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An aria ( Italian aria = 'sage', 'air'; this in turn from Latin aer or ancient Greek ἀήρ = 'air') is understood to be a solo performed song in classical music . The accompanying instrumental accompaniment can range from pure continuo accompaniment with just one lute or a harpsichord , to a small ensemble with one or more solo instruments, to a large orchestra .

Most of the time an aria is part of a larger work such as an opera , cantata, or oratorio . However, there are also individual compositions, such as B. the concert aria .

The aria conveys the feelings and moods, the so-called affect , of a certain moment, i.e. H. normally there is no action, in contrast to the recitative . A wide variety of feelings can be expressed, such as love, joy, anger, thirst for revenge, indignation, fear, doubt, etc. In baroque opera, depending on the content, certain types also emerged in the 17th century, such as the storm marie - often with comparisons in the text like a stormy sea or a sinking ship - the incantation aria, seduction aria, slumber aria, farewell aria, toilet aria - the latter was sung by a woman who makes herself beautiful and adorns herself in front of her mirror. Arias imitating birdsong were also very popular.

Compared to the spoken chant of the recitative, the voice in an aria is treated purely lyrically and melodically ( melismatic ), and especially in the era of bel canto it is often artfully and ornate. The accompaniment can also be melodic and richly decorated. An aria often contains repetitions in the text and melody.

If a piece is less extensive, the affect more moderate, one speaks of an ariette , a “little aria”. There are several aria forms, including the da capo aria, the cavatina and Cabaletta . A Bravourarie rsp. Bravour-Aria is a difficult aria aimed at virtuoso effect. The first aria of an opera character is called a performance aria . At the end of the scene there is also the so-called departure aria .

In an opera seria in the 18th century, a prima donna or a primo uomo (usually a castrato ) was entitled to at least five arias - each aria of a different affect or character - the seconda donna and the secondo uomo three arias, smaller supporting roles only got one or two, or no aria at all.

Differentiation of terms

In contrast to the affective aria, there is the recitative , which is supposed to drive the action forward. It usually does not contain repetitions and its accompaniment is simpler than that of an aria. Above all, however, a spoken chant is typical of the recitative , which is in contrast to the lyricism of an aria.

Within a recitative, short, more melodic, aria-like sections can be encountered; these are called arioso .

Very often an aria is preceded by a recitative which already prepares the aria in terms of content, i.e. the sequence: recitative - aria. This is particularly true within opera, oratorio and cantata, but also with concert arias.

An aria differs from vocal pieces for several vocal parts, which are called duet , trio , quartet etc. depending on the number of voices involved . In an opera there are also pieces with several vocal parts, e.g. Sometimes even with a choir , the general term for it is: ensemble .

In contrast to the aria, the song is usually kept simpler both formally and especially vocal (or vocal technique). However, the boundaries are fluid. The demands on expressive design in the so-called art song can be considerable; However, this is usually kept intimate in terms of content and cast.

History and forms

  • An early form of the aria, which Giulio Caccini ( Le nuove musiche , 1601 and 1614) and other composers used around 1600 and in the first half of the 17th century, had a stanza form , i.e. H. the whole, mostly rather short aria was repeated at least once, depending on the number of stanzas. The character of such arias is usually light-footed, and they are often held in three-meter, the accompaniment in the early Baroque often consisted only of the continuo. These arias could be virtuoso from the start and contain coloratura . In purely theoretical terms, a different decoration and / or representation by the singer would also be conceivable for each repetition (possibly motivated by the different text in each case). The aria in stanza form was also used later, for example Papageno's aria “I am the bird catcher” from Mozart's Magic Flute (1791).
  • A two-part aria form ||: a: ||: b: || is formally in close relationship to contemporary baroque dance music. This was the normal and most widely used aria form in French baroque opera ( Lully , Campra , Rameau and others). In terms of character, such arias could correspond to a very concrete dance, e.g. B. a minuet , a gavotte , a Loure etc. This type of two-part arias were also used in Italian or Italian-influenced music, for example by Handel (especially in early operas such as Agrippina (1709) or later in Serse (1738)) or by Reinhard Keizer . In Italian and German opera, the singer could decorate the repeats; in French opera, however, additional random embellishments were not common.
  • In the early Baroque to about 1680/1700 also were Ostinato -Arien very popular, often as a lament . There are particularly examples in the operas of Francesco Cavalli or in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1689).
  • The da capo aria in the form of ABA attained a dominant position in baroque music . The two parts A and B often (but not always) form a clear contrast, e.g. B. the B-part is mostly and at least in a different key, or it modulates through and into other keys . In the extreme case it even has a completely different affect and can then not only stand in a different tempo but also in a different meter (e.g. “Ah mio cor, schernito sei” in Handel's Alcina (1735)). An important point of the Dacapo aria is that the singer should decorate the repetition of the A section with arbitrary manners if possible, i.e. with additional runs, circumlocutions, trills, etc. a. However, the original A and B sections were also decorated with trills, especially with cadences - this was a matter of course and was therefore usually not notated at all, in contrast to French music, where all trills and mordente were written down. So the Dacapo aria was a significant opportunity to demonstrate one's imagination and even compositional skills, and of course, to put the singer's own vocal and technical skills in perspective. To the delight of the public. The first da capo aria first appears in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo (1607). The shape was further expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries . It is not uncommon for great da capo arias to contain purely instrumental ritornelles . The da capo aria reached its peak at the height of the Neapolitan Opera School . While the old simple stanza song form of the aria was reserved for the characterization of popular parts (in the opera buffa ), the dacapo aria was a typical part of the aristocratic or mythological staff of the opera seria . The Dacapo aria form was often slightly modified from around 1750 onwards, with the A section often being shortened somewhat ( Dal segno ), for example a long orchestral introduction could be omitted (e.g. in early Mozart operas such as Mitridate (1770) or Lucio Silla (1772)). The composers who wrote Dacapo arias include: Alessandro Scarlatti and other representatives of the Neapolitan Opera , Antonio Caldara , Antonio Vivaldi , Giovanni Battista Bononcini , Nicola Antonio Porpora , Georg Friedrich Händel , Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Philipp Telemann , Johann Adolph Hasse , Baldassare Galuppi , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a . v. a.

