Sie sind auf Seite 1von 43



by John Koopman
“The human voice is really the foundation of all music; and whatever the development of the musical
art, however bold the composer's combinations, however brilliant the virtuoso's execution, in the end
they must always return to the standard set by vocal music.” Richard Wagner

Change, in the history of Western solo vocal performance, has arisen from a variety of
unlikely causes. Far from actively guiding the evolution of their art, most composers
and singers have been content to simply respond to the challenges and opportunities
presented by ever changing circumstance. Thus a conventional approach to the subject,
surveying the music written for solo voice, would show the effect rather than the cause
of the changes. Hopefully the approach taken here, primarily tracing the development of
opera, will be more informative. For as Paul Bekker pointed out in his book, The
Changing Opera, "...the singing voice is the root from which the opera has sprouted and
grown...the form of the opera arises from the voice; it becomes physically perceptible in
such shape as is dictated by the development of the voice...the history of opera becomes
the history of the voice."

A comprehensive history of singing is yet to be written, and this brief piece is but an
introduction to the subject. In the interest of concision it has been necessary to simplify
or omit much of importance, and those interested in more detail are encouraged to use
this work as a point of departure. A bibliography of readily available English-language
materials has been provided for this purpose. A glossary of the terms which first appear
in the text in upper case letters will be found at the end of each section.


“In the beginning was the voice. Voice is sounding breath, the audible sign of life.” Ibid.

“Men sang out their feelings long before they were able to speak their thoughts. But of
course we must not imagine that "singing" means exactly the same thing here as in a
modern concert hall. When we say that speech originated in song, what we mean is merely
that our comparatively monotonous spoken language and our highly developed vocal music
are differentiations of primitive utterances, which had more in them of the latter than of the
former. These utterances were, at first, like the singing of birds and the roaring of many
animals and the crooning of babies, exclamative, not communicative--that is, they came
forth from an inner craving of the individual without any thought of any fellow-creatures.
Our remote ancestors had not the slightest notion that such a thing as communicating ideas
and feelings to someone else was possible.” Otto Jespersen, Language, Its Nature,
Development and Origin
Singing, the vocal production of musical tones, is so basic to man its origins are long
lost in antiquity and predate the development of spoken language. The voice is
presumed to be the original musical instrument, and there is no human culture, no
matter how remote or isolated, that does not sing. Not only is singing ancient and
universal, in primitive cultures it is an important function associated not so much with
entertainment or frivolity as with matters vital to the individual, social group, or
religion. Primitive man sings to invoke his gods with prayers and incantations, celebrate
his rites of passage with chants and songs, and recount his history and heroics with
ballads and epics. There are even cultures that regard singing as such an awesome act
they have creation myths relating that they were sung into existence.

It is likely the earliest singing was individualistic and improvisatory, a simple imitation
of the sounds heard in nature. At what point the singing of meaningful, communicative
sounds began cannot be established, but it was doubtless an important step in the
creation of language. Many anthropologists believe the development of a lowered
larynx (important to articulate speech, as it effectively makes the flexible lower tongue
the front wall of the pharynx) was a relatively recent aspect of human evolution.

There are no bones in the human larynx, so archaeological remains offer no direct
physical evidence of the vocal apparatus of prehistoric man. We lack studies that
correlate vocal characteristics to body size, the basic gender difference aside, but there
is general belief large-bodied peoples (Slavs, for example) frequently produce low-
voiced singers, while small-bodied peoples (Mediterraneans, for example) produce
more high-voiced singers. If there is any validity in this, the voice that belonged to the
owner of the prehistoric jaw bone unearthed in 1909, at Heidelberg, Germany, may have
been remarkable--it is half-again the size of a modern jaw.

Carrying the idea of relating body size to vocalism into more recent periods, we see
modern man has grown too large to fit the armor of medieval knights and, still more
recently, we suspect an increasing rarity of the male alto voice type. Tempting though it
is to see a relationship between such things, we lack the means to support it factually.

Based on our knowledge of the singing of present-day primitive peoples, a possible

scenario of musical development would begin with simple melodic patterns based on
several tones. Pitch matching (several persons singing in unison) might emerge next,
with singing in parallel motion (the natural result of women or children singing with
men), call-and-answer phrases, drone basses and canon as subsequent steps. All this
could lead to an evolving sense of tonic and scale structure (primitive music often uses
pentatonic scales) and the development of such basic musical devices as melodic
sequences and cadential formulae.


The major early cultures that were sources for Western music each had distinguishing
musical characteristics that related, in some degree, to their respective languages.
Experts recognize that a culture's spoken language and its musical expression influence
each other, but the relationship is very complex and not well understood. That modern
French woodwind players produce a distinctive timbre, that 6/8 metrics are nonexistent
in Hungarian folksong, and that Western classical vocal technique developed in an
Italian-speaking region are examples of the relationship.
It is not known when or where art music--as distinct from folk music--began, but there
is evidence the various Mesopotamian cultures that thrived from 3500 to 500 B.C.
already considered music an art, and their writings mention both professional musicians
and liturgical music. It is a song, the Sumerian Hymn to Creation, dated before 800
B.C., which is the oldest notated music extant.

Egyptian musical culture existed by the 4th millennium B.C., and music was prominent
in the social and religious life of the Old Kingdom. Egyptian instruments changed
significantly as the New Kingdom era (1700-1500 B.C.) began. The change, which may
have reflected foreign influence, was from delicate timbre instruments to louder ones
and was surely followed by similar changes in singing tone for, over time, a culture's
instrumental timbres and vocal tone always tend to match. There are many drawings
extant showing that large choruses and orchestras existed in the New Kingdom.

Grecian culture had a highly developed art music that showed signs of both a folk music
origin and some Egyptian influence. The poetry of Sappho (600 B.C.) and others was
often sung in contests, with melodies and rhythms based on the poetic meters. Singing
was associated with all forms of literature and with dance. The ode, the dithyramb (a
choral tribute to Bacchus and the forerunner of tragedy), and the drama all employed
singers who moved to the rhythm of the music. By 500 B.C. ventriloquism had been
described, and both choruses and solo voices were being used in drama. Greek
philosophers attached great value to music and to its cultural purposes. The
PYTHAGOREAN SCALE (see Glossary) and a complex theory of music were

The Judaic culture has preserved some melodies that may go back to 500 B.C. The
Psalms of David and the Song of Solomon were sung, and we know of an early
presence of professional musicians. Both responsorial (a soloist answered by the
congregation) and antiphonal (alternating congregational groups) styles were used in
singing the Psalms. After the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 A.D., Jewish
music became exclusively vocal. As the dispersed and transient Jews would learn, the
human voice is a readily portable instrument, and communal singing serves to bond its
participants in both form and purpose. Like the Egyptians, Jewish singers may have
shared musical directions and reminders with hand-signs (CHEIRONOMY).
Cantillation, the intoning of sacred texts using ancient melodic formulae, written with
symbols called ta'amim, was an important musical format. Jewish prayer chants, which
were based on ancient melodic lines and often highly ornamented, would have a
considerable influence on Christian plainchant.

What little we know of Roman music shows it to have been derived from the Greeks but
primarily instrumental and military in nature. Still, Seneca (4 B.C.-64 A.D.) wrote of
being disturbed late one night by loud sounds coming from a group of singers practicing
vocal exercises.

Singing was such an important part of early Christian worship that its ritual and music
developed together and became almost inseparable. It borrowed music from other
religions and from existing secular tunes and slowly developed a form of liturgical
chant. It was a style based on sinuous melodies of limited range, expressed in free,
unmetered rhythms. These were sung as solos or in unison by unaccompanied male
voices. The various scale formats in which they developed were eventually refined into
a complex theoretical system of so-called church modes.

As the Christian church became organized it tried to suppress secularism and secular
singing while advancing both itself and its chosen musical style--plainchant. As a result,
little evidence remains of the secular musical activity during the early centuries A.D.,
and we can more easily follow the evolution of singing as it is reflected in the
development of sacred music, specifically that of the Latin-speaking Roman Church.


In the fourth century A.D., Christianity became established as the official religion of the
Roman Empire and a SCHOLA CANTORUM was founded by Pope Sylvester. The
Roman Catholic Church would control the development of Western music for the next
thirteen centuries, a span that saw music change from simple unison chant to the highly
developed polyphonic choral style of Palestrina. This era was marked by a recurrent
pattern, roughly three centuries in period, when the reigning Pope, concerned with the
purity of the church's music, would order stylistic retrenchment and place new restraints
on the creativity of those who were prone to elaborate the music of the MASS.

Three styles of chant melody evolved: syllabic (for clergy and congregation), neumatic
(several notes to a syllable, for choristers) and melismatic (florid, for soloists). Metricity
in either chant texts or melodies was uncommon, but occurred as early as the fourth
century. About 600 A.D., Pope Gregory (whence Gregorian chant) reorganized
the Schola Cantorum . His reforms standardized the liturgical repertory and changed the
character of the Christian service from unbridled ecstasy to subdued reverence. By 800
A.D., the repertory was again being enlarged with newly created material called
TROPES. Plainchant manuscripts are extant from the ninth century, which was also
when the first known examples of polyphony occurred and the deterioration of chant
began--to continue into the thirteenth century--as its original simplicity was gradually
effaced by the ongoing use of specialized singers and their introduction of
ornamentation and virtuosic effects (see JUBILUS ). About the tenth century, musical
notation began suggesting pitch movement by placing symbols above or below a
horizontal line and the slow development of multiple-line staffs began.

In the graphic art of the Middle Ages, singers were often shown with strained
expressions, their furrowed brows, protruding veins and exaggerated mouth positions
suggesting an effortful, possibly nasal quality--twangy or reedy--like the instrumental
colors of the time. Chaucer, in his fourteenth century Canterbury Tales, described
singing of the time as being 'intoned through the nose'. Straight tone was the probable
norm, with vibrato being reserved for use as an ornament, as were a stock of ancient
vocal devices: portamenti, turns, trills, and the intentional use of the qualities of the
various vocal registers. The yodel was probably used as well.

The idea of high and low pitched voices arose with the coming of polyphony in the
ninth century. As polyphony developed in complexity, better educated singers were
required, and one of the training devices created (by Guido D'Arezzo, 11th century) was
the Guidonian Hand, the basis of a sightreading technique, SOLMIZATION, still used
today. By the eleventh century, portamenti were being used on certain consonants in
chant performance and the singing of descants had begun. These were elaborations
performed against a cantus firmus, the protracted notes of a plainchant melody. Those
who sustained the prolonged notes were called 'holders' or tenors, while those who sang
the descant part 'against' them were called contratenors. The contratenors often sang the
'high' part, eventually called the altus , and, later, those who sang a part intertwining
with the altos were named--predictably--contraltos. Eventually these parts were
surrounded by two outer contrapuntal voices, appropriately named sopranus (above)
and bassus (below).

Organum was the name given to early polyphony (800-1250 A.D.). Simple organum
used two voice parts that sang in parallel fourths or fifths and eventually these two
voices were doubled at the octave. Free organum (11th-12th centuries) employed an
expanded harmonic vocabulary, allowing perfect fourths, major and minor thirds and
the major second, while fifths and semitones were avoided. Parallel, oblique and
contrary motion and crossing voices were increasingly used to obtain pleasing
harmonies and to avoid the tritone, which was held to be 'the devil in music'. As
polyphony developed (14th-17th centuries) rhythmic notation was introduced. The
fourteenth century ars nova (new art) style developed bolder harmonies, required
wider vocal ranges and used more interesting rhythms (though bar lines would not be
introduced until late in the sixteenth century). Though ever higher treble voices were
needed, the Church could not resign itself to the use of female voices (proscribed in I
Corinthians 14:34) and turned instead to the increased use of boys with unchanged
voices (putti ). But boys suffered the drawback of having relatively brief useful careers
after their protracted training, and the next step was to use mature males singing in the
falsetto register. The fifteenth century saw the Council of Trent attempt to restore purity
to the liturgy by outlawing the use of such elaborative material as tropes and
SEQUENCES. It also saw important new activity in the creation of polyphonic Masses
and MOTETS. As the developing contrapuntal style generated interest in the range and
timbre differences of the lower male voices, the last primary voice-type term, baritone
(Greek for 'weighty sound'), came into use.

