Rulers of the Opera
12" Wooden Ruler made in U.S.A. of American-grown basswood.
Opera, from the Italian word for “work”, can be described as a total artwork, combining music, acting, poetry, costumes, set design and sometimes dance or ballet. The first opera still to be regularly performed was L’Orfeo, written in 1607 by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) while at the court of Mantua, in Italy.
The creation of an opera is usually a collaboration between a composer, who writes the music, and a librettist, who writes the story, or libretto (from the Italian for small book). The first seven entries on our ruler are all composers, writing in various styles. Three of them, Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) and Vicenzo Bellini (1801-1835) exemplify what is known as the bel canto style (from the Italian for beautiful singing), with intricate sung lines requiring vocal agility and pitch control. Later operas started to include particularly dramatic storytelling, particularly in the works of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).
Operatic vocal technique developed in a way that allowed singers, in a time before electronic amplification, to produce enough volume to be heard over an orchestra. Many famous singers are listed on our ruler, especially sopranos, the highest female voice and usually the voice part of choice for the leading female role in the opera. Speaking of sopranos, the United States has produced a number of extraordinary African-American sopranos, including Marian Anderson (1897-1993) and the recently deceased Jessye Norman (1945-2019). They are represented on our ruler by Leontyne Price (1927- ).
After each musician's name we list one of their operas, a nickname, or their voice part. The order of the list is by each composer or singer's birth year.
The “head” image is of no one particular person, but is rather a drawing that represents a female lead in a Wagnerian role. We suppose if it looks a bit like anyone, it would have to be Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) in the role of the female warrior Brunhilde.
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