19th Century Italian Opera
Early Romantic opera in Italy retained a series of
recitatives, arias, duets, and choruses, with little dramatic continuity.
Later in the century, mainly under the influence
of Verdi, it showed greater dramatic
unity, better-developed characters, and more credible plots.
These plots were often quasidramatic, but there was a general improvement
in quality. The recitative and aria were still the principal closed
forms, with melody in the popular bel
canto style and an emphasis on virtuosity.
There was also greater balance among voices and instruments,
but the orchestra still served as accompaniment.
Another development in Italian Romantic opera was the style embraced
by Leoncavallo, Mascagni, and Puccini,
know as "verismo," or realism.
Realism was not limited to music. It was also shown in the choice
of libretti that presented subjects from everyday life and depicted people
in familiar situations.