The Assoluta Voice in Opera, 1797-1847
It is unusual for styles in opera to carry over from one era into another. It would be even more unusual for one era's characteristics to linger two generations into the next. Yet this is precisely what happened during the first half of the nineteenth century, when the intricacies of the fleet bel canto style were combined with the Romantic era's heroic declamation and formidable orchestral emphasis resulting in the creation of the assoluta voice.
This work traces the emergence of the impressive vocal writing that resulted from the marriage of the bel canto and Romantic eras. It also covers the uniquely versatile divas who were given the opportunities to make their mark on opera from the time of Cherubini to that of a young Verdi. Here, both the wide-ranging vocalism in the scores themselves and the artists capable of performing this style are referred to as assoluta. Chapters consider Luigi Cherubini's Medee, Gioacchino Rossini's Armida, Carl Maria von Weber's Oberon, Gaetano Donizetti's Anna Bolena, Vincenzo Bellini's Norma, Donizetti's Gemma di Vergy and Roberto Devereux, the time of transition in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco and Macbeth.
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Gemma di Vergy
Time of Transition
Assoluta Manquée II
Subgroups of Assoluta
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Abigaille Adalgisa agility Anna Bolena aria Armida artist assoluta roles bel canto Bellini's breath broadcast cabaletta Caballé cadenza Callas Callas's capo Casta Diva castrato cavatina Cerquetti character Cherubini's Cigna climax coda coloratura conveys Créon decrescendo defining assoluta delivery diminuendo Donizetti dramatic duet effect Elisabetta ensemble Essex expressive feelings figli final scene flourish Gemma Gemma di Vergy Gencer hear heroic high B flat instrument interpretation Jason La Scala Lady Macbeth low B flat luce langue manquée Maria Maria Callas Maria Stuarda materia di mezzo Médée middle Montserrat Caballé Nabucco Norma opening opera Oroveso passagework Pasta Percy performance phrases pianissimo piano pitch Pollione Ponselle premiere range reading recitative recording Reiza repertoire Roberto Devereux Ronzi–De Begnis Rossini Sara Scala scena seems sequence Sills singer singing Sleepwalking Scene solo soprano Souliotis sound staccati sung tessitura title role tone top note trills Verdi Verdi's Viardot-García voice Wagner words