  • The rondo (ABACA) also appeared in the late baroque until around 1800 , in classical opera mostly as the rondò finale . The latter was reserved exclusively for the Primo uomo or the Primadonna and was only sung towards the end. Examples are in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito (1791) the arias “Deh, per questi istante solo” for the primo uomo Sesto and “Non più di fiori” for the prima donna Vitellia. Here, too, theoretically, all repetitions of the A section offer the singer the opportunity to embellish with his or her own improvised ornaments, which ideally can become more lush with each repetition towards the end, in the sense of an increase - but of course the expression ( affetto ) and the intonation of the aria are respected.
  • After 1750, a two-part aria form AB (or A-A'-B) appeared, which already pointed to the typical aria form in bel canto opera of the 19th century. In contrast to the static or quasi-concert character of the Dacapo aria, this aria form was more dynamic and could also be used dramaturgically by composers such as Mozart or Salieri . The two parts often merge, the first of which is usually slow or moderate and meditative, the second fast and tends to be virtuoso. A typical example of this is e.g. B. Mozart's concert or interlude aria “Vorrei spiegarvi, o Dio”, KV 418 (1783), or the first aria of the Queen of the Night “O do not tremble, my dear son” in the Magic Flute .
  • This aria form was further developed in the Italian bel canto opera of the 19th century, and there basically consists of a first aria or cavatine in a lyrical moderato or largo tempo, and a final mostly virtuoso cabaletta ; both the aria and the cabaletta were often repeated, and it is also known for the 19th century that repetitions in arias were generally embellished by the singer. Between these two parts there is often a more or less long and sometimes musically weighty transition part in the middle, which makes the whole thing even more dynamic and integrated into the plot. Examples can be found in every opera by composers such as Rossini , Bellini , Donizetti , the early Verdi and others. a., the performance aria of Lucia "Regnava nel silenzio (= cavatina ) ... Quando rapita in estasi (= cabaletta )" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (1837) should be mentioned here.
    Basically, duets and other ensembles have the same form, and there were also often arias with interjections by other soloists and / or the choir, such as B. in Bellini's famous aria "Casta Diva ( = cavatina ) ... Ah, bello, a me ritorna (= cabaletta)" from Norma (1831).
  • Rossini, Mercadante et al. a. also sometimes used an extended form of variation as an aria, e.g. B. “D 'Amor al dolce impero” in Rossini's Armida (1817), which also has a ritornello and a coda for choir. Such forms of variation served especially to showcase vocal bravura .
  • In the late 18th century, both in comic opera and after the so-called opera reform by Christoph Willibald Gluck , who thus passed on the tradition of French opera, which was shaped by other formal schemes, the aria again approached the form of the song . Especially in Germany in the 19th century , the aria was increasingly influenced by the folk song (e.g. Weber's Freischütz (1821)). In late romantic and veristic opera, the aria became more and more part of the scene or scena .

See also


  • Giulio Caccini: Le nuove Musiche (Florence 1601) and Le nuove musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle (Florence 1614). Facsimile edition by SPES (studio per edizioni scelte), Archivum musicum 13, Florence 1983.
  • Rodolfo Celletti: History of Belcanto. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel u. a. 1989, ISBN 3-7618-0958-1 .
  • Wolfgang Hirschmann (Ed.): Aria. A commemorative publication for Wolfgang Ruf (= studies and materials for musicology. Vol. 65). Published on behalf of the Musicology Department of the Institute for Music of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gesellschaft e. V., International Association. Editor: Sebastian Biesold. Olms, Hildesheim u. a. 2011, ISBN 978-3-487-14711-6 .
  • Wolfgang Ruf: Aria / air / ayre / Arie . In: Concise dictionary of musical terminology . Vol. 1, ed. by Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht and Albrecht Riethmüller , editor-in-chief Markus Bandur, Steiner, Stuttgart 1972 ( online ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Aria  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

References and comments

  1. ^ Rodolfo Celletti: History of Belcanto. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel u. a. 1989, pp. 58-60; on the storm marie: p. 58.
  2. ^ Rodolfo Celletti: History of Belcanto. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel u. a. 1989, pp. 58-60; on the toilet aria: p. 58.
  3. ^ Rodolfo Celletti: History of Belcanto. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel u. a. 1989, pp. 58-60; on the bird aria: pp. 59–60.
  4. Numerous examples in: Giulio Caccini: Le nuove Musiche (Florence 1601) and Le nuove musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle (Florence 1614). Facsimile edition by SPES (studio per edizioni scelte), Archivum musicum 13, Florence 1983.
  5. It must therefore be regarded as a gross mistake in performance practice if one hears singers these days (not infrequently) who do not sing cadence trills, or they save themselves exclusively for the dacapo - and sometimes only for the last cadenza (or not at all) !
  6. This has apparently led to the misleading idea among some singers and also instrumentalists, even in early music (among others), that trills are typical of French baroque music - at least there are singers and ensembles who are detailed and devoted to French music dedicate to the said ornaments, but hardly allow any trills to be heard in Handel, Scarlatti, etc. A clear and absurd mistake!
  7. There are clear statements in this regard. a. by Rossini. Rodolfo Celletti: History of Belcanto. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel u. a. 1989, p. 152.