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date: 21 September 2023


The Oxford Companion to Music
Denis ArnoldDenis Arnold, Nicholas TemperleyNicholas Temperley, Geoffrey NorrisGeoffrey Norris, Paul GriffithsPaul Griffiths, Nicholas TemperleyNicholas Temperley, Nicholas TemperleyNicholas Temperley

A staged drama in which accompanied singing has an essential function. Opera is the grandest and most expensive of musical entertainments, and in its fullest forms has almost invariably required some kind of subsidy to survive, whether royal, national, local, corporate, or philanthropic. It has probably aroused more passion and critical comment than any other musical genre. It has been condemned as irrational and nonsensical; on the other hand, it has been considered the supreme expression of the human spirit. It has helped to bankrupt kings; it has provoked revolutionary demonstrations; it has praised monarchs, encouraged popularist movements, expounded philosophy, explored psychology; and, more often than any of these, it has simply provided entertainment. Such variety stems from the very mixture of elements in opera: music, drama, poetry, the visual arts, and (at times) dance. A reasonable definition separating opera from other forms is that it is a work intended to be staged, in which singing plays a dominant part in portraying the actions and emotions of the characters....During the 19th century the emergence of local creative talent helped foster national operatic styles in Russia, Bohemia and Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary, so curbing the Italian and French dominance which had persisted throughout much of the 18th century. As mentioned above in section 12, Russia was largely overrun with Italian and French music from about the mid-18th century, a fact exemplified by such works as ...As at many other times in its history, opera in the early part of the 20th century was polarized between two philosophies, which by analogy with contemporary literary movements can be called ‘naturalism’ and ‘Symbolism’. Naturalist composers (e.g. ...The history of music, in the end, is not about what composers do, but what the public accepts. If the avant-garde has found increasing difficulty in relating to the opera tradition, so has the audience's interest in the avant-garde dwindled almost to vanishing-point. Efforts to ‘abolish tonality’ and to ditch all operatic conventions have succeeded only in the academic world.... ...

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