Opera

Opera

Overview
Opera is an art form
Performing arts
The performing arts are those forms art which differ from the plastic arts insofar as the former uses the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium, and the latter uses materials such as clay, metal or paint which can be molded or transformed to create some physical art object...

 in which singer
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

s and musician
Musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

s perform a drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic work combining text (called a libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

) and musical score
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

, usually in a theatrical setting
Set construction
Set construction is the process by which a set designer works in collaboration with the director of a production to create the set for a theatrical, film or television production...

. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting
Acting
Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play....

, scenery
Theatrical scenery
Theatrical scenery is that which is used as a setting for a theatrical production. Scenery may be just about anything, from a single chair to an elaborately re-created street, no matter how large or how small, whether or not the item was custom-made or is, in fact, the genuine item, appropriated...

, and costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

s and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

, accompanied by an orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 or smaller musical ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

.

Opera is part of the Western classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 tradition and started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera...

's lost Dafne
Dafne
Dafne is the earliest known work that, by modern standards, could be considered an opera. It was composed by Jacopo Peri in 1597, with a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini.-History:...

, produced in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 around 1597) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz
Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...

 in Germany, Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

 in France, and Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

 in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century.
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Unanswered Questions
Timeline

1600   Jacopo Peri's ''Euridice'', the earliest surviving opera, receives its première performance in Florence, signifying the beginning of the Baroque Period

1607   ''L'Orfeo'' by Claudio Monteverdi, one of the first works recognized as an opera, receives its première performance.

1711   The London première of ''Rinaldo'' by George Frideric Handel, the first Italian opera written for the London stage.

1786   Opening night of the opera ''The Marriage of Figaro'' by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna, Austria.

1787   Mozart's opera ''Don Giovanni'' receives its first performance in Prague.

1853   Giuseppe Verdi's opera ''Il Trovatore'' receives its premiere performance in Rome.

1853   Giuseppe Verdi's opera ''La Traviata'' receives its premiere performance in Venice.

1869   Richard Wagner's opera ''Das Rheingold'' premieres in Munich.

1966   The Metropolitan Opera House opens at Lincoln Center in New York City with the world premiere of Samuel Barber's opera, ''Antony and Cleopatra''.

 
Encyclopedia
Opera is an art form
Performing arts
The performing arts are those forms art which differ from the plastic arts insofar as the former uses the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium, and the latter uses materials such as clay, metal or paint which can be molded or transformed to create some physical art object...

 in which singer
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

s and musician
Musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

s perform a drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic work combining text (called a libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

) and musical score
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

, usually in a theatrical setting
Set construction
Set construction is the process by which a set designer works in collaboration with the director of a production to create the set for a theatrical, film or television production...

. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting
Acting
Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play....

, scenery
Theatrical scenery
Theatrical scenery is that which is used as a setting for a theatrical production. Scenery may be just about anything, from a single chair to an elaborately re-created street, no matter how large or how small, whether or not the item was custom-made or is, in fact, the genuine item, appropriated...

, and costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

s and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

, accompanied by an orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 or smaller musical ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

.

Opera is part of the Western classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 tradition and started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera...

's lost Dafne
Dafne
Dafne is the earliest known work that, by modern standards, could be considered an opera. It was composed by Jacopo Peri in 1597, with a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini.-History:...

, produced in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 around 1597) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz
Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...

 in Germany, Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

 in France, and Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

 in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. In the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe, except France, attracting foreign composers such as Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

. Opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

 reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. Today the most renowned figure of late 18th century opera is Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic opera
Comic opera
Comic opera denotes a sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending.Forms of comic opera first developed in late 17th-century Italy. By the 1730s, a new operatic genre, opera buffa, emerged as an alternative to opera seria...

s, especially The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

, Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787...

, and Così fan tutte
Così fan tutte
Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti K. 588, is an opera buffa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first performed in 1790. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte....

, as well as The Magic Flute
The Magic Flute
The Magic Flute is an opera in two acts composed in 1791 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. The work is in the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue....

, a landmark in the German tradition.

The first third of the 19th century saw the highpoint of the bel canto
Bel canto
Bel canto , along with a number of similar constructions , is an Italian opera term...

 style, with Rossini, Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti
Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy. His best-known works are the operas L'elisir d'amore , Lucia di Lammermoor , and Don Pasquale , all in Italian, and the French operas La favorite and La fille du régiment...

 and Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer. His greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi , La sonnambula , Norma , Beatrice di Tenda , and I puritani...

 all creating works that are still performed today. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera
Grand Opera
Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events...

 typified by the works of Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

. The mid-to-late 19th century was a "golden age" of opera, led and dominated by Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 in Germany and Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

 in Italy. The popularity of opera continued through the verismo
Verismo
Verismo was an Italian literary movement which peaked between approximately 1875 and the early 1900s....

 era in Italy and contemporary French opera
French Opera
French opera is one of Europe's most important operatic traditions, containing works by composers of the stature of Rameau, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen...

 through to Puccini
Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

 and Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

 in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, parallel operatic traditions emerged in central and eastern Europe, particularly in Russia
Russian opera
Russian opera is the art of opera in Russia. Operas by composers of Russian origin, written or staged outside of Russia, also belong to this category, as well as the operas of foreign composers written or intended for the Russian scene. These are not only Russian-language operas...

 and Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

. The 20th century saw many experiments with modern styles, such as atonality
Atonality
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

 and serialism
Serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

 (Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

), Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 (Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

), and Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

 (Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

 and John Adams). With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso became known to audiences beyond the circle of opera fans. Operas were also performed on (and written for) radio and television.

Operatic terminology


The words of an opera are known as the libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 (literally "little book"). Some composers, notably Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, have written their own libretti; others have worked in close collaboration with their librettists, e.g. Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

 with Lorenzo Da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte was a Venetian opera librettist and poet. He wrote the librettos for 28 operas by 11 composers, including three of Mozart's greatest operas, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte....

. Traditional opera, often referred to as "number opera", consists of two modes of singing: recitative
Recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

, the plot-driving passages sung in a style designed to imitate and emphasize the inflections of speech, and aria
Aria
An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

 (an "air" or formal song) in which the characters express their emotions in a more structured melodic style. Duets, trios and other ensembles often occur, and choruses are used to comment on the action. In some forms of opera, such as Singspiel
Singspiel
A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera...

, opéra comique
Opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...

, operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

, and semi-opera
Semi-opera
The terms Semi-opera, dramatic[k] opera and English opera were all applied to Restoration entertainments that combined spoken plays with masque-like episodes employing singing and dancing characters. They usually included machines in the manner of the restoration spectacular...

, the recitative is mostly replaced by spoken dialogue. Melodic or semi-melodic passages occurring in the midst of, or instead of, recitative, are also referred to as arioso
Arioso
In classical music, arioso is a style of solo opera singing between recitative and aria. Literally, arioso means airy. The term arose in the 16th century along with the aforementioned styles and monody. It is commonly confused with recitativo accompagnato....

. During the Baroque and Classical periods, recitative could appear in two basic forms: secco (dry) recitative, accompanied only by continuo
Figured bass
Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones, in relation to a bass note...

, which was usually a harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 and a cello; or accompagnato (also known as strumentato) in which the orchestra provided accompaniment. By the 19th century, accompagnato had gained the upper hand, the orchestra played a much bigger role, and Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 revolutionised opera by abolishing almost all distinction between aria and recitative in his quest for what he termed "endless melody". Subsequent composers have tended to follow Wagner's example, though some, such as Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 in his The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

 have bucked the trend. The terminology of the various kinds of operatic voices is described in detail below.

Origins




The word opera means "work" in Italian (it is the plural of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 opus meaning "work" or "labour") suggesting that it combines the arts of solo and choral singing, declamation, acting and dancing in a staged spectacle. Dafne
Dafne
Dafne is the earliest known work that, by modern standards, could be considered an opera. It was composed by Jacopo Peri in 1597, with a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini.-History:...

 by Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri
Jacopo Peri was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera...

 was the earliest composition considered opera, as understood today. It was written around 1597, largely under the inspiration of an elite circle of literate Florentine
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

s who gathered as the "Camerata de' Bardi
Florentine Camerata
The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de' Bardi to discuss and guide trends in the arts, especially music and drama...

". Significantly, Dafne was an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama
Tragedy
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

, part of the wider revival of antiquity characteristic of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. The members of the Camerata considered that the "chorus" parts of Greek dramas were originally sung, and possibly even the entire text of all roles; opera was thus conceived as a way of "restoring" this situation. Dafne is unfortunately lost. A later work by Peri, Euridice
Euridice (opera)
Euridice is an opera by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini. The libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini is based on books X and XI of Ovid's...

, dating from 1600, is the first opera score to have survived to the present day. The honour of being the first opera still to be regularly performed, however, goes to Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

's L'Orfeo, composed for the court of Mantua
Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

 in 1607. The Mantua court of the Gonzagas
House of Gonzaga
The Gonzaga family ruled Mantua in Northern Italy from 1328 to 1708.-History:In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage...

, employers of Monteverdi, played a significant role in the origin of opera employing not only court singers of the concerto delle donne
Concerto delle donne
The concerto delle donne was a group of professional female singers in the late Renaissance court of Ferrara, Italy, renowned for their technical and artistic virtuosity. The ensemble was founded by Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, in 1580 and was active until the court was dissolved in 1597...

 (till 1598), but also one of the first actual "opera singers"; Madama Europa
Madama Europa
Madama Europa was the nickname, or perhaps the real name, of Europa Rossi sister of the Jewish violinist and composer Salamone Rossi, who was one of the first opera singers....

.

The Baroque era




Opera did not remain confined to court audiences for long. In 1637, the idea of a "season" (Carnival
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

) of publicly attended operas supported by ticket sales emerged in Venice. Monteverdi had moved to the city from Mantua and composed his last operas, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria is an opera in a prologue and five acts , set by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto by Giacomo Badoaro. The opera was first performed at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice during the 1639–1640 carnival season...

 and L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea
L'incoronazione di Poppea is an Italian baroque opera comprising a prologue and three acts, first performed in Venice during the 1642–43 carnival season. The music, attributed to Claudio Monteverdi, is a setting of a libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello...

, for the Venetian theatre in the 1640s. His most important follower Francesco Cavalli
Francesco Cavalli
Francesco Cavalli was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. His real name was Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni, but he is better known by that of Cavalli, the name of his patron Federico Cavalli, a Venetian nobleman.-Life:Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy...

 helped spread opera throughout Italy. In these early Baroque operas, broad comedy was blended with tragic elements in a mix that jarred some educated sensibilities, sparking the first of opera's many reform movements, sponsored by Venice's Arcadian Academy which came to be associated with the poet Metastasio
Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

, whose libretti
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 helped crystallize the genre of opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

, which became the leading form of Italian opera until the end of the 18th century. Once the Metastasian ideal had been firmly established, comedy in Baroque-era opera was reserved for what came to be called opera buffa
Opera buffa
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc...

