Opera

Opera (Italian: [ˈɔːpera]; English plural: operas; Italian plural: opere [ˈɔːpere]) is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater.[1] Such a "work" (the literal translation of "opera") is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist[2] and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Opera is a key part of the Western classical music tradition.[3] Originally understood as an entirely sung piece, in contrast to a play with songs, opera has come to include numerous genres, including some that include spoken dialogue such as musical theater, Singspiel and Opéra comique. In traditional number opera, singers employ two styles of singing: recitative, a speech-inflected style[4] and self-contained arias. The 19th century saw the rise of the continuous music drama.

Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's mostly lost Dafne, produced in Florence in 1598) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Heinrich Schütz in Germany, Jean-Baptiste Lully in France, and Henry Purcell 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 George Frideric Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Christoph Willibald Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. The most renowned figure of late 18th-century opera is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), and The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), landmarks in the German tradition.

The first third of the 19th century saw the high point of the bel canto style, with Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini all creating works that are still performed. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera typified by the works of Auber and Meyerbeer. The mid-to-late 19th century was a golden age of opera, led and dominated by Giuseppe Verdi in Italy and Richard Wagner in Germany. The popularity of opera continued through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Giacomo Puccini and Richard 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 (Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg), Neoclassicism (Igor Stravinsky), and Minimalism (Philip Glass and John Adams). With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso and Maria Callas became known to much wider audiences that went beyond the circle of opera fans. Since the invention of radio and television, operas were also performed on (and written for) these mediums. Beginning in 2006, a number of major opera houses began to present live high-definition video transmissions of their performances in cinemas all over the world. Since 2009, complete performances can be downloaded and are live streamed.

The Atlanta Opera Lucia di Lammermoor finale
Performers from the Atlanta Opera sing the finale of Lucia di Lammermoor. The opera orchestra is visible in the lowered area in front of the stage.

Operatic terminology

The words of an opera are known as the libretto (literally "small book"). Some composers, notably Wagner, have written their own libretti; others have worked in close collaboration with their librettists, e.g. Mozart with Lorenzo Da Ponte. Traditional opera, often referred to as "number opera", consists of two modes of singing: recitative, the plot-driving passages sung in a style designed to imitate and emphasize the inflections of speech,[4] and aria (an "air" or formal song) in which the characters express their emotions in a more structured melodic style. Vocal duets, trios and other ensembles often occur, and choruses are used to comment on the action. In some forms of opera, such as singspiel, opéra comique, operetta, and semi-opera, 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. The terminology of the various kinds of operatic voices is described in detail below.[5] During both the Baroque and Classical periods, recitative could appear in two basic forms, each of which was accompanied by a different instrumental ensemble: secco (dry) recitative, sung with a free rhythm dictated by the accent of the words, accompanied only by basso continuo, which was usually a harpsichord and a cello; or accompagnato (also known as strumentato) in which the orchestra provided accompaniment. Over the 18th century, arias were increasingly accompanied by the orchestra. By the 19th century, accompagnato had gained the upper hand, the orchestra played a much bigger role, and Wagner revolutionized opera by abolishing almost all distinction between aria and recitative in his quest for what Wagner termed "endless melody". Subsequent composers have tended to follow Wagner's example, though some, such as Stravinsky in his The Rake's Progress have bucked the trend. The changing role of the orchestra in opera is described in more detail below.

History

Origins

The Italian word opera means "work", both in the sense of the labour done and the result produced. The Italian word derives from the Latin opera, a singular noun meaning "work" and also the plural of the noun opus. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Italian word was first used in the sense "composition in which poetry, dance, and music are combined" in 1639; the first recorded English usage in this sense dates to 1648.[6]

Dafne by Jacopo Peri 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 humanists who gathered as the "Camerata de' Bardi". Significantly, Dafne was an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama, part of the wider revival of antiquity characteristic of the Renaissance. 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, however, is lost. A later work by Peri, Euridice, 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's L'Orfeo, composed for the court of Mantua in 1607.[7] The Mantua court of the Gonzagas, employers of Monteverdi, played a significant role in the origin of opera employing not only court singers of the concerto delle donne (till 1598), but also one of the first actual "opera singers"; Madama Europa.[8]

