Some Forerunners of Italian Opera by W. J. Henderson

By W. J. Henderson

William James Henderson (1855-1937) used to be the writer of a few Forerunners of Italian Opera (1911). "The goal of this quantity is to provide to the English reader a quick research of the lyric drama in Italy sooner than the delivery of opera, and to notice in its heritage the expansion of the inventive components and impacts which eventually led the Florentine reformers to inn to the traditional drama of their look for a simplified medium of expression."

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The composers of the frottole showed sound knowledge of the ancient rules of ligature and the correct use of accidentals; on the other hand it is always held by the writers of the early periods that an elaborately made frottola is no longer a frottola, but a madrigal. Thus Cerone[25] in the twelfth book of his “Melopeo” gives an account of the manner of composing frottole. He demands for this species of song a simple and easily comprehended harmony, such as 43 Some Forerunners of Italian Opera appears only in common melodies.

One cannot believe that at so early a date as that of this first secular drama of Italy, the system of lighting the stage was such as to give satisfactory results. Yet it is probable that artificial lighting was provided, because it would have been extremely difficult to admit daylight in such a way as to illumine the stage without destroying much of the desirable illusion. Celler, in the first of his two volumes already quoted, tells how the “Ballet de la Reine” (1581) was lighted 38 Some Forerunners of Italian Opera by torches and “lamps in the shape of little boats” so that the illumination, according to a contemporary record, was such as to shame the finest of days.

We may also feel 50 Some Forerunners of Italian Opera confident that when most of the Italian lute singers of the time had acquired sufficient skill to make their own poems as well as their own melodies, they followed the models provided in the verses of the great masters. What is still more important for us to note is that these lyrics were strophical and that they were no further removed from the folk song of the era than the frottola was. Indeed they bore a closer resemblance to the frottola.

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