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What is opera (with reference to Moses and Aron by Schoenberg) - Essay Example

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What is opera (with reference to Moses and Aron by Schoenberg)

Snowman defines it in passing as “an art form that aspires to combine all the others”1 and goes on to chart the history of opera as a pastime of the elite which started in the Renaissance, reached its peak in the nineteenth century and began to decline in the twentieth century. This paper looks at the nature and purpose of opera in the twentieth century with specific reference to the unfinished masterpiece Moses and Aron which was written by classical composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) between 1930 and 1932. In the mediaeval period most people encountered formal music principally in religious settings but after the great turbulence of the Reformation, there came a time of gradual extension of musical performance into the salons of high society. Wealthy patrons of the Renaissance commissioned music to be written for special occasions such as weddings and coronations. In France the ballet form emerged, and in Italy genres such as the pastorale became popular: “The attraction of the pastorale consisted therefore, not in the plot but in the scenes and moods, the sensuous charm of the language, and the delicately voluptuous imagery, at which the Italian Renaissance poets excelled.”...
tieth century new genres, and notably also technology such as gramophones and radio, extended the range of genres for musical production available and brought musical performances to still further sectors of the population. Schoenberg’s compositions were, however, unreservedly directed at the music-loving elites, and his choice of theme for his own modern opera harks back to the religious heritage of the Old Testament. Snowdon describes the changes that opera had undergone in the intervening centuries as a negative process: “opera has become at best a museum of art, a kind of old-fashioned religion re-enacted inside great temples before a dwindling audience of the devout.” 3 This description fits the more intellectual style of opera and it can be contrasted with what Snowman calls the “dumbing down of a once great art form to the point where any appeal it has beyond the narrow world of the cognoscenti is necessarily derived from the imposition of hype, shock and bogus sex appeal.”4 Schoenberg’s Moses and Aron is musically difficult, both to perform and to listen to, and it deals with ancient themes using heavy moral and religious overtones. It hardly seems likely to attract a wide audience, but for Schoenberg, the composition of both text and musical score seem to have meaning beyond the immediate context, serving to some extent as a life’s work, or a summing up of the most important elements in his own view of the world that he wants to leave for posterity. Schoenberg had a complex religious background, being born a Jew in Roman Catholic Austria, and then converting to Protestant Christianity before returning to his Jewish roots in later life.5 This return was provoked by the rising anti-Semitism that was gaining ground in central Europe in the early ...Show more

Summary

The term “opera” derives from the Italian word for “work” and has come to mean a large scale and extravagant creation, or a work of art which involves music, high drama and expensive costumes, delivered in sumptuous surroundings to a well-educated and wealthy audience…
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What is opera (with reference to Moses and Aron by Schoenberg) essay example
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