Term Paper: Exoticism in Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth

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[. . .] Verdi is reported to have additionally been "tapping into a vogue for epic opera on the grandest scale, a concept that had already been popularize by Meyerbeer with L'Africaine in 1865 which was forgotten for the most part at the presentation of the grand epic opera Aida. Verdi is reported to have "cornered the operatic market on the most popular of all ancient civilizations and in doing so he cornered the market on epic Grand Opera." (Calgary Opera, 2010-2011)

VI. Aida the Music

The music of Aida, written in 1871, is reported as having been commissioned by the khedive of Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Aida uses harmonies that are complex in nature as well as textures that are more conceptual with different voices playing different rhythms simultaneously. The orchestra required to play the music in Aid is around 60 making a requirement of singers with voices that are "exceptionally large…to be able to heard over the orchestra.

The music plays Aida's theme when she walks on stage and the clarinet announces her arrival and it is reported that the clarinet was "favored by Verdi to evoke exoticism or other-worldliness in his operas." (Canadian Opera Company, 2011) The timpani drums are used in this opera to evoke "the uneasy beat of their (Radames and Aida) hearts." (Canadian Opera Company, 2011) Intensity is evoked by the rapid violin notes. (Canadian Opera Company, 2011, paraphrased)

VII. Analysis

It is reported that the capacity of the opera Salome to shock far exceed its ability to enter into the acceptance of the 'epater les bourgeois' as the exotic harmonies and disturbing cadences of the music with their modernistic novelties of dissonance and atonality with heard with extreme suspicion by the musical conservatives of the day." (Guarracino, 2010) However, a great deal of the strange orchestration of Aid was praised at the time of its composition and presentation as being "dazzling and evocative." (Guarracino, 2010)

The roles of the various characters have been differentially portrayed since the original presentation of Salome. It is perhaps the capacity for such different interpretations that make Salome so much a choice among directors and performers in the opera and it is stated that Cheryl Studer accomplished the feat of interpreting the final scene in Salome in such a way that "the final scene conveys total evil while keeping a semblance of girlishness." (Guarracino, 2010) It is reported that artistic freedom is a compelling reason for the popularity of performing Salome.

There has been a great deal of debate surrounding the dance in Salome as the Dance of the Seven Veils is in actuality a striptease performed by Salome before John the Baptist in the story. The music and the dance evoke exotic imagery and some imagery depending on the director, more visually exotic than others portray.

Exoticism used in the 19th and 20th centuries was favored because it was different, and symbolic of the mysterious unknown who has only been heard of and never witnessed by the majority of individuals throughout the Western world.

The music in Aida identifies the various characters and emotions by key-specific incitations as the opera travels from beginning to end. Exotic instruments as well as unusual use of normal opera instruments led to the theme of exoticism in both Salome and Aida. The music that Verdi is reported to have attributed to the Egyptians is stated to sound "markedly European" in that it does not rely "on accepted codes for Oriental music."The more sinuous, woodwind-accompanied legatos are reported as associated with the exotic Orient are that which mark the "opera's others' including the Ethiopians and women and Aida herself. (Guarracino, 2010)


Aida by Giuseppe Verdi (2011) Calgary Opera Study Guide of Aida. Retrieved from: http://www.calgaryopera.com/Aida%20Study%20Guide.pdf

Aida Giuseppe Verdi (2010) Canadian Opera Company. Retrieved from: http://files.coc.ca/studyguides/aidastudyguide.pdf

Guarracino, S. (2010) Verdi's Aida Across the Mediterranean. California Italian Studies. 2010. Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9tj7h4wv#page-5

Tydeman, W. And Price, S. (nd) Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from Google eBooks at: http://books.google.com/books?id=TaFB0epfdmQC&pg=PA133&lpg=PA133&dq=Aida+and+Salome:+exoticism&source=bl&ots=MVipLVcbF2&sig=YDLezJXbNciquCepaebOkq6tecY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QcwQT9_SMsnb0QGC6uSPAw&ved=0CDIQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=Aida%20and%20Salome%3A%20exoticism&f=false [END OF PREVIEW]

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