Then, from Spain (where Moorish harem-guard eunuchs had been the probable models),
came the first castrati. These were adult singers whose testicles had been surgically
removed before puberty. (Youthful castration stabilized the infantile larynx and resulted
in the development of an unusually large rib cage. Both soprano and alto voices
resulted.) A castrato first joined the putti and falsettists (now called contraltini ) in the
Papal Choir late in the sixteenth century. This was also when the rich polyphonic choral
style of the Renaissance would end--while at its very peak--to be replaced by a
revolutionary new musical style centered on soloistic vocalism: monody. The
happenstance that a number of leading choral composers (Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Guerrero,
Hassler, le Jeune, di Lasso, Merulo, Morley, Nanini, Palestrina and de Victoria) all died
within the span of twenty years (1594-1614), helps explain the abruptness with which
the great polyphonic choral era ended.
The nuove musiche (new music) style that began the Baroque period (1600-1750) was
homophonic, and featured a melodic line supported by a vertically conceived harmonic
accompaniment. From our modern vantage point it may be impossible to appreciate
what a remarkable idea this was, but at a time when music was almost exclusively
contrapuntal and each voice was horizontally conceived and of equal importance to
those around it, it must have been revolutionary.

The homophonic style is typified by the Protestant hymn or Chorale, and it may have
been that the sixteenth-century Reformation movement--which used vernacular
language in worship and expected its congregational members to participate in singing
during the service--gave impetus to the use of the new, relatively simple homophony.


Though their purpose was to recreate ancient Greek drama, the

FLORENTINE CAMERATA effectively established a completely new manner. Their
operas (works) were what we would consider classical plays, sung throughout in a
formless, text-centered recitative. Yet they altered the history of music by opening a
new venue for musical creativity and performance--the secular world of the theater. The
impact this had on singing was revolutionary: women's voices could be used, dramatic
expressiveness entered the realm of singing, the skills of moving and acting while
singing had to be learned and the reverberant acoustic of the church was traded for the
less favoring design of the theater. Also, a new and competitive presence, the
instrumental accompaniment, was developing. The old unaccompanied style, with its
relative ease of emission, would soon be reserved for use 'in the church'--a cappella.
Attending and heightening this time of artistic disjuncture would be the fundamental
transition from modality to major-minor tonality.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


Before the era of musical notation ensemble singing was often guided by a
leader making hand signals to show pitches. A similar idea, the Curwin Hand
Sign System, is in active use today.


A group of artists intellectuals and musicians who, in Florence, at the end of the
sixteenth century, often met to discuss ancient Greek drama and its performance

In early plainchant, an ornamental vocalization that was sung on the final vowel
of the word alleluia. It was so popular with liturgical performers its use survived
even the reforms of Pope Gregory, c. 600.


The basic liturgical structure of the Roman Catholic sacred service and the
music that attends it. The Mass developed over many centuries, and two
categories of material came to make up its form: the Ordinary (items ordinarily
present in every Mass) and the Proper (items inserted when proper to the
occasion). Sung elements of the Ordinary are
the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. In the Proper,
such sung sections as the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion
may occur. Portions of the Mass have been sung in plainchant since the earliest
history of the Church, and for four centuries (1200 to 1600 A.D.) the polyphonic
Mass was the primary format for serious musical composition.


An unaccompanied choral anthem intended for performance in the Catholic

sacred service. It was an important form of composed music and underwent
considerable change during its long span of active use (1250-1750 A.D.).


An eight-tone diatonic scale the Greek mathematician Pythagoras (c. 550 B.C.)
created by reordering the tones he derived from a circle of fifths.


A training school for the papal choir in Rome. It became the center for the
development and dissemination of the church's music and sent out singers to
other churches.


The oldest and most important form of TROPE, originally occurring on

the alleluia of the Mass. Unlike older chant, this newly created material often
used expanded vocal ranges and formal compositional devices such as melodic


A music reading method that associates syllables (do, re, mi, etc.) with pitches
of the diatonic scale. Many ancient cultures had developed similar systems
before this one was created for use in teaching sightreading to monks.

A textual addition to the official Catholic liturgy. Some were adapted to
preexisting melismas (hence contrafacta ) but others were sung to new melodies
freely derived from the plainchant melody.


Throughout its history, opera has consistently presented singers with the greatest
challenges of any vocal genre. Pertinent steps in the development of opera
(conveniently, the longest active span of any musical form) now become the path of
choice in tracing the evolution of vocal performance.

OPERA DEVELOPS (1590 – 1680)


The time of opera had arrived. What began as a cerebral salon experiment by the
Florentine Camerata, quickly became an elaborate and expensive entertainment format
that allowed the leisure class--royalty and courtiers--to exhibit their wealth in displays
of extravagance and excess and to do so under the guise of art and culture. Composers
came to the new form not only because their royal patrons demanded it, but because the
theatrical style, stile rappresentativo, let them exercise their expressive skills and find
ways to represent varying emotions and dramatic situations with their music. (The long
established sacred style had offered little opportunity to make music sound as though it
had either emotional content or programmatic meaning.) Singers were drawn to opera
for the same reasons: it offered them new challenges and more artistic latitude than had
sacred music.

The early years of opera were a time of experimentation. There were no compositional
models or performance traditions; everything was new and untried. In assigning
performers to roles, for example, no thought was given to which voice type was most
appropriate for a particular dramatic role. Instead, Baroque logic dictated that the most
important roles be cast with the most skilled singers. The element of virtuosity was so
prized in their casting it quite outweighed whether the gender of the performer and the
role matched. We must appreciate that at a time when the term soprano could mean a
female, a male falsettist or either of two neuters (a boy soprano or a castrato), the
concept of a voice type being exclusively linked to a particular gender had not yet
developed. Thus a Baroque hero may have looked like, sounded like, and been a female
soprano, but the idea that he was any less a hero because of it, never crossed their
minds. What was paramount was that the hero was a virtuosic vocalist.

Experiments were made with where the instrumentalists should be located. Various
arrangements behind, over, and on the stage were tried (there were no wing areas as
yet). It was finally decided that the best place for them was down in front of the stage
where, in ancient Greek amphitheaters, there had been a 'dancing place'
or orcheisthrai. This was an important decision, as it increased the distance between the
stage and the audience, and meant singers would evermore need to sing at intensity
levels that could carry across this space. It would also mean that someday, someone
positioned here, using gestures that could be seen by all, could establish tempi, signal
dynamic instructions and generally control the performance not just of the
instrumentalists, but of the on-stage singers as well.


There was a rapidly rising middle class in European society, and the year 1637 saw the
opening, in Venice, of the first public opera house. No longer would musical theater be
the exclusive domain of royalty and the court: now anyone with the price of admission
could attend. The expenses involved in producing opera were great, so when public
ticket sales--instead of the royal treasury--were paying for it, a large audience was
needed. The necessarily larger public theaters required both expanded orchestras and
singers capable of greater projection and volume. In recognition of this, the first great
genius of operatic composition, Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), suggested in one of
his scores that the number of string players could be doubled, if necessary, to suit the
hall. As it was inefficient to maintain a large opera house for infrequent performances,
singers were expected to appear with increasing frequency and less intervening rest, and
one early Venetian opera was so successful it was performed twelve times in seventeen
days. For economy, casts were limited to about six or eight singers and the chorus was
first reduced in number and then eliminated entirely. As audiences could not be
expected to attend the same opera repeatedly, the repertory had to be enlarged, a variety
of works performed, and composers commissioned to create new ones.

“Between 1637 and the end of the century, 388 operas were produced in Venice itself and
probably at least as many more by Venetian composers in other cities. Nine new opera
houses were opened in this period; after 1650 never fewer than four were in operation at
once, and for the last two decades of the century this city of 125,000 people supported six
opera troupes continuously, the usual seasons filling from twelve to thirty weeks of the
year. Citizens were admitted on payment of about fifty cents, and wealthy families rented
loges by the season. Within a short time the whole typical modern organization of opera,
based on a combination of broad popular support and strong prestige appeal to the upper
social classes, was in evidence....” Donald Grout, A Short History of Opera

The early public opera houses were yet another experiment of the times. They were the
equivalent of a present-day big screen television lounge, civic center, teen hangout and
sports hall all rolled into one. Performances lasted many hours, during which lovers
flirted, dinner was eaten in the boxes, gossip was shared, games played, business deals
made, the latest fashion in gowns and wigs compared and, occasionally, some of the
performance was listened to, if only to hear if the new castrato was as good as everyone
was saying.

The lowest-priced tickets admitted patrons to the main floor of the house where there
were no seats, so they stood or circulated amongst the crowd. Those who had rented a
box could bring in chairs in which to sit and, at their leisure, watch either the
performance or the crowd. The candles lighting the auditorium burned undimmed
during the performance, the audience talked freely throughout the evening and the high
noise level was often complained about in contemporary accounts. This excessive noise
would eventually lead to the convention of ending recitatives with loudly sounded
cadential chords (coups d'archet ), to alert the inattentive audience that an important
aria was about to begin.
There was also a good deal of noise generated by the complex machinery used for the
scenic effects. This was a time when the scenic designer was the most important artist in
the theater, and audiences were so entranced by the extraordinary effects these artists
could create that new operas were often based primarily on the innovative visual
possibilities their plots would allow. Elaborate machines were designed to make clouds
appear in the sky, cities sink into oblivion, or enable gods to descend from the heavens--
DEUS EX MACHINA . There was frequent mention of the noise such equipment made,
and eventually composers wrote instrumental music to be played at critical points to
mask these sounds. The mechanical noises combined with the masking music must have
made the stage a loud place in which to perform.

Little experimentation was needed in scheduling the opera season. Even today, Italian
theaters are uncomfortable in hot weather and both audience and performers suffer in
the warm climate. On a hot summer night the discomfiture on stage must have been
nearly intolerable, heightened by the heavy Baroque costuming and the heat and glare
from the many candles and oil lamps used for stage lighting. The fumes of the oil
lamps, blended with the pungent aroma of the crowded, perspiring audience and their
spicy food, must have made a remarkable effect. The cool winter months quickly
became established as the season (stagione ) for opera.

Composers were commissioned to create operas for a given theater and a given season,
which is to say for the specific singers of the company. A composer could not write his
opera until he knew precisely which singers would be singing it, for he was expected to
shape his music to fit the particular capabilities of the performers, that each might be
heard to the best possible advantage. This ability to feature the special skills of the
singers, while minimizing their technical weaknesses, was considered a great virtue in a
composer. (The practice has continued; Gian-Carlo Menotti often wrote roles expressly
for Marie Powers, Benjamin Britten for Peter Pears, and Samuel Barber for Leontyne
Price.) The slow accretion of such works--specifically tailored to display the utmost,
sometimes freakish, abilities of several centuries of vocal artists--into a basic repertory
for the present day, imposes a challenging composite of demands on modern-day
singers. There is, for example, an opera in the current repertory with two famous tenor
arias: a florid one especially designed for the singer who created the role, and a
substitute, legato aria written for a subsequent production in which the new tenor
couldn't manage the original florid aria, but specialized instead in a delicate style with
superbly sustained line. A modern-day audience expects its tenor to sing them both.

There was no expectation a newly commissioned opera would ever be performed

anywhere else or by another cast. Only unusual success would occasion its performance
elsewhere, and in such a situation the composer would be expected to rework his score
to fit the new singers and theatrical conditions. This assumption of impermanence led to
some practices that differ markedly from those of today. Scores were written hurriedly,
in a form of musical shorthand (FIGURED BASS), with the expectation that the
composer would be playing the harpsichord in the orchestra and could fill in any needed
details of harmony or melody. Specific performance suggestions (dynamics, tempi,
fermati, etc.) were not needed or given. Such matters were prerogatives of the singers to
be changed, from performance to performance, as it suited them. The idea that in future
centuries there might be an interest in such performance details was unsuspected, and
even if they had wanted to make note of such things, the means were not at hand. The
METRONOME wouldn't be invented for another century and a half, and only imprecise
methods existed for recording ideas about amplitude (DYNAMICS). So it was that the
grandeur of writing for posterity was lost in the scramble to have something ready for
next week.

The expressive style of vocalism that was developing was a lyric one. Extreme range
was not sought and rarely used and, by today's standards, the dynamic range employed
was subdued. An important part of the singer's training was devoted to the development
of vocal agility and flexibility and to the art of ornamentation (COLORATURA).
Unlike today, dramatic intensity and excitement were not expressed with amplitude or
extreme range but with rhythmic motion. Their 'excitement style'--stile concitato ---
employed instrumental tremolo (rapid restatements of a pitch), the quick repetition of
chords or chordal patterns, heightened tempi, increased rhythmic density in the
accompaniment and an agile, pattern-based melodic line for the singer. It was rapidity
of musical movement that signaled dramatic intensity in this style, and floridity and
bravura (skilled) vocal agility were its ultimate means of expression. Virtuosity was the
primary test of a singer's merit, and all voice types, basses and sopranos alike, were
expected to be capable of considerable dexterity.

In creating the assortment of contentious city-states that crowded their peninsula, the
Italians had long programmed themselves to resist integration and standardization. Each
city was a self-sufficient center of activity. There was no compelling reason why one
locale should match the musical tuning pitch of another, and old organ pipes and tuning
forks confirm they did not. These also tell us the same was true in other European
countries and that tuning pitches were generally lower than those of today.