Italian opera

Baroque era

Ceskystage
Private baroque theatre in Český Krumlov

Opera did not remain confined to court audiences for long. In 1637, the idea of a "season" (Carnival) 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 and L'incoronazione di Poppea, for the Venetian theatre in the 1640s. His most important follower Francesco Cavalli 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 the Arcadian Academy, which came to be associated with the poet Metastasio, whose libretti helped crystallize the genre of opera seria, 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. 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 not as cultured as the nobility, to the public opera houses. These separate plots were almost immediately resurrected in a separately developing tradition that partly derived from the commedia dell'arte, 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 high-pitched male castrato voice, which was produced by castration of the singer before puberty, which prevented a boy's larynx from being transformed at puberty. Castrati such as Farinelli and Senesino, as well as female sopranos such as Faustina Bordoni, became in great demand throughout Europe as opera seria ruled the stage in every country except France. Farinelli was one of the most famous singers of the 18th century. Italian opera set the Baroque standard. Italian libretti were the norm, even when a German composer like Handel found himself composing the likes of Rinaldo and Giulio Cesare for London audiences. Italian libretti remained dominant in the classical period as well, for example in the operas of Mozart, who wrote in Vienna near the century's close. Leading Italian-born composers of opera seria include Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Porpora.[9]

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

Mozart K. 527
Overture to Don Giovanni (1787) (6:49 minutes)
Gluck's Orphée - title page illustration (lightened and cropped)
Illustration for the score of the original Vienna version of Orfeo ed Euridice

Opera seria 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's Essay on the Opera (1755) proved to be an inspiration for Christoph Willibald Gluck'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. In 1765 Melchior Grimm published "Poème lyrique", an influential article for the Encyclopédie on lyric and opera librettos.[10][11][12][13][14] Several composers of the period, including Niccolò Jommelli and Tommaso Traetta, 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, 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 comic operas with libretti by Lorenzo Da Ponte, notably Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, 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 and La clemenza di Tito, he would not succeed in bringing the art form back to life again.[15]

Bel canto, Verdi and verismo

Giuseppe Verdi by Giovanni Boldini
Giuseppe Verdi, by Giovanni Boldini, 1886

The bel canto opera movement flourished in the early 19th century and is exemplified by the operas of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Pacini, Mercadante 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. Examples of famous operas in the bel canto style include Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola, as well as Bellini's Norma and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.

La donna è mobile

No Pagliaccio non son
Aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Performed by Enrico Caruso

Following the bel canto era, a more direct, forceful style was rapidly popularized by Giuseppe Verdi, beginning with his biblical opera Nabucco. This opera, and the ones that would follow in Verdi's career, revolutionized Italian opera, changing it from merely a display of vocal fireworks, with Rossini's and Donizetti's works, to dramatic story-telling. Verdi's operas resonated with the growing spirit of Italian nationalism in the post-Napoleonic era, and he quickly became an icon of the patriotic movement for a unified Italy. In the early 1850s, Verdi produced his three most popular operas: Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata. The first of these, Rigoletto, proved the most daring and revolutionary. In it, Verdi blurs the distinction between the aria and recitative as it never before was, leading the opera to be "an unending string of duets". La traviata was also novel. It tells the story of courtesan, and is often cited as one of the first "realistic" operas, because rather than featuring great kings and figures from literature, it focuses on the tragedies of ordinary life and society. After these, he continued to develop his style, composing perhaps the greatest French Grand Opera, Don Carlos, and ending his career with two Shakespeare-inspired works, Otello and Falstaff, which reveal how far Italian opera had grown in sophistication since the early 19th century. These final two works showed Verdi at his most masterfully orchestrated, and are both incredibly influential, and modern. In Falstaff, Verdi sets the preeminent standard for the form and style that would dominate opera throughout the twentieth century. Rather than long, suspended melodies, Falstaff contains many little motifs and mottos, that, rather than being expanded upon, are introduced and subsequently dropped, only to be brought up again later. These motifs never are expanded upon, and just as the audience expects a character to launch into a long melody, a new character speaks, introducing a new phrase. This fashion of opera directed opera from Verdi, onward, exercising tremendous influence on his successors Giacomo Puccini, Richard Strauss, and Benjamin Britten.[16]

