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Music Theory: Don Giovanni

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Don Giovanni


by David James


Our oldest Italian opera is less than 125 years old, and "Don Giovanni" only 122--an inconsiderable age for a first-class work of Art compared with its companion pieces in literature, painting, and Sculpture, yet a highly respectable one for an opera. Music has undergone a greater revolution within the last century than any other art in thrice the period, yet "Don Giovanni" is as much admired now as it was in the last decade of the eighteenth century, and, indeed, has less prejudice to contend with in the minds of musicians and critics than it had when it was in its infancy, and I confidently believe that to its score and that of "Le Nozze di Figaro" opera writers will soon be turning to learn the methods of dramatic characterization. Pure beauty lives in angelic wedlock with Psychological expression in Mozart's dramatic music, and these Factors will act as powerful loadstones in bringing composers who Are now laboriously and vainly seeking devices for characterization In tricks and devices based on arbitrary formulas back to the gospel Of truth and beauty. Wagner has had no successful imitator. His Scheme of thematic identification and development, in its union of Calculation, reflection, and musical inspiration, is beyond the Capacities of those who have come after him. The bow of Ulysses is Still unbent; but he will be a great musician indeed who shall use The resources of the new art with such large ease, freedom, power, And effectiveness as Mozart used those of the comparatively Ingenuous art of his day. And yet the great opera composer who is to Come in great likelihood will be a disciple of Gluck, Mozart, and The Wagner who wrote "Tristan und Isolde" and "Die Meistersinger" Rather than one of the tribe of Debussy.


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