“Che Faró Senza Euridice?”:
James E. Betts
James E. Betts
It is one of the commonly accepted facts of music
history that the first operas were created in
Using aural and visual multimedia resources, the presentation examines various facets of the relationship between Greco-Roman culture and opera. First, we consider the origins of Florence’s humanist tradition and how they contributed to its role in the birth of the operatic form, considering the roles of both famous (Dante, Petrarch) and lesser-known (Giovanni Bardi, Vincenzio Galilei) Florentines in this process. Then a brief survey of the historical development of the operatic form follows, with special attention to operas based on mythological or classic historical sources, taking into account social and musical changes and their reflections in the use of these sources. This survey is complemented and illustrated by a case study (with musical examples) of one of the most attractive myths to composers, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and its transformations for use in Baroque operas by Peri and Monteverdi, Classic operas by Gluck and Haydn, Offenbach’s parodistic retelling, Milhaud’s humanizing version, Birtwistle’s depiction of parallel realities, and musico-dramatic works by Moraes and Jobim and Amouyal. These examples serve to show the persistence of Greco-Roman cultural influence throughout more than four centuries of opera composition, as well as composers’ flexibility in employing this influence in reaction to social and cultural evolution.