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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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Royal Opera House, London
The Royal Opera is a company based in central London, resident at the Royal Opera House (pictured) in 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 brought a long annual season and consistent management to a house that had previously hosted short seasons under a series of impresarios. Since its inception, it has shared the Royal Opera House with the dance company now known as the Royal Ballet. When the company was formed, its policy was to perform all works in English, but since the late 1950s most operas have been given in the original language. From the outset, performers have comprised a mixture of British and Commonwealth singers and international guest stars, but fostering the careers of singers from within the company was a consistent policy of the early years. Among the many guest performers have been Maria Callas, Plácido Domingo, Kirsten Flagstad, Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Among those who have risen to international prominence from the ranks of the company are Geraint Evans, Joan Sutherland, Kiri Te Kanawa and Jon Vickers. The company's growth under the management of David Webster from modest beginnings to parity with the world's greatest opera houses was recognised by the grant of the title "The Royal Opera" in 1968.

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Illustrated London News - Giuseppe Verdi's Attila at Her Majesty's Theatre, London.jpg
Credit: Uncredited; Restored by Adam Cuerden

The Illustrated London News's depiction of the end scene of Attila, an opera in a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the 1809 play Attila, König der Hunnen (Attila, King of the Huns) by Zacharias Werner, in which Odabella, a woman who fought the Huns, and thus so impressed Attila that he wished to marry her, shows her true, hidden hatred for the man who killed her father by stabbing Attila in the heart.

Ezio's act 2 aria of heroic resolution È gettata la mia sorte ("My lot is cast, I am prepared for any warfare") is a fine example of a characteristic Verdian genre, and it achieved fame in its own time with audiences in the context of the adoption of a liberal constitution by Ferdinand II. Other contemporary comment praised the work as suitable for the "political education of the people", while, in contrast, others criticised the opera as "Teutonic" in nature.

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Benjamin Britten in 1968
Benjamin Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945). Born in Suffolk, the son of a dentist, Britten showed talent from an early age. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and privately with the composer Frank Bridge. Britten first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to international fame. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. In addition to large-scale operas for Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden, he wrote "chamber operas" for small forces, suitable for performance in venues of modest size. Among the best known of these is The Turn of the Screw (1954). Recurring themes in the operas are the struggle of an outsider against a hostile society, and the corruption of innocence.

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Noël Coward
People are wrong when they say that the opera isn't what it used to be. It is what it used to be—that's what's wrong with it!
Noël Coward, from in his play Design for Living
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Cartoon depiction of Marie Sasse as Elisabeth de Valois

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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

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Opera genres: Azione teatrale · Ballad opera · Comédie en vaudeville · 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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