How does Verdi update and enhance the ensemble tradition of comic opera in a dramatic plot?
Verdi’s opera proceeds primarily in arioso-recitative passages with the action pausing occasionally for freely formed arias. There are also occasional set-pieces such as the round song in pub on the stormy night. The choruses and ensembles are especially important. The orchestra is treated with great flexibility, accompanying the singers, characterizing the people in the story and depicting what is happening on stage. Verdi finished his life work with Falstaff (1893), a comic opera. It is not mere entertainment music, however, because this dreamer of beauty and greatness hides under a cloak of merriment. Thus, Verdi translated human emotion into music.
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How does Verdi use the orchestra as another character in the story?
In the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, we find the highest expression of Italian arts and letters contemporary with the German Wagnerian era. Verdi’s music is human, dramatic and intrinsically Italian. His operas were born out of nationalistic fervor and supreme musical genius. In the face of strictly enforced censorship, Verdi found libretti which embodied the idea of liberty and which would have allegorical significance for his countrymen. Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (The troubadour) (1853) and La Traviata (The Lost One) (1853) were all based on celebrated French plays, but they are poles apart from the conventional Romantic grand opera with its insistence on spectacular display (Martin, 1963). Nor there is formidable amalgamation of leitmotifs with which Wagner built up his musical texture. Verdi rather developed the motives and actions of his characters through the harmonic and tonal relationships of the music. Verdi’s Aida (1871) is more lavish in pomp and display than the most spectacular grand opera, but these features are not responsible for this opera’s enduring esteem. It is rather the development in the characters of passion as mirrored in the music which gives it its universal appeal. In 1874 came Verdi’s tribute to his friend Carlo Manzoni in the Requiem Mass which is as dramatic as any opera. At the age of seventy-three, Verdi composed his Otello (1887), which is “one throbbing story of the catastrophe of a great love.”