Saturday, November 10, 2007

1640 – 1670 Venetian Opera

1642 Death of Richelieu
1648 Peace of Westphalia, end of 30 Year War
1649-72 English Republic
1643-72 Regency of Cardinal Mazarin, reign of Louis XIV, France

This is the generation of the beginning of Venetian opera, Lully's ballet period, the era of Carissimi and the maturity of Schütz. This is the first generation of the classic suite, trio sonata and French overture.

Vocal Music

Bel canto

Bel canto, "Beautiful singing," smooth melodic arias in triple meter over simplified harmonies, separated from recitative, dominated opera oratorio and cantata.

Venetian Opera

The first public opera house, Teatro San Cassiano, opened in Venice in 1637. Style traits were

(a) separation of recitative and aria,

(b) use of instrumental ritornelli,

(c) very little chorus or ballet,

(d) bel canto, and

(e) elaborate stage machinery necessary for the miraculous plot conclusions, "deus ex machine."
The bel canto aria was fully established in Didone (1641) by Francesco Cavalli (1602-76), also Giasone (1649), La Calisto (1651) and Ercole Amante (1662).


Early examples of this school were the final operas of Monteverdi: Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria (1641) and La Incoronazione di Poppea (1642). Marc Antonio Cesti (1623-69) composed La Dori (1661) and Il Pomo d'Oro (1667), a festival opera for Vienna.


Recitatives alternated with ostinato arias for one, two or three soloists with continuo in bel canto style, by Luigi Rossi, Cavalli, Carissimi and Cesti. One for was the Divisen or Motto aria, in which a short motive was first sung, repeated in the instruments, then sung again.


Bel canto enriched the oratorio latino in the works of Giacomo Carissimi (1605-74), Judicium Salamonis, Jonas and his masterpiece Jephtha (1650). Oratorio was distinguished from opera in the use of the testo or narrator.


Ballet de cour consisted of an optional number of entrées (scenes) danced and pantomimed with explanatory recitatives, accompanied by airs de cour with lute, choral ensembles and instrumental music. Professionals played the music while the nobility performed the dances and pantomimes. From 1650 they had coherent plots. An example was Ballet de la Nuit (1653) by Jean de Cambefort (1605-61) and Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87).

Lully and Moliére collaborated to create comédie-ballet. The first example was Le Marriage forcé (1664), also Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670).

German Opera

The first surviving German opera was Seelewig (1644) by Staden.


During the English Commonwealth (1649-60) masques were written in continuous music: Cupid and Death (1653) by Matthew Locke (c.1630-77) and Christopher Gibbons (1615-76), and Siege of Rhodes (1656, text by Davenant) by Locke, Lawes and Captain Cooke (d.1672).

Lutheran church music

Italian style continued in Heinrich Schütz' Symphoniae sacrae II (1647), for 1-3 voices, two violins and continuo, and III (1650) which returned to the grand style after the 30 Year War in works for solo voices, chorus and full instrumental ensemble. Geistliche Chormusik (1648) returned to stile antico.

Gospel dialogues were found in Musicalische Andachten (1638-52) and Gespraeche über die Evangelia (1655) by Andreas Hammerschmidt (1612-75). Franz Tunder (1614-67) continued concertato chorale.


Heinrich Schütz' German oratorios made extensive use of monody. Die Sieben Worte (1645) had opening and closing concertato choruses, recitative and choral narration and the voice of Jesu surrounded by a halo of strings; also the Christmas Oratorio (1664).


Unique in Baroque music were the unaccompanied passions of Heinrich Schütz on Biblical texts with recitative-like solos and choral turba (crowd): St. Matthew (1661), Lt. Luke and St. John Passions.


Continuo songs with bel canto influence were Arien (1638-76) by Heinrich Albert (1604-51) and Neue Arien (1667-76) by Adam Krieger (1634-1666).

Instrumental Music



In France Denis Gaultier (1603-72) wrote suites in style brisé, a free-voiced broken chord texture; collections were Pieces de luth (1669) and La Rhetorique des Dieux (c. 1655). A form of miniature eulogy was the tombeau.


In Germany Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-67) established the classic form of the suite for harpsichord:

(1) allemande, moderately fast 4/4,

(2) courante, moderate 3/2 or 6/4 hemiola,

(3) gigue, quick 6/8 with dotted rhythms, and
(4) sarabande, slow 3/2 without upbeat.
Other dances or a prelude were added. Later publications reversed the order of the gigue and saraband. He also composed toccatas, ricercars and variation canzonas for organ after Frescobaldi. In France Jacques de Chambonnieres (1601-71) and Louis Couperin (d.1661) developed the suite.

Sonata da chiesa

Sections of the ensemble canzona became longer and increasingly independent, until in the works of Marco Uccellini (c.1605-80) and Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-90) these sections became separate movements.

In 1657 the Bologna school was established by M. Cazzati (1620-77) and included Corelli, Torelli and Giovanni Battista Vitali (c. 1644-92) whose Op. 2 (1667) established the three movement (fast-slow-fast) form for the sonata da chiesa or church sonata. The Bologna school adapted the bel canto style to the violin.

Sonata da camera

Descended from the ensemble and harpsichord suite, the term sonata da camera, chamber sonata, was first used by Johann Rosenmüller (c.1620-84) about 1667. Both types of sonatas were for one, two or three violins with continuo.

French overture

Derived from Venetian opera, the French overture first appeared in Lully's ballet Alcindiane (1658); a slow, pompous introduction in dotted rhythm was followed by an imitative allegro, sometimes concluding in an adagio retard.

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