A Question About Plays and Operas From Before 20th Century:

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A Question About Plays and Operas From Before 20th Century:

Post by dulcinea » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:55 pm

when did it become customary for stage plays to be divided in THREE acts instead of FIVE? Five acts do not seem as logical as BEGINNING--MIDDLE--END.
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John F
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Re: A Question About Plays and Operas From Before 20th Centu

Post by John F » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:37 pm

The five-act structure corresponds to a five-part division of drama into exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. This was formulated in those terms in the mid-19th century, but it also applies to many earlier plays such as Shakespeare's. French dramas and grand operas, such as Meyerbeer's "Les Huguenots" and Verdi's "Don Carlos," retained the five-act structure well into the 19th century.

Elsewhere, the number of acts was not standardized. Mozart's mature operas are in four, three, or two acts. With the introduction of gas lighting in the larger and richer theatres, plays and operas could be performed with fewer interruptions or none at all. I believe it may have been Wagner whose operas, divided into three acts when they're divided at all, more or less set the standard.
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