October 12 Readings/Class Notes – History
What are some of the musico-dramatic conventions we expect from others?
What is opera?
“Most narrowly conceived, the word ‘opera’ signifies a drama in which the actors
sing throughout. There are, however, so many exceptions among the operatic
works of the West – so many works popularly called operas in which some parts
are spoken or mimed – that the word should be more generically defined as a
drama in which the actors sing some or all of their parts.” - (Howard Mayer Brown,
New Grove Online)
Opera – a sense of grandeur
– master of all arts because it combines all the arts – paintings and
backgrounds, costumes, writers, performers, dramatic artists, musicians
“since all operatic works combine music, drama and spectacle, though in varying
degrees, all three principal elements should be taken into account in any
comprehensive study of the genre, even though music has traditionally played the
dominant role in the conception and realization of individual works.”(Howard
Mayer Brown, New Grove Online)
– we need to take more things into account – not only the sounds, but the
music, drama and spectacle.
How do some of these conventions appear in John Adams' Nixon in
Music, Drama and Spectacle?
– Music will tell the audience something about the character
– Characters play a role in dramatic action
– This action will involve scenes that dazzle or impress.
Action and Reflection
Recitative: “A type of vocal writing, normally for a single voice, with the intent of
mimicking dramatic speech in song” - Action.
Aria: “Any closed lyrical piece for solo voice.” - Reflection. Large cadence that
moves from this soliloquy, moving back to the recitative.
– most music falls somewhere in between recitative and aria.
- often in operas, at the beginning a character will come out and explain the
situation eg. Padra, Germania, Addio! - Ilia comes out an explains her
predicament; we understand what the dramatic action will be Nixon's Entrance A