.

Before such elements were forced out of opera seria, many libretti had featured a separately unfolding comic plot as sort of an "opera-within-an-opera." One reason for this was an attempt to attract members of the growing merchant class, newly wealthy, but still less cultured than the nobility, to the public opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

s. These separate plots were almost immediately resurrected in a separately developing tradition that partly derived from the commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

, (as indeed, such plots had always been) a long-flourishing improvisatory stage tradition of Italy. Just as intermedi had once been performed in-between the acts of stage plays, operas in the new comic genre of "intermezzi", which developed largely in Naples in the 1710s and '20s, were initially staged during the intermissions of opera seria. They became so popular, however, that they were soon being offered as separate productions.

Opera seria was elevated in tone and highly stylised in form, usually consisting of secco recitative interspersed with long da capo arias. These afforded great opportunity for virtuosic singing and during the golden age of opera seria the singer really became the star. The role of the hero was usually written for the castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

 voice; castrati such as Farinelli
Farinelli
Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

 and Senesino
Senesino
Senesino was a celebrated Italian contralto castrato, particularly remembered today for his long collaboration with the composer George Frideric Handel.-Early life and career:...

, as well as female soprano
Soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

s such as Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni was an Italian mezzo-soprano.-Early career:She was born in Venice and brought up under the protection of the aristocratic brother composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. Her singing teacher was another composer, Michelangelo Gasparini...

, became in great demand throughout Europe as opera seria ruled the stage in every country except France. Indeed, Farinelli was the most famous singer of the 18th century. Italian opera set the Baroque standard. Italian libretti were the norm, even when a German composer like Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

 found himself writing for London audiences. Italian libretti remained dominant in the classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

 as well, for example in the operas of Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, who wrote in Vienna near the century's close. Leading Italian-born composers of opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 include Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti was an Italian Baroque composer especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.-Life:Scarlatti was born in...

, Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

 and Porpora
Nicola Porpora
Nicola Porpora was an Italian composer of Baroque operas and teacher of singing, whose most famous singing student was the castrato Farinelli. One of his other students was composer Matteo Capranica.-Biography:Porpora was born in Naples...

.

Reform: Gluck, the attack on the Metastasian ideal, and Mozart


Opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 had its weaknesses and critics. The taste for embellishment on behalf of the superbly trained singers, and the use of spectacle as a replacement for dramatic purity and unity drew attacks. Francesco Algarotti
Francesco Algarotti
Count Francesco Algarotti was an Italian philosopher and art critic.He also completed engravings.He was born in Venice to a rich merchant. He studied at Rome for a year, and then Bologna, he studied natural sciences and mathematics...

's Essay on the Opera (1754) proved to be an inspiration for Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

's reforms. He advocated that opera seria had to return to basics and that all the various elements—music (both instrumental and vocal), ballet, and staging—must be subservient to the overriding drama. Several composers of the period, including Niccolò Jommelli
Niccolò Jommelli
Niccolò Jommelli was an Italian composer. He was born in Aversa and died in Naples. Along with other composers mainly in the Holy Roman Empire and France, he made important changes to opera and reduced the importance of star singers.-Early life:Jommelli was born to Francesco Antonio Jommelli and...

 and Tommaso Traetta
Tommaso Traetta
Tommaso Michele Francesco Saverio Traetta was an Italian composer.-Biography:Traetta was born in Bitonto, a town near Bari, near the top of the heel of the boot of Italy. He eventually became a pupil of the composer, singer and teacher Nicola Porpora in Naples, and scored a first success with his...

, attempted to put these ideals into practice. The first to succeed however, was Gluck. Gluck strove to achieve a "beautiful simplicity". This is evident in his first reform opera, Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing...

, where his non-virtuosic vocal melodies are supported by simple harmonies and a richer orchestra presence throughout.

Gluck's reforms have had resonance throughout operatic history. Weber, Mozart and Wagner, in particular, were influenced by his ideals. Mozart, in many ways Gluck's successor, combined a superb sense of drama, harmony, melody, and counterpoint to write a series of comedies, notably Così fan tutte
Così fan tutte
Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti K. 588, is an opera buffa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first performed in 1790. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte....

, The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

, and Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787...

 (in collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte
Lorenzo Da Ponte was a Venetian opera librettist and poet. He wrote the librettos for 28 operas by 11 composers, including three of Mozart's greatest operas, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte....

) which remain among the most-loved, popular and well-known operas today. But Mozart's contribution to opera seria was more mixed; by his time it was dying away, and in spite of such fine works as Idomeneo
Idomeneo
Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante is an Italian language opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, which had been set to music by André Campra as Idoménée in 1712...

 and La clemenza di Tito
La clemenza di Tito
La clemenza di Tito , K. 621, is an opera seria in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, after Metastasio...

, he would not succeed in bringing the art form back to life again.

Bel canto, Verdi and verismo




The bel canto
Bel canto
Bel canto , along with a number of similar constructions , is an Italian opera term...

 opera movement flourished in the early 19th century and is exemplified by the operas of Rossini, Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer. His greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi , La sonnambula , Norma , Beatrice di Tenda , and I puritani...

, Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti
Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy. His best-known works are the operas L'elisir d'amore , Lucia di Lammermoor , and Don Pasquale , all in Italian, and the French operas La favorite and La fille du régiment...

, Pacini
Giovanni Pacini
Giovanni Pacini was an Italian composer, best known for his operas. Pacini was born in Catania, Sicily, the son of the buffo Luigi Pacini, who was to appear in the premieres of many of Giovanni's operas...

, Mercadante
Saverio Mercadante
Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante was an Italian composer, particularly of operas. While Mercadante may not have retained the international celebrity of Gaetano Donizetti or Gioachino Rossini beyond his own lifetime, he composed as impressive a number of works as either; and his development of...

 and many others. Literally "beautiful singing", bel canto opera derives from the Italian stylistic singing school of the same name. Bel canto lines are typically florid and intricate, requiring supreme agility and pitch control.

Following the bel canto era, a more direct, forceful style was rapidly popularized by Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

, beginning with his biblical opera Nabucco
Nabucco
Nabucco is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the Biblical story and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue...

. Verdi's operas resonated with the growing spirit of Italian nationalism
Italian nationalism
Italian nationalism refers to the nationalism of Italians or of Italian culture. It claims that Italians are the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic descendants of the ancient Romans who inhabited the Italian Peninsula for centuries. The origins of Italian nationalism have been traced to the...

 in the post-Napoleonic era, and he quickly became an icon of the patriotic movement (although his own politics were perhaps not quite so radical). In the early 1850s, Verdi produced his three most popular operas: Rigoletto
Rigoletto
Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. It was first performed at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851...

, Il trovatore
Il trovatore
Il trovatore is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez. Cammarano died in mid-1852 before completing the libretto...

 and La traviata
La traviata
La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La dame aux Camélias , a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The title La traviata means literally The Fallen Woman, or perhaps more figuratively, The Woman...

. But he continued to develop his style, composing perhaps the greatest French Grand Opera
Grand Opera
Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events...

, Don Carlos
Don Carlos
Don Carlos is a five-act grand opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi to a French language libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Méry, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien by Friedrich Schiller...

, and ending his career with two Shakespeare-inspired
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 works, Otello
Otello
Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on February 5, 1887....

 and Falstaff
Falstaff (opera)
Falstaff is an operatic commedia lirica in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. It was Verdi's last opera, written in the composer's ninth decade, and only the second of his 26 operas to be a comedy...

, which reveal how far Italian opera had grown in sophistication since the early 19th century.

After Verdi, the sentimental "realistic" melodrama of verismo
Verismo
Verismo was an Italian literary movement which peaked between approximately 1875 and the early 1900s....

 appeared in Italy. This was a style introduced by Pietro Mascagni
Pietro Mascagni
Pietro Antonio Stefano Mascagni was an Italian composer most noted for his operas. His 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria rusticana caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music...

's Cavalleria rusticana
Cavalleria rusticana
Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play written by Giovanni Verga based on his short story. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on May 17, 1890 at the Teatro...

 and Ruggero Leoncavallo
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Ruggero Leoncavallo was an Italian opera composer. His two-act work Pagliacci remains one of the most popular works in the repertory, appearing as number 20 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.-Biography:...

's Pagliacci
Pagliacci
Pagliacci , sometimes incorrectly rendered with a definite article as I Pagliacci, is an opera consisting of a prologue and two acts written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It recounts the tragedy of a jealous husband in a commedia dell'arte troupe...

 that came virtually to dominate the world's opera stages with such popular works as Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

's La bohème
La bohème
La bohème is an opera in four acts,Puccini called the divisions quadro, a tableau or "image", rather than atto . by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger...

, Tosca
Tosca
Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900...

, and Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini based his opera in part on the short story "Madame Butterfly" by John Luther Long, which was dramatized by David Belasco...

. Later Italian composers, such as Berio
Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.-Biography:Berio was born at Oneglia Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian...

 and Nono
Luigi Nono
Luigi Nono was an Italian avant-garde composer of classical music and remains one of the most prominent composers of the 20th century.- Early years :Born in Venice, he was a member of a wealthy artistic family, and his grandfather was a notable painter...

, have experimented with modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

.

German-language opera



The first German opera was Dafne, composed by Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...

 in 1627, but the music score has not survived. Italian opera held a great sway over German-speaking countries until the late 18th century. Nevertheless, native forms developed too. In 1644 Sigmund Staden
Sigmund Theophil Staden
Sigmund Theophil Staden was an important early German composer.Staden was born in Kulmbach, son of Johann Staden, the founder of the so-called Nuremberg school...

 produced the first Singspiel
Singspiel
A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera...

, a popular form of German-language opera in which singing alternates with spoken dialogue. In the late 17th century and early 18th century, the Theater am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 presented German operas by Keiser
Reinhard Keiser
Reinhard Keiser was a popular German opera composer based in Hamburg. He wrote over a hundred operas, and in 1745 Johann Adolph Scheibe considered him an equal to Johann Kuhnau, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann , but his work was largely forgotten for many...

, Telemann and Handel
HANDEL
HANDEL was the code-name for the UK's National Attack Warning System in the Cold War. It consisted of a small console consisting of two microphones, lights and gauges. The reason behind this was to provide a back-up if anything failed....

