Music 2115

Study Guide for Chapter 15

"Baroque Vocal Music"

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Early Opera
Claudio Monteverdi
Opera in Italy
Spread of Opera
Women Composers
Passion Music
Heinrich Schütz



Developed by members of the Florentine Camerata, a gentlemen's informal discussion group
In the city of Florence in Northern Italy

Poets, singers, composers

Read Classical Greek texts telling of the emotional influence of Greek music (ethos)

They tried to recreate the Greek way of performance

Solo song, declaimed in the rhythmn of the text, with simple chordal accompaniment

Giulio Caccini (c. 1545-1618)

 Active member of the Florentine Camerata

Wrote Le nuove musiche ("The New Music") in 1602 to describe and give musical examples of the new monody style

A renowned tenor and singing teacher

Developed stile recitative or "speaking in tones," another name for monody

Both his daughters composed and were employed as singers at Medici courts

Precursors of Opera

Medieval liturgical dramas beginning with the Quem quaeritis tropes

Morality plays like Hidegard's Ordo virtutum

Extended medieval poems like Adam de la Halle's Le jeu de Robin et de Marion

Galilei and Mei used Greek drama as their model

Intermedi between acts of a play

Dramatic madrigals, madrigal cycles and madrigal comedies


Early Opera in Italy

Opera is drama presented musically, combining art (scenery, costumes), literature (poetic or prose), theater (acting), dance, and instrumental and vocal music

Stile rapresentativo: the new theatrical style = speech-song = recitative

Dafne (1598) is the earliest opera, with music by Jacopo Corsi & Jacopo Peri (mostly lost), and libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini

Dafne set the style for more than a century:
1. Prologue by a character outside the action

2. Text is poetry, based on classical mythology

3. Includes pastoral characters and scenes

4. The climax is an emotional appeal or prayer by the main character

5. Resolution through divine intervention

6. Mostly accompanied solo song, with some chorus

7. Concluded with chorus

Euridice (1600)--music by Caccini & Peri, libretto by Rinuccini

Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo ("The Play about Soul and Body," 1600), the first Sacred opera (some call it an Oratorio), music by Emilio de' Cavalieri

L'Orfeo ("Orpheus," 1607)--music by Monteverdi, libretto by Alessandro Striggio


Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

Bridged from the Renaissance to the Baroque, composing in both old and new styles

Used old style (prima prattica) in sacred music & some madrigals

Also wrote late period chromatic madrigals

Perfected the new style (seconda prattica) in his own individually creative way

Also created stile concitato ("excited style") for his instrumental accompaniments


Sacred Music

From 1612 to his death in 1643 he was Maestro at St. Mark's in Venice

Composed in a combination of the old and new styles, bringing operatic elements into sacred music

Vespers (1610, dedicated to the Pope)

Two collections of his sacred music published, 1641 and, after his death, 1651.



Published in 9 books over a 64-year period (1587-1651), spanning his entire career and showing his gradually changing styles

Linked madrigals & madrigal cycles (starting with Book 1, 1587)

Basso seguente and basso continuo (starting with Book 5, 1605)

All for 5 voices until Book 7 (1619), then for 1 to 6 voices with basso continuo

Book 8 (1638)--Madrigals of War and Love

Book 9 (1651) published after his death, music previously published


Stage Works

Many stage works were not published, and have been lost; the following survive

L'Orfeo (1607)--opera (with recitative, madrigal, monody, arioso, & instrumental accompaniment)

Often called the first opera; it wasn't

Often called the first example of the symphony orchestra; it wasn't

His creativity and dramatic sense made his operas strikingly better than the earliest ones

Il ballo delle ingrate (1608)--ballet

L'Arianna (1608)--opera, said to be even better than L'Orfeo; only the Lamento d'Arianna survives

Tirsi e Clori (1616)--ballet

Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda ("The Battle of Tancred and Clorinda," madrigal cycle, 1624)

Il ritorno d'Ulisse in partia ("The Return of Ulyses to his Homland," 1640)--opera; heavily recitative

L'incoronazione di Poppea ("The Coronation of Poppea," 1642)--opera; recitative + arias & funny scenes

The story of Nero's seduction by the courtesan Poppea

A masterpiece of musical theater

Early Italian Centers of Opera Developments


Popular as private entertainments in the homes of the wealthy

Important opportunities for women singers & actresses

Both sacred opera and comic opera developed

Elaborate stage machinery, choruses to open & close acts with dancing



1st public opera house opened 1637, 2nd in 1639

After Monteverdi, Cavalli and Cesti were the major opera composers

After 1650 music became more important than text or drama



No opera until after 1652, then became an operatic center

Standard stylistic features established by the end of the century:

Recitativo secco ("dry recitative," with very light accompaniment, for lengthy texts)

Recitativo accompagnato ("accompanied recitative," with instruments, for dramatic or emotional intensity)

Da capo (ABA) arias

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)

Mainly responsible for the rise of Neapolitan opera

Serious plots with happy endings (not the older mythological themes)

Wrote recitative-aria pairs and full da capo arias


The Spread of Italian Opera and Italian Style

Opera in France

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Composer to both Louis XIII and Louis XIV

Stage works

Ballets de cour (early period, 1653-1663)
Introduced up-to-date dances to replace older ones

