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Portal:Opera

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Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work (called an opera) which combines a text (called a libretto) and a musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's lost Dafne, produced in Florence around 1597) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz in Germany, Lully in France, and Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. However, in the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe, except France, attracting foreign composers such as Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. Today the most renowned figure of late 18th century opera is Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as The Magic Flute, a landmark in the German tradition.

The first third of the 19th century saw the highpoint of the bel canto style, with Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini all creating works that are still performed today. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera typified by the works of Meyerbeer. The mid to late 19th century is considered by some a golden age of opera, led by Wagner in Germany and Verdi in Italy. This 'golden age' developed through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Puccini and Strauss in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, parallel operatic traditions emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia and Bohemia. The 20th century saw many experiments with modern styles, such as atonality and serialism (Schoenberg and Berg), Neo-Classicism (Stravinsky), and Minimalism (Philip Glass 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.

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Agrippina
Agrippina (HMV 6) is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel, set to a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. The opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of her son as emperor. Agrippina premiered in Venice some time in December 1709 or January 1710; the date is usually given as the 26 December 1709. The cast consisted of some of the leading singers of the time in Northern Italy, such as Antonio Carli in the lead bass role. Stars Margherita Durastanti, who had recently sung the role of Mary Magdalene in Handel's La Resurrezione; and Diamante Scarabelli, whose great success at Bologna in the 1697 pasticcio Perseo inspired the publication of a volume of eulogistic verse entitled La miniera del Diamante, also performed. Written when Handel was just 24, Agrippina was one of his first operas, and demonstrated his assimilation of the Italian style of opera, after his time spent in Rome composing Italianate cantatas and absorbing the influence of Alessandro Scarlatti, whom he had met in the city.

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Hector Berlioz, Béatrice et Bénédict score title page - Restoration.jpg
Credit: Antoine Barbizet; restored by Adam Cuerden

Title page of the first edition vocal score of Hector Berlioz's 1862 opera Béatrice et Bénédict, based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It is the first notable version of Shakespeare's play in operatic form, and was followed by works by among others Árpád Doppler, Paul Puget and Reynaldo Hahn. Berlioz biographer David Cairns has written "Listening to the score's exuberant gaiety, only momentarily touched by sadness, one would never guess that its composer was in pain when he wrote it and impatient for death".

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Nancy Storace

Selected biography

George Grossmith
George Grossmith (9 December 1847 – 1 March 1912) was an English comedian, writer, composer, actor, and singer. His performing career spanned more than four decades. As a writer and composer, he created 18 comic operas, nearly 100 musical sketches, some 600 songs and piano pieces, three books and both serious and comic pieces for newspapers and magazines. Grossmith is best remembered for two aspects of his career. First, he created a series of nine memorable characters in the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan from 1877 to 1889, including Sir Joseph Porter, in H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), the Major-General in The Pirates of Penzance (1880) and Ko-Ko in The Mikado (1885–87). Second, he wrote, in collaboration with his brother Weedon, the 1892 comic novel Diary of a Nobody. Grossmith was also famous in his day for performing his own comic piano sketches and songs, both before and after his Gilbert and Sullivan days, becoming the most popular British solo performer of the 1890s. Some of his comic songs endure today, including "See Me Dance the Polka". He continued to perform into the first decade of the 20th century. His son, George Grossmith, Jr., became a famous actor, playwright and producer of Edwardian musical comedies.

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Charles Gounod
There are three degrees of comparison: stupido, stupidissimo, and tenore.
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Georgette Leblanc

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Main topics

Opera history: Origins of opera • Italian opera • Opera in German • French opera • Opera in English • Polish opera • Russian opera • Hungarian opera • Armenian opera • Opera in Latin America

Opera topics

Opera genres: Azione teatrale · Ballad opera · Comédie en vaudevilles · Comédie mêlée d'ariettes · Dramma giocoso · Dramma per musica · Farsa · Festa teatrale · Género chico · Grand Opera · Music Drama · Opéra-ballet · Opera buffa · Opéra bouffe · Opéra bouffon · Opéra comique · Opéra féerie · Opera semiseria · Opera seria · Operetta · Pastorale héroïque · Romantische Oper · Savoy opera · Semi-opera · Singspiel · Spieloper · Tragédie en musique · Verismo · Zarzuela · Zeitoper

Opera terms: Aria · Aria di sorbetto · Arioso · Bel canto · Breeches role · Burletta · Cabaletta · Cadenza · Cantabile · Castrato · Cavatina · Chest voice · Claque · Coloratura · Comprimario · Convenienze · Coup de glotte · Da capo aria · Diva · Entr'acte · Fach · Falsetto · Fioritura · Gesamtkunstwerk · Head voice · Intermezzo · Kammersänger · Leitmotif · Legato · Libretto · Literaturoper · Mad scene · Maestro · Melodrama · Melodramma · Monodrama · Messa di voce · Opera house · Passaggio · Portamento · Prima donna · Prompter · Recitative · Regietheater · Répétiteur · Sitzprobe · Spinto · Sprechgesang · Squillo · Stagione · Surtitles · Tessitura · Timbre · Vibrato

Opera voices: Baritenor · Baritone · Bass · Bass-baritone · Coloratura soprano · Contralto · Countertenor · Dramatic soprano · Haute-contre · Lyric soprano · Mezzo-soprano · Soprano · Soubrette · Spinto soprano · Tenor · Tenore contraltino · Tenore di grazia

Opera lists: Opera topics • List of operas by composer • Important operas • Major opera composers • Opera librettists • Opera houses • Opera companies • Opera festivals • Opera directors • Operetta composers • Orphean operas • Zarzuela composers • Opera genres • Operas set in the Crusades • The Record of Singing • Bayreuth canon

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