. Yet many of the major German composers of the time, including Handel himself, as well as Graun
Carl Heinrich Graun
Carl Heinrich Graun was a German composer and tenor singer. Along with Johann Adolf Hasse, he is considered to be the most important German composer of Italian opera of his time.-Biography:...

, Hasse
Johann Adolph Hasse
Johann Adolph Hasse was an 18th-century German composer, singer and teacher of music. Immensely popular in his time, Hasse was best known for his prolific operatic output, though he also composed a considerable quantity of sacred music...

 and later Gluck, chose to write most of their operas in foreign languages, especially Italian.

Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

's Singspiele, Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Die Entführung aus dem Serail is an opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German libretto is by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner with adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie...

 (1782) and Die Zauberflöte (1791) were an important breakthrough in achieving international recognition for German opera. The tradition was developed in the 19th century by Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 with his Fidelio
Fidelio
Fidelio is a German opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly which had been used for the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and for the 1804 opera Leonora...

, inspired by the climate of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

 established German Romantic
German Romanticism
For the general context, see Romanticism.In the philosophy, art, and culture of German-speaking countries, German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. German Romanticism developed relatively late compared to its English counterpart, coinciding in its...

 opera in opposition to the dominance of Italian bel canto
Bel canto
Bel canto , along with a number of similar constructions , is an Italian opera term...

. His Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz is an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin...

 (1821) shows his genius for creating a supernatural atmosphere. Other opera composers of the time include Marschner, Schubert, Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

 and Lortzing, but the most significant figure was undoubtedly Wagner.

Wagner was one of the most revolutionary and controversial composers in musical history. Starting under the influence of Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

 and Meyerbeer, he gradually evolved a new concept of opera as a Gesamtkunstwerk (a "complete work of art"), a fusion of music, poetry and painting. In his mature music dramas, Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera in three acts, written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas still commonly performed today, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, on June 21,...

, Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

 and Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

, he abolished the distinction between aria and recitative in favour of a seamless flow of "endless melody". He greatly increased the role and power of the orchestra, creating scores with a complex web of leitmotivs, recurring themes often associated with the characters and concepts of the drama; and he was prepared to violate accepted musical conventions, such as tonality
Tonality
Tonality is a system of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key "center", or tonic. The term tonalité originated with Alexandre-Étienne Choron and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840...

, in his quest for greater expressivity. Wagner also brought a new philosophical dimension to opera in his works, which were usually based on stories from Germanic
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

 or Arthurian legend. Finally, Wagner built his own opera house
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
The or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated solely to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner...

 at Bayreuth, exclusively dedicated to performing his own works in the style he wanted.

Opera would never be the same after Wagner and for many composers his legacy proved a heavy burden. On the other hand, Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

 accepted Wagnerian ideas but took them in wholly new directions. He first won fame with the scandalous Salome
Salome (opera)
Salome is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by the composer, based on Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of the French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Strauss dedicated the opera to his friend Sir Edgar Speyer....

 and the dark tragedy Elektra
Elektra (opera)
Elektra is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which he adapted from his 1903 drama Elektra. The opera was the first of many collaborations between Strauss and Hofmannsthal...

, in which tonality was pushed to the limits. Then Strauss changed tack in his greatest success, Der Rosenkavalier
Der Rosenkavalier
Der Rosenkavalier is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac...

, where Mozart and Viennese
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 waltz
Waltz
The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

es became as important an influence as Wagner. Strauss continued to produce a highly varied body of operatic works, often with libretti by the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Hugo Laurenz August Hofmann von Hofmannsthal ; , was an Austrian novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist.-Early life:...

, right up until Capriccio
Capriccio (opera)
Capriccio is the final opera by German composer Richard Strauss, subtitled "A Conversation Piece for Music". The opera received its premiere performance at the Nationaltheater München on October 28, 1942. Clemens Krauss and Strauss himself wrote the German libretto...

 in 1942. Other composers who made individual contributions to German opera in the early 20th century include Zemlinsky, Hindemith, Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

 and the Italian-born Ferruccio Busoni
Ferruccio Busoni
Ferruccio Busoni was an Italian composer, pianist, editor, writer, piano and composition teacher, and conductor.-Biography:...

. The operatic innovations of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and his successors are discussed in the section on modernism.

French opera


In rivalry with imported Italian opera productions, a separate French tradition was founded by the Italian Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

 at the court of King Louis XIV. Despite his foreign origin, Lully established an Academy of Music
Académie Royale de Musique
The Salle Le Peletier was the home of the Paris Opera from 1821 until the building was destroyed by fire in 1873. The theatre was designed and constructed by the architect François Debret on the site of the former Hôtel de Choiseul...

 and monopolised French opera from 1672. Starting with Cadmus et Hermione
Cadmus et Hermione
Cadmus et Hermione is a tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully. The French-language libretto is by Philippe Quinault, after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It was first performed on April 27, 1673, by the Paris Opera at the Jeu de Béquet.The prologue, in praise of King Louis...

, Lully and his librettist Quinault
Philippe Quinault
Philippe Quinault , French dramatist and librettist, was born in Paris.- Biography :Quinault was educated by the liberality of François Tristan l'Hermite, the author of Marianne. Quinault's first play was produced at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1653, when he was only eighteen...

 created tragédie en musique, a form in which dance music and choral writing were particularly prominent. Lully's operas also show a concern for expressive recitative
Recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

 which matched the contours of the French language. In the 18th century, Lully's most important successor was Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François...

, who composed five tragédies en musique as well as numerous works in other genres such as opéra-ballet
Opéra-ballet
Opéra-ballet was a popular genre of French Baroque opera, "that grew out of the ballets à entrées of the early seventeeth century". It differed from the more elevated tragédie en musique as practised by Jean-Baptiste Lully in several ways...

, all notable for their rich orchestration and harmonic daring. After Rameau's death, the German Gluck was persuaded to produce six operas for the Parisian stage
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in the 1770s. They show the influence of Rameau, but simplified and with greater focus on the drama. At the same time, by the middle of the 18th century another genre was gaining popularity in France: opéra comique
Opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...

. This was the equivalent of the German singspiel
Singspiel
A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera...

, where arias alternated with spoken dialogue. Notable examples in this style were produced by Monsigny
Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny
Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny was a French composer and a member of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts .He is considered alongside André Grétry and François-André Danican Philidor to have been the founder of a new musical genre, the opéra comique, laying a path for other French composers such as...

, Philidor
François-André Danican Philidor
François-André Danican Philidor , often referred to as André Danican Philidor during his lifetime, was a French composer and chess player. He contributed to the early development of the opéra comique...

 and, above all, Grétry
Grétry
People of the surname Grétry include* André Grétry , composer of opéras comiques;* Jeanne-Marie Grandon Grétry , painter, wife of André;...

. During the Revolutionary
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 period, composers such as Méhul and Cherubini, who were followers of Gluck, brought a new seriousness to the genre, which had never been wholly "comic" in any case.

By the 1820s, Gluckian influence in France had given way to a taste for Italian bel canto
Bel canto
Bel canto , along with a number of similar constructions , is an Italian opera term...

, especially after the arrival of Rossini in Paris. Rossini's Guillaume Tell helped found the new genre of Grand Opera
Grand Opera
Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events...

, a form whose most famous exponent was another foreigner, Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

. Meyerbeer's works, such as Les Huguenots
Les Huguenots
Les Huguenots is a French opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer, one of the most popular and spectacular examples of the style of grand opera. The opera is in five acts and premiered in Paris in 1836. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps....

 emphasised virtuoso singing and extraordinary stage effects. Lighter opéra comique also enjoyed tremendous success in the hands of Boïeldieu, Auber
Daniel Auber
Daniel François Esprit Auber was a French composer.-Biography:The son of a Paris print-seller, Auber was born in Caen in Normandy. Though his father expected him to continue in the print-selling business, he also allowed his son to learn how to play several musical instruments...

, Hérold and Adolphe Adam
Adolphe Adam
Adolphe Charles Adam was a French composer and music critic. A prolific composer of operas and ballets, he is best known today for his ballets Giselle and Le corsaire , his operas Le postillon de Lonjumeau , Le toréador and Si j'étais roi , and his Christmas...

. In this climate, the operas of the French-born composer Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 struggled to gain a hearing. Berlioz's epic masterpiece Les Troyens
Les Troyens
Les Troyens is a French opera in five acts by Hector Berlioz. The libretto was written by Berlioz himself, based on Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid...

, the culmination of the Gluckian tradition, was not given a full performance for almost a hundred years.
In the second half of the 19th century, Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

 created operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

 with witty and cynical works such as Orphée aux enfers, as well as the opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Les contes d'Hoffmann
Les contes d'Hoffmann is an opéra by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on short stories by E. T. A...

; Charles Gounod
Charles Gounod
Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, known for his Ave Maria as well as his operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette.-Biography:...

 scored a massive success with Faust
Faust (opera)
Faust is a drame lyrique in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part 1...

; and Bizet composed Carmen
Carmen
Carmen is a French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. The libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée, first published in 1845, itself possibly influenced by the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin...

, which, once audiences learned to accept its blend of Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and realism, became the most popular of all opéra comiques. Massenet, Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Late-Romantic composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony...

 and Delibes
Léo Delibes
Clément Philibert Léo Delibes was a French composer of ballets, operas, and other works for the stage...

 all composed works which are still part of the standard repertory. At the same time, the influence of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 was felt as a challenge to the French tradition. Many French critics angrily rejected Wagner's music dramas while many French composers closely imitated them with variable success. Perhaps the most interesting response came from Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

. As in Wagner's works, the orchestra plays a leading role in Debussy's unique opera Pelléas et Mélisande
Pelléas et Mélisande (opera)
Pelléas et Mélisande is an opera in five acts with music by Claude Debussy. The French libretto was adapted from Maurice Maeterlinck's Symbolist play Pelléas et Mélisande...

 (1902) and there are no real arias, only recitative. But the drama is understated, enigmatic and completely unWagnerian.

Other notable 20th century names include Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, Dukas
Paul Dukas
Paul Abraham Dukas was a French composer, critic, scholar and teacher. A studious man, of retiring personality, he was intensely self-critical, and he abandoned and destroyed many of his compositions...

, Roussel
Albert Roussel
Albert Charles Paul Marie Roussel was a French composer. He spent seven years as a midshipman, turned to music as an adult, and became one of the most prominent French composers of the interwar period...

 and Milhaud
Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality...

