The Classical Era: An Introduction

Posted: February 8, 2016 in opera
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Classical: Dealing with Roman and Greek Antiquity

The Age of Enlightenment (1720-1790)

The belief in reason and progress. An age where the middle class raged against the extravagance of the aristocracy and the hypocrisy of religious leaders. A push to end the privileges of the upper class and instead ensure fairness for the struggling middle class. Freedom from spiritual darkness and oppression. Critical thinking and the bettering of the mind. A turn away from the extravagant opulence of the Baroque Period. Ideals of democracy and independence took hold. The American and French Revolutionsturned monarchies on their heads.

Music played an important role in the Age of Enlightenment. It was considered an integral and important part of a nation’s culture. It helped unify troops, spread ideals of democracy, and rejoice in military victory. Operas had plots that mocked the aristocracy and songs like Yankee Doodle helped theAmericans win their battle against a British tyrant.

Even musical audiences had become more democratic. Performances were not necessarily reserved for monarchs and the wealthy nobles and royal favorites. Wealthier working middle class members were able to attend performances, much to the chagrin of the uppity royals. Composers were just as likely to earn a living through private patrons as through church or court appointments (as Hadyn and Mozart did). Public concerts were arranged by the populace.

The Parisian Concert de Amateurs was formed to play popular works. Led by the composer Chevalier de Saint Georges. Le Chevalier de Saint Georges faced much opposition during his lifetime, even being denied a post of the local opera company because of his skin color. Despite opposition, he managed to perform for Marie Antoinette, fight in the French Revolution and premier several concertos and symphonic works.

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