Music 2701A/B Final: Musical Theatre – Final Exam Notes

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Musical Theatre – Final Exam Notes
Lecture 7- Back to the Beginning: Early Musical Theatre
Operetta and the Development of the Musical Play
European Operetta (and the influence of American Operetta) and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance
Jerome Kern’s Show Boat
-Shows how musical theater as we know it came to be
“Legit” Voice Types
From lowest to highest pitched voice:
-Alto (aka Contralto)
-Mezzo Soprano
-Strong parallels with character types
-The lower the voice, the older the character
Book Musicals vs. Revues
-Book musicals tells a narrative while Revues are a collection of acts- sometimes with a theme, sometimes
completely disparate
oCollection of songs or acts and sometimes they have a theme and sometimes they don’t relate at all
-Book musicals go by many names: comic operas, operettas, musical comedy, etc.
-Revues have their roots in variety, vaudeville, music halls and minstrel shows
-Vaudeville- variety show where all of the acts have nothing to do with each other and they don’t even know each
other, can be a solo singing performance, tap dancers, poodles, magicians, lots of different variety of things
Comic Operetta in France
-Considered the beginning of musical theatre as we know it
-Operettas developed from the opera comique- which came form a desire for short, light works to contrast with
opera tragique
-Back in this time going to the opera is a huge event, going to see the tragic operas and during intermission there is
a completely separate comic operetta that happens which has nothing to do with the tragic opera – tragic operetta
is usually about mythological things but in the comic there are little, funny and silly stories
-Eventually people stopped being interested in the tragic operetta and started to come just for the comic operetta
-Decided to not make it a second class event and started to make it the main event, made a theatre for it
-The composers for this comic operettas became stars because of their fun music and fun stories
- Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) is usually credited with having written the first operettas
-First big success: a two act operetta Orpheus in the Underworld or Orphee aux Enfers (1858) in the Theatre des
Orpheus in the Underworld
-Takes the traditional myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and turns it upside down:
-Characters of Orpheus and Eurydice are not sympathetic
-Jupiter wants Eurydice for himself
-This is so important because: The Orpheus story was the first opera EVER written (1605)
-Every time there was a major way or rewriting and rethinking opera people have always gone back to the Orpheus
-Wedding day when she gets bit by a snake and dies and he goes to the underworld
-Story is about the power of music
-Why its so great that opera composers have used this story
-Ability for music to move the soul
-Usually end tragically
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-Offenbach is counting on everyone knowing this story when he was writing it, he takes the story and satirizes it
-In his production Orpheus is vain and cocky and thinks he’s hot
-Eurydice knows that she’s beautiful and thinks she could have done better and Jupiter the head of the gods wants
her from himself because she is so beautiful
Act II Finale
-Listening to the End of the Act II Finale
-Jupiter causes a lightening bolt to fall near Orpheus, making him look around, losing Eurydice forever
-Everyone is happy to go to Hades to party; champagne and can-can dancing
-When Orpheus has rescued her and Jupiter is upset because he still wants her
-Orpheus is happy when she is taken and she is happy because she is in hades will all of the gods
-Character called public opinion that tells him everyone will think he’s a total jerk unless he goes to get her
-He can go on with his life knowing he tried
-But in reality everyone wants to go to Hades cause its party
-At the end everyone is partying
-This show made the Offenbach a huge star, back in those days you weren’t able to do the show yourself you had
to hire him, he would rehearse the cast and conduct the orcastra
Viennese and Viennese-Style Operetta
- Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)- first major composer of Viennese Operetta
oBecause Offenbach got so big and so expensive they decided they had good composers here and they can
have their own home grown opera
oFun comic situation, lots of fun music
-His third operetta Die Fledermaus (1874) most popular in his time
-Still the most performed operetta in the world
-French vs. Viennese operetta
oFrench is very racy and not unusual for topless girls, most women in the chorus were considered a little
more than a prostitutes, got into the job so they could attract a wealthy patron
oViennese not as free with their morals, not as racy and sexy as French, operetta girls probably also have