. Francis Poulenc
Francis Poulenc
Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc was a French composer and a member of the French group Les six. He composed solo piano music, chamber music, oratorio, choral music, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music...

 is one of the very few post-war composers of any nationality whose operas (which include Dialogues des Carmélites
Dialogues of the Carmelites
Dialogues of the Carmelites , is an opera in three acts by Francis Poulenc. In 1953, M. Valcarenghi approached Poulenc to commission a ballet for La Scala in Milan; when Poulenc found the proposed subject uninspiring, Valcarenghi suggested instead a screenplay by Georges Bernanos, based on the...

) have gained a foothold in the international repertory. Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex ; harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations...

's lengthy sacred drama Saint François d'Assise (1983) has also attracted widespread attention.

English-language opera




In England, opera's antecedent was the 17th century jig. This was an afterpiece which came at the end of a play. It was frequently libellous and scandalous and consisted in the main of dialogue set to music arranged from popular tunes. In this respect, jigs anticipate the ballad operas of the 18th century. At the same time, the French masque
Masque
The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio...

 was gaining a firm hold at the English Court, with even more lavish splendour and highly realistic scenery than had been seen before. Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

 became the quintessential designer of these productions, and this style was to dominate the English stage for three centuries. These masques contained songs and dances. In Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's Lovers Made Men (1617), "the whole masque was sung after the Italian manner, stilo recitativo".
The approach of the English Commonwealth closed theatres and halted any developments that may have led to the establishment of English opera. However, in 1656, the dramatist Sir William Davenant
William Davenant
Sir William Davenant , also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright. Along with Thomas Killigrew, Davenant was one of the rare figures in English Renaissance theatre whose career spanned both the Caroline and Restoration eras and who was active both before and after the English Civil...

 produced The Siege of Rhodes. Since his theatre was not licensed to produce drama, he asked several of the leading composers (Lawes, Cooke, Locke, Coleman and Hudson) to set sections of it to music. This success was followed by The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (1658) and The History of Sir Francis Drake (1659). These pieces were encouraged by Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 because they were critical of Spain. With the English Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

, foreign (especially French) musicians were welcomed back. In 1673, Thomas Shadwell
Thomas Shadwell
Thomas Shadwell was an English poet and playwright who was appointed poet laureate in 1689.-Life:Shadwell was born at Stanton Hall, Norfolk, and educated at Bury St Edmunds School, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1656. He left the university without a degree, and...

's Psyche, patterned on the 1671 'comédie-ballet' of the same name produced by Molière
Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

 and Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

. William Davenant
William Davenant
Sir William Davenant , also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright. Along with Thomas Killigrew, Davenant was one of the rare figures in English Renaissance theatre whose career spanned both the Caroline and Restoration eras and who was active both before and after the English Civil...

 produced The Tempest in the same year, which was the first musical adaption of a Shakespeare play (composed by Locke and Johnson). About 1683, John Blow
John Blow
John Blow was an English Baroque composer and organist, appointed to Westminster Abbey in 1669. His pupils included William Croft, Jeremiah Clarke and Henry Purcell. In 1685 he was named a private musician to James II. His only stage composition, Venus and Adonis John Blow (baptised 23 February...

 composed Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis (opera)
Venus and Adonis is an opera in three acts and a prologue by the English Baroque composer John Blow, composed in about 1683. It was written for the court of King Charles II at either London or Windsor. It is considered by some to be either a semi-opera or a masque, but The New Grove names it as the...

, often thought of as the first true English-language opera.

Blow's immediate successor was the better known Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

. Despite the success of his masterwork Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas is an opera in a prologue and three acts by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell to a libretto by Nahum Tate. The first known performance was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London no later than the summer of 1688. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid...

 (1689), in which the action is furthered by the use of Italian-style recitative, much of Purcell's best work was not involved in the composing of typical opera, but instead he usually worked within the constraints of the semi-opera
Semi-opera
The terms Semi-opera, dramatic[k] opera and English opera were all applied to Restoration entertainments that combined spoken plays with masque-like episodes employing singing and dancing characters. They usually included machines in the manner of the restoration spectacular...

 format, where isolated scenes and masques are contained within the structure of a spoken play, such as Shakespeare in Purcell's The Fairy-Queen
The Fairy-Queen
The Fairy-Queen is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell; a "Restoration spectacular". The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's wedding comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age...

 (1692) and Beaumont and Fletcher in The Prophetess (1690) and Bonduca (1696). The main characters of the play tend not to be involved in the musical scenes, which means that Purcell was rarely able to develop his characters through song. Despite these hindrances, his aim (and that of his collaborator John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

) was to establish serious opera in England, but these hopes ended with Purcell's early death at the age of 36.
Following Purcell, the popularity of opera in England dwindled for several decades. A revived interest in opera occurred in the 1730s which is largely attributed to Thomas Arne, both for his own compositions and for alerting Handel to the commercial possibilities of large-scale works in English. Arne was the first English composer to experiment with Italian-style all-sung comic opera, with his greatest success being Thomas and Sally
Thomas and Sally
Thomas and Sally is a dramatic pastoral opera in two acts by the composer Thomas Arne with an English libretto by Isaac Bickerstaff...

 in 1760. His opera Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes (opera)
Artaxerxes is an opera in three acts composed by Thomas Arne set to an English adaptation of Metastasio's 1729 libretto Artaserse. The first English opera seria, Artaxerxes premiered on 2 February 1762 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and continued to be regularly performed until the late 1830s...

 (1762) was the first attempt to set a full-blown opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 in English and was a huge success, holding the stage until the 1830s. Although Arne imitated many elements of Italian opera, he was perhaps the only English composer at that time who was able to move beyond the Italian influences and create his own unique and distinctly English voice. His modernized ballad opera, Love in a Village (1762), began a vogue for pastiche opera that lasted well into the 19th century. Charles Burney
Charles Burney
Charles Burney FRS was an English music historian and father of authors Frances Burney and Sarah Burney.-Life and career:...

 wrote that Arne introduced "a light, airy, original, and pleasing melody, wholly different from that of Purcell or Handel, whom all English composers had either pillaged or imitated".

Besides Arne, the other dominating force in English opera at this time was George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

, whose opera serias filled the London operatic stages for decades, and influenced most home-grown composers, like John Frederick Lampe
John Frederick Lampe
John Frederick Lampe was a musician.He was born in Saxony, but came to England in 1724 and played the bassoon in opera houses. His wife, Isabella Lampe, was sister-in-law to the composer Thomas Arne with whom Lampe collaborated on a number of concert seasons...

, who wrote using Italian models. This situation continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, including in the work of Michael William Balfe
Michael William Balfe
Michael William Balfe was an Irish composer, best-remembered for his opera The Bohemian Girl.After a short career as a violinist, Balfe pursued an operatic singing career, while he began to compose. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he composed 38 operas, almost 250 songs and other works...

, and the operas of the great Italian composers, as well as those of Mozart, Beethoven and Meyerbeer, continued to dominate the musical stage in England.

The only exceptions were ballad opera
Ballad opera
The term ballad opera is used to refer to a genre of English stage entertainment originating in the 18th century and continuing to develop in the following century and later. There are many types of ballad opera...

s, such as John Gay
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

's The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today...

 (1728), musical burlesques, European operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

s, and late Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 light operas, notably the Savoy Operas of W. S. Gilbert
W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

 and Arthur Sullivan
Arthur Sullivan
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

, all of which types of musical entertainments frequently spoofed operatic conventions. Sullivan wrote only one grand opera, Ivanhoe
Ivanhoe (opera)
Ivanhoe is a romantic opera in three acts based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott, with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by Julian Sturgis. It premiered at the Royal English Opera House on 31 January 1891 for a consecutive run of 155 performances, unheard of for a grand opera...

 (following the efforts of a number of young English composers beginning about 1876), but he claimed that even his light operas constituted part of a school of "English" opera, intended to supplant the French operettas (usually performed in bad translations) that had dominated the London stage from the mid-19th century into the 1870s. London's Daily Telegraph agreed, describing The Yeomen of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances...

 as "a genuine English opera, forerunner of many others, let us hope, and possibly significant of an advance towards a national lyric stage."

In the 20th century, English opera began to assert more independence, with works of Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

 and in particular Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, who in a series of works that remain in standard repertory today, revealed an excellent flair for the dramatic and superb musicality. Today composers such as Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès is a British composer, pianist and conductor.-Biography:Adès studied piano with Paul Berkowitz and later composition with Robert Saxton at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London...

 continue to export English opera abroad. More recently Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Harrison Birtwistle
Sir Harrison Paul Birtwistle CH is a British contemporary composer.-Life:Birtwistle was born in Accrington, a mill town in Lancashire some 20 miles north of Manchester. His interest in music was encouraged by his mother, who bought him a clarinet when he was seven, and arranged for him to have...

 has emerged as one of Britain's most significant contemporary composers from his first opera Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy (opera)
Punch and Judy is an opera with music by Harrison Birtwistle and a libretto by Stephen Pruslin, based on the puppet figures of the same names. Birtwistle wrote the score from 1966 to 1967. The opera was first performed at the Aldeburgh Festival, which had commissioned the work, on 8 June 1968,...

 to his most recent critical success in The Minotaur
The Minotaur (opera)
The Minotaur is an opera in two acts, with 13 scenes by English composer Harrison Birtwistle to a libretto by poet David Harsent, commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. The work premiered at the Royal Opera House on April 15, 2008 and was shown on BBC2 television on June 7,...

. In the first decade of the 21st century, the librettist of an early Birtwistle opera, Michael Nyman
Michael Nyman
Michael Laurence Nyman, CBE is an English composer of minimalist music, pianist, librettist and musicologist, known for the many film scores he wrote during his lengthy collaboration with the filmmaker Peter Greenaway, and his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion's The Piano...

, has been focusing on composing operas, including Facing Goya
Facing Goya
Facing Goya is an opera in four acts by Michael Nyman on a libretto by Victoria Hardie. It is an expansion of their one-act opera called Vital Statistics from 1987, dealing with such subjects as physiognomy and its practitioners, and also incorporates a musical motif from Nyman's art song, "The...

, Man and Boy: Dada
Man and Boy: Dada
Man and Boy: Dada is a 2003 opera by Michael Nyman on a libretto by Michael Hastings. It tells the story of a friendship between aging dada artist Kurt Schwitters and a twelve-year-old boy. These two characters and the boy's mother make up the cast of the opera.It was first performed at the...

, and Love Counts
Love Counts
Love Counts is a 2005 opera in two acts by Michael Nyman on a libretto by Michael Hastings.-Performance history:The opera premiered March 12, 2005 at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, directed by Robert Tannenbaum...

.

Also in the 20th century, American composers like Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

, George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

, Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti
Gian Carlo Menotti was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, among about two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular...