Eventually most of the performance practice experimentation had been done and the
needed answers obtained. The scene was set for the next pertinent development in opera
and singing--advances in the organization of musical material.

Popular tastes prevailed at the box office. Impresarios moved away from noble, classical
stories and sought operas on more interesting historical or dramatic subjects. The
formless monodic style evolved into an effective recitative format that, for variety and
interest, was mixed with moments of accompanied lyricism and vocal display.


The developing SECCO (dry) RECITATIVE format allowed for a good deal of
expressive rhythmic freedom. Its specialized form of accompaniment was extremely
flexible and accommodating and, because the singers used reduced dynamic levels as
they recited, it was designed to be transparent and delicate in amplitude. For these
recitations, the orchestra stopped playing, and the composer, at the keyboard
(eliminating the need to rehearse an ensemble), played a simple harmonic foundation of
sustained chords. The fewer harmonic changes involved--verticalities requiring
coordination with the singers--the easier. The light, clear timbre of the harpsichord let
the voices cut through easily. Several conventions were soon added: Chords were often
broadly arpeggiated to firmly establish a harmonic change in the singer's ear and
cadential chords were often delayed until the singer had finished delivering all the text.
Because harpsichord tone decayed rather quickly, a 'cello was often used to sustain an
ongoing bass-line presence.

The idea of the aria--a refreshing melodic oasis in the midst of an otherwise featureless
desert of recitative--was very much to the public taste. The singers, looking for more
opportunities for expressivity and virtuosic display, welcomed it, as did composers, who
saw it as a useful formal device and an opportunity to be forthcoming rather than
constantly subordinating their music to the text. Early aria forms were usually either
strophic or had several sections of contrasting material arranged in such patterns as A A'
B B' or A B B'. Librettists were quick to supply the needed texts--a few lines of lyric
poetry, complete with meter and rhyme scheme--offering a pause in the storytelling as
the character turned inward to reflect on his condition and emotions. The basic formula
involved an initial forthright statement, followed by a brief elaboration or explanation:

A. : I feel sweet love's emotion.

B. : Like Cupid's darts, her bright glances have pierced my heart.


A. : My cause is just.
B. : The foe must bow before the strength of my resolve!

As this kind of material could be rearranged and repeated in about any configuration a
composer's whim might dictate, it would not be long before the first clear examples of
the DA CAPO ARIA (A B A' ) were forthcoming.


A third formalistic unit, the arioso, also emerged. It was a formless, metered recitative
performed with orchestral accompaniment. Statements of relatively intense emotion and
the dramatic peaks of a work were usually expressed in these ariosos, and it was here
the boldest harmonies and widest vocal gamuts were used. The development of these
three basic forms--recitative, aria and arioso--gave composers distinctive formats for
their narrative, lyric and dramatic expressions, and they were so employed in the
composite vocal forms of the time: opera, CANTATA and oratorio.

Other formal units within the opera were being developed, and the orchestra was
beginning to be used in its own right, not merely as an accompanist. With their penchant
for ballet, the French required the inclusion of dance in the operas of their great court
composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Lully, who had devised a manner by which
the essentially nonmetric French language could be successfully set in recitative, was
also responsible for the creation of such purely instrumental items as the overture and
the instrumental interludes played when scenery noises needed to be covered. Soon
some instruments would be used in obbligato or duet passages with the singers. In such
incidental music were the seeds being sown that would eventually lead to the full
flowering of the orchestra.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


A relatively diminutive composite vocal form that developed early in the

Baroque era. It was based on a continuous text, with a lyric, dramatic or
religious subject. The Italian cantata would parallel the course of opera seria
and degenerate into a vehicle for virtuoso display. In Germany it took a more
serious and dramatic bent and ultimately merged with the sacred oratorio.


The term refers to the filling in of the long (white) notes of a musical line with
briefer (black) notes, thus darkening or 'coloring' it. The Baroque aesthetic
viewed the unadorned as vulgar and common and, in its quest for fantasy and
symbolism, it favored the ornate and the artifice of floridity. Those interested in
learning more about this should read The History of Bel Canto by Rodolfo


Da capo meaning to return 'to the head'. By about 1650 the binary aria form
was being extended by a repetition of the A section after the B section was
completed. This created the musically satisfying (though dramatically
problematic) form, A B A'. In the eighteenth century such arias would become a
superb vehicle for vocal display.


Literally, 'god from a machine'. This was a convention in ancient Greek and
Roman drama that allowed a diety, brought in by stage machinery, to intervene
in a difficult dramatic situation.


Although the harpsichord and early organs could not significantly change
amplitude, singers and the other instruments could and did. By 1638 the
symbols F, P, E and t were used to mean loud, soft, echo and trill. It is
important to note that before 1750 crescendi and decrescendi were chiefly for
the vocal performance of single sustained tones (messa di voce ).


Also called basso continuo, thorough bass or through bass. This is a

stenographic means of indicating the accompanying part by the bass notes only,
using figures to show the harmonies to be played above the bass line.


The first successful apparatus to show the precise tempo of a piece was not
invented until 1816. Beethoven was the first noted composer to use it.

Simple harmonies supporting a rapid, syllabic, parlando vocal mode mark this
style. The vocal line is more direct and less ornamental than in the earliest opera,
and the use of melodic and harmonic formulae everpresent.


With its internal units--the da capo aria, secco recitative and arioso--well defined, and
the experimental phase of its theatrical presentation completed, Baroque opera would
enjoy a period of relative stability. Still, the processes of formulization and refinement
of detail that took place had their effects on singing.


The structure of the da capo aria was built on musical key relationships and became
rigidly established. An opening section established the basic tonality with a tonic-
dominant-tonic pattern. This was followed by a second section, in a related key, using
new material and the same three-part modulation plan. The entire opening section was
then repeated, with the expectation the singer would use this opportunity to display his
taste, virtuosity and imagination in the highly esteemed art of ornamentation, and it
should be understood that during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries singers
probably never executed a solo part as it was written.

To have arias specially written to favor their vocal skills gave singers an important
display opportunity. Apparently every singer thought his role should be so graced, and
rules had to be established to control the order and distribution of arias within the opera.
Each performer was to have at least one aria in each act, but no one might have two in
succession. No aria could be followed immediately by another of the same type, even
though performed by a different singer. Lesser artists must have fewer and less
important arias than the leading artists (see ICE CREAM ARIA), and so on. There was
also an irresistible temptation to carry a few especially favoring arias with one (they
were called arie di baule --luggage arias) and, should the composer of the next opera
not produce anything quite as complimentary, interpolate (insert) one's tried and true
aria into the new work. It was this kind of thinking--viewing operas as an assemblage of
interchangeable parts--by not only the singers, but by deadline-pressured librettists and
composers, which ultimately led to the pasticcio , a work in which nearly everything
was borrowed from other sources and simply strung together to create a 'new' whole.
The idea of musical copyright was several centuries away.

Handel's oratorio, Messiah, dated 1741, has become the best known work of this period
and though it is not an opera, it serves to illustrate many major aria types of the time. Da
capo arias were used less frequently in oratorio than in opera, and there are only two
in Messiah: He was Despised (technically, a dal segno ) and The Trumpet shall Sound,
though the bravura bass aria, Why do the Nations, is an implied one. They are almost
never performed as such today. With the growing tendency to classify and formulize,
arias were carefully categorized:
The aria cantabile was characterized by a smooth, gentle melody that, combined with
a simple accompaniment, gave ample opportunity for ornamentation by the singer. The
text usually dealt with a gentle or tender subject. (He shall Feed His Flock like a
Shepherd demonstrates the style. )

The typical aria di portamento was strong in rhythm, slow in movement and had
frequent sustained notes that offered many opportunities for embellishment. It used a
flowing, sedate accompaniment and dealt with a dignified, grand or sublime subject. (I
know that my Redeemer liveth ).

The aria di mezzo-carattere usually employed an andante tempo and a rich, full
accompaniment. It had less pathos and restraint, but more dramatic power than either of
the types mentioned above. (O Thou that Tellest ).

The aria di bravura employed an allegro tempo and was often written simply as an
opportunity to display the singer's agility, range or skill of execution. (Rejoice Greatly ).

The aria parlante , also called agitata or infuriata , was a declamatory opportunity for
the expression of emotion and passion. It had few long notes and little opportunity for
ornamentation. The rapidity of motion was proportionate to the violence of the passion
expressed. A syllabic vocal line and elaborate accompaniment were usual. (Thou Shalt
Break Them ).

In the aria d'imitazione , the voice imitated the trumpets, flutes or violins, and the text
often involved natural phenomena: storms, bird calls or the hunt. Echo effects and
coloratura duels between the singer and a solo instrument were often involved. (The
Trumpet Shall Sound ).

In the Protestant countries, oratorio developed in parallel with the opera and for musical
purposes they are very similar. Based on sacred subjects, the oratorio and Passion (an
oratorio dealing with the death of Christ) were performed without the visual trappings
of the theater. The role of the chorus was more prominent and vigorous in oratorio than
opera and, when performance in a church setting allowed it, the organ often played a
prominent part in oratorio accompaniments. The orchestra, not being limited by the size
of a theatrical orchestra pit, was often enlarged.

Librettists and composers viewed arias as discrete units, each of which could be devoted
to the expression of a specific mood (affect). Dramatic situations were contrived to
allow as much variety in these mood states as possible, even though the progression and
unity of the plot might suffer as a result. And always, important words in the text were
set with appropriately descriptive WORD PAINTING devices.

“The Doctrine of Affections, a set of musical cliches or melodic conventions...became the

established technique for the composition of vocal works. Its basis was the attempted
analogy between music and speech....Related to this doctrine was the restriction to one
mood (or affect) in each aria: joy, sadness, jealousy, anger. Because of this limitation,
much Baroque music is monothematic.” Elaine Brody, Music in Opera

As producers and impresarios tried to establish and maintain their audiences in an

increasingly competitive field, they sought to present the best performers available.
Gifted singers found themselves increasingly in demand and, as box office attractions,
their position within the hierarchy of the opera company rose considerably. Opera had
become the entertainment industry of its time, and the finest singers were becoming
stars of international renown. The losers in this process were the stage designers, for
librettists no longer centered their plots on sensational scenic effects but instead sought
ways to feature and favor the new vocal stars. No doubt the funds formerly devoted to
constructing stage machinery were now being used to attract famous singers.

New theaters were constantly being built, reflecting not only the rising public demand
for entertainment, but also the fact these buildings sustained a heavy risk of fire. Most
were wooden structures and any carelessness with the lamps and candles used for stage
lighting doomed them. The result provided opportunities for renewal and, inevitably,
enlargement of the theaters. Increasing the capacity of the house--with all its
implications for increased orchestra size and louder singing--was yet another way to
provide more box office revenue to pay the fees of the new stars.

“Until the end of the seventeenth century the English playhouses had wide, deep aprons
that extended as far forward from the proscenium arch as the stage proper stretched
behind....The modifying of this platform stage was one of the most important changes made
in this era in the structure of theatres.....About 1696...the manager of Drury Lane Theatre
cut off part of the apron stage in order to gain extra room in the theatre....The orchestra
now had its place in front of the stage and was no longer in a box or gallery.....Covent
Garden Theatre, opened in 1732, was 51 feet from the stage to the back of the boxes. The
owner economized on space by allowing only 21 inches per person.” Benjamin W. Griffith,
Jr., The Beggar's Opera

The basic system of resident company members and visiting artists--which exists in
many companies today--was forming, as were new ideas of role assignments. Each
company had a prima donna (first lady), a soprano who played the part of the heroine,
and a seconda donna , an alto, whose role usually made her the heroine's confidant or
rival (or both!). There was also a primo uomo (first man), who was a musico (as the
castrati were now called) and played the hero and central character, and a secondo
uomo , a basso, who played a variety of roles--villain, priest, king or father--depending
upon the story. These primary singers were usually foreigners, often Italian, hired at
great expense to sing with the company for the season. A small group of resident
singers was maintained to fill out the plot requirements with a variety of small roles:
duennas, maids, messengers and conspirators. These singers were called comprimari :
those who perform 'with the primary' artists.

The style of acting, like everything about opera at this time, was highly formulized. It
consisted mainly of stock poses assumed by the singers as they moved to traditional
locations on the stage that comported primarily with their importance as performers and
only indirectly with the dramatic situation of the characters they were representing.
Strong emotions were not portrayed and, as in ancient Greek drama, violent action took
place off-stage and was reported by messengers as having occurred. There was a good
deal of coming and going, for convention required that a singer exit the stage
immediately after delivering an aria, thereby giving opportunity for the departing
performer to be applauded. If audience reaction warranted it, the singer was expected to
return and repeat (encore ) the aria with different, more impressive improvisatory
flourishes. Woe be to any performer unable to improvise new ornaments and capable
only of repeating his previous 'improvisation'!

