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Music & Opera in Italy

 The Medieval and Renaisance periods
Stradivarius ViolinThrough Boccaccio, among others, it is known that singing, dancing and poetry often went hand in hand in medieval and Renaissance Italy. Italy concentrated on music as part of a spectacle rather than as apure art form. 
Important contributors to the music of these periods include Guido d'Arezzo (c. 995 - 1050), a monk who perfected musical notation, and Francesco Landini (1325 - 97), one of the most known composers whose songs displayed a distinct concern for lyricism. The next 150 years were to be characterized by the Ars Perfecta Style culminating with composers Giovanni Palestrina (1525 - 94). His vocal style subjected dissonance to strict control, and it was  employed for most church music. Madrigals (vocal settings of poems by Petrarch and other poets) were are also popular. The early 17th century saw Italian composers such as Carlo Gesualdo ( c.1561 - 1613) and Claudio Monteverdi challenge these traditions by introducing more declamations and more of the unexpected.

The Baroque Era
Claudio Monteverdi's Music straddled the transition from the Renaissance period to the 17th century Baroque. The word "baroque" means highly ornamented, even bizarre, and embellishment was rife. Monteverdi's madrigals began as standard pieces for four voices but ended up as mini operas. This was due to the popularity of an individual instrumental style and the development of the basso continuo ( a supporting organ, harpsichord or lute that unleashed the possibility for solos and duets). At this point, the beginings of the string orchestra were in place. A new fashion for declamation meant thet various emotional states were being represented with sighs and sobs rather than just description. Monteverdi's Vespers followed others' in exploiting the stereophonic possibilities of San Marco in Venice by contrasting different forces. In different parts of the building. In the 1680s, Arcangelo Corelli (1633 - 1713) turned to classicism. Corelli was famous for the Concerto Grosso, a style that contrasted the solo string group with the full ensemble. He was followed by Antonio Vivaldi ( 1678 - 1741), who concentrated his efforts on developing the solo from of the Concerto Grosso. He used wind and plucked instruments as well as violins.
Opera first emerged during the weddimg celebrations of Italy's 16th century wealthy families Monteverdi was the first composer to establish his work firmly in the opera repertoire. During the 17th century, Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725) formulated a model which consisted of an orchestral overture followed by a sequence of narrative, set as recitative, and interrupted by da capo ( three - part ) arias. Themes for the weightier opera seria were largely drawn from mythology, while the lighter opera buffa had stock scenes that sometimes owned a large debt to the traditions of Commedia dell'Arte. Famous for his comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville, was the composer

Gioachino Rossini. Among other contributors, Vincenzo Bellini (1801 - 35) and Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848) developed bel canto singing, a style stressing fine tone and ornamentation. The two most prominetnt opera composers of the later half of the 19th century were Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) and
Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924). Verdi often turned to the works of Shakespeare as well as to more recent subjects in order to form a basis for his work, while many composers, like Puccini, turned to the new trend of verismo (slices of contemporary realism) - La Bohme is one of the most r5efined examples of this style.
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