By Matthew Glandorf
The word “cantata” is derived from the Italian word “cantare”, which means a work that is sung. This is in opposition to the word “sonata” (Italian “sonare”), which means a piece that sounds and therefore is instrumental.
The tradition of the 17th-century cantata in Italy and France was usually secular in nature and could combine elements of recitative, which is a type of music that follows the contour of recited speech and rhythm, with aria, usually according to a poetic meter. The compositional style of the cantata is mainly taken from the forms encountered in opera. Mythological stories were usually the subject matter such as those of Orpheus, Medea or Hercules.