Music, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M030-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved May 17, 2022, from

8. Song and opera

With regard to song, there arises the question of how the marriage of music and words is best understood. Are music and words equal partners in such unions, or should one predominate? It is not clear that one must necessarily dominate the other, and the answer to this question may vary on a case-by-case basis.

It has also been claimed that opera fails to satisfy as music if it lacks the repetition that is needed for the listener to comprehend it aurally. On the other hand, the use of repetition, even if musically mandated, is unsatisfactory dramatically. Either way, opera has been said to fail either as music or as drama (Kivy 2002) (see Opera, aesthetics of).

Some have claimed that opera reflects the values of different ages, particularly with regard to such things as society, politics, love, friendship and family. It has also been claimed that opera reveals the views of the emotions and other mental states at times other than our own (Kivy 1988). More controversially, it has been suggested that opera sometimes presents strong female characters as threatening the social order, using such musical means as chromaticism (McClary 1991). And it has been claimed that the music of opera must either be made into drama in accompanying a structure that is essentially theatrical, or else the drama of opera must be made into music in being subject to a perfect musical structure (Kivy 1988), a view which, however, fails to allow that operatic music and drama may complement each other to produce organic wholes that are more than merely their parts added together.

Citing this article:
Trivedi, Saam. Song and opera. Music, aesthetics of, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M030-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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