I am in a Music in the Humanities class at school, because, primarily, I love college credit. Secondarily, I love music.
For each unit, we must perform a pertinent piece of music, make a presentation, and analyze music for what was taught in the unit.
The first unit was the fundamental properties of music. YAWN. That presentation was pretty boring. (But I aced it, so, ya know – take what you can get).
The SECOND unit, however, delves into the music of the Early Baroque period. INCLUDING – wait for it – OPERA.
Opera, as you may well know, is the origin of all musical theater as we know it.
Do you know what I love more than almost anything else on this planet?
My most kind and benevolent music teacher, upon looking at his list of presentation topics said to me, “Emma, your research presentation will be on opera. I think you’ll enjoy that.”
And boy, was he correct!
Previous to this, I had a very passive acquaintance with opera. I pretty much only knew it from those scenes in movies where the wealthy people sat in their box and had a dramatic conversation while gaudily dressed people warbled operatically on the stage.
But now I have been enlightened, and I love opera, and I want to see a real one with my own two eyes.
Did you know that any production that is entirely sung is technically classified as an opera? THAT MEANS Hamilton IS AN OPERA. Les Miserables? Opera. Into the Woods? OPERA. OPERA, OPERA EVERYWHERE!
And here’s the really cool thing (that makes a whole lot of sense if I had dedicated even a few seconds’ worth of thought to it) – opera was created as a revival of Greek and Roman theatre!
These music dudes in Early Baroque Florence (Jacopo Peri and Jacopo Corsi – “Jacopo” is apparently the “John” of Baroque Florence) were all, “You know, all the art from the Greeks and Romans was way stinking cooler than our stuff now. How can we use music to bring back the coolness?” And so they invented opera. Storytelling through music – marrying virtually all the arts into one performance. Architecture and visual art in sets, costumes, makeup and props, dance in the choreography, theatre in the story, and, of course, music in the … well, music.
And it caught on like a wildfire in Italy. In Florence, 7 opera theaters opened up, and they were immensely popular with nobility and the common people. It didn’t take long for the rest of Europe to catch on, too. It was the new big thing in Composerville – everyone who was anyone in music was writing an opera.
And it changed the music scene permanently! The advent of serious storytelling with music never really died. It gave birth not only to opera, but also later musical theatre in all its forms, balladry on a new level, the concept album – it helped show that the arts needn’t be held separate from one another when they can be so cool together.
Anyway. I’m a nerd for opera now. In case you couldn’t tell. Listen to The Crowning of Poppea, and read a translation of the lyrics as you listen – she is such a BAD LADY. It’s intense. And so good.
That is all I have for you, my friends. Opera is way cooler than anyone gives it credit for.