After Verdi, the sentimental "realistic" melodrama of verismo appeared in Italy. This was a style introduced by Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci that came to dominate the world's opera stages with such popular works as Giacomo Puccini's La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. Later Italian composers, such as Berio and Nono, have experimented with modernism.[17]

German-language opera

Karl Friedrich Schinkel Die Sternenhalle der Königin der Nacht Bühnenbild Zauberflöte Mozart
The Queen of the Night in an 1815 production of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte

The first German opera was Dafne, composed by Heinrich Schütz 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 would develop in spite of this influence. In 1644, Sigmund Staden produced the first Singspiel, Seelewig, 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 presented German operas by Keiser, Telemann and Handel. Yet most of the major German composers of the time, including Handel himself, as well as Graun, Hasse and later Gluck, chose to write most of their operas in foreign languages, especially Italian. In contrast to Italian opera, which was generally composed for the aristocratic class, German opera was generally composed for the masses and tended to feature simple folk-like melodies, and it was not until the arrival of Mozart that German opera was able to match its Italian counterpart in musical sophistication.[18]

RichardWagner
Richard Wagner

Mozart's Singspiele, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (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 with his Fidelio, inspired by the climate of the French Revolution. Carl Maria von Weber established German Romantic opera in opposition to the dominance of Italian bel canto. His Der Freischütz (1821) shows his genius for creating a supernatural atmosphere. Other opera composers of the time include Marschner, Schubert and Lortzing, but the most significant figure was undoubtedly Wagner.

Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods p 180
Brünnhilde throws herself on Siegfried's funeral pyre in Wagner's Götterdämmerung

Wagner was one of the most revolutionary and controversial composers in musical history. Starting under the influence of Weber 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. He greatly increased the role and power of the orchestra, creating scores with a complex web of leitmotifs, recurring themes often associated with the characters and concepts of the drama, of which prototypes can be heard in his earlier operas such as Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin; and he was prepared to violate accepted musical conventions, such as tonality, in his quest for greater expressivity. In his mature music dramas, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal, he abolished the distinction between aria and recitative in favour of a seamless flow of "endless melody". Wagner also brought a new philosophical dimension to opera in his works, which were usually based on stories from Germanic or Arthurian legend. Finally, Wagner built his own opera house at Bayreuth with part of the patronage from Ludwig II of Bavaria, 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 accepted Wagnerian ideas but took them in wholly new directions, along with incorporating the new form introduced by Verdi. He first won fame with the scandalous Salome and the dark tragedy Elektra, in which tonality was pushed to the limits. Then Strauss changed tack in his greatest success, Der Rosenkavalier, where Mozart and Viennese waltzes 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. Other composers who made individual contributions to German opera in the early 20th century include Alexander von Zemlinsky, Erich Korngold, Franz Schreker, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill and the Italian-born Ferruccio Busoni. The operatic innovations of Arnold Schoenberg and his successors are discussed in the section on modernism.[19]

During the late 19th century, the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, an admirer of the French-language operettas composed by Jacques Offenbach, composed several German-language operettas, the most famous of which was Die Fledermaus, which is still regularly performed today.[20] Nevertheless, rather than copying the style of Offenbach, the operettas of Strauss II had distinctly Viennese flavor to them, which have cemented the Strauss II's place as one of the most renowned operetta composers of all time.

French opera

Armide Lully by Saint-Aubin
A performance of Lully's opera Armide in the Salle du Palais-Royal in 1761
Carmen: Chanson du toréador
Pasquale Amato's 1911 rendition of the Toréador's song from Georges Bizet's Carmen (1875).

