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In the years sixteen seventy eight sent every mon said Opera is a bizarre affair of poetry and music in which the poet and the musician each equally obstructed by the other give themselves no end of trouble to produce a wretched result. On the other hand one hundred years later Mozart said the best thing of all is when a good composer who understands the stage meets an able poet. In that case no fears need be entertained as to the applause even of the ignorant Riverside radio w while they are in New York City presents opera the battleground of the arts in this series of half hour programmes Borys gold ASCII discusses some of the problems that beset operators and those who create and produce them. The programmes are produced in association with the gold of ski opera Institute for National Educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. Where is gold our ski is nationally known as an intermission commentator for broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera
and as an opera producer possibly through the productions of The God of ski Opera Theatre which even resulted in about 400 communities from coast to coast. And now here is Mr. Gold ski. Last time we considered the singer's role in opera we mentioned some of the problems composers have encountered in setting dramatic texts to music problems arising from the conflicting demands of music and drama. When the two arts attempt to pull in double harness in a later program we will want to consider in greater detail the problems of setting words to music. But this time our subject is the music that accompanies the voice of the opera singer. Those sounds to which our colleagues in the world of popular music refer to as the backing. We're going to consider the opera orchestra which for a long time was quite subservient to the voice but then gradually assumed the more vital importance began to rival the singer in general interest. And soon in its
turn became the foremost preoccupation of the composer. Musical instruments have been used for dramatic effect in the theater from the earliest times. We know that music played a part in the theatre of ancient Greece. Indeed Greek tragedy arose from choral performances given in honor of the garden ices and before the first operas were written there was an English play called Gore about duck. It was performed for the first time in 15 62 and each act of Gor but Doc began with the scene in pantomime like the mind part of the play scene in Hamlet these pantomimes describe the events that were to follow music accompanied each of these scenes. First vials played for the entrance of six wild men clothed in leaves. Then before the second act cornets heralded a king with his writing new flutes in the third scene brought on a company of mourners in black oboes played when the three Fury's
entered and so on. When the Verdi is usually credited with the innovation of associating characteristic instruments with various characters of the drama. But from the evidence of the pantomimes in garbage dark and other plays we can see that Monteverdi's innovation was new only in that the device already familiar in the theater was applied to opera for the first time. There was however a novelty in Monterey where these work. This was the number and variety of instruments that he used in his aura fail. The advance was a notable and most significant one in the light of the opera orchestras history since when the various contemporaries were satisfied with a handful of stringed instruments bowed and plucked. He built up an ensemble of 30 or 40 players adding two of the new violins to a band consisting of vials guitars guitar owners organs the double harp and various wind instruments. The later expansion of the orchestra in ways that Monty
Verdi notably anticipated is worth a moment's thought. Before we go on to consider its eventual claim to supremacies during the course of the 17th century violins gradually replaced the earlier vials in the string orchestra became established as we know it today. When instruments were very imperfect and were used only occasionally they very stringed instruments that were played by plucking were gradually discarded. The harpsichord was retained only as long as it was needed to supply the essential harmonies and chord progressions for a style of composition that lingered from the contrapuntal techniques of the sixteenth century. One important result of the revolution that made up for a possible was the growing conception of music as a solo and a company meant in place of the music was independent parts proceeded along lines of equal importance composers were inventing a company figures in our page you or chord forms that allowed one principle solo line always to stand out from the rest of the
texture. Sort of a complement as found in countless Italian operas of the early 19th century and it became known as the bar or the great drumming. Many other typical orchestral accompanying figures grew out of conventional keyboard passages such as. When a lot of the clarinets this figure became a favorite pattern in the slow movements of obvious in the operas of the need that the and many other Italian composers here for instance is the beginning of the first CEO. But of all composers Verdi knew best how to make an apparently conventional company
and fit the character. The orchestral figures he uses become motives. The fix for phrase after phrase of the voice spark and they reveal the character on the stage as if one could see into his mind very grew ever more adept at this form of expression. Listen to the violins for instance. And now this monologue a fellow well for a time the only melody is
the most expressive body of the following interval of the repeated group of four notes. Here is how it sounds in the opera house. O o o. O o o. O o o. Handel's operas an oratorio sort of present a glorious summing up of the older style of
