Opera in Conversation: "Verismo Opera" Takeaway

Oct 10, 2018

Don't miss this iconic production at Opera Omaha, Oct 19th and 21st! Tickets start at $19: https://ticketomaha.com/Productions/pagliacci

A big thank you to all who attended or spoke at the second Opera In Conversation! In case you missed it, here are some takeaways from “Verismo Opera”:

Head of Music Sean Kelly explored the verismo opera movement, including famous works and composers like Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and the elements of this musical style. The stylistic changes of the time were apparent in the music both orchestrally and vocally.

Verismo was drawn from the naturalism literary movement in France; it was thought that literature should approach life as a scientist would approach a subject, without embellishment or interpretation. The literary movement developed the idea of a plot moving forward through dialogue rather than narrative alone. In terms of the opera’s story and music, this translated to economical choices, facts, and fast resolutions.

Verismo in opera took on a feeling of immediacy, or a news-like quality, as many of the stories were taken directly from dramas and tragedies occurring at the time. Pagliacci, for example, was based upon a servant from the Leoncavallo household who murdered his wife on stage; Ruggero Leoncavallo’s father was the magistrate who resided over the servant’s case.

Verismo is also known as “stile declamato” in Italy, meaning that there is an emphasis on enunciating the drama through text first.

It gets to the point faster musically than previous operatic styles. Verismo vocally resembles the speed of natural speech more closely than past vocal trends which focused upon melisma and repetition. Verismo instead highlighted the brute force of the human voice. Around this time, the orchestral pit was much louder due to instrumental innovation, and so vocal techniques had to change and adapt to becomes more focused and brighter. The orchestra, rather than merely accompanying, drives the opera singing forward as well, and at times even drowns out the singer to punctuate the emotion.

By Lillian Snortland
Opera Omaha Weitz Fellow

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