The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment

By Mary Hunter | Go to book overview

Appendix Two
MUSICAL FORMS IN OPERA BUFFA ARIAS1

“Sonata-like” (ca. 30% of repertory)2
Variations:
with or without development;
triple return—of initial text, opening vocal music, and tonic key—may be blurred
in alternating tempi: e.g., A [slow] in I; B [fast] to V; A [slow] in I; B [fast] in I
may have faster envoi3
text through once or twice (occasionally more)
____________________
1
This table is intended to give the principal formal “skeletons” for the ca. 800 arias in this repertory, to indicate the range of general formal practice. As the “variations” sections indicate, there are many versions of most of the forms in this repertory, and many arias approximate rather than embody these forms. I have indicated the essential features of each formal outline in the diagram immediately below its name.
2
I use the term “sonata-like” not to indicate that composers had “sonata-form” in mind when they were writing these arias, but to sketch, in terms that encompass both tonal and thematic relations, the common elements of these arias. They share the presence of a more or less well-articulated expository paragraph with a cadence in the dominant (often, though by no means always confirmed by a ritornello), the return of all or most of the opening material in the tonic, and the “grounding” of the secondary-key material in the home key. Obviously, the force and clarity of the move to V, the degree of thematic contrast and “development,” and the homecoming feel of the reprise vary enormously, depending on the text-content, the aria-type, and the proclivities of the composer.
3
The envoi of an aria in a sonata-like or other closed form typically comes after a full (or nearly full) reprise of the expository paragraph. It is usually relatively brief; it normally sets new text in a faster tempo and often in a new meter. Among Mozart's Viennese operas the clearest example of an envoi is Osmin's “Erst geköpft, dann gehangen,” at the end of “Solche hergelauf'ne Laffen,” in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, though Cherubino's “E se non ho chi m'oda” at the end of “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio,” in Le nozze di Figaro would also “count” as a small example of the species despite its lack of thematic novelty. La finta giardiniera has a number of envoi-like endings, though most of them perform a more substantive formal function than the typical “tag.”

-305-

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