The musici , were easy targets for ridicule as well as admiration, unmistakable not only
in their vocalism but in their physical appearance as well. Their operation feminized
them and while some were extolled for their physical beauty and could have passed for
women, many became quite tall and carried abnormally large rib cages on poorly
developed legs. There is some difference of opinion concerning their acting skills. It is
recorded that the great Farinelli, the most famous musico , "stood perfectly still when he
sang and made few gestures." But an observer wrote of another, Nicolini, "His action
was so significant that a deaf man might go along with him in the sense of the part he
acted." On balance, they probably acted no better or worse than other singers, though
we know of one musico , Guadagni, who studied acting with one of the best actors in
Europe. He may just have been a uniquely adventuresome person, as he also sang
the Messiah under Handel and so was probably the first musico to perform in a
language other than Italian.

That the musici could sing was not disputed:

“The vocal range of the musico seems not to have been remarkable for its extent, but his
facility in execution was stupendous. Composers and singers strove ever to invent new feats
of vocal jugglery with which to bewilder and delight the public. The flexibility of Farinelli's
voice was so highly developed that the violins in the orchestra could not follow him in his
flights. Cafarelli was renowned for the perfection of his trill and was the first to embellish
his airs with rapid chromatic scales.” Francis Rogers, The Male Soprano

Trained as thoroughly in the art of ornamentation as they were in vocalism, these

phenomenal virtuosos expected, like all singers, to elaborate and complete the
composer's musical outline with their improvisations. In doing so, they gained a hold
over their audiences comparable to the most popular entertainers of today. Their fame
and fortune was so alluring it became the dream of many poor families that their son
might help them escape poverty through such a career. Riding the crest of public
adulation, it seems the musici should have little fear for their future. Yet in reality their
fabulous FIORITURA displays were becoming excessive and badly slowing the
movement of the already meager drama. The restless public would soon find the light,
comic interludes (intermezzi ) performed between the acts of the serious operas--like
half-time shows in modern day sporting events--were more to their liking than the main


These intermezzi , which soon developed into comic opera (opera buffa ), did not derive
from a musical tradition, but came instead from the old Italian COMMEDIA
DELL'ARTE and other theatrical traditions. Their plots were more realistic and direct
than the stilted, formalized ones of serious opera (opera seria ) and their characters
were broadly drawn and entertaining. Small casts of three or four singers and actors
romped through secco recitatives, arias and several formats rarely used in opera seria :
duets, quartets and ensemble finales. The buffo acting style was relatively realistic and
the emphasis was on the entertaining situation rather than the singing. There was no
place for the musico in such works. His vocal skills weren't needed and the artificiality
he represented had no place in the realism of comedy.
Small touring companies took these lively buffa entertainments all over Europe,
playing their part in popularizing and establishing the genre. Opera seria slowly
assimilated many features of the comic style: more melodious, often folksong-like arias,
a range of small vocal ensemble forms, the rapid patter song (often assigned to the
basso, thereby increasing the importance of this voice type), the advancement of the
tenor from comic or character parts to the role of the lover, and a variety of aria forms,
including a new type of cantabile aria, often cast in a minor key and using chromatic

The final decades of the Baroque era saw the gradual return of the chorus to opera
seria and several significant changes in musical instruments. The organ, harpsichord
and lute family had their lower ranges extended and the string bass joined the orchestra.
The violin family with its warm, singing tone replaced the cooler, more restrained
instruments of the viol family. The bassoon and oboe replaced the Renaissance shawm
and crumhorn, and the clarinet and French horn joined the orchestra. The idea of
EQUAL TEMPERAMENT in tuning started to gain acceptance and the vox humana
stop, the tremulant and swell box (a crescendo and diminuendo device) were invented
for the organ.

“The alternation of forte and piano was now widely used as an aid to expression. New,
graduated dynamics, dependent not merely on the actual nature of the instrument, but also
on the personal control of the performer, won increasing favor, and the instrument-makers
took this tendency into account.” Karl Geiringer, Instruments in the History of Western

So it was that a new keyboard instrument was beginning to interest musicians. Unlike
the harpsichord or the organ, it could produce a wide variety of dynamics, depending
upon how strongly its keys were depressed. Its Italian developer named it after this
novel and useful feature, calling it the 'loud-soft' or fortepiano .

Not everybody welcomed such a newfangled machine. One old-fashioned German

composer, a certain J. S. Bach, had little use for it and never owned one or wrote any
music for it. But the trend was toward acceptance not only of the instrument but of the
underlying idea. Music would be getting louder.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


A very old Italian theatrical format in which recurring characters such as

Arlecchino (Harlequin), Colombina and Pantaloon improvised plays based on
stock situations: a crafty valet, the rich old man who is duped, the pedantic
doctor, the pert maidservant, etc. Such famous operatic characters as Figaro,
Don Pasquale, Doctor Bartolo and Despina clearly reflect this ancestry.

Also called gorgia(e), embellishments or divisions. A variety of ornamental
vocal elements, many of them centuries old, were in common use at this time
and, of course, categorized. Practice varied, but the writing in of ornaments by
composers was generally frowned upon as being an intrusion on the creative
prerogatives of the performer and detrimental to the visual clarity of the melodic
line. The most common ornaments:

 Accenti : Similar to modern portamenti.

 Appoggiaturi : Accented nonharmonic tones added to the melodic line,
similar to present-day grace notes.
 Cascata : A descending scalewise passage inserted to connect two
principal melodic notes. See tirata.
 Esclamatzione : A 17th century effect: a crescendo and decrescendo on a
sustained tone. See messa di voce.
 Gruppo or Shake: The same as a present day trill.
 Messa di voce : A prolonged decrescendo drawn out to inaudibility. The
18th century descendant of the esclamatzione.
 Passaggi : Scalewise runs and patterns.
 Ribatutta di gola : A trill-like pattern performed in dotted rhythm.
 Tirata : An ascending scalewise passage inserted to connect two
principal melodic notes. See Cascata.
 Trillo : The multiple rearticulation of a single note with ever increasing
rapidity. Later called martellato.
 Vibrato : In an age of straight-toned singing, the purposive use of vibrato
was an important ornament. We hear a similar effect today, from players
of fretted (straight-toned) instruments, when they occasionally employ
vibrato on sustained notes.


Convention required that even small roles--those cast with young, inexperienced
singers or aging ones with waning powers--be given an aria. The audience
looked forward to these contrived, vocally limited spots as an opportunity to
leave the theater briefly and, without missing anything important, go have ice
cream. Berta's aria, in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, is a late, easily accessed


There are small differences in the acoustical distance between the pitches in the
scale of each musical key. A subtle, equalizing, mis-tuning (tempering) of these
intervals, while effacing the distinctive acoustical profile of the key, makes it
possible for instruments to modulate without having to be continually re-tuned.
The idea took a century to be universally accepted and, in that it enabled more
facile movement between tonal centers, may be considered the first in a series of
steps leading toward modern-day atonality.


The setting of descriptive and important words with melismas, altered 'exotic'
intervals, striking dissonances or other appropriate treatment. For example, skips
to low tones on such words as plunging or abyss, or to high notes on heaven
or arise; melismas with wavy patterns on seas or ocean, dissonant harmony
on agony or prolonged notes on endless or eternal. This sort of writing, which
glossed words with illustrative musical configurations, visual or audible,
pervaded the last half of the Baroque period and culminated in the works of
Bach and Handel.

EXPRESSIVITY (1760 – 1850)

The heady sense of revolution and change present in the political air was beginning to
enter and embolden other areas of human endeavor. Artists--playwrights, poets, painters
and composers--and their works were strongly affected. (It may actually have been the
other way around. In Napoleon's opinion it was the writing of the play, The Marriage of
Figaro, by Beaumarchais, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.)
Opera, a fusion of the arts and always a sensitive reflector of its time, showed great need
of change. Singing, too, would have to adapt to fit the times.

Until now composers and singers had been equal partners in the creation of the music
the audience heard, the composers sketching a basic musical outline that the singers
then completed with their ornamentation. But singers had upset the balance of this
partnership when they no longer reserved their ornaments to the CADENZAS or the da
capo section of the arias. They were adding elaborate embellishments everywhere,
lengthening works intolerably and displaying their personal skills at the expense of the
drama and music. The singer's abuse of their ornamentation prerogatives had
made opera seria little more than a concert in costume and a vehicle for a self-serving
star system.

The Italian opera buffa had awakened all Europe to the pleasures of the comic opera
format and to the possibility of bringing new values to the lyric stage. Italy had
created opera buffa from its unique theatrical traditions, and other countries now
reshaped the genre for their own consumption. The English form, ballad opera, took
well-known melodies and folksongs for its arias and often parodied opera seria in its
plots. Other national forms, the Singspiel, opéra comique and zarzuela , brought
entertaining action, an almost mandatory happy ending and an enjoyable, eclectic
musical style to their audiences. More important than their differences were the basic
features these national types all shared: the naturalism of spoken rather than sung
dialogue, the immediacy of performance in the language of the audience and, most
importantly, the vitalizing premise that it was the work, not the performer, which was
primary. The 19th century European operetta (Offenbach, Gilbert & Sullivan, Johann
Strauss, Jr., et al.) and its offspring, the American Broadway Musical (Victor Herbert
through Andrew Lloyd Webber), are startlingly direct descendants of these works, all
being set on precisely the same foundations.

All this comported well with the idea of naturalism with which the leading thinkers of
the time were so concerned. But serious opera did not fair so well in the new
philosophical light. The contrived seria style of the high Baroque could not continue to
exist in such a climate and would have to be purged of many of its affectations.
Fortunately, there were creative artists ready to take up this task, and as it was the work-
-the opus itself--that was now to become primary, it would be the creators of the work
who would, by extension, gain in importance.


Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787) is the composer most often credited with
leading the reforms. Two of his statements briefly summarize his ideas:

I have tried to restrict music to its true function of aiding poetry in the expression of the
emotions and the situations of the story, without interrupting the action or smothering it
under vain and superfluous ornaments.

No matter how gifted a composer may be, he will produce only mediocre work if he is
not inspired by the poet...All arts must imitate Nature. That is the goal I try to achieve in
my music, which I try to keep as simple and natural as possible, merely attempting to
emphasize and lend greater expression to the poetic declamation.

Composers of the time took to themselves a greater share of the creative responsibility
than before. In a fundamental change, the amount of vocal ornamentation allowed in
performance was diminished and increasingly controlled by the composer. Librettists
made their contribution to the new style with plots in which the characters and
situations were increasingly natural and realistic. The form-bound plots of the great
Baroque librettists, some of which had been set and reset forty or fifty times, were put
aside in favor of more dramatically fluid works in which vocal display opportunities
were traded for improved continuity and theatrical validity. Arias, though they did not
yet include any physical action, were no longer addressed directly to the audience, but
became either a soliloquy or a communication between the characters in the story. The
extended finale ensemble was developed, as was a new aria form that employed only a
brief recapitulation rather than a complete da capo section. Acting was gaining
importance as a presentational skill for the singer. The comparatively realistic buffo
acting style was adopted for use in serious opera and the expression of a wider range of
emotion undertaken. New libretti allowed the chorus, which had been a passive
commentator on the story, to take a more active role. To further heighten the theatrical
sense of the performance, the front curtain was being drawn between each act.

Operas, as much as singers, were now creating international interest and the public
wanted to hear the works that had been successful elsewhere. As operas thus gained
longer lives and productions in more than one locale, their composers could not always
be present for the production and they began to fill their scores with increasing detail
and more complete instructions. A new personage, the conductor, would join the ranks
of the opera company to act as the composer's unofficial surrogate. The conductor's
duties--artistic control of the singers and orchestra, supervision of tempi, balance and
ensemble, and the completion of any figured bass material--were soon established, and
have not changed much since.

In a letter written in 1781, as he was composing his Singspiel , Die Entführung aus dem
Serail, W. A. Mozart detailed some of its musical features, thus providing a glimpse of
the leading edge of expressive concepts of the day. He wrote of the first act tenor aria :
“...Belmonte's aria in A major, "O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig". Would you like to know how
I have expressed it--and even indicated his throbbing heart? By the two violins playing
octaves...I wrote it expressly to suit Adamberger's voice. You feel the trembling--the
faltering--you see how his throbbing breast begins to swell; this I have expressed by
a crescendo . You hear the whispering and the sighing--that I have indicated by the first
violins with mutes and a flute playing in unison.” Eric Blom, Mozart's Letters

Clearly, the orchestra had shed its subservience and was becoming an important element
of the performance. Instruments could now be controlled to sound through a wide
dynamic range, players had gained considerable virtuosity and the quality of their
ensemble was improved. A music school and orchestra in Mannheim, Germany, became
famous for developing many elements of the new Classical style: melodic prominence
of the violins, homophonic (non-contrapuntal) texture, presto -like quick tempi,
extended crescendi , general pauses, unexpected fortissimi and replacement of
the basso continuo accompaniment by written-out orchestral parts.