, Douglas Moore, and Carlisle Floyd
Carlisle Floyd
Carlisle Floyd is an American opera composer. The son of a Methodist minister, he based many of his works on themes from the South...

 began to contribute English-language operas infused with touches of popular musical styles. They were followed by composers such as Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

, Mark Adamo
Mark Adamo
Mark Adamo is an Italian American composer and librettist born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While he has composed the symphonic cantata "Late Victorians, "Four Angels: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra," and six substantial choral works, the composer’s principal work has been for the opera house:...

, John Corigliano
John Corigliano
John Corigliano is an American composer of classical music and a teacher of music. He is a distinguished professor of music at Lehman College in the City University of New York.-Biography:...

, Robert Moran
Robert Moran
Robert Moran is an American composer of operas and ballets as well as numerous orchestral, vocal, chamber and dance works.-Life:...

, John Coolidge Adams
John Coolidge Adams
John Coolidge Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer with strong roots in minimalism. His best-known works include Short Ride in a Fast Machine , On the Transmigration of Souls , a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks , and Shaker...

, and Jake Heggie
Jake Heggie
Jake Heggie is an American composer and pianist.Jake Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking , The End of the Affair , At The Statue of Venus , To Hell and Back , and Moby-Dick , as well as the stage work For a Look or a Touch...

.

Russian opera




Opera was brought to Russia in the 1730s by the Italian opera
Italian opera
Italian opera is both the art of opera in Italy and opera in the Italian language. Opera was born in Italy around the year 1600 and Italian opera has continued to play a dominant role in the history of the form until the present day. Many famous operas in Italian were written by foreign composers,...

tic troupes and soon it became an important part of entertainment for the Russian Imperial Court and aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

. Many foreign composers such as Baldassare Galuppi, Giovanni Paisiello
Giovanni Paisiello
Giovanni Paisiello was an Italian composer of the Classical era.-Life:Paisiello was born at Taranto and educated by the Jesuits there. He became known for his beautiful singing voice and in 1754 was sent to the Conservatorio di S. Onofrio at Naples, where he studied under Francesco Durante, and...

, Giuseppe Sarti
Giuseppe Sarti
Giuseppe Sarti was an Italian opera composer.-Biography:He was born at Faenza. His date of birth is not known, but he was baptised on 1 December 1729. Some earlier sources say he was born on 28 December, but his baptism certificate proves the later date impossible...

, and Domenico Cimarosa
Domenico Cimarosa
Domenico Cimarosa was an Italian opera composer of the Neapolitan school...

 (as well as various others) were invited to Russia to compose new operas, mostly in the Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. Simultaneously some domestic musicians like Maksym Berezovsky
Maksym Berezovsky
Maksym Sozontovych Berezovsky was a Ukrainian composer, opera singer, and violinist.Berezovsky was the first Ukrainian composer to be recognized throughout Europe and the first to compose an opera, symphony, and violin sonata. His most popular works are his sacred choral pieces written for the...

 and Dmitry Bortniansky were sent abroad to learn to write operas. The first opera written in Russian was Tsefal i Prokris
Tsefal i Prokris
Tsefal i Prokris , is an opera seria in three acts by the Italian composer Francesco Araja. Dating to 1755, it was the first opera written in the Russian language....

 by the Italian composer Francesco Araja
Francesco Araja
Francesco Domenico Araja was an Italian composer who spent 25 years in Russia and wrote at least 14 operas for the Russian Imperial Court including Tsefal i Prokris, the first opera written in the Russian language.-Biography:He was born and...

 (1755). The development of Russian-language opera was supported by the Russian composers Vasily Pashkevich
Vasily Pashkevich
Vasily Alexeyevich Pashkevich also Paskevich was a Russian composer, singer, violinist and teacher who lived during the time of Catherine the Great.-Biography:...

, Yevstigney Fomin
Yevstigney Fomin
Yevstigney Ipat'yevich Fomin was a Russian opera composer of the 18th century.-Biography:...

 and Alexey Verstovsky
Alexey Verstovsky
Alexey Nikolayevich Verstovsky was a Russian composer, musical bureaucrat and rival of Mikhail Glinka.-Biography:...

.

However, the real birth of Russian opera
Russian opera
Russian opera is the art of opera in Russia. Operas by composers of Russian origin, written or staged outside of Russia, also belong to this category, as well as the operas of foreign composers written or intended for the Russian scene. These are not only Russian-language operas...

 came with Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

 and his two great operas A Life for the Tsar
A Life for the Tsar
A Life for the Tsar , as it is known in English, although its original name was Ivan Susanin is a "patriotic-heroic tragic opera" in four acts with an epilogue by Mikhail Glinka. The original Russian libretto, based on historical events, was written by Nestor Kukolnik, Georgy Fyodorovich Rozen,...

 (1836) and Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842). After him in the 19th century in Russia there were written such operatic masterpieces as Rusalka
Rusalka (Dargomyzhsky)
Rusalka is an opera in four acts, six tableaux, by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, composed during 1848-1855. The Russian libretto was adapted by the composer from Pushkin's incomplete dramatic poem of the same name...

 and The Stone Guest
The Stone Guest (Dargomyzhsky)
The Stone Guest is an opera in three acts by Alexander Dargomyzhsky. The libretto was taken almost verbatim from Alexander Pushkin's like-named play in blank verse , with slight changes in wording and the interpolation of two songs indicated in the play...

 by Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky was a 19th century Russian composer. He bridged the gap in Russian opera composition between Mikhail Glinka and the later generation of The Five and Tchaikovsky....

, Boris Godunov
Boris Godunov (opera)
Boris Godunov is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky . The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar during the Time of Troubles,...

 and Khovanshchina
Khovanshchina
Khovanshchina is an opera in five acts by Modest Mussorgsky. The work was written between 1872 and 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The composer wrote the libretto based on historical sources...

 by Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

, Prince Igor
Prince Igor
Prince Igor is an opera in four acts with a prologue. It was composed by Alexander Borodin. The composer adapted the libretto from the East Slavic epic The Lay of Igor's Host, which recounts the campaign of Russian prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the invading Polovtsian tribes in 1185...

 by Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

, Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

 and The Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades (opera)
The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 is an opera in 3 acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a Russian libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. The premiere took place in 1890 in St...

 by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

, and The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden: A Spring Fairy Tale is an opera in four acts with a prologue by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, composed during 1880–1881. The Russian libretto, by the composer, is based on the like-named play by Alexander Ostrovsky .The first performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera took place at the...

 and Sadko
Sadko (opera)
Sadko is an opera in seven scenes by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, with assistance from Vladimir Belsky, Vladimir Stasov, and others. Rimsky-Korsakov was first inspired by the bylina of Sadko in 1867, when he completed a tone poem on the subject, his Op. 5...

 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

. These developments mirrored the growth of Russian nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 across the artistic spectrum, as part of the more general Slavophilism movement.

In the 20th century the tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s of Russian opera were developed by many composers including Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

 in his works The Miserly Knight
The Miserly Knight
The Miserly Knight, also The Covetous Knight, is a Russian opera in one act with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, with the libretto based on the drama of Alexander Pushkin. The composer decided essentially to set the Pushkin text as written, and had Feodor Chaliapin in mind for the role of the Baron...

 and Francesca da Rimini, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 in Le Rossignol
The Nightingale (opera)
The Nightingale is a Russian conte lyrique in three acts by Igor Stravinsky. It is generally known by its French name...

, Mavra
Mavra
Mavra is a one-act opera buffa composed by Igor Stravinsky, and one of the earliest works of Stravinsky's 'neo-classical' period. The libretto of the opera, by Boris Kochno, is based on Aleksandr Pushkin's The Little House in Kolomna. Mavra is about 25 minutes long, and features two arias, a...

, Oedipus rex
Oedipus rex (opera)
Oedipus rex is an "Opera-oratorio after Sophocles" by Igor Stravinsky, scored for orchestra, speaker, soloists, and male chorus. The libretto, based on Sophocles's tragedy, was written by Jean Cocteau in French and then translated by Abbé Jean Daniélou into Latin...

, and The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

, Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

 in The Gambler
The Gambler (Prokofiev)
The Gambler is an opera in four acts by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer, based on the story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky....

, The Love for Three Oranges, The Fiery Angel, Betrothal in a Monastery, and War and Peace
War and Peace (Prokofiev)
War and Peace is an opera in two parts , sometimes arranged as five acts, by Sergei Prokofiev to a Russian libretto by the composer and Mira Mendelson, based on the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy...

; as well as Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 in The Nose
The Nose (opera)
The Nose is a satirical opera composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. The libretto by Shostakovich, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Georgy Ionin, and Alexander Preis is based on the story The Nose by Nikolai Gogol. The plot concerns a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own...

 and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (opera)
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District is an opera in four acts by Dmitri Shostakovich, his Op.29. The libretto was written by Alexander Preis and the composer, and is based on the story Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. The opera is sometimes referred to informally as Lady Macbeth...

, Edison Denisov
Edison Denisov
Edison Vasilievich Denisov was a Russian composer of so called "Underground" — "Anti-Collectivist", "alternative" or "nonconformist" division in the Soviet music.-Biography:...

 in L'écume des jours
L'écume des jours (opera)
L'écume des jours is an opera in three acts by the Russian composer Edison Denisov. The French text is by the composer based on the novel of the same title by Boris Vian...

, and Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke ; November 24, 1934 – August 3, 1998) was a Russian and Soviet composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony and First Concerto Grosso...

 in Life with an Idiot
Life with an Idiot
Life with an Idiot is an opera by the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. The libretto is by Viktor Erofeyev. It was first performed at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam on 13 April 1992. The opera is an allegory of Soviet oppression.-Roles:-Act One:...

 and Historia von D. Johann Fausten
Historia von D. Johann Fausten (opera)
Historia von D. Johann Fausten is an opera by the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke in three acts, with introduction and epilogue to the German libretto by Jörg Morgener and Alfred Schnittke after the anonymous prose book of the same name .-History of creation:Schnittke worked on this opera for...

.

Other national operas


Spain also produced its own distinctive form of opera, known as zarzuela
Zarzuela
Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance...

, which had two separate flowerings: one from the mid-17th century through the mid-18th century, and another beginning around 1850. During the late 18th century up until the mid-19th century, Italian opera was immensely popular in Spain, supplanting the native form.

Czech composers also developed a thriving national opera movement of their own in the 19th century, starting with Bedřich Smetana
Bedrich Smetana
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music...

, who wrote eight operas including the internationally popular The Bartered Bride
The Bartered Bride
The Bartered Bride is a comic opera in three acts by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, to a libretto by Karel Sabina. The opera is considered to have made a major contribution towards the development of Czech music. It was composed during the period 1863–66, and first performed at the...

