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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter shows how variable the makeup of the opera orchestra has been throughout the history of opera from the seventeenth century to the present day. This variability cannot be explained only by historical evolution. Rather, the changes in the constitution of the orchestra were influenced by geography (local traditions), repertoire, performance space, and organology. The transmission of works, the movement of conductors from one country to another, and the increasing complexity of instrumental language in opera contributed to the standardization of the orchestra that was achieved only after World War II on a model established in the 1870s. Recent interest in historically informed performance tends to put forward old peculiarities that had been erased with time. Four main cases are discussed: (1) the orchestra at the time of Monteverdi and the heritage of the Renaissance, (2) the Paris Opéra and the French tradition, (3) La Scala and the reforms encouraged by Verdi, and (4) Wagner and the search for an ideal orchestra.

Keywords: orchestra, Monteverdi, Verdi, Wagner, conductor, performance

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