In an important step toward blending the internal units of opera, the orchestra began to
be used to accompany some recitatives.

“...the continuo function gradually faded as did the pre-eminence of the harpsichord and
accompanying instruments. Horns and winds lost their predominantly solo or tutti function:
oboes no longer played merely solo parts or doubled the violins when all the strings were
playing, but joined the flutes and bassoons to create a woodwind ensemble. This ensemble,
with the horns (and other brass, to some extent), began to fill the inner harmonies...the
classic orchestra of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert ...had four groups:
woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings, each of which had a specific function. The
strings were in four or five parts (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, and double bass), and there
were pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, and horns, sometimes trumpets, later clarinets, plus
percussion.” J. Merrill Knapp, The Magic of Opera

The musical world had been expanding for some years in directions other than opera.
Major instrumental forms and orchestral organizations were becoming so developed
there would soon be composers who would specialize in writing instrumental rather
than vocal music. The cantata had been given an instrumental counterpart, the sonata,
and a wealth of other instrumental chamber forms had developed. The symphonic form
was well established, and the concerto had evolved into the form for virtuoso soloist and
orchestra we know today. The idea of public recitals and concerts had begun and a
miniature vocal form, the song, was becoming popular.

The period of Viennese Classicism--with its clarity and restraint--was brief, devastated
at its very peak by the early death of Mozart (1756-1791). It would be followed by a
new style, based on quite different values--subjectivity and overtly expressed emotion.


Early Romantic operatic composers viewed the old musical intensifiers, rhythmic
motion and floridity, as too limiting and began to explore a previously underused
expressive resource--amplitude. They soon found that the nature of the vocal instrument
requires most singers to choose between amplitude and flexibility. Both qualities are
rarely found, to the degree desired, in the same singer. As composers expanded their
expressive vocabulary, employing either agility or amplitude as suited their purpose,
singers had a practical choice to make: they would have to become specialists and
prepare themselves as either lyric or dramatic types.

The song (Lied ) became an increasingly interesting format as the Romantic poets
produced poems filled with forthright emotion and heightened expressivity. Composers
responded by exchanging old strophic and folksong-like forms for a through-composed
manner more suited to their expressive needs. The song would become a major vocal
genre but, designed as it was for the lyric voice and piano accompaniment, it did very
little to extend the boundaries of vocalism. Still, as poetry by the likes of Heine, Rückert
and Eichendorff had more substance than the lines of even the finest operatic libretti,
the song provided an alternate vocal format with heightened poetic and intellectual
values. In this way it played a useful part in the Romantic trend, guiding vocal writing
away from its previous virtuosic bias and toward a literary one.

In opera, the development of more forceful singing soon led to an expansion of the full-
voice range. The emergent tenor voice provides an interesting example. Until now, A
had been the top full-voice pitch for tenor, though such artists as Giovanni Rubini
(1794-1854) and Adolphe Nourrit (1802-1839) were singing up to F above high C in a
mixed voice or reinforced falsetto manner. About 1835 the first full-voice, declamatory
high C came from the throat of one Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896). Rossini prophetically
described the sound as "the squawk of a capon having it's throat cut." But the die had
been cast, and both increased amplitude and extended range soon became basic to the
new dramatic vocal style. (To put Duprez's accomplishment in perspective, it should be
noted the Paris Opera tuning of the time put C at the frequency of 446, making it a
slightly sharp high A in modern terms.) Vibrato, formerly reserved for occasional use
as an ornament, unavoidably attended more powerful singing and would soon become
ubiquitous. Rubini was notorious for this new vibrato presence and must also be held
responsible for the creation of the tenor sob.

High and powerful quickly replaced agile and ornate as dramatic intensifiers and the
vocal feats of choice, and the musici were doomed. Mozart was the last great composer
to write anything enduring for them--the motet Exsultate, Jubilate (with its
famous Alleluia ), and La Clemenza di Tito. Napoleon outlawed castration in Italy in
1806. The French had never embraced it, and England last heard a musico in 1844. The
last musico , Alessandro Moreschi, a member of the Papal Choir, died in 1922, but not
before making some now historic phonograph recordings.

The tenor, the male voice with the highest gamut, fell heir to the musico's position.
With this adjustment the distribution of operatic roles, based on voice type and gender
instead of vocal skills, became established and remains essentially unchanged to this
day. Only Rossini's operas, featuring the dramatic coloratura contralto, in both male and
female roles, remain as significant exceptions. Today, the basic voice-type labels
(soprano, alto, tenor, bass) have become generic terms. In Italy, for example, the quality
of an operatic tenor's voice can now be further defined with such terms as eroico,
drammatico, di forza, robusto, lirico spinto, lirico, di grazia, di mezzo carattere,
leggiero and tenorino . Such specialized nomenclature reflects the variety of demands
found in today's repertory.
A simple high-note count for the tenor roles of several operas of this period and later,
demonstrates just one aspect of the situation:

Guillaume Tell I Puritani Tannhäuser La Bohème

Rossini Bellini Wagner Puccini
1829 1835 1845 1896
G 456 153 143 52
Ab 93 13 52 45
A 92 35 24 11
Bb 54 4 - 8
B 15 4 - -
C 19 - - 1
C# 2 3 - -
D - 2 - -
F - 1 - -
(Table from Edgardo Carducci's, The Tenor Voice in Europe)

The new, louder dramatic vocal style allowed the size of opera houses to be enlarged
again. Technical improvements included wing areas adjacent to the stage, a prompter's
box and an enlarged orchestra pit. The conductor's location within the pit was becoming
standardized so the players would, while facing him, direct their sound toward the
audience rather than toward the stage. Some houses built in this period still stand, or
have been rebuilt to their original plans, and are in active use today. Audience capacity
had expanded manyfold over the past century, and houses seating several thousands
were no longer unusual. The capacity of the La Scala opera house built, in Milan in
1778, was 3,600, that of the San Carlo, built in Naples in 1816, was 3,500.

Even these figures fail to reflect the increasing physical dimensions of the houses. Seats
were being installed for every ticket holder, and the space these required expanded the
size of the auditoriums considerably compared to when most of the audience stood.
Nothing like an acoustical science yet existed to guide the architects who planned these
structures, yet most of them are very satisfactory in this regard. Empirical design
knowledge and an abundant use of wood in the auditorium yielded the results they

Bigger houses inevitably required louder orchestras and, by 1816, the La Scala orchestra
had a string section of fifty players, many of whom probably had the neck of their old
instrument strengthened so they could use the high tension stringing that had come into
vogue because of the brighter, louder tone it provided. Instead of two winds and brass,
large houses used three or four in a section and mechanical improvements in these
instruments were increasing their amplitude. Special instruments like the English horn,
bass clarinet, contrabassoon and modern harp were also being introduced.

Opera was over two centuries old and a considerable repertoire had been amassed.
Seasons were no longer devoted primarily to newly commissioned pieces, but included
revivals of previous productions and operas that had been premiered elsewhere. If
works were old fashioned, the practice was to revise them so they would conform to the
practices then current. Female artists donned armor and false moustaches to sing
former musico roles, and old operas were rescored to reflect contemporary orchestral
abilities. All works worthy of being revived were accorded such treatment, often by the
best current composers. It was no less than Mozart who revised Handel's Messiah by
writing additional orchestral parts for it. So it was that old roles, which had been
carefully tailored to previous generations of artists, were increasingly imposed upon
current performers, to be sung in significantly enlarged theaters, while contending with
expanded accompaniments.

In many large opera houses, the growing tendency was to support a permanent
company, with a large roster of resident singers. There were obvious managerial
benefits in having more than one singer available to undertake a role on short notice, or
of playing an opera 'in repertory', with different singers performing it on alternate
nights. Having a ready supply of native artists, capable of singing national or regional
works in the vernacular, was also useful. It may have been the conversion from
the stagione to the repertory system that occasioned the rise of a new personage--the
artist's representative or agent. As singers were increasingly hired for specific
productions, rather than entire seasons, their agents could bargain on their behalf for the
most desirable roles and conditions.

Opera was no longer completely dominated by Italian artists. Other countries had
developed their musical and vocal resources well enough to make worthy contributions
to the genre. The Germans brought ponderous sobriety to their works and lent an
increasing import to the orchestra in their operas. The French developed the elements of
epic grandeur, pageantry and scope, employing massive choral scenes and lengthy
ballets. Their expensive costuming and lavish scenic effects became the standard for
what is still called Grand Opera. The subtle interaction between a culture's spoken
language and its music, contributed to the disparate voice-training methods and goals
that evolved in the major European countries. These methods still differ in a variety of
ways, and readers interested in this subject should read the detailed study by Miller
listed in the bibliography.

The Italians went their way. Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), Italy's foremost early
Romantic composer, maintained "Opera is voice, voice, voice!" and, though pointedly
writing out the ornamentation he wanted, generally held to the conservative, florid vocal
style. His compatriots, Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) and Gaetano Donizetti (1797-
1848), joined him in this and established that brief span of creativity many revere as the
age of BEL CANTO .

Their development of the cabaletta format is of interest:

“....[the] cabaletta was a fast, vehement aria or duet, of extremely crude form and
sentiment; it always came after a slower, quieter piece for the same singer or singers, and
served to provide a rousing curtain. The form was strophic, and of the simplest pattern
(AABA or ABB); the accompaniment consisted of a mechanically repeated polonaise or fast
march rhythm. Between the slower aria and its cabaletta, a passage of recitative
or parlante served to present some sort of excuse for the singer to change his mind.”
Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama
In his single attempt at theatre music, the other towering master of the time, Ludwig van
Beethoven (1770-1827), wrote a Singspiel based on a rescue plot. For our purpose it
contributed little, save one minor innovation: he had the orchestra play while some
spoken dialogue was being delivered. This idea of melodrama (to use the word in its
original sense) was just one more step toward the next major development in opera; the
increasing integration and merging of its formal units.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


Italian for beautiful singing. The term was not in common use until about 1880,
when it may have been used in reaction to the Wagnerian vocal style. In present
usage it usually refers to the Italian singing methods of the seventeenth and
eighteen centuries (particularly the early Romantic period) with its emphasis on
virtuosity and beauty of tone.


Ornamentation used to embellish the cadence of an aria, usually on a 6/4 chord

before its resolution to the dominant in the closing formula. It was introduced by
Italian opera singers in the late seventeenth century and soon after that in the
German style. The French did not use it until nearly a century later. Among the
many conventions that applied to it: it should begin with a messa di voce , last
no longer than the duration of a single breath, and end with a trill.

CONTINUOUS MUSIC (1850 – 1920)


The German genius, Richard Wagner (1813-1883), dominated the first half of this
period, and no other person, before or since, has had such a profound effect on opera
and singing. His ideas developed in detail and application over his lifetime, and it is
their most advanced state that is summarized here.

Wagner felt he had reached a higher level of integration between music and drama than
the term opera conveyed, and preferred to style his works 'dramas'. They are now called
music dramas. He wrote both the text and the music and shaped them, in the spirit of the
time, as GESAMTKUNSTWERKEN . An important tool in achieving this integration
was the Leitmotiv (leading motive), a device that strongly bonded dramatic meaning to
a musical idea. It involved assigning a brief melodic theme or harmonic sequence (a
motive) a specific dramatic meaning. There could be such a motive for each person,
thing or concept in the story: a spear motive, a sword motive, an earth motive, a magic
fire motive, a redemption-through -love motive, etc. When one of these dramatic
entities or concepts appeared in the story, it was attended by its own special music.
These motives were worked into the orchestral material in a stream-of -consciousness
manner, and with a little foreknowledge of their significance a listener could understand
the basic story line without even hearing the singers. Used in another way, the motives
could convey such subtleties as the true intent or thoughts of a character, even when the
words he sang said something else: If a treachery motive is played as the villain is
mouthing assurances, the audience would know, even if his victim did not, that he
cannot be trusted. Wagner's development of this material was remarkable. Often several
motives would be sounded simultaneously to create a complex, interwoven tapestry of
sound and meaning, or a motive would be altered slightly to suggest some change in the
condition of its dramatic counterpart. It was such a direct and useful link between music
and dramatic communication that virtually every theatrical composer since Wagner has
used the idea, from the Kiss Motive in Verdi's Otello, to the throbbing bass pattern
announcing the presence of the shark in the Jaws movies.

Assigning this quality of meaning to the instrumental score obviously split the focus of
dramatic communication, and the onstage performer now had to share his storytelling
function with the orchestra. The singer was no longer a soloist being supported by
orchestral accompaniment, but had become yet another element in an integrated whole--
precisely Wagner's goal.

