Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most influential and prolific composers of the 18th century, lead the forefront of classical music alongside composers like Beethoven, Haydn, Handel, Scherbert, and etc. The 18th century was a period marked by the practical and just music composed during the time. Mozart in particular was rather adept at every musical genre, and so he was able to compose in every major musical genre during his time. Whether it’d be the sonata, concerto, symphony, or opera he would excel. The opera in particular was a genre Mozart would be considered in as one of the best composers to have ever lived.
An opera, like any painting or film, is an art. Like any art, it can be broken down into several components that makes it what it is. All operas involve a libretto, and a libretto is the text of an opera. In traditional opera, the libretto can be sung by two different modes, the recitative and the aria. The recitative is speech-like singing and the aria is singing along the structured format. Depending on the type of opera components can change. For example, in an opera buffa the recitative can be replaced by dialogue.
During the classical period of opera two styles of opera became prevalent. The two styles, opera seria and opera buffa, had many differences but one major difference was the intended audience. One could consider opera seria and opera buffa both reflected the segregation in society, due to the fact that opera seria was bent towards the upper class due to the libretto’s being made to involve nobility and gods, and the opera buffa was the very opposite due to the libretto’s depiction of the average everyday citizen. Different? Yes, but Mozart was talented enough to compose both.
Opera like any other main musical genre had many composers, and some better than others. Composers like Igor Stravinsky, Franz Schubert, Richard Wagner, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and of course Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were the top of the crop. The “Nightingale”, the “Fierrabras”, the “Siegfried”, the “Armida”, the “Fidelio”, and the “Magic Flute”, are all famous pieces by the corresponding composers, and all of which helped spread opera and make it into what is today.
The Broadway Musicals
Broadway Musical Characteristics
In general, musical theater is a sight to behold. It contains dance and dialogue and everything in between from music scores and actors and plot. Every component in the musical works off one another. If you were to divide a musical into parts, at the base you would have your music, and at the top you would have your dancers and actors.
A broadway musical typically has a musical scoring, and in the musical scoring you have lyrics and songs that are used to heighten the dramatic effect. The music’s ability to alter dramatic effect is specifically why it can advance the plot of the story. The music in the broadway is typically followed up by dancers and actors. Both in which are used to express the tension provided by the music. Dances are always choreographed to be able to provide visual assistance to the plot.
A play is not a broadway musical, though there are many similarities but a musical’s focus is the music. Meaning the main driving force in a broadway musical is the music. Dialogue isn’t always exempt from a musical, but if dialogue is present it is usually brief and straight to the point.
Broadway Musicals’ History
The Broadway Musical Theater scene didn’t begin in New York until two gentlemen, Walter Murray and Thomas Kean, invested and invented a theatre company on Nassau Street. This theatre marked the beginnings of Broadway Musicals in 1750. The coming of Broadway Musicals did however face difficulties. From around 1775-1798 the act of theatre was halted due to the revolutionary war. After 1798, the largest venue, the Park Theatre, was built and could hold up to 2,000 people. The park theatre marked a significant upgrade to the musical theatre scene. Years after the musical theatre scene would steadily increase, adding more and more venues all the while increasing size.
As one of musical theatre’s golden composers, Stephen Sondheim, began at a young age. In 1942 his parents would divorce, and Sondheim would be forced to move to Pennsylvania where he would find his mentor Oscar Hammerstein. Oscar Hammerstein was a lyricist and producer of broadway musicals. With Hammerstein as his mentor, Sondheim would become a rising talent. With his college degree in music, Stephen Sondheim would succeed his mentor and continue to produce dozens and dozens of musical theatre compositions. His more famous works include: “Assassins”, “Candide”, “Company”, and “Follies”. Because of such works, Stephen Sondheim to some would be regarded as the musical theatre king.
Operas versus Broadway Musicals
“The Magic Flute” Opera – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“The Magic Flute” is one of Mozart’s finest opera compositions. “The opera, Mozart’s last, premiered… on September 30, 1791” (Cantoni, Linda, and Betsy Schwarm). “The Magic Flute” is a fairy tale divided into two separate acts, with the themes of love and greater good. With a damsel in distress and prince in knights armour the piece may seem simplistic, but it is rather complicated. Throughout the opera one number is made clear with: the three men, three women, three slaves, and three chords, the number three to the audience may seem like nothing, but Mozart was a freemason and to a freemason the number three may mean a lot. This just goes to show how simple it may have seemed, but truly complicated it was within.
The opera consists of a german libretto written by Emanuel Schikaneder. The opera is also a singspiel, which is a german opera with comic spoken dialogue. When a new character is introduced you can tell there is a transition or introduction to the character, because each character seems to have a specific music type. Meaning Mozart would use his music to represent his characters.
The instrumental overture is played right before the curtains are rolled down, and by doing so Mozart allows the audience to get mentally ready for what’s to come. The overture is structured in the sonata form, meaning there is an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The exposition introduces two themes, but before the exposition we hear an introduction to the exposition which is used to foreshadow future events. After the introduction, you can hear multiple change ups in tempo, dynamics, and scales. The reason for this is a change between the two themes. The tempo of the music is mainly played around Allegro and Vivace. The work is mainly scored for brass, woodwinds, and strings.
“Assassins” Broadway Musical – Stephen Sondheim
“Assassins” is a broadway musical about a murderous game to portray the men and women who attempted to assassinate a president.
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- Hanning, Barbara Russano, and Herbert Weinstock. “Opera.” EncyclopГ¦dia Britannica. July 19, 2018. Accessed November 01, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/art/opera-music.
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- Prouvaire, Jehan. “Assassins Broadway May 29, 2004.” YouTube. June 16, 2013. Accessed November 02, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vItcB9zw5EU.
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- Tindle, Robyn. “Characteristics of the Musical Theater Genre.” Our Pastimes. September 19, 2018.
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- “Who Is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Everything You Need to Know.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Profile, Childhood, Life, Timeline. Accessed November 01, 2018. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/wolfgang-amadeus-mozart-479.php.
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