The da capo aria, which I talked about yesterday, was a form that by 1750 had begun to lose its once enormous popularity. It was a form that was essentially killed by excess. The reign of the da capo aria coincided with the reign of the castrati as the stars of Italian opera.
The castrati, men who had been castrated as boys, were famous for their high voices and technical virtuosity, and they eventually turned the da capo aria into a vehicle for personal display—excessive display that usually came at the expense of emotional expression and dramatic realism. The good news is that starting with the works of Christoph Willibald Gluck in the late 1700's, arias were stripped of their frills and in a sense purified, and with Mozart then leading the way, the aria regained its place as the most vital means of dramatic and emotional expression in opera.
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.