The Catholic University of America

Mozart, Opera Seria, and the Traditions that Shaped his Works

Grayson Wagstaff

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed several of the most frequently done operas in the Western repertory. His works continue to delight audiences and inspire performers, composers, and scholars after two centuries. This seminar will focus primarily on Mozart’s opera seria, specifically how these works were influenced by a number of other composers’ works in Austria, Germany, France and Italy. Idomeneo, which contains some of Mozart’s greatest dramatic music, represents a synthesis of French operatic and dramatic techniques in an ostensibly Italian genre. Mozart’s debt to French tradition will be examined through several operas that he admired as well as the then ongoing discussion of reform in opera and theater. Scholars have established much about the development of this piece, since Mozart’s work on Idomeneo is better documented than are his other operas and several early sources! for the music survive. Students in the seminar will examine the composer’s revisions, a number of changes that Mozart made, how he shaped the music for individual singers and strove to create performances NOT a fixed musical score to be repeated. As does Idomeneo, La Clemenza di Tito demonstrates Mozart’s ability to balance his musical gifts with the requirements of the theater. Students will examine Tito in light of the other great works of the last years of Mozart’s life. This seminar will also focus on the development of vocal performance traditions and pedagogy during the eighteenth century. Some students will examine various editions of Mozart’s operas in terms of changing performance expectations. Certain works will be explored in light of various research on vocal techniques and how the sounds of Mozart’s era can be recreated.

 

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