Fragments from the opera "Life for the Tsar" to mark World Opera Day

"It's time for us to go to the opera ..."
Alexander Pushkin

World Opera Day is celebrated today -- the birthday of Georges Bizet and Johann Strauss' junior. The campaign to enhance prestige of opera and promote it was launched by the three professional associations of musical theatre - Opera America, Opera Latin America and Opera Europe.

The 17th century saw the birth of many music art forms, including opera, which in subsequent centuries had a decisive influence on the main genres of instrumental music and symphonism. Opera (Italian opera, from lat. opus - work, composition), a musical and theatrical work based on the combination of singing and dramatic action, it is a drama or comedy set to music.

The term "opera" is conventional and emerged later than the musical and dramatic works that it denotes. The term was first used in its original sense in 1639, but it did not come into general use until the beginning of the 19th century. The authors of the first operas, which appeared in Florence at the turn of the 17th and 18thth centuries, called them "dramas for music" (Drama per musica). They were inspired by a desire to revive the genre of ancient Greek tragedy. Members of the Florentine Camerata (a community of poets and musicians) created a series of musical dramas, which quickly gained recognition. By the end of the 17th century, the new genre had gained recognition in various Italian cities. Soon the opera was spreading rapidly across Europe. Over the years, it became widely accessible, no longer serving solely as an entertainment for noblemen. Galleries became available in the opera houses and townsfolks people could enjoy opera.

The founder of French opera, Florentine-born Jean-Baptiste Lully created the best orchestra in Europe at the time and wrote 19 operas. French opera was formed of five acts with a prologue, conventions in stage behavior and a compulsory ballet.

 “Daphne” by Heinrich Schütz was the first German opera. Henry Purcell, with his only work “Dido and Aeneas” was the pioneer of opera genre in England. The genre of lyrical tragedy was widely developed in France. The culmination of its development in the mid-18th century was associated with the work of Jean-Philippe Rameau. However, the Italian opera seria (opera seria - serious opera with mythological or historical-heroic plot), which dominated in Europe in the 18th century, often hindered the development of national operas.

In the 1830s, a new genre emerged in Italy - opera buffa that emerged from comic interludes, which were usually performed between the acts of opera seria. In the course of historical development, genres came closer together and the boundaries between them often became tentative and relative. A radical musical and dramatic reform was carried out by Christoph Willibald Gluck, whose artistic principles were influenced by the ideas of the German and French Enlightenment. He believed that drama should rule the performance, and the task of music, vocals and choreography was to promote and emphasize it. The ideas of Gluck ideas had a great influence on opera genre development. They were reflected in musical reforms of the 19th century. This is how opera was born in Europe.

The Russian opera school - along with Italian, French, German and Austrian - is of worldwide importance. Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) is deservedly considered the national opera founder. The history of Russian classical opera is inextricably linked to the development of Russian social life. The first Russian operas were plays with musical episodes in the course of the action. The flowering of the national musical theatre is associated with the genre of comic opera. Russian comic opera emerged in the 70s of the 18th century. The musical basis was the folk and townish songs, and the works themselves were satirical in nature. The inclusion of songs in the opera music (composers Vasily Pashkevich and Evstigney Fomin) made it possible to combine folk and professional features. The librettist was considered the author of the opera, while many of the choral and instrumental works remained anonymous. The first significant Russian operas (or, more precisely, pieces with musical episodes in the course of the action) belonged to Alexey Verstovsky (“Askold's Grave”). The first operas already had a national character and were oriented on the established ideas of the scenic and everyday-life nature of folk art. Comic or maudlin plots predominated. The traditional ending of these operas was the punishment of vice and the triumph of virtue.

However, the actual birth of Russian opera was in the 19th century, when Mikhail Glinka created his great works “Life for the Tsar” and “Ruslan and Lyudmila”.

"Life for the Tsar" was the first Russian opera without spoken dialogue. It radically changed the history of Russian music and for many years became the benchmark for operatic genre.

For World Opera Day, the museum Sound Library presents compilation of fragments from the first classic national Russian opera “Lifefor the Tsar", in which, as contemporaries noted, the composer succeeded in elevating the folk tune to the level of tragedy. The opera became a high standard and creative benchmark for later generations of Russian classical opera composers.