Era was usually choppy and irregular. The Classical Era rhythm consisted of a smooth flowing melody. Finally, the Baroque Era harmony served as an underlying basis for the melody. The Classical Era harmony was extremely important and more structural.
In the 19th century different strands of opera emerged like the Italian, German, French and even Spanish. Russia even followed suit. France took it to epic heights with grand opera that included dance interludes with a full ballet company and productions that lasted four to five hours. Composers like Verdi and Rossini worked in this style, and it was certainly an influence of the work of Wagner, whose Ring Cycle, a retelling of Teutonic myth, took opera to epic, extravagant proportions.