According to R. Wagner opera does not mean so much a musical work, as a musical, poetical, and spectacular work all at once; opera is the work par excellence, to the production of which all the arts are necessary (Sutherland, 1). " Opera starts not with music but with its literary source (story or plot), whether it be history, biography, fiction, or mythology in the form of poem, play, drama, novel, or original libretto" (Knapp 6). Opera is a combination of mangled drama, the singers, the music and many different arts (Knapp, 3).
An opera is not an opera without the music. The musical representation uplifts the words and adds magic to an opera (Knapp 3). The two major components of an opera are the human singers and the orchestra. From the soprano to bass of the singers, their voice is not what characterizes the person (Knapp 3). What characterizes them is the mood and technique associated with their everyday activities. For example, the way you would talk over the phone in a singing mode.
When you think of the opera, you think of a masterpiece of the arts. When you research an opera you start to view the different characteristics and cultures of the art. The difference between the French Opera and Italian opera reflects their respective cultures and their history as well. Italy was the birthplace of opera. Italian opera was opera in its purest form. This Italian tradition was the central tradition, which all other nations admired and imitated (Kimbell 1).
Operas usually took place at the palaces of nobility (Kupferberg 21). The Italians in terms of opera were mostly known for singers (Kupferberg 22). Peri's Eurydice was the first opera to survive in its entirety. It owes it's origin to a wedding by proxy of Maria de' Medici and King Henry IV of France in October 1600 (Kimbell 53).
What started it all was the opera called Florentine Camera ta. With the combination of each individual creature, it brought out the astonishing creature called, the opera singer (Kupferberg 22). Venice was where the " opera" word was regular used, and it was also where the first opera houses were built (Kupferberg, 21). Late in the 1600's, opera was one of several music- dramatic genres that might Grace a festival (Kimbell 54). During the time of the 1650's and the 1750's the Castrato reigned supreme in the Italian opera (Kupferberg, 21). The castrate, were man who had their testicles surgically removed and sang both male and female parts with ease (Kupferberg, 22).
This proved that the Italians we " re really serious about their singing and anything else musical for that matter. Music and especially opera has to be out of 'something', a 'something' that lies outside and beyond the music itself. As was mentioned before, the opera is a combination of all the arts. This meant that the musical composers had to revise their respective scripts in order to give the audience a spectacular show. Italy was where everything and anything musical was done. "Between the 1850's and the 1880's composers became increasingly diligent in their search for some kind of musical unity- a singleness of consumption which was matched the unifying dramatic idea.
The quest to various forms an affected musical structure at different levels. Verdi was particularly fond of expressing the idea in terms of composing 'in a single breath' (Kimbell 549). He wanted to do the unthinkable, unimaginable, and something unheard of. He insisted on dragging out the first act without pause, without breath to emphasis the musical significances of the phrase. Of course, the different countries learned to appreciate the music then they adapted this style. I believe that the most interesting part of the Italian opera was this dedication to the music and how it was in constant togetherness with the drama.
Now the French Opera was totally different from the Italian opera. In the French opera the instruments were more of a focus than the singers. The drama was spoken rather than sung. It was performed on a tired stage, the high as being reserved for paradise (and the singers), the middle one for earth, and lowest one for hell (De muth 4). An operatic a resource that was often overlooked, was dancing. In the French Opera singing aspect and the orchestra aspect are on the same level as dancing.
Dancing isn't really a major part of the Italian opera (Knapp 10). French Opera was extremely popular, but only to the French. It wasn't as popular as German opera or Italian opera. This was mainly because in the French Opera the drama came first and the music came second.
The French language was notoriously difficult to sing properly because of its lack of strong accents (Knapp 201). To the French, words and actions were far more important than the music so the composers have really allowed the orchestra to overpower the voice and assume the dominant role in the opera (Knapp 202). In the French operas you would never see the singing overwhelming the action. At its best, the French Opera offers the unity of music, drama, and spectacle the art seeks but seldom attains (Knapp 202).
It is live, it is deep and it has something important to say. During and after the French Revolution (1780 s and 1790 s) two kinds of operas conquered Paris: opera comique was One; the other was "Grand Opera" ("grand" in the French sense of large and extensive, rather than necessarily magnificent and sumptuous in the English sense). The grand opera gradually assumed it's definite form in the 1830's and dominated French operatic life (Knapp 214). Bie zt Carmen there is one of the four most popular operas ever written. Most opera goers know this opera but they know little about the writer (Knapp 230).