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date: 18 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The fundamental assumption of commentators from the early modern period is that tasteful music functions simultaneously to express sentiment and to move listener-spectators. The three core elements of the baroque operatic spectacle—poetry, music, and dance—are defined by their ability to express and convey passion. Commentators point to the particular ability of musical language—and its combination with poetry and movement—to represent that which is out of reach of spoken language, or below the threshold of linguistic representation. Although both dramma per musica and the tragédie en musique arose and were fundamentally grounded in monarchical cultural worlds, both also endured successfully as public art forms. Aesthetically, baroque opera exhibits and revels in nested structures, manifested in plays within plays and in references that place the operatic moment within a social world outside the opera. Opera left this aesthetic behind as it moved into the second half of the eighteenth century, influenced by the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the works of Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck among others.

Keywords: Baroque, dramma per musica, tragédie en musique, baroque opera, nested structures, musical language

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