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Opera and Beyond
Chapter 14
 Opera – a staged drama that is predominantly sung,
most often with orchestral accompaniment
 Performers are musicians primarily, then actors as well.
 Opera is the plural form of the word opus and
literally means work of art
Origins of Opera
 Began around 1600 in Italy, stories originally based on
ancient mythology, natural speech-singing sounds with
minimal accompaniment
 Overtime, the performances became more complex with
choruses and arias – songs for a solo singer and
orchestra interspersed with recitative – sung
conversation between characters to help advance
the storyline
 Opera seria – a serious form of opera with lofty
heroic theme from history or mythology
 By around 1780, the orchestra became more important in
performances, so dramatic aspects of the opera began to
change.
 Opera buffa – comic opera, more down-to-earth
stories
 Mozart’s 1786 opera The Marriage of Figaro (the emergence
of modern opera)
 By 1750, opera was a worldwide success. Topics shifted from
myths to topics of a personal and psychological nature.
Stories focused more on the problems of everyday life.
 Verismo – a style of Italian opera with realistic
portrayals of everyday life
 Composer Giacomo Puccini made this style
sentimental and pretty and composed some of the
most popular operas of all time.
La Boheme
 “the greatest love story ever sung”
 Puccini wrote the music, Giuseppe Giacose and Luigi Illica
wrote the libretto
 Libretto – the text of an opera or musical, including
the dialogue and lyrics
 Opened in 1896, critics did not look favorably on the opera
at first
 Story is based from a novel
The Characters
 Rodolfo – a poet who dreams of love
 Marcello – a painter with a temper
 Schaunard – a witty musician
 Colline – a melancholy philosopher
 Mimi – the “girl next door”, has tuberculosis
 Musetta – Marcello’s ex-girlfriend
The Story
 “In both Murger’s novel and Puccini’s opera, the heroine,
Mimi, dies of consumption, or TB. This disease was
commonly associated with the bohemian lifestyle in
nineteenth-century art. Mimi’s death is a powerful metaphor
for the overwhelming value of love in life. Death reminds us
that life is short, that youth is brief, and that love is the most
important things in the world. These are real human
emotions that are captured in the power of the words and
music.”
 Fermata – the sustaining of a pitch
 Pathos – the feeling of sympathetic pity or
compassion for a character
Rent – Celebrating Bohemia a Century Later
 La Boheme influenced the 1996 hit Rent by Jonathan
Larson. He died tragically of a heart attack before the show
opened. The show went on to win 4 Tony Awards and the
1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
 Many similarities/upgrades between the shows – characters’
names, jobs; the fatal disease is AIDS, not TB
Characters
 Mark – filmmaker
 Roger – a guitar player/songwriter
 Collin – college philosophy professor
 Angel – street musician, transgender, has AIDS
 Mimi -