. Antonín Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

, most famous for Rusalka
Rusalka (opera)
Rusalka is an opera by Antonín Dvořák. The Czech libretto was written by the poet Jaroslav Kvapil based on the fairy tales of Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. Rusalka is one of the most successful Czech operas, and represents a cornerstone of the repertoire of Czech opera houses...

, wrote 13 operas; and Leoš Janáček
Leoš Janácek
Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and all Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by...

 gained international recognition in the 20th century for his innovative works including Jenůfa
Jenufa
Jenůfa is an opera in three acts by Leoš Janáček to a Czech libretto by the composer, based on the play Její pastorkyňa by Gabriela Preissová. It was first performed at the Brno Theater, Brno, 21 January 1904...

, The Cunning Little Vixen
The Cunning Little Vixen
The Cunning Little Vixen is an opera by Leoš Janáček, with a libretto adapted by the composer from a serialized novella by Rudolf Těsnohlídek and Stanislav Lolek, which was first published in the newspaper Lidové noviny.-Composition history:When Janáček discovered Těsnohlídek's...

, and Káťa Kabanová
Káta Kabanová
Káťa Kabanová is an opera in three acts, with music by Leoš Janáček to a libretto by Vincenc Červinka, based on The Storm, a play by Alexander Ostrovsky. The opera was also largely inspired by Janáček's love for Kamila Stösslová...

.

The key figure of Hungarian national opera in the 19th century was Ferenc Erkel, whose works mostly dealt with historical themes. Among his most often performed operas are Hunyadi László and Bánk bán. The most famous modern Hungarian opera is Béla Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

's Duke Bluebeard's Castle.

The best-known composer of Polish national opera
Polish opera
Polish opera may be broadly understood to include operas staged in Poland and works written for foreign stages by Polish composers, as well as opera in the Polish language....

 was Stanisław Moniuszko
Stanisław Moniuszko
Stanisław Moniuszko was a Polish composer, conductor and teacher. His output includes many songs and operas, and his musical style is filled with patriotic folk themes of the peoples of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth...

, most celebrated for the opera Straszny Dwór
The Haunted Manor
The Haunted Manor is an opera in four acts composed by Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko in 1861–1864. The libretto was written by Jan Chęciński...

 (in English The Haunted Manor). In the 20th century, other operas created by Polish composers included King Roger
King Roger
King Roger is an opera by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski set to a libretto by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. It was first performed on 19 June 1926 in Warsaw, Poland...

 by Karol Szymanowski
Karol Szymanowski
Karol Maciej Szymanowski was a Polish composer and pianist.-Life:Szymanowski was born into a wealthy land-owning Polish gentry family in Tymoszówka, then in the Russian Empire, now in Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father before going to Gustav Neuhaus'...

 and Ubu Rex by Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki , born November 23, 1933 in Dębica) is a Polish composer and conductor. His 1960 avant-garde Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for string orchestra brought him to international attention, and this success was followed by acclaim for his choral St. Luke Passion. Both these...

.

Modernism


Perhaps the most obvious stylistic manifestation of modernism in opera is the development of atonality
Atonality
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

. The move away from traditional tonality in opera had begun with Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, and in particular the Tristan chord
Tristan chord
The Tristan chord is a chord made up of the notes F, B, D and G. More generally, it can be any chord that consists of these same intervals: augmented fourth, augmented sixth, and augmented ninth above a root...

. Composers such as Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

, Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

, Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

, Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

 and Hans Pfitzner
Hans Pfitzner
Hans Erich Pfitzner was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His best known work is the post-Romantic opera Palestrina, loosely based on the life of the great sixteenth-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.-Biography:Pfitzner was born in Moscow, Russia, where his...

 pushed Wagnerian harmony further with a more extreme use of chromaticism and greater use of dissonance.
Operatic modernism truly began in the operas of two Viennese composers, Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and his student Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

, both composers and advocates of atonality and its later development (as worked out by Schoenberg), dodecaphony. Schoenberg's early musico-dramatic works, Erwartung
Erwartung
Erwartung , Op.17 is a one-act opera by Arnold Schoenberg to a libretto by Marie Pappenheim. Composed in 1909, it was not premiered until June 6, 1924 in Prague conducted by Alexander Zemlinsky with Marie Gutheil-Schoder as the soprano. The work takes the unusual form of a monologue for solo...

 (1909, premiered in 1924) and Die glückliche Hand
Die glückliche Hand
Die glückliche Hand , , is a Drama mit Musik by Arnold Schoenberg in four scenes. It was composed between 1910 and 1913. Like Erwartung, composed a year earlier, it was heavily influenced by Otto Weininger's book Sex and Character. Unlike Erwartung, Schoenberg wrote the libretto for Die glückliche...

 display heavy use of chromatic harmony and dissonance in general. Schoenberg also occasionally used Sprechstimme, which he described as: "The voice rising and falling relative to the indicated intervals, and everything being bound together with the time and rhythm of the music except where a pause is indicated".

The two operas of Schoenberg's pupil Alban Berg, Wozzeck
Wozzeck
Wozzeck is the first opera by the Austrian composer Alban Berg. It was composed between 1914 and 1922 and first performed in 1925. The opera is based on the drama Woyzeck left incomplete by the German playwright Georg Büchner at his death. Berg attended the first production in Vienna of Büchner's...

 (1925) and Lulu
Lulu (opera)
Lulu is an opera by the composer Alban Berg. The libretto was adapted by Berg himself from Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora .-Composition history:...

 (incomplete at his death in 1935) share many of the same characteristics as described above, though Berg combined his highly personal interpretation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique with melodic passages of a more traditionally tonal nature (quite Mahlerian in character) which perhaps partially explains why his operas have remained in standard repertory, despite their controversial music and plots. Schoenberg's theories have influenced (either directly or indirectly) significant numbers of opera composers ever since, even if they themselves did not compose using his techniques.
Composers thus influenced include the Englishman Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, the German Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

, and the Russian Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

. (Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

 also makes use of atonality, though his style is generally described as minimalist
Minimalist music
Minimal music is a style of music associated with the work of American composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. It originated in the New York Downtown scene of the 1960s and was initially viewed as a form of experimental music called the New York Hypnotic School....

, usually thought of as another 20th century development.)

However, operatic modernism's use of atonality also sparked a backlash in the form of neoclassicism
Neoclassicism (music)
Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint...

. An early leader of this movement was Ferruccio Busoni
Ferruccio Busoni
Ferruccio Busoni was an Italian composer, pianist, editor, writer, piano and composition teacher, and conductor.-Biography:...

, who in 1913 wrote the libretto for his neoclassical number opera Arlecchino
Arlecchino (opera)
Arlecchino, oder Die Fenster is a one-act opera with spoken dialog by Ferruccio Busoni, with a libretto in German written by the composer in 1913. He completed the music for the opera while living in Zurich in 1916...

 (first performed in 1917). Also among the vanguard was the Russian Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

. After composing music for the Diaghilev-produced ballets Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring, original French title Le sacre du printemps , is a ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky; choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and concept, set design and costumes by Nicholas Roerich...

 (1913), Stravinsky turned to neoclassicism, a development culminating in his opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex
Oedipus rex (opera)
Oedipus rex is an "Opera-oratorio after Sophocles" by Igor Stravinsky, scored for orchestra, speaker, soloists, and male chorus. The libretto, based on Sophocles's tragedy, was written by Jean Cocteau in French and then translated by Abbé Jean Daniélou into Latin...

 (1927). Well after his Rimsky-Korsakov-inspired works The Nightingale
The Nightingale (opera)
The Nightingale is a Russian conte lyrique in three acts by Igor Stravinsky. It is generally known by its French name...

 (1914), and Mavra
Mavra
Mavra is a one-act opera buffa composed by Igor Stravinsky, and one of the earliest works of Stravinsky's 'neo-classical' period. The libretto of the opera, by Boris Kochno, is based on Aleksandr Pushkin's The Little House in Kolomna. Mavra is about 25 minutes long, and features two arias, a...

 (1922), Stravinsky continued to ignore serialist technique
Serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

 and eventually wrote a full-fledged 18th century-style diatonic number opera The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

 (1951). His resistance to serialism (which ended at the death of Schoenberg) proved to be an inspiration for many other composers.

Other trends


A common trend throughout the 20th century, in both opera and general orchestral repertoire, is the use of smaller orchestras as a cost-cutting measure; the grand Romantic-era orchestras with huge string sections, multiple harps, extra horns, and exotic percussion instruments were no longer feasible. As government and private patronage of the arts decreased throughout the 20th century, new works were often commissioned and performed with smaller budgets, very often resulting in chamber-sized works, and short, one-act operas. Many of Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

's operas are scored for as few as 13 instrumentalists; Mark Adamo
Mark Adamo
Mark Adamo is an Italian American composer and librettist born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While he has composed the symphonic cantata "Late Victorians, "Four Angels: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra," and six substantial choral works, the composer’s principal work has been for the opera house:...

's two-act realization of Little Women
Little Women (opera)
Little Women is the first opera composed by American composer Mark Adamo to his own libretto after Louisa May Alcott's tale of growing up in New England after the American Civil War, Little Women. The opera also includes text by John Bunyan , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Little Women (1998) is the...

 is scored for 18 instrumentalists.

Another feature of 20th century opera is the emergence of contemporary historical operas, sometimes known as "headline opera" or "CNN opera" for their ripped-from-the-evening-news aspects. The Death of Klinghoffer
The Death of Klinghoffer
The Death of Klinghoffer is an American opera, with music by John Adams to an English-language libretto by Alice Goodman. First produced in Brussels and New York in 1991, the opera is based on the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, and the...

, Nixon in China
Nixon in China (opera)
Nixon in China is an opera in three acts by John Adams, with a libretto by Alice Goodman. Adams' first opera, it was inspired by the 1972 visit to China by US President Richard Nixon. The work premiered at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987, in a production by Peter Sellars with...

 and Doctor Atomic
Doctor Atomic
Doctor Atomic is an opera by the contemporary American composer John Adams, with libretto by Peter Sellars. It premiered at the San Francisco Opera on 1 October 2005. The work focuses on the great stress and anxiety experienced by those at Los Alamos while the test of the first atomic bomb was...

 by John Adams, and Dead Man Walking
Dead Man Walking (opera)
Dead Man Walking is the first opera by Jake Heggie, with a libretto by Terrence McNally; it premiered on October 7, 2000 at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco Opera.-Roles:...

 by Jake Heggie
Jake Heggie
Jake Heggie is an American composer and pianist.Jake Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking , The End of the Affair , At The Statue of Venus , To Hell and Back , and Moby-Dick , as well as the stage work For a Look or a Touch...

 exemplify the dramatisation on stage of events in recent living memory, where characters portrayed in the opera were alive at the time of the premiere performance.