composition. But even while he wrote more progressive composers were feeling their way toward Mother notions of a company and of the respective functions of strings and wind instruments and of the sensitive use that can be made of various instrumental colors music was altogether outgrowing its dependence on a constant bass line over which the harpsichordist might improvise in the company and for whatever independent lines the composer might set down for voices and solo instruments. By the end of the eighteenth century the orchestra could fill in all essential harmony notes without any keyboard player. It was the orchestra of Haydn's and Mozart's symphonies. Employed but not consumed with skill and using instruments to convey every mood and emotion of the characters on stage. It became the foundation of the modern opera orchestra. Not everyone liked the orchestra to be so important even when the creative genius of a Mozart used it. Emperor Joseph judgment that the operatic
statue had been placed in the orchestra pit and it's better still on the stage is not one that we would think of applying to Mozart until we compare his model as a complement with the orchestral writing of his contemporaries. Here for instance is a typical orchestral pedestal fashioned by Rosa one of the finest eighteenth century composers. It is taken from his secret marriage and has really little except support the vocal line sung by the bustle before your own hail. Mary. While they're
here on the other hand is an equally typical starting a company went to one area. Also a lot of folks namely. There is no question but that they generous portion of the statue section of the Dun Giovanni music has been allocated to the orchestral instruments. There is little that needs to be said concerning the purely orchestral numbers that look at an opera of
every period. Their dramatic function is self evident that since March is storm's an interlude of every description are for the most part incidental to the drama. Even here of course composers had an opportunity to exercise their creative imaginations. They already conceived the idea of having the howling of the wind imitated by the backstage humming of a male chorus. Most composers have found it an advantage to have instrumental music of some kind performed before the business on the stage begins. It was considered essential to help the audience get into that mood of excited expectancy which is so valuable to the actor on the stage. A gay
bustling piece in The Italian manner will do that too without any particular concern for the subject of the drama to follow. Indeed any one of Rossini's early overtures could be and occasionally was transferred from some other opera as was the case with the famous Barber of Seville overture that was borrowed from an earlier work of Rossini. Toward the end of the last century overtures began to lose their popularity with composers to the four operas of Wagner's the ring of the need. There is no
overture each bright note is a direct introduction to the first scene. Verdi wrote no formal overtures for his later operas. None at all. And Richard Strauss invariably takes the curtain up almost invariably if you think of Rosenkavalier without the formality of a musical prelude. Here for instance is the opening up process I like. This. Promotes time on work throughout the 19th century the opera orchestra grew in size and technical accomplishment. Hector barely rose was one of the pioneers of the modern art of writing for the orchestra. In an article entitled The condition of the art of singing today he said the vast size of certain opera houses was responsible both for the shouting and screaming
to which singers were used and for the noisy orchestras that incited them to still further violence. He also blamed the Rossini and the imitators of Rossini for the noisy orchestras that were a feature of opera and mid 19th century France where Leo's notes that Glock first introduced the bass drum and the cymbals into the Opera House pointing out that glow cues them with perfect discretion and propriety. Is this pontine after him. Barrios continues by saying but her CD came to the Paris Opera to produce his current. He had observed with some dismay the public's tendency to go to sleep during performances of the finest operas. And he was determined to suffer no such affront himself. I'll find a way to stop your sleeping he said. And he had the big drama playing all the time and the cymbals and the triangle who we caught in handfuls from the trombones and tubas
he hoed the orchestra into such a tempest of sound and fury that the people in the audience dropped their eyes and found they rather liked these novel sensations lively if not more musical than those to which they were accustomed. Hot and by his success he carried his abuse is still there in most ways. There during the famous finale of the third act big drum cymbals and triangle strike forte on each beat of the bar so that they have as many notes to sound as the singers who must put up with it as best they can. And Bernie was goes on to tell how with Racine is a rival of the Paris Opera of the orchestra the revolution was accomplished more and more instruments making ever more and more noise regardless of the requirements of the drama or the injury was. Was.
And. In placing particular blame on the Rossini for the arrival of a noisy orchestra at the Opera House Berlioz was no doubt indulging his old prejudice against everything Italian. The abuses he attacked however were for him even more closely associated with the so-called music of the future proclaimed by the German school of opera which he opals almost as vehemently. It was the Richard Wagner who developed the resources of the operatic orchestra to the point that enabled it to threaten their preeminent position that were generations was occupied by the
singers. This orchestral development took two forms and a large in the existing instrumental apparatus and adding new instruments. It was in loin grain that Wagner's orchestra first took on this new richness and variety of color for the first time. All the wood with instruments and the trumpets were grouped in three days and the four horns had to be chromatic instruments. And this however was just the beginning. It is in that musical Colossus the ring of the new balloon that we find the ultimate expansion of Wagner's instrumental apparatus. The Rhinegold orchestra includes 64 strings and 36 wind instruments the most spectacular increase is in the brass section which is practically doubled and also augmented by the then newly invented 10 or two bars. The purpose of all this expansion however is not merely to secure a great volume of tone.