patrons but don’t have to dance topless
English Comic Opera
-Dominated by the team of Gilbert and Sullivan:
oWilliam Schwenck Gilbert (lyricist) (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (composer) (1842-1900)
-Produced by Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Savoy Theatre
-More like musical theatre, it isn’t music the whole way through, it is a song and then a scene of dialogue
-Still keep the essential format of the show and distinguish there’s by calling it a different way
-The most correct genre as comic opera because they like to distance themselves from the racy operettas of the
-Team produced 14 comic operas
-Huge success then, and still produced now
-Major hits include: H.M.S Pinafore (1878), Pirates of Penzance (1879), The Mikado (1885)
-Gilbert wrote the libretto (lyrics and the spoken dialogue):
oFanciful “topsy-turvy” worlds for these operas
Exotic- set in Japan or Italy or even a mythical fairy land
oImplausible characters and plots: pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong, fairies marry
British lords, gondoliers turn out to be kings, and flirting in Japan is an offence punishable by death
Plot would be all upside down and silly
-Sullivan composed the music
oMemorable melodies that convey both humour and pathos
oEven though writing music to very silly plot lines, the songs were beautiful
-Stock Characters
oHeroic tenor lover (sometimes a little slow)
oBeautiful (but ditzy and slightly vain) young soprano
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oElderly women (contralto) who holds a valuable secret or a sharp tongue- usually in love with the young
oThe bass-baritone villain, in a position of power
oThe comic or “patter” baritone- often the heroine’s father or guardian
Patter songs- very quick, a lot of words and information, doesn’t have to be a great singer but
need to have great diction because he needs to be able to get out all the information
oUsed stock characters because they used the same acting company- fit the characters to the personnel they
Also used because its familiar
The Pirates of Penzance
-Music by Arthur Sullivan
-Libretto by William Gilbert
-Only Gilbert and Sullivan show to not premiere in London
oTrying to deal with copyright issues
oThey found that their shows were so popular, and composers were going into the show several times and
writing down the show and putting on a pirated versions and not authorized
oStarted to become a major issue and there wasn’t anything they could do because the copyright laws
couldn’t help them
oWanted to protect themselves, wanted to not have this happen
oTook the whole cast to New York and didn’t give them any parts of the show
oOn the ship over they are rehearsing the opera and the day later they put on the show
oAnd the copyright laws in the US were that who ever puts it on in new York owns it in the only US and
then go back to London and put it on
oThis is so they own the North American and London copyright to the show
-Opened 1879 at fifth Avenue Theatre in NY; had London premiere following year
Listening List
-Leads are Fredrick and Mabel and he had a nurse maid named Ruth and she was supposed to take him to be an
apprentice to be a pilot of a ship, she was hard of hearing and thought the father said pirate
-Finds that his apprenticeship ends on 21st year and he is very excited but what he doesn’t realize that he was born
on February 29th (because it is a leap year) so he discovers that he is not actually turning 21 for another 60 years
-He falls in love with Mabel and has to tell her he can’t be with her because he is a pirate
-Ruth seems to be in love with Frederic
-Better Far to Live and Die (Pirate King, Frederic and the Pirates)
oThe pirate king is singing to Frederic about being a pirate king and saying how great it is to be one
-Climbing Over Rocky Mountain (Major Stanley’s daughters)
-Oh, Is There Not One Maiden Breast (Frederic and Major Stanley’s daughters)
-Poor Wand ‘ring One! (Mabel and her sisters)
oFeatures Mabel singing coloratura
oColoratura- using voice to flirt and show off and it is a display of feminine beauty
oThis is how you know she is the most beautiful and the best
oUsually sung by a soprano
-How Beautifully Blue the Sky (Mabel, Frederic, the sisters)
oPolyphonic writing: Frederic and Mabel ¾ tempo (waltz) vs. Mabel’s sisters 2/4 tempo
oThey line up on the down beat (1 of every bar)
-I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General (Major-General Stanley and whole cast)
oClassic “patter” song- probably the most famous in Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire
oServes little purpose to plot- an opportunity to show off
oHe would have to do encores, people loved these songs
oDoesn’t do anything to drive the plot, just an opportunity for him to show off
Final Thoughts on Operetta
-Operetta: a precursor of later musical comedy
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