Transformed the free-form ballet into an organized dramatic spectacle

The word entrée meant a distinct section or an entire act

Pastorales, comédies-ballets, and tragédies-ballets (middle period, 1663-1672)

Comédies-ballets used recitatives and airs, but had spoken dialog

Tragédies lyriques were his large-scale operas (late period, 1672-1687)

Overture, prolog, 5 acts was standard

Divertissements were sections or scenes inserted into the story, often dance scenes having little or nothing to do with the story line

The French Overture was used in his ballets de cour and his tragédies lyriques

In two sections:
Opening section slowish with exaggerated dotted rhythms--very stately

Second part quick and fugal or imitative

Opéra-ballet was a post-Lully development, has each act dramatically independent


Opera in England

The masque
Dramatic poetry, song, dance, instrumental music all blended together

Based on allegorical or mythological theme

Main poet between 1605 and 1631 was Ben Jonson (1573-1637)

Main stage designer and architect was Inigo Jones (1573-1652)

From 1656, difficult to differentiate between masque and opera (sung throughout)

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

Sacred music, music for important state occasions

Important incidental music for a number of plays

Dido and Aeneas (1689) was his only true opera, and it was a miniature

Italian opera (sung in Italian) was extremely popular in England from 1705


Opera in Germanic Lands

Italian opera (sung it Italian) became very popular

Dafne (1627, music lost) by Heinrich Schütz was the first opera written in Germany

Singspiel was the German vernacular opera, with spoken dialogue

Hamburg became an important center for German opera


Opera in Spain

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) invented/developed zarzuela, vernacular Spanish opera, around 1648
Combines singing and dancing with spoken dialogue

Patterned on Italian opera, but influenced by popular Spanish music


A large work like an opera, but without action, scenery, or costumes
May use any or all of the musical elements of opera

May be secular, but most have sacred subjects, often Old Testament stories

There is a narrator, called Testo or, later, Historicus

Filippo Neri (1515-1595) is credited with inventing the Oratorio

Starting in 1551, a small group of laymen me regularly in Rome for prayer and religious discussions

When the group grew larger, they met in the Oratory (a chapel or prayer room) of the church

Singing of laude led to the composition of dramatic works for these services

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)

Wrote Latin oratorios, Italian oratorios, and Italian cantatas

Jephte (sometime before 1650) is his best-known oratorio


Women Composers

Not only did women sing in the new musical forms, they also composed oratorios & operas

Women composers were active principally in Italy and Vienna

Francesca Caccini (1587-1640) wrote monody and the first Italian operan performed outside Italy, La liberazione di Ruggiero ("The liberation of Ruggiero," 1625)

Duchess Sophie Elisabeth of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1613-1676) was a student of Schütz who composed sacred songs and cantatas

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1664) composed six volumes of arias, madrigals, and cantatas

Maria Grimani (fl. 1713-1718) was the first woman whose opera was performed at the Imperial court in Vienna

Passion Music

The Passion is the stories in the four Gospels of the capture, trials, and crucifixion of Jesus; its performance during Holy Week developed slowly over the centuries, as musical styles gradually changed:

From the 5th century the Passion from Matthew was chanted by 1 singer on Sunday & Wednesday of Holy Week

From the 7th century the Passion from Luke replaced Matthew on Wednesday of Holy Week

From the 9th century 1 chanter took on different characters for words of the Evangelist, Jesus, and the turba or crowd

From the 10th century the Passion from Mark was added on Tuesday of Holy Week

From the 13th century three different chanters took on the 3 different characters

From the 14th century the chorus chanted the turba parts

In the 15th century the responsorial Passion developed, using motet-style polyphony

The Choral Passion or Dramatic Passion was monophonic except for the words of the turba and of Jesus

In the Motet Passion or Throughcomposed Passion the complete text was set polyphonically

In the 16th century the Responsorial type was favored, often without polyphonic setting of Jesus' words, and the Summa Passion using portions of text from all four Gospels and all seven last words of Christ on the cross became popular

In the 17th century the Oratorio Passion used modern operatic styles, adding poetic meditations & chorales to the Biblical text

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Considered the greatest German composer of the 17th century; most of his works, including all his stage works, were lost in the 30 Years' War

Studied Italian style in Venice with Giovanni Gabrielli and later with Monteverdi

Worked in several German courts--primarily Dresden--and in Denmark

His fusion of German & Italian styles provided the foundation for succeeding German Baroque composers

Wrote for soloists with basso continuo, backed with chorus(es) and obbligato instruments in the Venitian style

Major surviving works

Three collections of Symphoniae sacrae ("Sacred symphonies"--actually Latin motets--1629, 1648, 1650)

The Musicalische Exequien (Funeral music, 1635)

The 7 Last Words (1645)

3 Passions (John, 1665; Matthew, 1666; Luke, 1666)

The Christmas Oratorio (1660)

4 Magnificats (c. 1619-1671)


A small-scale accompanied vocal chamber work, often for solo voice with modest accompaniment
In the 20th century the terms Oratorio and Cantata have become interchangeable

Much shorter than opera or oratorio, but using similar musical techniques:

Used aria, arioso, recitative; a large-scale cantata might also use chorus

Best and most prolific Italian composer was Alessandro Scarlatti of Neopolitan opera fame

No cantatas in France until after 1700, then they became very popular

In England the term was not used until 1710

In Germany after 1700 cantatas were associated with Lutheran sacred music and were a very important musical form


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