William Drabkin

in The Oxford Handbook of Opera

Published in print November 2014 | ISBN: 9780195335538
Published online April 2015 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This chapter discusses the problems of applying contemporary techniques of music analysis to a genre that embraces not only sound but also spectacle and, above all, drama. It describes the nature of the problems that arise when operatic music, be it a single “number” or an entire work, is the subject of close reading. It then discusses a variety of approaches taken since the 1970s to operas by Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi; these include Schenkerian (voice-leading) graphing and readings based on musical topoi, on the poetic design of the text, on composers’ sketches and autographs, and on the manipulation of operatic convention. Aspects of form, motive, and tonality are discussed in greater detail in parts of Le nozze di Figaro and the Ring.

Keywords: opera; analysis; Schenker; Mozart; Wagner; Verdi

Article.  11320 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History

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