In rivalry with imported Italian opera productions, a separate French tradition was founded by the Italian Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of King Louis XIV. Despite his foreign origin, Lully established an Academy of Music and monopolised French opera from 1672. Starting with Cadmus et Hermione, Lully and his librettist Quinault 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 which matched the contours of the French language. In the 18th century, Lully's most important successor was Jean-Philippe Rameau, who composed five tragédies en musique as well as numerous works in other genres such as opéra-ballet, all notable for their rich orchestration and harmonic daring. Despite the popularity of Italian opera seria throughout much of Europe during the Baroque period, Italian opera never gained much of a foothold in France, where its own national operatic tradition was more popular instead.[21] After Rameau's death, the German Gluck was persuaded to produce six operas for the Parisian stage 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. This was the equivalent of the German singspiel, where arias alternated with spoken dialogue. Notable examples in this style were produced by Monsigny, Philidor and, above all, Grétry. During the Revolutionary 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. Another phenomenon of this period was the 'propaganda opera' celebrating revolutionary successes, e.g. Gossec's Le triomphe de la République (1793).

By the 1820s, Gluckian influence in France had given way to a taste for Italian bel canto, especially after the arrival of Rossini in Paris. Rossini's Guillaume Tell helped found the new genre of Grand Opera, a form whose most famous exponent was another foreigner, Giacomo Meyerbeer. Meyerbeer's works, such as Les Huguenots, emphasised virtuoso singing and extraordinary stage effects. Lighter opéra comique also enjoyed tremendous success in the hands of Boïeldieu, Auber, Hérold and Adam. In this climate, the operas of the French-born composer Hector Berlioz struggled to gain a hearing. Berlioz's epic masterpiece Les Troyens, 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 created operetta with witty and cynical works such as Orphée aux enfers, as well as the opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann; Charles Gounod scored a massive success with Faust; and Georges Bizet composed Carmen, which, once audiences learned to accept its blend of Romanticism and realism, became the most popular of all opéra comiques. Jules Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns and Léo Delibes all composed works which are still part of the standard repertory, examples being Massenet's Manon, Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila and Delibes' Lakmé. Their operas formed another genre, the Opera Lyrique, combined opera comique and grand opera. It is less grandiose than grand opera, but without the spoken dialogue of opera comique. At the same time, the influence of Richard Wagner 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. As in Wagner's works, the orchestra plays a leading role in Debussy's unique opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902) and there are no real arias, only recitative. But the drama is understated, enigmatic and completely un-Wagnerian.

Other notable 20th-century names include Ravel, Dukas, Roussel and Milhaud. Francis Poulenc is one of the very few post-war composers of any nationality whose operas (which include Dialogues des Carmélites) have gained a foothold in the international repertory. Olivier Messiaen's lengthy sacred drama Saint François d'Assise (1983) has also attracted widespread attention.[22]

English-language opera

Stay, Prince and hear
Scene from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. The witches' messenger, in the form of Mercury himself, attempts to convince Aeneas to leave Carthage.

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 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 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's Lovers Made Men (1617), "the whole masque was sung after the Italian manner, stilo recitativo".[23] 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 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 because they were critical of Spain. With the English Restoration, foreign (especially French) musicians were welcomed back. In 1673, Thomas Shadwell's Psyche, patterned on the 1671 'comédie-ballet' of the same name produced by Molière and Jean-Baptiste Lully. William Davenant produced The Tempest in the same year, which was the first musical adaption of a Shakespeare play (composed by Locke and Johnson).[23] About 1683, John Blow composed Venus and Adonis, often thought of as the first true English-language opera.

Blow's immediate successor was the better known Henry Purcell. Despite the success of his masterwork Dido and Aeneas (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 format, where isolated scenes and masques are contained within the structure of a spoken play, such as Shakespeare in Purcell's The Fairy-Queen (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) 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 in 1760. His opera Artaxerxes (1762) was the first attempt to set a full-blown opera seria 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 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".