Earlier models of opera generally stuck to more distant history, re-telling contemporary fictional stories (reworkings of popular plays), or mythical/legendary stories.

The Metropolitan Opera in the US reports that the average age of its audience is now 60. Many opera companies have experienced a similar trend, and opera company websites are replete with attempts to attract a younger audience. This trend is part of the larger trend of greying audiences for classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 since the last decades of the 20th century. In an effort to attract younger audiences, the Metropolitan Opera offers a student discount on ticket purchases. Major opera companies have been better able to weather the funding cutbacks, because they can afford to hire star singers which draw substantial audiences.

Smaller companies in the US have a more fragile existence, and they usually depend on a "patchwork quilt" of support from state and local governments, local businesses, and fundraisers. Nevertheless, some smaller companies have found ways of drawing new audiences. Opera Carolina offer discounts and happy hour events to the 21–40 year old demographic. In addition to radio and television broadcasts of opera performances, which have had some success in gaining new audiences, broadcasts of live performances in HD to movie theatres have shown the potential to reach new audiences. Since 2006, the Met has broadcast live performances to several hundred movie screens all over the world.

In the last 20 years or so, a production style known as Eurotrash
Eurotrash (opera)
Eurotrash is the designation for a controversial style of opera production. Characteristics of this production style are:* The story is relocated from the original location to a more modern, especially a Fascist-era period...

 has taken root in Europe and, to a smaller, extent, in North America. Eurotrash stagings typically change the opera's time and place, are usually sexually explicit (with an emphasis on what might be considered perversion), and may mix costumes from different eras. Directors David Alden and his twin brother Christopher Alden
Christopher Alden (director)
Christopher Alden is a radical theater director known for staging revisionist productions of opera. He is the twin brother of David Alden, also an opera director, and belongs to a generation of modernist directors that includes Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars, though Alden retains his own personal...

 have taken credit for pioneering what has come to be called the Eurotrash style.

From musicals back towards opera


Also by the late 1930s, some musicals
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 began to be written with a more operatic structure. These works include complex polyphonic ensembles and reflect musical developments of their times. Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy and subsequent play of the same title, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward...

 (1935), influenced by jazz styles, and Candide
Candide (operetta)
Candide is an operetta with music composed by Leonard Bernstein, based on the novella of the same name by Voltaire. The operetta was first performed in 1956 with a libretto by Lillian Hellman; but since 1974 it has been generally performed with a book by Hugh Wheeler which is more faithful to...

 (1956), with its sweeping, lyrical passages and farcical parodies of opera, both opened on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 but became accepted as part of the opera repertory. Show Boat
Show Boat
Show Boat is a musical in two acts with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It was originally produced in New York in 1927 and in London in 1928, and was based on the 1926 novel of the same name by Edna Ferber. The plot chronicles the lives of those living and working...

, West Side Story, Brigadoon, Sweeney Todd, Evita, The Light in the Piazza, The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical)
The Phantom of the Opera is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux.The music was composed by Lloyd Webber, and most lyrics were written by Charles Hart, with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. Alan Jay Lerner was an early collaborator,...

 and others tell dramatic stories through complex music and are now sometimes seen in opera houses. Some musicals, beginning with Tommy
The Who's Tommy
The Who's Tommy is a rock musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's 1969 double album rock opera Tommy, also by Pete Townshend, with additional material by John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Sonny Boy Williamson.-Productions:...

 (1969) and Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started off as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971...

 (1971) and continuing through Les Misérables
Les Misérables (musical)
Les Misérables , colloquially known as Les Mis or Les Miz , is a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg, based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo....

 (1980), Rent
Rent (musical)
Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème...

 (1996) and Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening is a rock musical adaptation of the controversial 1892 German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind. It features music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. Set in late-19th century Germany, it concerns teenagers who are discovering the inner and outer tumult of...

 (2006), use various operatic conventions, such as through composition, recitative instead of dialogue, leitmotif
Leitmotif
A leitmotif , sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term , referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe...

s and dramatic stories told predominantly through rock, pop or contemporary music.

Acoustic enhancement with speakers


A subtle type of sound electronic reinforcement called acoustic enhancement
Acoustic enhancement
Acoustic enhancement is a subtle type of sound reinforcement system used to augment direct, reflected, or reverberant sound. While sound reinforcement systems are usually used to increase the sound level of the sound source , acoustic enhancement systems are typically used to increase the...

 is used in some concert halls where operas are performed. Acoustic enhancement systems help give a more even sound in the hall and prevent "dead spots" in the audience seating area by "...augment[ing] a hall's intrinsic acoustic characteristics." The systems use "...an array of microphones connected to a computer [which is] connected to an array of loudspeakers." However, as concertgoers have become aware of the use of these systems, debates have arisen, because some "...purists maintain that the natural acoustic sound of [Classical] voices [or] instruments in a given hall should not be altered."

Kai Harada's article "Opera's Dirty Little Secret" states that opera houses began using electronic acoustic enhancement systems in the 1990s "...to compensate for flaws in a venue's acoustical architecture." Despite the uproar that has arisen amongst operagoers, Harada points out that none of the major opera houses using acoustic enhancement systems "...use traditional, Broadway-style sound reinforcement, in which most if not all singers are equipped with radio microphones mixed to a series of unsightly loudspeakers scattered throughout the theatre." Instead, most opera houses use the sound reinforcement system
Sound reinforcement system
A sound reinforcement system is the combination of microphones, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers that makes live or pre-recorded sounds louder and may also distribute those sounds to a larger or more distant audience...

 for acoustic enhancement, and for subtle boosting of offstage voices, child singers, onstage dialogue, and sound effects (e.g., church bells in Tosca
Tosca
Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900...

 or thunder effects in Wagnerian operas).

Operatic voices


Operatic voices needed enough volume to compete with the overwhelming volume of the orchestra. In times without electronic devices nor microphones that could amplify them they needed special techniques to make sure the people in the end rows of the theatre could enjoy them as much as the front rows did. Therefore a singing technique was developed to make sure they could stand out in the bombast of the orchestra, without the musicians having to compromise in volume.

Vocal classifications


Singers and the roles they play are classified by voice type
Voice type
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types...

, based on the tessitura
Tessitura
In music, the term tessitura generally describes the most musically acceptable and comfortable range for a given singer or, less frequently, musical instrument; the range in which a given type of voice presents its best-sounding texture or timbre...

, agility, power
Vocal weight
Vocal weight refers to the perceived "lightness" or "heaviness" of a singing voice. This quality of the voice is one of the major determining factors in voice classification within classical music...

 and timbre
Timbre
In music, timbre is the quality of a musical note or sound or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices and musical instruments, such as string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. The physical characteristics of sound that determine the...

 of their voices. Male singers can be loosely classified by vocal range
Vocal range
Vocal range is the measure of the breadth of pitches that a human voice can phonate. Although the study of vocal range has little practical application in terms of speech, it is a topic of study within linguistics, phonetics, and speech and language pathology, particularly in relation to the study...

 as bass
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

, bass-baritone
Bass-baritone
A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice type which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende...

, baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

, tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 and countertenor
Countertenor
A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely than normal, modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble...

, and female singers as contralto
Contralto
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...

, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

 and soprano
Soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

. (Men sometimes sing in the "female" vocal ranges, in which case they are termed sopranist
Sopranist
A sopranist is a male singer who is able to sing in the vocal tessitura of a soprano usually through the use of falsetto vocal production. This voice type is a specific kind of countertenor...

 or countertenor
Countertenor
A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely than normal, modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble...

. Of these, only the countertenor
Countertenor
A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely than normal, modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble...

 is commonly encountered in opera, sometimes singing parts written for castrati – men neutered at a young age specifically to give them a higher singing range.) Singers are then classified by voice type
Voice type
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types...

 – for instance, a soprano can be described as a lyric soprano, coloratura
Coloratura
Coloratura has several meanings. The word is originally from Italian, literally meaning "coloring", and derives from the Latin word colorare . When used in English, the term specifically refers to elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and...

, soubrette
Soubrette
A soubrette is a female stock character in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy".-Theater:...

, spinto
Spinto
Spinto is a vocal term used to characterize a soprano or tenor voice of a weight between lyric and dramatic that is capable of handling large musical climaxes in opera at moderate intervals...

, or dramatic soprano. These terms, although not fully describing a singing voice, associate the singer's voice with the roles most suitable to the singer's vocal characteristics. A particular singer's voice may change drastically over his or her lifetime, rarely reaching vocal maturity until the third decade, and sometimes not until middle age.

Historical use of voice parts

The following is only intended as a brief overview. For the main articles, see soprano
Soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

, alto
Alto
Alto is a musical term, derived from the Latin word altus, meaning "high" in Italian, that has several possible interpretations.When designating instruments, "alto" frequently refers to a member of an instrumental family that has the second highest range, below that of the treble or soprano. Hence,...

, tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

, baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

, bass
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

, countertenor
Countertenor
A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely than normal, modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble...

 and castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

.


The soprano voice has typically been used as the voice of choice for the female protagonist of the opera since the latter half of the 18th century. Earlier, it was common for that part to be sung by any female voice, or even a castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

. The current emphasis on a wide vocal range was primarily an invention of the Classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

. Before that, the vocal virtuosity, not range, was the priority, with soprano parts rarely extending above a high A
A (musical note)
La or A is the sixth note of the solfège. "A" is generally used as a standard for tuning. When the orchestra tunes, the oboe plays an "A" and the rest of the instruments tune to match that pitch. Every string instrument in the orchestra has an A string, from which each player can tune the rest of...

 (Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

, for example, only wrote one role extending to a high C
C (musical note)
C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale. Its enharmonic is B.-Middle C:Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard...

), though the castrato Farinelli
Farinelli
Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

 was alleged to possess a top D
D (musical note)
D is a musical note a whole tone above C, and is known as Re within the solfege system.When calculated in equal temperament with a reference of A above middle C as 440 Hz, the frequency of middle D is approximately 293.665 Hz. See pitch for a discussion of historical variations in...

 (his lower range was also extraordinary, extending to tenor C). The mezzo-soprano, a term of comparatively recent origin, also has a large repertoire, ranging from the female lead in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas to such heavyweight roles as Brangäne in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (these are both roles sometimes sung by sopranos; there is quite a lot of movement between these two voice-types). For the true contralto, the range of parts is more limited, which has given rise to the insider joke that contraltos only sing "witches, bitches, and britches
Breeches role
A breeches role is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing .In opera it also refers to any male character that is sung and acted by a female singer...

