Course Code
MUSC 0120
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

This course will examine the earliest operas, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, looking at the social contexts, cities and personalities behind their creation. You will look at opera’s initial dependence on courtly environments and patrons, as well as the musical forms that influenced the beginnings of opera, such as the madrigal. The journey from courtly opera in Florence and Mantua to ticket-paying operas in Venice from 1637 will then be explored. The rise of a paying audience brought great change to musical culture, and you will see how the audience’s demand for portrayals of madness and love created very different librettos. You will trace the rise of star singers, noticeably castrati and female singers (the prima donna) from the mid-seventeenth century. Opera’s dissemination to other countries, notably France and England, and the composers Lully, Handel and Purcell, will all feature. Opera was regarded as an elite and prestigious cultural form from its outset, a conception that was cemented during its rapid spread across Europe in the eighteenth century. Opera grew to reflect cultural, social and political interests in forms as varied as the opera seria and opera buffa (opéra comique). Recent musicological thinking on themes such as national identity; gender; cultural prominence and the power of the human voice will guide your understanding of this important form.