Singer Composer Was the Creator of Opera

Singer composer concept is returning

Singer Composer Was the Creator of Opera. Today, many do not think of singers as the creators of opera. In the early 1700’s they were. The taste in Naples, Italy at that time, dictated how opera was created. That taste was manifested in the love of vocal display. Popular idols were made of singers. Theodore M. Finney writes in a History of Music: The composers became “a kind of formality that had within it the seed of artistic sterility and death.”

Singer composer phenomenon sent many composer fleeing.
The new singer composer phenomenon  caused composer Alessandro Scarlatti to leave Naples in 1725.

 

What Happened to Opera as a Result of the Singer Composer Phenomenon?

Many composers at that time would write scores of historical interest. However, they had little if any musical interest. Opera composers turned from opera to writing for other mediums, such as instrumental. Society in Italy mainly fawned over virtuosity in musical drama. This gave rise to the Golden Age of Bel Canto. Francesco Bernardi, for example,  loaded his adagios with countless ornaments. Opera singers became heroes. Hogarth immortalizes a singer in one of his arias in The Rakes Progress: He receives the adulation of a lady who says: “One God, one Farinelli.” The composer was reduced to the sideman.

As a matter of fact, the admiration of opera singers of the at time was so tremendous that most were totally unconcerned with the excellence of an opera itself.  For that reason the music of many operas had nothing more than a figured bass and perhaps the outline of a melody. They singer flushed out the rest of the opera. The singer was also the primary composer. Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation in which numerals and symbols (often accidentals) are used. They indicate intervalschords, and non-chord tones that a musician is to play.  Historically this was most often applied to   pianoharpsichordorgan, and  lute. 

Example of writing style with figured bass.

Melody from the opening of Henry Purcell‘s “Thy Hand, Belinda”, Dido and Aeneas (1689) with figured bass below (About this soundPlay 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>