" roles. In recent years many of the "trouser roles" from the Baroque era, originally written for women, and those originally sung by castrati, have been reassigned to countertenors.

The tenor voice, from the Classical era onwards, has traditionally been assigned the role of male protagonist. Many of the most challenging tenor roles in the repertory were written during the bel canto era, such as Donizetti's sequence of 9 Cs above middle C during La fille du régiment
La fille du régiment
La fille du régiment is an opéra comique in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. It was written while the composer was living in Paris, with a French libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard.La figlia del reggimento, a slightly different Italian-language version , was...

. With Wagner came an emphasis on vocal heft for his protagonist roles, with this vocal category described as Heldentenor; this heroic voice had its more Italianate counterpart in such roles as Calaf in Puccini's Turandot. Basses have a long history in opera, having been used in opera seria in supporting roles, and sometimes for comic relief (as well as providing a contrast to the preponderance of high voices in this genre). The bass repertoire is wide and varied, stretching from the comedy of Leporello in Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787...

 to the nobility of Wotan in Wagner's Ring Cycle
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

. In between the bass and the tenor is the baritone, which also varies in weight from say, Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte to Posa in Verdi's Don Carlos; the actual designation "baritone" was not used until the mid-19th century.

Famous singers



Early performances of opera were too infrequent for singers to make a living exclusively from the style, but with the birth of commercial opera in the mid-17th century, professional performers began to emerge. The role of the male hero was usually entrusted to a castrato
Castrato
A castrato is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.Castration before puberty prevents a boy's...

, and by the 18th century, when Italian opera was performed throughout Europe, leading castrati who possessed extraordinary vocal virtuosity, such as Senesino
Senesino
Senesino was a celebrated Italian contralto castrato, particularly remembered today for his long collaboration with the composer George Frideric Handel.-Early life and career:...

 and Farinelli
Farinelli
Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

, became international stars. The career of the first major female star (or prima donna
Prima donna
Originally used in opera or Commedia dell'arte companies, "prima donna" is Italian for "first lady." The term was used to designate the leading female singer in the opera company, the person to whom the prime roles would be given. The prima donna was normally, but not necessarily, a soprano...

), Anna Renzi
Anna Renzi
Anna Renzi was a leading Italian opera singer of the mid-17th century, renowned for her acting ability as well as her voice. She has been described as the first prima donna. She sang in Rome and Venice, where she appeared in the role of Ottavia in the premiere of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di...

, dates to the mid-17th century. In the 18th century, a number of Italian sopranos gained international renown and often engaged in fierce rivalry, as was the case with Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni was an Italian mezzo-soprano.-Early career:She was born in Venice and brought up under the protection of the aristocratic brother composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. Her singing teacher was another composer, Michelangelo Gasparini...

 and Francesca Cuzzoni
Francesca Cuzzoni
Francesca Cuzzoni was an Italian operatic soprano of the Baroque era.-Early career:Cuzzoni was born in Parma. Her father, Angelo, was a professional violinist, and her singing teacher was Francesco Lanzi. She made her debut in her home city in 1714, singing in La virtù coronata, o Il Fernando by...

, who started a fist fight with one another during a performance of a Handel opera. The French disliked castrati, preferring their male heroes to be sung by a haute-contre
Haute-contre
The haute-contre is a rare type of high tenor voice, predominant in French Baroque and Classical opera until the latter part of the eighteenth century.-History:...

 (a high tenor), of which Joseph Legros
Joseph Legros
Joseph Legros was a French singer and composer of the 18th century. He is best remembered for his association with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck...

 was a leading example.
Though opera patronage has decreased in the last century in favor of other arts and media (such as musicals, cinema, radio, television and recordings), mass media and the advent of recording have supported the popularity of many famous singers including Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

, Enrico Caruso, Kirsten Flagstad
Kirsten Flagstad
Kirsten Målfrid Flagstad was a Norwegian opera singer and a highly regarded Wagnerian soprano...

, Mario Del Monaco
Mario del Monaco
Mario Del Monaco was an Italian tenor who is regarded by his admirers as being one of the greatest dramatic tenors of the 20th century....

, Risë Stevens
Risë Stevens
Risë Stevens is a retired American operatic mezzo-soprano.-Professional life:Stevens studied at New York's Juilliard School for three years. She went to Vienna, where she was trained by Marie Gutheil-Schoder and Herbert Graf. She made her début as Mignon in Prague in 1936 and stayed there until...

, Alfredo Kraus
Alfredo Kraus
Alfredo Kraus Trujillo was a distinguished Spanish tenor of partly Austrian descent, particularly known for the artistry he brought to opera's bel canto roles...

, Franco Corelli
Franco Corelli
Franco Corelli was a famous Italian tenor who had a major international opera career between 1951 and 1976. Associated in particular with the spinto and dramatic tenor roles of the Italian repertory, he was celebrated universally for his powerhouse voice, electrifying top notes, clear timbre, a...

, Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé is a Spanish operatic soprano. Although she sang a wide variety of roles, she is best known as an exponent of the bel canto repertoire, notably the works of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi....

, Joan Sutherland
Joan Sutherland
Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE was an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s....

, Birgit Nilsson
Birgit Nilsson
right|thumb|Nilsson in 1948.Birgit Nilsson was a celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano who specialized in operatic and symphonic works...

, Nellie Melba
Nellie Melba
Dame Nellie Melba GBE , born Helen "Nellie" Porter Mitchell, was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the early 20th century...

, Rosa Ponselle
Rosa Ponselle
Rosa Ponselle , was an American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.-Early life:She was born Rosa Ponzillo on January 22, 1897,...

, Beniamino Gigli
Beniamino Gigli
Beniamino Gigli was an Italian opera singer. The most famous tenor of his generation, he was renowned internationally for the great beauty of his voice and the soundness of his vocal technique. Music critics sometimes took him to task, however, for what was perceived to be the over-emotionalism...

, Jussi Björling
Jussi Björling
Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling was a Swedish tenor. One of the leading operatic singers of the 20th Century, Björling appeared frequently at the Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as well as at other major European opera...

, Feodor Chaliapin
Feodor Chaliapin
Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin was a Russian opera singer. The possessor of a large and expressive bass voice, he enjoyed an important international career at major opera houses and is often credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in his chosen art form.During the first phase...

, and "The Three Tenors
The Three Tenors
The Three Tenors is a name given to the Spanish singers Plácido Domingo and José Carreras and the Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti who sang in concert under this banner during the 1990s and early 2000s. The trio began their collaboration with a performance at the ancient Baths of Caracalla, in...

" (Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti
right|thumb|Luciano Pavarotti performing at the opening of the Constantine Palace in [[Strelna]], 31 May 2003. The concert was part of the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of [[St...

, Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo KBE , born José Plácido Domingo Embil, is a Spanish tenor and conductor known for his versatile and strong voice, possessing a ringing and dramatic tone throughout its range...

, and José Carreras
José Carreras
Josep Maria Carreras i Coll , better known as José Carreras , is a Spanish Catalan tenor particularly known for his performances in the operas of Verdi and Puccini...

).

Funding of opera


Outside the US, and especially in Europe, most opera houses receive public subsidies from taxpayers.

For example, in Milan, Italy, 60% of La Scala's annual budget of €115 million is from sales and private donations, with the remaining 40% coming from public funds.
In 2005, La Scala received 25% of Italy's total state subsidy of €464 million for the performing arts.

Cinema and internet


Major opera companies have begun presenting their performances in local cinemas throughout the United States and many other countries. The Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 began a series of live high-definition video
High-definition video
High-definition video or HD video refers to any video system of higher resolution than standard-definition video, and most commonly involves display resolutions of 1,280×720 pixels or 1,920×1,080 pixels...

 transmissions to cinemas around the world in 2006. In 2007, Met performances were shown in over 424 theaters in 350 U.S. cities. La bohème
La bohème
La bohème is an opera in four acts,Puccini called the divisions quadro, a tableau or "image", rather than atto . by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger...

 went out to 671 screens worldwide. San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera is an American opera company, based in San Francisco, California.It was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola and is the second largest opera company in North America...

 began prerecorded video transmissions in March 2008. As of June 2008, approximately 125 theaters in 117 U.S. cities carry the showings. The HD video opera transmissions are presented via the same HD digital cinema projectors
Digital cinema
Digital cinema refers to the use of digital technology to distribute and project motion pictures. A movie can be distributed via hard drives, optical disks or satellite and projected using a digital projector instead of a conventional film projector...

 used for major Hollywood films. European opera houses and festivals including the Royal Opera
Royal Opera, London
The Royal Opera is an opera company based in central London, resident at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Along with the English National Opera, it is one of the two principal opera companies in London. Founded in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company, it was known by that title until 1968...

 in London, La Scala
La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

 in Milan, the Salzburg Festival
Salzburg Festival
The Salzburg Festival is a prominent festival of music and drama established in 1920. It is held each summer within the Austrian town of Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart...

, La Fenice
La Fenice
Teatro La Fenice is an opera house in Venice, Italy. It is one of the most famous theatres in Europe, the site of many famous operatic premieres. Its name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to "rise from the ashes" despite losing the use of two theatres...

 in Venice, and the Maggio Musicale
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is an annual opera festival which was founded in April 1933 by conductor Vittorio Gui with the aim of presenting contemporary and forgotten operas in visually dramatic productions. It was the first music festival in Italy. The first opera presented was Verdi's early...

 in Florence have also transmitted their productions to theaters in cities around the world since 2006, including 90 cities in the U.S.

The emergence of the Internet is also affecting the way in which audiences consume opera. In a first for the genre, in 2009 the British Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Glyndebourne Festival Opera is an English opera festival held at Glyndebourne, an English country house near Lewes, in East Sussex, England.-History:...

 company offered an online digital video download of its complete 2007 production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

.

List articles


  • Glossary of musical terminology
  • List of important operas – an annotated, chronological, selected list of operas which are included for their historical significance, widespread popularity, or both
  • List of major opera composers – an annotated compilation of the most frequently named composers on ten lists published by opera experts
  • List of opera companies
  • List of opera directors
  • List of opera festivals
  • List of opera genres
  • List of opera houses
  • List of operas by title – an alphabetical list by title of operas with Wikipedia articles
  • The opera corpus
    The opera corpus
    The opera corpus is a list of nearly 2,500 works by more than 775 individual opera composers.Some of the works listed below are still being performed today — but many are not...

     – an extended list of more than 2500 works by more than 775 composers
  • Voice type
    Voice type
    A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types...

    , the classification of singers by the tessitura, weight, and timbre of their voices


External links