The Mikado Three Little Maids
The Mikado (Lithograph)

Besides Arne, the other dominating force in English opera at this time was George Frideric Handel, whose opera serias filled the London operatic stages for decades and influenced most home-grown composers, like John Frederick Lampe, who wrote using Italian models. This situation continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, including in the work of Michael William Balfe, 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 operas, such as John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), musical burlesques, European operettas, and late Victorian era light operas, notably the Savoy Operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, all of which types of musical entertainments frequently spoofed operatic conventions. Sullivan wrote only one grand opera, Ivanhoe (following the efforts of a number of young English composers beginning about 1876),[23] 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 as "a genuine English opera, forerunner of many others, let us hope, and possibly significant of an advance towards a national lyric stage".[24] Sullivan produced a few light operas in the 1890s that were of a more serious nature than those in the G&S series, including Haddon Hall and The Beauty Stone, but Ivanhoe (which ran for 155 consecutive performances, using alternating casts—a record until Broadway's La bohème) survives as his only Grand Opera.

In the 20th century, English opera began to assert more independence, with works of Ralph Vaughan Williams and in particular Benjamin Britten, who in a series of works that remain in standard repertory today, revealed an excellent flair for the dramatic and superb musicality. More recently Sir Harrison Birtwistle has emerged as one of Britain's most significant contemporary composers from his first opera Punch and Judy to his most recent critical success in The Minotaur. In the first decade of the 21st century, the librettist of an early Birtwistle opera, Michael Nyman, has been focusing on composing operas, including Facing Goya, Man and Boy: Dada, and Love Counts. Today composers such as Thomas Adès continue to export English opera abroad.[25]

Also in the 20th century, American composers like Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Gian Carlo Menotti, Douglas Moore, and Carlisle Floyd began to contribute English-language operas infused with touches of popular musical styles. They were followed by composers such as Philip Glass, Mark Adamo, John Corigliano, Robert Moran, John Coolidge Adams, André Previn and Jake Heggie.

Russian opera

Opera was brought to Russia in the 1730s by the Italian operatic troupes and soon it became an important part of entertainment for the Russian Imperial Court and aristocracy. Many foreign composers such as Baldassare Galuppi, Giovanni Paisiello, Giuseppe Sarti, and Domenico Cimarosa (as well as various others) were invited to Russia to compose new operas, mostly in the Italian language. Simultaneously some domestic musicians like Maksym Berezovsky and Dmitry Bortniansky were sent abroad to learn to write operas. The first opera written in Russian was Tsefal i Prokris by the Italian composer Francesco Araja (1755). The development of Russian-language opera was supported by the Russian composers Vasily Pashkevich, Yevstigney Fomin and Alexey Verstovsky.

However, the real birth of Russian opera came with Mikhail Glinka and his two great operas A Life for the Tsar (1836) and Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842). After him, in the 19th century in Russia, there were written such operatic masterpieces as Rusalka and The Stone Guest by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina by Modest Mussorgsky, Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and The Snow Maiden and Sadko by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. These developments mirrored the growth of Russian nationalism across the artistic spectrum, as part of the more general Slavophilism movement.

In the 20th century, the traditions of Russian opera were developed by many composers including Sergei Rachmaninoff in his works The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini, Igor Stravinsky in Le Rossignol, Mavra, Oedipus rex, and The Rake's Progress, Sergei Prokofiev in The Gambler, The Love for Three Oranges, The Fiery Angel, Betrothal in a Monastery, and War and Peace; as well as Dmitri Shostakovich in The Nose and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Edison Denisov in L'écume des jours, and Alfred Schnittke in Life with an Idiot and Historia von D. Johann Fausten.[26]

Other national operas

Prodana Nevesta Cover 1919
Score of Smetana's The Bartered Bride

Spain also produced its own distinctive form of opera, known as zarzuela, 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, who wrote eight operas including the internationally popular The Bartered Bride. Antonín Dvořák, most famous for Rusalka, wrote 13 operas; and Leoš Janáček gained international recognition in the 20th century for his innovative works including Jenůfa, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Káťa Kabanová.

