Overture: Opera Vs. Opera

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The overture has been around as long as musical theatre, opera and music performance has been. The purpose of an overture is simple: introduce the audience to the work, lead-in to the rest of the play or opera and present the audience with the overall tone of the piece. Several works, specifically in modern times, have bypassed the overture. Although many works of opera and musical theatre tell a story fully without an overture, overtures aid in furthering the story and gives an emotional connection to the audience member from the beginning to the end of the production. Overtures allow the audience member to experience a visceral response to a certain line of melody or certain style of music before hearing it in the show itself, allowing…show more content…
Some works that I believe are some of the best examples are the overtures from the operetta Candide, the opera The Magic Flute and the musical The Light in the Piazza, respectively. These three pieces, in their own ways, have something about them that qualifies as quintessential musical theatre or opera overtures – they have melodic themes that are repeated throughout the show, they have rhythmic consistency with the rest of the work and they display emotions through the orchestrations that hint at the emotional journey the audience is about to go through. Candide, while not a wildly successful show and most certainly not what Leonard Bernstein is known for, still provides a music lover with one of the most thrilling and enthralling overtures in all of musical theatre. This excitement that the overture shares with the audience comes from its allegro tempo and sudden changes in dynamics. It presents several musical themes that reappear throughout the score, which, in my opinion, is one of the key components to a well-thought out and impactful overture. In a definitive ranking of musical theatre overtures, Thomas Hischak said of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, “The original…show more content…
Adam Guettel’s music flows seamlessly from the orchestra’s instruments to the listener’s ears. Adam Guettel’s music has this certain “Rodgers and Hammerstein” quality about it, which makes sense as he is the grandson of Richard Rodgers (Wikipedia). It has a dream-like quality that fits perfectly into Guettel’s neo-romantic style, as well as with the motifs of the show, played mostly by the harpist and the pianist. The overture itself starts soft and builds throughout with some decrescendo and crescendo. The dynamics add the necessary stresses to certain musical phrases that will reappear throughout the show. However, with this overture, I use the term overture lightly. It is more of a musical prologue, as there is a vocal line at the end which ties seamlessly into the first number of the show. There is no break in the actual performance of the overture and the first number, entitled “Statues and Stories”. Without this break, it seems like the overture is just an exceptionally long introduction to the first song. But, in my opinion, it deserves its own place as an overture because it is a beautiful piece of orchestral music that introduces the audience to the rest of the show. The themes presented in the overture, which I will continue to classify it as for clarity, reappear throughout, specifically in the vocal lines of later songs. This harkens back to the era of Candide and other shows of similar

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