Much more important is the matter of tone color with a sufficient number of instruments of the same type available. Wagner can write in harmony for a group of similar instruments and thus achieve a unified tone color. Otherwise impossible in the old orchestra for instance the Valhalla motif would probably have been assigned to horns trombones and tuba. Now however Wagner is able to obtain his desired sound by writing this music alone. Wagner specifies no less than six harps in the orchestra pit
Plus a seven under stage to accompany the Rhine maidens at the close of the opera. But here again is instrumental extravagance not for its own sake but for a unique effect. Near the end of the Opera Wagner uses the six harps to describe the shimmer of the rainbow bridge leading to Valhalla. Notice To what lengths he goes to get the exact effect he's up to. The six harps do not simply double each other by playing in unison. Wagner writes a separate and different musical line for each of them. To give you some idea of how little Wagner speared himself let me point out that this involved writing out as many as 260 notes per measure for the harps alone. But even the six harps do not provide the full measure of glistening in a distance. Wagner once so he puts his enlarged choir of violins to work. Again he is not content to let the instruments merely double each other but divides his 32 violins into eight groups of four violins and for each of these groups he had a
distinct and separate parts two of which are alike. This means an additional 144 notes per measure so that the total of the Hearts plus violins brings us to the astounding figure of three hundred sixteen notes from measure. And this mind you adjust for the company meant the shimmer effect while the motif proper of the Rainbow Bridge is played by other instruments. Wagner was extravagant instrumental demands are not limited to the orchestra players in the pit for the scene in the needle hime Smithy Wagner
specifies that 18 and will be placed about the stage. These and veils are allotted nine different rhythmic patterns and require the services of 18 extra musicians on stage to do the hammering correctly. The growth of the orchestra was only one part of Wagner's unique contribution to operatic music of even greater importance was his revolutionary development of chromatic harmony freedom of harmonic movement that gave his music a
sensuous quality that his contemporaries and that even today after more than a hundred years has not lost its magical almost hypnotic hold on audiences. There was an entire generation of Wagner that was quite content to revel in that glorious orchestral sound and that had relatively little interest in the vocal side of opera. It became possible to omit the vocal line altogether and relegated to the instruments. That's reversing completely factual and better still a relationship that I mentioned earlier. Here for instance is an excerpt from the leading Sopranos final solo in Tristan and it is all there. And here is the same music performed by the orchestra alone proving that at least for
some music lovers the singer a Spartan an opera would become occasionally completely expendable. There is no need of course to speak of any rivalry between the stage and the pit. It's both the voices and the instruments make essential and unique contributions to that marriage of music and drama that we call opera. Who can tell
when listening to the glorious final pages of Strauss's whether the singer or the orchestra is more important. It takes both forms of expression to give musical drama its full impact and meaning. Little. Yes. I am.
A little loon. Yes it will melt. My. Playwright Little Lulu air and.
The bird. Flu I am. You've been listening to opera the battleground of the arts with Boris killed off ski nationally known operatic commentator producer and scholar opera the battleground of the arts is produced in association with a gold ASCII opera Institute by w r b r the noncommercial cultural and information station of the Riverside Church in New York City. Producer Walter Shepherd production assistance and technical operations Peter Feldman and Matthew Bieber Feld Berlioz comments on Rossini were read by Kenneth Janes a member of the barnet college theatre company on next week's program. Mr. Gold will discuss the part played by the orchestra in operatic drama two weeks from now.
This topic will be the art of operatic production. A grand from that I stole home library foundation as made possible the production of this program for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
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Negro music in America
Episode Number
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the fourteenth of thirty nine parts, presents various examples of African-American folk and jazz music.
Series Description
This series focuses on music created and performed by African-Americans, including folk, and jazz styles. This series is hosted by Anton Luckenbach of Carbondale, Illinois, who also gathered interviews in New Orleans for this series.
Broadcast Date
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Host: Luckenbach, Anton
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-1-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:16
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Chicago: “Negro music in America; 14,” 1967-03-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Negro music in America; 14.” 1967-03-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Negro music in America; 14. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from