In Russian Eastern Europe, several national operas began to emerge. Ukrainian opera was developed by Semen Hulak-Artemovsky (1813–1873) whose most famous work Zaporozhets za Dunayem (A Cossack Beyond the Danube) is regularly performed around the world. Other Ukrainian opera composers include Mykola Lysenko (Taras Bulba and Natalka Poltavka), Heorhiy Maiboroda, and Yuliy Meitus. At the turn of the century, a distinct national opera movement also began to emerge in Georgia under the leadership Zacharia Paliashvili, who fused local folk songs and stories with 19th-century Romantic classical themes.

Erkel Ferenc Györgyi Alajos
Ferenc Erkel, the father of Hungarian opera

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's Duke Bluebeard's Castle.

Stanisław Moniuszko's opera Straszny Dwór (in English The Haunted Manor) (1861–64) represents a nineteenth-century peak of Polish national opera.[27] In the 20th century, other operas created by Polish composers included King Roger by Karol Szymanowski and Ubu Rex by Krzysztof Penderecki.

The first known opera from Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) was Arshak II, which was an Armenian opera composed by an ethnic Armenian composer Tigran Tchoukhajian in 1868 and partially performed in 1873. It was fully staged in 1945 in Armenia.

The first years of the Soviet Union saw the emergence of new national operas, such as the Koroğlu (1937) by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. The first Kyrgyz opera, Ai-Churek, premiered in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre on 26 May 1939, during Kyrgyz Art Decade. It was composed by Vladimir Vlasov, Abdylas Maldybaev and Vladimir Fere. The libretto was written by Joomart Bokonbaev, Jusup Turusbekov, and Kybanychbek Malikov. The opera is based on the Kyrgyz heroic epic Manas.[28][29]

Chinese contemporary classical opera, a Chinese language form of Western style opera that is distinct from traditional Chinese opera, has had operas dating back to The White Haired Girl in 1945.[30][31][32]

In Latin America, opera started as a result of European colonisation. The first opera ever written in the Americas was La púrpura de la rosa, by Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, although Partenope, by the Mexican Manuel de Zumaya, was the first opera written from a composer born in Latin America (music now lost). The first Brazilian opera for a libretto in Portuguese was A Noite de São João, by Elias Álvares Lobo. However, Antonio Carlos Gomes is generally regarded as the most outstanding Brazilian composer, having a relative success in Italy with its Brazilian-themed operas with Italian librettos, such as Il Guarany. Opera in Argentina developed in the 20th century after the inauguration of Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires—with the opera Aurora, by Ettore Panizza, being heavily influenced by the Italian tradition, due to immigration. Other important composers from Argentina include Felipe Boero and Alberto Ginastera.

Contemporary, recent, and modernist trends

Modernism

Perhaps the most obvious stylistic manifestation of modernism in opera is the development of atonality. The move away from traditional tonality in opera had begun with Richard Wagner, and in particular the Tristan chord. Composers such as Richard Strauss, Claude Debussy, Giacomo Puccini, Paul Hindemith, Benjamin Britten and Hans Pfitzner pushed Wagnerian harmony further with a more extreme use of chromaticism and greater use of dissonance. Another aspect of modernist opera is the shift away from long, suspended melodies, to short quick mottos, as first illustrated by Giuseppe Verdi in his Falstaff. Composers such as Strauss, Britten, Shostakovich and Stravinsky adopted and expanded upon this style.

Schiele - Bildnis des Komponisten Arnold Schönberg . 1917
Arnold Schoenberg in 1917; portrait by Egon Schiele

Operatic modernism truly began in the operas of two Viennese composers, Arnold Schoenberg and his student Alban Berg, both composers and advocates of atonality and its later development (as worked out by Schoenberg), dodecaphony. Schoenberg's early musico-dramatic works, Erwartung (1909, premiered in 1924) and Die glückliche Hand display heavy use of chromatic harmony and dissonance in general. Schoenberg also occasionally used Sprechstimme.

The two operas of Schoenberg's pupil Alban Berg, Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (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.