Wagner conceived his stories as extended, real-time continuums. His dramas used few
of the standard formal units of opera, though division of the story into acts remained, as
did the orchestral overture or prelude. His real-time approach to the story almost
eliminated duets in which the singers sang simultaneously. Arias, recitatives, ariosos
and ensembles were dispensed with, replaced by 'continuous melody', which flowed
throughout an entire act, giving no hint of formal cadence or musical close. The
interpolation of vocal ornamentation by the singer was totally forbidden by the
composer, nor was any to be found in these virtually syllabic scores, save on rare
occasions when the story prompted it. Even these were not the old ornaments of grace
and volubility, but dramatic displays of vocal strength and power: swooping Amazonian
battle cries or the jolting power of a forging song.

The theatrical tendency was to portray a widening range of emotion and dramatic
situation. Though such writing called for ever stronger musical treatment, the early
Romantic composers had not clearly broken with the long held concept that music had
to be pleasant to be good. Wagner turned this corner. His advanced chromaticism and
delay in resolving suspensions resulted in harmonies that were audacious for the time.
He frequently approached the boundaries of tonality and, even today, with our
dissonance-jaded ears, we can find sounds in Wagner that cannot be called pleasant. His
successors would go still further in this direction to be sure, but it was Wagner who saw
that dramatic music needed to be free to portray a complete range of situation, the vile
and unspeakable as well as the divine and transcendental. Henceforth, music would
express a widening gamut of emotion, and singers would need the requisite aural and
musical skills to deal with complex musical structure and dissonant harmonic
surroundings. As a measure of where we have come since then, it might be noted that in
Vienna, in 1863, the premiere of Tristan und Isolde was abandoned after seventy-seven
rehearsals and the work judged impossibly difficult to perform.

The concept of tailored writing was unacceptable to Wagner who, perhaps unwisely, did
not permit his creative imagination to be restricted by practical concerns. Rather, he
penned his music as he wanted it and then tried to find someone who could sing it.
Traditional ideas of voice use were seriously challenged by his large, vigorously-scored
orchestra and by the extended length of his acts, which offered none of the vocal rest
periods previously afforded by secco recitatives. And for the first time not just vocal
power, but stamina--the ability to sing for extended periods--was introduced as a vocal
requirement. The demands of this music were so wearing, few singers could attempt it
and even fewer would undertake it with impunity.

Comparative performance timings for several representative works of this period are


Les Huguenots, Meyerbeer, 1836: 35 - 35 - 40 - 35 - 15

Tannhäuser, Wagner, 1845: 60 - 65 - 60
Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, 1853: 32 - 30 - 37
La Traviata, Verdi, 1853: 32 - 35/20 - 27
Tristan und Isolde, Wagner, 1865: 80 - 75 - 73
Siegfried, Wagner, 1876: 80 - 70 - 79
(from George Lessing's Handbuch des Opern-Repertoires)

Wagner created an an expressive singing line based on the speaking inflection of the
German language rather than on melodic prettiness. Called Sprechgesang , speech-song,
it eschewed periodic phrasing, emphasized enunciation and was relentlessly
accompanied by the orchestra. An entire new category of endurance-centered Helden
(heroic) voices was sought and, occasionally, found to sing it.

In the design he chose for his famous Festival Theatre (created for the ideal
performance of his works), Wagner tacitly acknowledged the vocal problems he had
created. Though at the time it was built it was the largest theater in Germany, the
Bayreuth Festival Theatre has a modest seating capacity of only 1,800. (The old
Metropolitan Opera House, built seven years later, sat twice as many.) Wagner located
the orchestra in a steeply raked pit sunk under the stage. The cross section of this pit,
and its effect, is that of an acoustical horn. The upper opening of the pit was designed so
the orchestral sound would be deflected toward the singers and away from the audience.
All this did much, at least in that theater, to alleviate the intrinsic balance problems of
his scores.

Having his own theater gave Wagner complete artistic control over every aspect of the
performance of his works, and enabled him to turn an important philosophical corner:
He had not spent years (decades in some cases) bringing his dramas into being just for
an occasion, a season, or even a royal commission. Wagner believed he was writing for
posterity and was concerned with controlling the quality of performances long beyond
his life span. Toward this end, he wrote scores that were complete and, in his view,
immutable. With his own theater and total artistic control, he could establish a cadre of
disciple-like conductors to carry out and perpetuate his performance expectations. In so
doing, he established a conceptual cornerstone--absolute conductorial authority--for the
developing new performance practice of PURISM.
Wagner was vitally concerned with the visual effect of his productions and many
theatrical innovations were either created or established by him. He darkened the house
lighting during the action, invented the Wagner Curtain (a traveler curtain that parted in
the middle to reveal the stage, instead of being raised or lowered), and made significant
contributions to the art of modern stage direction, which included encouraging the
actors to appear to address each other rather than the audience.

At Bayreuth, after Wagner's death, his musical and dramatic ideas were elevated to the
level of cult rite under the watchful presence of his widow and successive generations of
the Wagner family. Only since W.W. II has a more modern and imaginative theatrical
approach been undertaken, though the canon of musical interpretation remains inviolate.
The annual festival at Bayreuth has become a paradigm of the situation of opera
production everywhere and there is an ever widening philosophical dichotomy at work,
in that while the dramatic elements of a production are being constantly rethought,
redesigned and revised to keep them fresh and vital, its musical elements are being
constantly studied and prepared with precisely the opposite intention of coming ever
closer to an historically accurate reproduction of the composer's original concept. When
these processes will end, and where we shall be when they do, is uncertain.


Wagner's coeval and Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), inherited the
mantle of Italian Romantic opera from his predecessors and sustained it, almost single-
handedly, for over half a century. His ideas, like Wagner's, developed and changed
during that span, but essentially he remained bound to the traditional number (unitized)
format of opera, the idea of the vocal artist as the primary protagonist of the drama, and
the accompaniment function of the orchestra. Only in his final works did he abandon the
number opera system and employ the continuous music mode of his German rival.

Verdi gradually minimized his use of the cabaletta form (it was as forced,
dramatically, as the da capo aria had been) and eventually learned to seek sound
dramatic situations in the libretti he set. His devotion to the dramatic baritone voice type
(he frequently used it in leading roles) did much to popularize its use. Verdi wrote little
for the lyric voice, and it was his creation of a basic repertoire for the dramatic voice
that was his most important contribution to singing. The opera Il Trovatore (1853)
represents his mid-career style:

“The vocal parts are very demanding. Azucena, a mezzo-soprano, has to sing a high C.
Luna, a baritone, has to hold a high G. Manrico's stretta is a tough test of a tenor's power
and vocal technique. Leonora's "D'amor sull'ali rosee" is a bel canto masterpiece: a
seventeen-note run, from the high C to low A, always following the orchestra's
speed.” Joseph Wechsberg, Verdi

Innately more humble than Wagner, Verdi still came to realize that though he composed
his works on commissions from impresarios or royalty, he too was writing for posterity.
He wrote out his music in full detail and wanted it performed as he had penned it. Still,
he was a practical man of the theater and when the tenor, Tamberlik, who had
experienced some popular success singing an unwritten high C in one of Verdi's arias,
sought the composer's permission to continue the practice, Verdi's reply was realistic
but guarded: "Far be it from me to deny the public what it wants. Put in the high C if
you like, provided it is a good one."

Unlike Wagner, Verdi lacked the opportunity to create a cadre of 'authorized'

conductors, though Arturo Toscanini later presumed to take such authority and became
a strong advocate of reverence for the composer's wishes, as best he understood them.
Still, it was a report on Toscanini's dictatorial conducting manner that prompted Verdi
to comment, " seems we have traded the tyranny of singers, for the tyranny of
conductors. This is much worse."


The approaching end of the century saw many advances in science, technology and the
legal system, several of which had to do with the voice and singing:

About 1860, Manuel Garcia II, a famous singer turned voice teacher, rigged a set of
mirrors and a light source into something he called a 'laryngoscope'. It allowed the
observation, for the first time in history, of the functioning of the vocal cords in a living
subject and marked the beginning of vocal science.

On December 6, 1877, Thomas Edison recoiled in surprise as his newest invention

worked, the first time he tried it, in exactly the way he had hoped, audibly repeating the
words he had just spoken into it. The age of the phonograph had begun and, for better or
worse, a permanent record of sound could now be made. Composers could now play or
conduct definitive readings of their works and posterity sample the artistry of great
performers of former times. At least that is how it was supposed to be. In reality the
phonograph was considered a novelty and remained a toy until 1900. Musical
experimentation then began, but not until recordings were made by Adelina Patti in
1904, was the machine established as a serious musical medium. We have since come to
realize that few composers are their own best interpreters and their attempts to create
definitive phonographic readings of their works may not be the best of ideas.

The great royal courts of Europe were slowly fading from existence, and so was their
vital patronage of artists and the arts. As societies became ever more democratized, it
became increasingly important to provide income for composers through legal
copyright protection. The first International Union for the copyrighting of literary and
artistic works went into effect in Europe in 1886. Music written after that time could no
longer be performed for profit without the payment of a royalty to the composer. The
same law also precluded arranging a composer's music without permission.
The pasticcio and the blatant music-hall parody would eventually disappear.

In Vienna, in 1889, an international conference officially adopted the standard (for

Europe) of 435 vibrations per second for the pitch of A. Pitch was now about as
standardized as it was ever going to be. A good thing too, for the speed of transportation
was increasing (the first great Alpine tunnel, from Italy to the north, had opened in
1882) and performers were becoming increasingly transient. Understandably, they
wanted to sing no higher high C's in Berlin than they were accustomed to singing in
After Wagner's death, many of his practices were continued and extended by Richard
Strauss (1864-1949) and others. Huge orchestral forces and increasingly complex
dissonance were the order of the day, and Strauss' Elektra (1909) may still stand as
some of the most intentionally harsh music ever penned. (At a rehearsal, Strauss was
quoted as exhorting the orchestra: "Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!") The
known size of the Dresden Opera orchestra in 1768 makes an interesting comparison
with the orchestra Strauss specified for Elektra, which premiered in Dresden a hundred
and forty years later:


1 Harpsichord for the Kapellmeister

1 Harpsichord for the continuo player
8 First Violins, 7 Second Violins, 4 Violas
3 'Cellos, 4 Basses
5 Oboes, 2 Flutes, 5 Bassoons, 2 Hunting Horns
Trumpets, Drums

Total: 46 pieces


8 First Violins, 8 Second Violins, 8 Third Violins

6 First Violas, 6 Second Violas, 6 Third Violas
6 First 'Cellos, 6 Second 'Cellos, 8 Basses
1 Piccolo, 3 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 1 English Horn
1 Heckelphone, 1 E-flat Clarinet, 4 B-flat Clarinets
2 Basset Horns, 1 Bass Clarinet, 3 Bassoons, 1 Contra Bassoon
4 Horns, 6 Trumpets, 1 Bass Trumpet
3 Trombones, 1 Contrabass Trombone
2 B-flat Tubas, 2 F-Tubas, 1 Contrabass Tuba
6-8 Tympani (2 players), Glockenspiel, Triangle
Tambourine, Small Drum, Birch Rod, Cymbals
Bass Drum, Tam-tam, Celesta, 2 Harps

Total: 119-121 pieces

The boundaries of tonality could barely contain works such as Elektra, and it was also
in 1909 that the German theorist and composer, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), wrote
the opera Erwartung, which clearly abandoned tonality. A landmark ballet score by Igor
Stravinsky (1882-1971), Rite of Spring, followed in 1913, introducing complex
polyrhythmic textures. Such instrumental and vocal music would require an extremely
high level of musicianship of its performers.


In Italy, a new operatic school called verismo (realism) had developed. It did away
with period costumes, gods and castles and cast its stories in a contemporary frame.
Real sweat (social injustice), real blood (treachery and torture) and real situations
(desertion and infidelity) were what these composers wanted in their libretti. Musically,
they continued Verdi's course and wrote melodious scores in the continuous music
format; the orchestra served an accompaniment function, while dramatic voices and
high-note climaxes were featured. Several of the most famous realistic
operas, Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) and I Pagliacci by
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858-1919), appear to be based on true stories and there is
nothing in them that could not have actually happened. (In following its honest story
line, the Mascagni libretto came to a situation where all the characters had exited and no
one was left on stage to sing! Mascagni wrote an instrumental interlude for this
moment, and it has become a famous intermezzo.) The popular opera, La Bohème, by
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), is another fine example of the style and is also based on
incidents in the lives of real people. Contemporary and controversial themes (with their
implications for realistic acting) were becoming accepted subjects in opera.

