“Prima la musica e poi le parole”: A serious discussion on opera’s nature or an operatic Capriccio?
Some of the most important aesthetic issues in opera are the dialectical relationship and the maintenance of the fine balance between the two most expressive arts of musical theatre, music and poetry. Contrary to spoken drama, where poetry is undoubtedly superior to music, in opera the balance between the two expressive arts is disturbed, with music and poetry fighting for the role of the main organiser, affecting the artistic result in a negative way. In order for the opera to survive through time, the need arose to reform itself drastically by restoring the balance between the two arts involved, smoothing the internal stylistic gap which threatened seriously its existence. As of the 18th century, along with serious and rational texts which devote their range of topics completely or fragmentarily in defining the expressive functions of music and poetry in opera, a number of self-referential texts and music plays approaches the same aesthetic issue in a less formal and serious way, in the form of light comedy and satire. The present study examines these positions, as developed by the actual playwrights and composers of opera itself in a form of a theatrical conversation, producing dramas defined as opera in opera.