History of Italian Opera

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Course Information
Discipline(s): 
Music
Terms offered: 
Fall
Credits: 
3
Language of instruction: 
English
Contact Hours: 
45
Prerequisites: 

Basic Musicianship

Description: 

This course aims to introduce students who already have a basic knowledge of music to the history of the Italian operatic tradition from its beginning to the present. It is well-known that musical drama as a genre started in Italy. It also developed mainly in this country and, from there, was exported all over Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gradually inheriting features unique to each nation.  Following the chronology of developments of opera composed of Italian lyrics, the course progressively focuses on each fundamental element of the musical language and dramaturgy with special attention given to the acquisition and critical awareness of a precise analytic method.  While maintaining a constant overview of the most general phenomena, some masterpieces will be analyzed from a more in- depth perspective.   Field studies will be emphasized, including attendance at the instructor’s choice of local operatic productions at La Scala and other opera houses.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.

IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.

Method of presentation: 

Lectures, DVD watching, score analysis, CD listening

Required work and form of assessment: 

Individual project/paper (10%); attendance and participation (25%); mid-term exam covering up to week 5 (25%); final exam covering the entire course (40%).

The course requires constant attention and a critical reaction to all music heard, texts read, videos watched and performances attended. Therefore, attendance is required. The course packet readings should be read throughout the semester to gain an historic perspective of all topics covered.  Students will have the opportunity to develop one musical topic of their choice by completing a research paper. The instructor will inform students of existing resources at local libraries, museums and archives.  Deadlines for submitting these individual works will be announced in class. Short quizzes may be given periodically.

content: 

Part 1
1.  The Beginnings of opera
2.  Analysis of Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea

Readings for weeks 1-2:
Grout, A Short History of Opera, pp. 49-113. Kerman, Opera as Drama, pp. 18-38.
Smith, A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, pp. 3-41.
Crocker, A History of Musical Style, pp. 223-243.

3.  Italian opera in the 18th century
4.  Analysis of Händel’s opera Giulio Cesare
5.  Analysis of Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro

Readings for weeks 3-5:
Grout, A Short History of Opera, pp. 171-182; 189-201; 208-291; 317-336. Kerman, Opera as Drama, pp. 80-109.

Smith, A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, pp. 63-118. Crocker, A History of Musical Style, pp. 340-349; 400-404.
Weiss and Taruskin, Music in the Western World, pp. 229-234; 301-302.

Part II
6.  Italian opera in the first half of the 19th century
7.  Analysis of Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di Siviglia

Readings for weeks 6-7:
Grout, A Short History of Opera, pp. 402-419.
Smith, A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, pp. 141-149; 161-179. Parker, The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, pp. 169-190.
Weiss and Taruskin, Music in the Western World, pp. 336-337.

8.  Italian opera in the second half of the 19th century
9.  Analysis of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto

Readings for weeks 8-9:
Grout, A Short History of Opera, pp. 419-433.
Smith, A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, pp. 191-206; 233-245. Parker, The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, pp. 190-198.
Weiss and Taruskin, Music in the Western World, pp. 406-411.

10. Italian opera in the 20th century
11. Analysis of Puccini’s opera Turandot

Readings for weeks 10-11:
Grout, A Short History of Opera, pp. 508-516.
Smith, A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, pp. 332-360. Parker, The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, pp. 198-205.

Required readings: 
  • Crocker, Richard. A History of Musical Style.  New York: Dover, 1966 (19862).
  • Grout, Donald Jay. A Short History of Opera. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
  • Kerman, Joseph. Opera as Drama. Los Angeles: Regents of the University of California, 1988.
  • Parker, Roger.  The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Smith, Patrick. The Tenth Muse:  A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto. New York: Schirmer, 1970.
  • Weiss, Piero and Richard Taruskin. Music in the Western World: A History in Documents. New York: Schirmer, 1984.