CHAPTER XI
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ITALIAN OPERA

WITHOUT question the seventeenth century was the most important in the early history of opera. For that reason its relation to the art of singing possessed a significance not to be overlooked. The century began with a genuine lyric drama; it ended with a superficial spectacular opera. It began with vocal ideals founded on pure classic beauty; it closed with singing which might well be called baroque at its worst. Its first years saw the musical drama cherished as a lofty art by a limited but cultivated society of intellectuals; its decline beheld that same form degraded to the level of a mere show for the entertainment of an amusement loving multitude. It opened with the composer exercising freely the divine prerogatives of creative genius; it finished with the singer deified by the populace and the composer relegated to the service of fashioning the crown of laurels for his lofty brow.

The fine musical perceptions of Monteverdi

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