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18thc. Music in Italy - 2

Commedia dell'arte Commedia dell'arte was an early form of professional comic theatre with song and dance, that originated in Italy, and was popular across Europe, especially in Venice, from the 16th to the 18th century. Masked characters represent stereotypical and exaggerated social types such a: 'Pierrot, the sad clown', 'Il Capitano, a military officer full of false bravado', 'Il Dottore, the know-it-all doctor', 'Columbina, the maid servant, 'Pantalone, greedy old men', and the unmasked boy/girl characters Innamorati. Each character has a distinct masked costume that helps the audience understand who the character is, and the plot. The character Pulcinella is the subject of a ballet by Stravinsky, and Picasso painted several versions of the comic character Harlequin.

Carnival Scene, Venice, by Tiepolo, c.1750. Performances of Commedia dell'arte were a feature of Carnival, a religious/secular festive season dating from the 13thc. in Europe. It was especially popular in Venice in the 18thc., with visitors wearing decorative masks and extravagant costumes; the tradition continued in the city until the start of the pandemic.

Teatro Argentina Opera House, Rome, by Panini, 1747. Opera As I mentioned in a previous post, opera was first developed in Italy at the beginning of the 17thc. starting with Orfeo by Monteverdi. Opera became increasingly popular in Italy and throughout Europe in the 18thc, in large part because of operas by Vivaldi - he composed over 40!! - and composers such as Handel that composed operas in the Italian style. This is an aria from Vivaldi's opera Il Giustino, performed in flip-flops and sneakers at the Aix-en-Provence music festival in the south of France: Vivaldi also composed opera-like religious dramas that were not staged. This is an energetic aria from his oratorio 'Juditha triumphans': This is a virtuosic performance of the dramatic aria Vo solcando un mar crudele - 'I go forth, sailing on a cruel sea', from the 18thc Italian opera Artaserse by Vinci, performed with gesture and ornamentation typical of the period: Concerto Grosso is a form of baroque music developed in Italy in the early 18thc. in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists - concertino, typically 2 violins and a cello, and full orchestra - tutti/grosso. Corelli was one of the first to compose concerti grossi (plural), followed by other Italian composers including Geminiani, Locatelli, and Vivaldi. This is Vivaldi's best known concerto grosso, played here by the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble (California) in Rome in 2017:

A version of Vivaldi's La Follia with exploding cello bow:

Domenico Scarlatti, one of the many Italian composers in the 18thc. worked in the royal courts of Portugal and Spain, and is best known for his 555 short sonatas for keyboard. This is sonata #217: Concerto for Mandolin - an instrument especially popular in 18thc. Venice. The bowed instrument is a viola da gamba: The next post is about music in 18thc. France, and features the music of Rameau.

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