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C O U R S E 
Introduction to Italian Opera
Steve Swayne, Dartmouth College
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Le nozze di Figaro: The Music Conveys the Drama
Notes taken on October 14, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
when we think of Italian opera, we often think of Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan
yet in the late 18th century, much Italian opera occurred in Vienna
Antonio Salieri
Martín y Soler
few works that were created in the late 18th century had come to us unaltered
usually not played on the kinds of instruments Mozart wrote for
singers are trained differently
the halls in which they were originally performed have mostly disappeared
but the notes of Le nozze di Figaro have for the most part remained the same
1786 composed Le nozze di Figaro
Lorenzo Da Ponte
gave him an Italian libretto in order to create an Italian opera
has stood the test of time
the music, independent of the words, can tell us much about the lives, hearts, and minds of the characters who are represented in the opera
opera represents the achievement of intense dramatic expression by essentially musical means
if we listen with intent to the music and the music alone, we can understand much of the drama on stage and in the lives of the characters on that stage
the music conveys the drama
you don't always need to know the words that are being sung, you don't even need to see the work being performed on a stage
if you learn to develop your ear to hear the music is doing, you will pick up and understand much of the drama composed by the best musical dramatists
opening duet
at one point counting numbers
strange words to set to music
Figaro is measuring out the room that he and Susanna will share together once they get married
he is fairly preoccupied
at first he doesn't seem to hear Susanne at all
who is more focused on the nature of their wedding and marriage
the music changes when Susanne sings
more lyrical
more song-like
whereas the music when Figaro speaks represents his more terse expressions of distance
two people are singing
but they are not singing together
they aren't singing about the same thing
Figaro: material matters
Susanne: less tangible issues
Figaro's first not keep being raised higher and higher
keeps expanding Figaro's range
a musical portrayal from 5 to 43
strings keep playing the same not over and over
the fixed point from where the measurements expand
Susanne singing
more songful
more variety in rhythm and volume
expresses a wide range of possibilities
has more thoughts and feelings than Figaro has expressed so far
first 20 second
Figaro measuring out the room
next 10 second
then a mix
Figaro even more consumed with his measurements
Susanne continues in rapturous thought of their life ahead
oblivious to Figaro and his actions
Figaro starts to sing the song that Susanne's music
never goes back to measuring
allows them to sing in harmony with each other
abandons measuring out the room in order to join Susanne in rhapsodizing about their life together
by the end they are singing Susanne's music, not Figaro's
gives us a hint that Susanne might be a step ahead of Figaro throughout the opera