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  • Author or Editor: Nathan Martin x
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One of the more surprising developments in recent American music theory has been the revival of interest in traditional, as opposed to Schenkerian, approaches to musical form. Spearheading this renewal are William Caplin’s 1998 treatise Classical Form , and James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s more recent Elements of Sonata Theory (2006). Both treatises, however, ignore the eighteenth-century operatic repertory entirely. And while valuable studies of eighteenth-century aria-forms exist (notably by James Webster and Mary Hunter), such studies generally predate the advent of the new American Formenlehre . There is, as a result, a gap between the most recent developments in the theory of Classical form and our current understanding of formal processes in late-eighteenth-century opera.This paper sketches one possible way across that gap. Even a casual survey of Haydn’s Eszterháza operas suggests that formal processes play out in ways related to, but nonetheless distinct from, their articulation in Haydn’s instrumental music (in response, no doubt, to the particular exigencies of writing texted music for the operatic stage). Thanks to its characteristic attention to the smallest possible form-functional units — the presentational, continuational and cadential phrases that subsist at the intra-thematic level — Caplin’s approach to Classical form proves particularly adaptable to this new context. The paper illustrates the analytic usefulness of Caplin’s approach for analyzing vocal music through a consideration of representative examples from Armida and Il mondo della luna .

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