Music Studies: 18th Century Music

Music Studies: 18th Century Music
Journal 1. Standardisation and the International Tradition of Opera

The development of opera in the 18th century was accompanied by considerable changes. In this regard, the creative work of Metastasio, Zeno and other Arcadians was particularly significant and influential in terms of the development of the 18th century opera. The emergence of new trends in Italian opera had a great impact on the development of opera internationally because Italian composers set standards which were borrowed abundantly by composers in other countries, including France, Germany, England and others. At this point, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the opera seria developed by Metastasio, Zeno and other Arcadians embodied Enlightenment ideals. The opera seria shifted toward portraying characters able to overcome selfish desires and worshiping universal, humanistic values. Furthermore, Arcadians developed a rational approach to libretto with the help of which they brought in realism and drama into the opera seria. In addition, librettos had to match the setting that increased the realism of the opera seria. By the end of the 18th century, the opera seria became not just a mere entertainment but a social event. At the same time, the melody of the opera seria has started to change in the 18th century. In this regard, it is possible to refer to Vinci, who developed periodic melody, with balanced, often three-bar phrases. In such a way, the opera seria became periodic and focused on the periodic melody. At the same time, it is worth mentioning the fact that the opera of the 18th century was neoclassical and its neoclassicism originated from classical music of the past, which was closely intertwined with new trends of Enlightenment such as the focus on humans and increasing realism of works of art.

Journal 2. Rationalisation and Control: Tonality.

The development of the opera in the 18th century contributed to the use of elements outside their traditional framework. In this regard, it is worth mentioning dances, such as some elements of folk dances, use of chorus and ensembles in the opera of the 18th century (Heartz, 161). For instance, the use of ensembles was minimal in Italy but they were used extensively in French operas. The role of chorus has started to change and librettos played the leading part, whereas chorus backed up librettos.

Furthermore, composers of the 18th century used abundantly circles of fifth progressions. The circles of fifth progressions could be and were manipulated. For instance, composers could start with C and go around the circle of fifth progressions, whereas another time start with G. To put it more precisely, composers could start with C and than place the fifth of C clockwise of that, whereas next time they could start with G and place the fifth of G clockwise of that and so on.
Obviously, changes in the 18th century music led to the change in practices of listening because listeners should come prepared. Otherwise, they could not understand and appreciate the music and experiments of composers. As a result, listeners should have a music background and basic musical education. In addition, music became more realistic and human-oriented.

Journal 3. Comedy and Criticism: Texture and Form

The 18th century music emerged successfully due to the creative work of such outstanding composers as the Bach family, especially J.S. Bach. The contribution of the Bach family in the development of the 18th century music can hardly be underestimated (Heartz, 165). In this regard, it is important to lay emphasis on the major achievements of Bachs in the 18th century music, such as Toccata and Figure in D minor, which had ominous introduction sets that were used in many other operas as the basis for the haunted house scenario. At the same time, Bachs had managed to combine sensibility with sociability of their operas that allowed opera to enter the new level in its development and to become closer to average listeners.

In this regard, the development of comic opera or opera buffa was particularly significant because it used simple scenarios, everyday settings, simple language (often local dialects). In such a way, opera buffa became closer to the audience. On the other hand, opera buffa was a mere entertainment in contrast to opera seria, which was a social event. In addition, opera buffa still remained unnatural in regard to its presentation.

Journal 4. Dramatic Music in an Age of Spectacle and Silent Reading

Mozart and his librettists had a significant impact on the development of music in the 18th century, especially on the development of opera. They contributed to the emergence of various subgenres of opera seria, which was the opera inspired by Enlightenment, its focus on human and humanistic values which stress the importance of happiness in the real life and joys of the daily life (Heartz, 161). The opera buffa made opera even closer to the audience because it was a comic opera that comprised a simple form and easy but joyful music and simple vocal writing. In addition, Mozart and his librettists contributed to the emergence of opera semiseria, which was similar to the opera buffa due to its comic elements, but, in addition, opera semiseria contained serious elements, such as pathos and sometimes pastoral setting. Also, it is worth mentioning Gluck’s reform opera which was a combination of French and Italian opera. The music played the major part in this opera, whereas libretto complemented the opera bringing additional emotional colouring to the opera.

Journal 5. Don Jovanni: Vice and Virtue as Principles of Reasonable Conduct

Don Jovanni is an outstanding opera which combines elements of different subgenres of opera (Noske, 172).. For instance, Don Jovanni is comic as opera buffa. At the same time, characters of the opera are dramatic and melodramatic as characters of opera seria. In addition, the opera contains supernatural elements which make it closer to opera semiseria. In such a way, Mozart conveys his vision of the political and social development of the society in the 18th century. He revealed the controversy and political struggle of his century and showed profound social changes that had occurred within the 18th century.

Works Cited:

Heartz, D. (1967). “Opera and the Periodization of 18th-century Music,” IMSCR, x Ljubjana, 160–68.
Noske, F. R. (1970). "Don Giovanni: Musical Affinities and Dramatic Structure." SMH, xii, 167–203.

Music Studies: 18th Century Music 9.9 of 10 on the basis of 1764 Review.