Musically, the end of the century found France in a reactionary stance. Claude Debussy
(1862-1918), responded to the massiveness of the German manner and the frenzied
passion of the Italian veristi , by seeking yet another path. In his opera Pelléas et
Mélisande (1902), the delicate orchestral scoring and unconventional vocal writing (in
not using performance feats to convey dramatic intensity) demonstrate his approach. It
also offers one of the most remarkable moments in all opera when, at the long delayed
peak of the drama, Debussy defies every rule of musical theater and has the orchestra
stop playing and the singers stop singing. The climatic "Je t'aime " is spoken.

Just as the protracted and philosophically overladen German style appeared to be afraid
of not saying enough, Debussy, as the proponent of the French style, appeared afraid of
saying too much. But the artistic ambiguities thus created can draw out the imagination
of the listener in a most effective way. Debussy's Impressionism was short lived, though
it made a much needed contribution to the lyric voice repertoire and was an elegant and
inspired alternative to the harsh dramatic glare of the veristi and the turgid
ponderousness of the Wagnerians.

The First World War engulfed Europe in a prolonged and hideous slaughter. In just one
month of one battle (Verdun) more men were killed, on each side, than had died on both
sides during the entire American Civil War. It was a world gone mad, and the creative
artists who experienced this time were profoundly affected by it.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


Works in which all the internal elements are closely unified, resulting in a
particularly integrated and balanced totality. The Romantics found the idea
especially appealing.


The name given to the most recent style of performance practice, which attempts
to perform music of various historical periods to sound the way the composer
might have heard it. At least that is the basic idea. We tend to cheat a bit when
the practices of yesteryear don't suit us (tuning to a lowered pitch, singing
without constant vibrato, etc.) or when purism presents us with its intrinsic
dilemma: the very modern-day elements that enable and encourage it
(exhaustive musicological research, the acceptance of the conductor as a musical
authority) are anachronistic elements in older music.

A truly purist performance of Handel's Messiah, for example, would be given in

a room seating hundreds, not thousands. The chorus and orchestra would be
about equal in size and both would use straight tone, reserving vibrato for
special interpretive effects. To match the tuning fork Handel used for his
performances, the pitch of A would be 422.5 cps. The role of the conductor
would be reduced to that of a beat-keeper, while the soloists would edit,
transpose and improvise ornamentation for their material, fully expecting the
orchestra to accommodate them in their liberties. Suffice it to say few modern
conductors (they who control performance practice today) are
really this interested in purism.


Thus far the development of western vocal music has taken place within two
broad, on-going venues--religious worship and the theatre. But at this point a new
performance format arises, resulting from the development of the technological
media--the phonograph, radio, motion pictures and television.

Opera, a quintessentially Italian creation, has always borne a distinctive cultural

birthmark. The technological media are essentially American developments (pace,
Signor Marconi ) and, in similar fashion, the music created for them is strongly
stamped with a distinctive cultural trademark.


Cubism, the abstract art style that took things apart and recombined the fragments in
unexpected ways, was analogous to the human experience in World War I and the
period that followed. The explosion and fragmentation were over, but things would
never be the same again.

Having endured the war, the public wanted little more than to forget the past and enjoy
the present. But composers also wanted to forget the past and were bent on
experimentation and exploration that would lead them away from traditional subjects
and conventional harmony and tonality. Unfortunately their new found rhythmic
complexities, jarring polytonality, experimental orchestrations and atonality were not at
all what the public wanted and, as contemporary classical music became more complex
and severe, its audience decreased significantly.

One of the great works of the postwar period was the opera Wozzeck (1925) by Alban
Berg (1885-1935). Berg was a student of Schoenberg and incorporated some twelve
tone (SERIAL) material into his opera The score is a landmark of modern music, filled
with innovative ideas and several features relating to vocal use should be mentioned.
Most noticeable is the use of the vocal style known as Sprechstimme , a manner since
used in many serial compositions for voice. In this style, midway between speech and
song, the performer is to initiate each pitch accurately, but use the remaining duration of
the note to inflect the pitch, as in speaking, rather than maintaining it, as in conventional
singing. Other features of Berg's score include the use of extreme vocal range,
unconventional tessitura and large intervals in the voice line. These would all become
standard techniques in avant-garde vocal music, as composers explored the outer limits
of vocal capability in their quest for previously unused expressive sounds.

These features have brought the criticism that such music is unvocal, yet when the
question of what makes music vocal or unvocal is addressed, few of the commonly held
concepts sustain scrutiny. Traditionalists hold that music is unvocal if it employs large
melodic skips (ninths or larger), angular rhythms (snap, dotted or syncopated), unusual
dynamic usage (low range/loud or high range/soft) or competitive accompaniments
(dissonant or loud). But such thinking leads to the unlikely conclusion that composers
who avoided such elements (Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Robert Franz, and Leo
Delibes are examples), somehow attained an enlightened state that eluded masters such
as Alban Berg, Béla Bartók and Benjamin Britten, who employed them.

The composer Arthur Honegger advanced an alternate standard for identifying the true
vocal quality of music: Only music that is significantly affected when its vocal part is
performed by a surrogate instrument would pass his test. He noted that the great arias of
Puccini, Mozart and Verdi lose little when played by a fine violinist. Their basic
qualities of grace and pleasant melodiousness remain intact, suggesting that these
qualities are not the true, essential substance of vocality. But, he submitted, should the
vocal line of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande be played on an instrument, the sense of
loss would be unmistakable: the music would seem pointless and its reason for
existence diminished. This then, in Honegger's view, must be music with true vocal

Berg's Wozzeck reveals another important trait: the desire of modern composers to
clarify and control the interpretation of their works by providing ever more detailed and
specific editorial instructions. As a result, just a few measures of Berg's music may
contain more performance directions than an entire score by J.S. Bach. Some risk may
attend this practice. The ambiguities in old scores serve a useful if unintended purpose
by allowing successive generations to bring new, vitalizing insights and interpretations
to them. Modern composers, by lessening the future infusion of imagination, may be
limiting the opportunity for their works to grow with the ages.


Postwar circumstances were such that the everpresent alternate stream of

musical creativity--the popular entertainment style--would enjoy an
unprecedented surge in importance. Popular music goes back to at least the
Dark Ages when the Ionian mode, our major key, was nicknamed modus
lascivus---the wicked mode. The trouvères , Stephan Foster, George Gershwin
and such disparate works as Sumer is icumen in, The Beggar's Opera, Yankee
Doodle and Star Dust have all been a part of its history. Now, put off by the
unattractiveness of contemporary classical styles, the public would turn
successively to Tin Pan Alley, Jazz, Blues and Swing for its musical fare. The
capturing of the public interest by these new styles was helped by their easy
accessibility, for technology was providing new means for spreading their

People no longer needed to invest their money in an expensive piano for the
parlor, or their time in learning to play it. Phonograph recordings and the
newest craze--wireless broadcasting--could bring music into their homes. The
pleasant, entertaining music that could be enjoyed by simply tuning a radio or
winding up the phonograph, would ultimately convert a small but
participatory public into a much more broadly based, but passive one.

Again, young performers had to choose between two forms of vocalism so

disparate crossover was rarely possible between them: the so-called classical
and popular styles. A new American phenomenon, lyric-voiced song stylists
called crooners, were idolized by their public, and many established long and
lucrative careers. Early on there was Rudy Vallee who, in a time before
electronic amplification, made a personal trademark of the megaphone he
used to extend the carrying power of his voice. Then came Bing Crosby,
whose lifelong career included stage, radio, television, film, and whose
recordings, such as White Christmas, are still heard. Later would come Frank
Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and many others, all artists in a style
requiring faultless diction, subtle nuancing of text, seamless line and a light,
unstudied tone production. The effortlessness of their vocalism was predicated
on the use of electronic amplification, and their accompaniment, be it dance
band, small instrumental 'combo' or piano, was astutely arranged to be
supportive without being competitive. Tailored writing had returned. It has
been noted the 'conversational naturalism' of the microphone singer represents
a rebirth of the text-centered singing manner favored by the Florentine
Camerata. This and other interesting ideas are developed in Henry Pleasant's
book, The Great American Popular Singers, and those interested in popular
singers and singing, from Al Jolson through Barbra Streisand, should read it.


Before 1925 sound recordings were made by an acoustical process, and it happened that
voices were easier to record than instruments. Recording companies filled their catalogs
with songs and arias performed by the finest artists available. As the parlor piano had
been the mark of culture in the middle-class home of 1900, the gramophone served the
same function in 1920. On a hot summer evening, the recorded voices of Enrico Caruso
or Amelita Galli-Curci could be heard singing arias out the open windows of almost
every town and city in the Western world. People who would never be inside an opera
house in their lives, could now casually hum along with La donna è mobile and Caro
nome. It was an important step in widening the public awareness of music and
heightening its discernment of singing.
Electronic amplification was introduced in 1925 and the recording of musical
instruments (especially string tone) was much improved, as was the ability to record
ensembles and larger groups of performers. The orchestral repertoire began to enter
record catalogs. The electronic method not only improved fidelity, it allowed the
manipulation of sound: balancing tonal forces, controlling volume and timbre. The
recording and broadcasting industries were making major strides in the application of
technology to sound, and would continue to improve their equipment and techniques
during subsequent decades. These advances in audio reproduction were soon used to
add sound to motion pictures and, fittingly, it was a film titled The Jazz Singer (1927)
that introduced the idea. The musical entertainment business had become a rapid growth

Hollywood, which had quickly converted to 'talkies', soon took up an entirely new
genre--the 'musical'--with gusto. From Rio Rita (1929) to There's No Business Like
Show Business (1954), the Hollywood musical helped raise the public standards of
theatrical visual expectation, just as the phonograph had educated the public musical
ear. Television, the next significant technological device, carried on from there. All this
had a profound effect on singers, for not only were the standards of convincing acting
being raised, but innate physical appearance had become important. Other things being
equal, the svelte, visually attractive singer would be given preference over the obese or
otherwise ill-favored performer. By mid-century a singer had to have outstanding talent
or possess a particularly rare vocal ability to gain entry into opera without regard for his
appearance. In motion pictures, pleasing appearance soon became a sine qua non , and
even the 'tenorissimo' Luciano Pavarotti had to slim down somewhat before Hollywood
would consider using him.

The 1927 transatlantic flight of Lindbergh was a harbinger of the easy, rapid air travel
of today. As airline transportation improved, and especially with jet travel after W.W.
II, singers became increasingly transient, and it became possible to sing in Vienna one
evening, London the next and Chicago the next. But the physical stress of such
scheduling and travel (jet lag, altitude acclimatization, etc.) is so rigorous few singers
can sustain it with impunity. Still, air travel has affected singers in several ways. To
attract the most notable artists on the 'jet circuit', it has become necessary for opera
companies to perform works in the language in which they were written and to use the
accepted standard edition of the work. No superstar soprano is going to spend the time
needed to relearn Tosca in Dutch just so she can sing it for a brief engagement in
Antwerp. The so-called International Class opera companies of the world have bowed to
this reality and the visual projection of an ongoing vernacular translation has become a
regular feature in many houses. Still, in smaller companies, where a resident, closely-
knit ensemble is the performance style, or in countries where there has long been a
tradition of doing so, opera may still be translated and sung in the vernacular.

World War II pushed technology along new paths, and a magnetic sound recording
format, using coated tape, was a pertinent development. It had several advantages over
the older wax disc method of recording. It was very easy to edit (cut and splice),
enabling mistakes or faults, which occurred while the performance was being recorded,
to be easily corrected. Prior to this, all recording had been accomplished in 'complete
takes' and if the final note of an aria or scene wasn't perfect, the entire selection had to
be performed again in the hope of improving it. The new ease of editing also allowed
composite recordings to be made. The best parts of Take #4 could be joined to the best
parts of Take #40 (which could be recorded days or months later) and few would be the
wiser. In truth, primitive recording tricks had been going on for some time, and a
famous soprano once attended a recording session to sing several high notes, which her
friend, an aging artist, could no longer perform. The tape recorder also allowed 'live'
recordings to be made with much more facility than had discs. Many of the finest
recorded performances we enjoy today were made with tape equipment at actual
performances, where the special quality of communication that can result when an artist
interacts with an audience was captured. Tape has also proved useful for singers in
study and training situations, making it relatively easy for them to hear themselves as
others do.


After WWII, a young entertainer, Les Paul, almost single-handedly changed the course
of popular music by adding electronic pickups to his acoustical guitar, thus inventing
the electrical guitar. Further, while tape recording the sounds of his new instrument, he
experimented with combining multiple recording tracks together into a composite
whole. His ideas became the cornerstones of the popular music recording industry and
enabled a new entertainment style--rock and roll.

Rock, unlike ragtime and jazz, is based exclusively on the song format (a textless rock
selection is very rare), while its style is defined by using both standard and electronic
instruments, conventional harmonies, electronic amplification and a driving rhythmic
beat. The texts, addressed to the adolescent and young adult 'market', are often socially
audacious or rebellious and are delivered with remarkable emotional intensity and
expenditure of energy.

“As it happens, people still enjoy virtuosic display and the image of effortful exertion, even
when amplified--witness the popularity of rock belters like Rod Stewart and Bruce
Springsteen and gospel-inflected shouters and rhetorical balladeers like Whitney Houston
and Aretha Franklin.” John Rockwell, Fine Singing Isn't Dead

Rock presentational conventions include extraordinarily heightened amplification,

complex lighting effects, unusual costuming and manic movements by the performers.
It is a style that uses singing as a point of departure rather than as an end in itself, and
the quality of the vocalism is not as important to the success of the performance as is the
intensity and level of excitement the entertainer generates.

“ singing styles, linked with both black song-writing (spirituals, the
blues) and instrumental music (jazz, with its instrumentally shaped singing
styles, as practiced today by such flamboyant vocal virtuosos as Al
Jarreau), have made a profound impact, first on America and long since on
the world. Traditional vernacular black vocal production and style, with its
throatier, hoarser timbre, expressive pitch shadings and openly emotional
fervor, made an enormous impression on Tin Pan Alley and rock...” Ibid.

More recent advances in the recording industry--the high fidelity long-playing record
and the digital compact disc--have made a remarkable range of previously inaccessible
music readily available. It is commonplace today to enjoy choosing between multiple
recorded performances of works that, just decades ago, were so unperformed and
obscure only musicologists were aware of their existence. Video recordings now bring
both the visual elements and the sound of musical theater and operatic performances to
their viewers. Never before has such a sizeable or knowledgeable public existed for
music. Never before has a singer's repertory needed to be so broad or his stylistic
awareness so keen.


As we have seen, the art of singing is constantly evolving. Today, when more people
enjoy a wider variety of music and singing than at any previous time, there can be no
doubt the vocal art is vigorously alive and will continue to develop.

Music of one kind or another almost totally pervades our lives. The hope of the turn-of-
the-century French composer, Erik Satie, for a music that would be as commonplace
and unnoticed in our daily routine as furniture or wallpaper has been fulfilled.
Background music attends us everywhere: in shopping malls, washrooms, elevators,
medical waiting rooms. Even while holding on the telephone, we are subject to its
presence. What long-term effect this musical wallpaper may ultimately have on our
perception of other music--designed to be attentively listened to--is impossible to

As electronic science becomes ever more sophisticated, it appears likely all forms of
vocal music will employ amplification. The financial rewards of performing 'live', albeit
amplified, for fifteen (or fifty) thousand people, rather than the current maximum,
imposed by acoustical limitations, of about four thousand, appear irresistible. Many
opera houses have employed amplification when necessary, and the practice will surely
increase as performances move to outdoor stages and arenas. Conversely, unforeseeable
advances in acoustical architecture may enable the construction of significantly larger
auditoriums that are so efficient in balancing and conveying sound, amplification will
not be necessary.

With or without electronic amplification, instruments continue to become ever louder.

For example, not long ago a pertinent new invention for stringed instruments, the
Starker Bridge, was announced. It is a newly designed bridge that transfers more
resonance from the strings to the body of the instrument and thus enables performers to
play their fine old instruments in larger auditoriums than ever before--without electronic

There is a trend developing in operatic performance, in which the locale, era and plot
elements of a work are 'up-dated' (Rigoletto set in Al Capone's Chicago, etc.) to make
them more entertaining or theatrically relevant. If stage directors prevail in carrying
such ideas to their logical end, a rebalancing of traditional operatic priorities could
result. Theatrical values may be given primacy over the musical values of opera and
singers required to sing from the orchestra pit while highly skilled actors mime the
characters on the stage. A parallel technique has long been used in musical motion
pictures. Or perhaps the entire musical component of future performances will be pre-
recorded, to be played back from the orchestra pit in support of the 'live' theatrical
It is generally accepted that raising the tuning pitch favors the tone of many modern
orchestral instruments, and the tendency has been, for some years, to move the tuning
pitch ever higher. That this trend disfavors the singer is of little consequence to those
who control the process. When and if the realities of this matter are confronted, it seems
possible we will have two tuning standards, one used exclusively for instrumental works
and another for music involving voices.

Speech and computer scientists have long since synthesized human speech sounds and
computer-generated, synthesized singing was recorded in the Bell Telephone
Laboratories as early as 1963. Advances in this field continue, and there is reason to
expect remarkable future developments.

Medical science also may contribute to the singing of the future. Surgery for restoring
the voice has long been performed for medical reasons, and laryngeal surgery for
aesthetic reasons may be undertaken in the years ahead. The use of vocal-tract surgery
to enhance a singer's voice does not appear impossible. And advancing knowledge of
hormonal chemistry may lead to the sophisticated manipulation and management of
various qualities of the vocal instrument.

Ultimately, as improvements in world wide communication and transportation slowly

integrate the various human societies into one vast global culture, our present ethnic,
region and language-based characteristics may become blended and less distinct. The
varied vocal concepts and singing styles of today will inevitably be effaced in such a
process, perhaps to the extent that all the singers of the world will finally be joined in a
common standard of language, musical style and vocal production.

Clearly, the potential for growth and change in the universal human art of singing, far
from being exhausted, is greater than ever before. There is every reason to believe the
best is yet to come.

GLOSSARY of terms capitalized in the text.


A system of musical composition, devised by Arnold Schoenberg, based on an

arbitrarily arranged series of the twelve chromatic scale tones. This series or
tone-row remains unchanged throughout a composition, save for such
modifications as transposition of tones at the octave or inversion, order reversal
(retrograde), or retrograde inversion of the entire row. The tones of the row may
be used either melodically (horizontally) or harmonically (vertically) but the
entire sequence must be employed before the row may be repeated. The row is
normally designed to avoid outlining the triads or patterns associated with
tonality. Berg's Lulu (1937) and Schoenberg's Moses und Aaron (1957), both
written entirely in serial technique, are considered the two masterpieces of the
serial repertoire. Both employ the same arduous vocal style as Wozzeck and are
significant undertakings for performers and audience alike.

A list of easily obtained, almost entirely English-language materials--useful points of

departure for the further study of the history of singing.

Apel, Willi. Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,

Baur-Heinhold, Margarete, The Baroque Theatre, New York, NY:McGraw-Hill Book

Company, 1967.

Bekker, Paul, The Changing Opera. trans. by Arthur Mendel. New York, NY: W. W.
Norton & Co, 1936.

Bekker, Paul. The Story of the Orchestra. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 1936.

Blom, Eric, ed. Mozart's Letters. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books Inc., 1956.

Borden, Gloria J. and Harris, Katherine S. Speech Science Primer, 2nd Ed., Baltimore,
MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1984.

Brody, Elaine. Music in Opera. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970.

Bukofzer, Manfred F. Music in the Baroque Era. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.,

Carducci, Edgardo. "The Tenor Voice in Europe." Music and Letters, Vol. XI, No. 4 ,
(Oct. 1930), 318-323.

Celletti, Rodolfo. A History of Bel Canto. trans. by Frederick Fuller. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1991.

Chrisiansen, Rupert. Prima Donna, A History. New York, NY: Viking Penguin Inc.,

Collaer, Paul. A History of Modern Music. trans. by Sally Abeles. New York, NY:
World Publishing Co.,1961.

Crocker, Richard L. A History of Musical Style. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, 1966.

Crosten, William L. French Grand Opera. New York, NY: King's Crown Press, 1948.

Dorian, Frederick. The History of Music in Performance. New York, NY: W. W.

Norton & Co., 1942.

Duey, Phillip. Bel Canto in its Golden Age. New York, NY: King's Crown Press, 1951.
Ewen, David. Complete Book of the American Musical Theater. New York, N.Y: Henry
Holt & Co., 1958.

Geiringer, Karl. Instruments in the History of Western Music. New York, NY: Oxford
University Press, 1978.

Gleason, Harold. Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Rochester, NY: Levi's
Music Stores, 1954.

Green, Abel, and Laurie, Joe, Jr. Show Biz: From Vaude to Video. New York, N. Y:
Henry Holt & Co., 1951.

Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. New York, N. Y: Dodd, Meade &
Co. 1976.

Griffeth, Benjamin W., ed. The Beggar's Opera. Great Neck, NY: Barron's Educational
Series, Inc. 1962.

Grout, Donald J. A Short History of Opera. New York, NY: Columbia University Press,

Henderson, William. Early History of Singing. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and
Co., 1921.

Heriot, Angus. The Castrati in Opera. London: Secker and Warburg, 1956.

Hope-Wallace, Philip. A Picture History of Opera. London: E. Hulton and Company,

Ltd., 1959.

Jespersen, Otto. Language, Its Nature, Development and Origin. New York NY: Henry
Holt and Company, 1922.

Jourdain, Robert. Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy. New York NY: William Morrow &
Company, Inc., 1997.

Kerman, Joseph. Opera as Drama. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1959.

Knapp, J. Merill. The Magic of Opera. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1972.

Kourney, Daniel J. Orchestral Performance Practices in the Nineteenth Century. Ann

Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1981.

Lessing, George, ed. Handbuch des Opern-Repertoires. London: Boosey & Hawkes,

MacClintock, Carol, ed. Readings in the History of Music in Performance.

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979.

Macgowan, Kenneth and Melnitz, William with Armstrong,Gordon. Golden Ages of the
Theater. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1979.
Miller, Richard. English, French, German and Italian Techniques of Singing.
Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977.

Nettle, Reginald. Seven Centuries of Popular Song. London: Phoenix House, Ltd.,

Neumann, Frederick. Essays in Performance Practice. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research
Press, 1982.

Newton, George. Sonority in Singing. New York, NY: Vantage Press, Inc., 1984.

Pleasants, Henry. The Great American Popular Singers. New York, NY: Simon and
Schuster, 1966.

Pleasants, Henry. The Great Singers. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1966.

Rasponi, Lanfranco. The Last Prima Donnas. New York, NY: Limelight Editions, 1985.

Reese, Gustave. Music in the Middle Ages. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 1940.

Robinson, Michael F. Opera Before Mozart. New York, NY: William Morrow & Co.,

Rockwell, John. "Fine Singing Isn't Dead, It's Just an Art in Transition." The New York
Times, (June 28, 1987): 19 & 30.

Rogers, Francis. "The Male Soprano." The Musical Quarterly, (July, 1919): 413.
Rosenthal, Harold and Warrack, John. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera. New York,
NY: Oxford University Press, 1964.

Rosselli, John, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi. New York, NY:
Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Rushmore, Robert. The Singing Voice. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Company,

Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London:
Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980.

Stevens, Denis, ed. A History of Song. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1960.

Sanford, Sally Allis. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Vocal Style and Technique.
Stanford University, Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation,1979.

Sargent, Sir Malcolm, ed. The Outline of Music. New York, NY: Arco Publishing
Company, 1962.

Seagrave, Barbara Garvey and Thomas, Wesley. The Songs of the Minnesingers.
University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, 1966. (With recording).
Stubbs, C. E. The Adult Male Alto or Counter-Tenor Voice. New York, NY: Gray
Publishing Co., 1906.

Wechsberg, Joseph. Verdi. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1974.

Whigham, Peter, ed. The Music of the Troubadours. Ross-Ericson Publishers, Santa
Barbara, CA, 1979.

Wilkins, Nigel. Music in the Age of Chaucer. Rowman and Littlefield Inc., Totowa, NJ,

Worsthorne, Simon Towneley. Venetian Opera in the Seventeenth Century. London:

Oxford University Press, 1954.


Several publishers and authors have been most gracious in permitting their material to
be quoted. For these kindnesses, I gratefully acknowledge and thank:

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: Opera As Drama, by Joseph Kerman, copyright 1959.

Barron's Educational Series, Inc.: Benjamin Griffeth's The Beggar's Opera, copyright

Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.: The Magic of Opera, by J. Merrill Knapp, copyright

Oxford University Press: Instruments in the History of Western Music, by Karl

Geiringer, copyright 1978.

The Putnam Publishing Group: Joseph Wechsberg's Verdi, copyright 1974.

Mr. David Silverberg: Elaine Brody's Music in Opera, copyright 1970.

Excerpts from John Rockwell's article, "Fine Singing Isn't Dead, It's Just an Art in
Transition." copyright 1987, by The New York Times Company, have been reprinted by

About the Author: John Koopman

I'm a Professor Emeritus of the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence

University, in Appleton, Wisconsin. I write and lecture on operatic and
vocal subjects and, as a critic, review some forty opera productions each
season for European and American magazines.

Hopefully it won't appear pretentious to dedicate this little opus to the

memory of two remarkable gentlemen--Francis J. Pyle, 1901-1983,
(Professor of Music, Drake University, 1937-1972), and Frank St. Leger,
1890-1969, (Professor of Music, Indiana University, 1953-1968). It's that
they taught me much of what I know about music and would surely be surprised to learn I
absorbed even this much of it.