Igor Stravinsky Essays
Stravinsky in 1921

Composers thus influenced include the Englishman Benjamin Britten, the German Hans Werner Henze, and the Russian Dmitri Shostakovich. (Philip Glass also makes use of atonality, though his style is generally described as minimalist, usually thought of as another 20th-century development.)[33]

However, operatic modernism's use of atonality also sparked a backlash in the form of neoclassicism. An early leader of this movement was Ferruccio Busoni, who in 1913 wrote the libretto for his neoclassical number opera Arlecchino (first performed in 1917).[34] Also among the vanguard was the Russian Igor Stravinsky. After composing music for the Diaghilev-produced ballets Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913), Stravinsky turned to neoclassicism, a development culminating in his opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927). Stravinsky had already turned away from the modernist trends of his early ballets to produce small-scale works that do not fully qualify as opera, yet certainly contain many operatic elements, including Renard (1916: "a burlesque in song and dance") and The Soldier's Tale (1918: "to be read, played, and danced"; in both cases the descriptions and instructions are those of the composer). In the latter, the actors declaim portions of speech to a specified rhythm over instrumental accompaniment, peculiarly similar to the older German genre of Melodrama. Well after his Rimsky-Korsakov-inspired works The Nightingale (1914), and Mavra (1922), Stravinsky continued to ignore serialist technique and eventually wrote a full-fledged 18th-century-style diatonic number opera The Rake's Progress (1951). His resistance to serialism (an attitude he reversed following Schoenberg's death) proved to be an inspiration for many other composers.[35]

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's operas are scored for as few as 13 instrumentalists; Mark Adamo's two-act realization of Little Women is scored for 18 instrumentalists.

Another feature of late 20th-century opera is the emergence of contemporary historical operas, in contrast to the tradition of basing operas on more distant history, the re-telling of contemporary fictional stories or plays, or on myth or legend. The Death of Klinghoffer, Nixon in China, and Doctor Atomic by John Adams, Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie, and Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage exemplify the dramatisation onstage of events in recent living memory, where characters portrayed in the opera were alive at the time of the premiere performance.

The Metropolitan Opera in the US reports that the average age of its audience is now 60.[36] 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 since the last decades of the 20th century.[37] In an effort to attract younger audiences, the Metropolitan Opera offers a student discount on ticket purchases.[38]

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- to 40-year-old demographic.[39] 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.[40]

From musicals back towards opera

By the late 1930s, some musicals 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 (1935), influenced by jazz styles, and Candide (1956), with its sweeping, lyrical passages and farcical parodies of opera, both opened on Broadway but became accepted as part of the opera repertory. Popular musicals such as Show Boat, West Side Story, Brigadoon, Sweeney Todd, Passion, Evita, The Light in the Piazza, The Phantom of the Opera and others tell dramatic stories through complex music and in the 2010s they are sometimes seen in opera houses.[41] The Most Happy Fella (1952) is quasi-operatic and has been revived by the New York City Opera. Other rock influenced musicals, such as Tommy (1969) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), Les Misérables (1980), Rent (1996), Spring Awakening (2006), and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (2012) employ various operatic conventions, such as through composition, recitative instead of dialogue, and leitmotifs.

Acoustic enhancement in opera

A subtle type of sound electronic reinforcement called acoustic enhancement is used in some modern concert halls and theatres where operas are performed. Although none of the major opera houses "...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", many use a sound reinforcement system for acoustic enhancement and for subtle boosting of offstage voices, child singers, onstage dialogue, and sound effects (e.g., church bells in Tosca or thunder effects in Wagnerian operas).[42]

Operatic voices

Operatic vocal technique evolved, in a time before electronic amplification, to allow singers to produce enough volume to be heard over an orchestra, without the instrumentalists having to substantially compromise their volume.

Vocal classifications

Singers and the roles they play are classified by voice type, based on the tessitura, agility, power and timbre of their voices. Male singers can be classified by vocal range as bass, bass-baritone, baritone, tenor and countertenor, and female singers as contralto, mezzo-soprano and soprano. (Men sometimes sing in the "female" vocal ranges, in which case they are termed sopranist or countertenor. The countertenor 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 further classified by size—for instance, a soprano can be described as a lyric soprano, coloratura, soubrette, spinto, 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.

Yet another sub-classification can be made according to acting skills or requirements, for example the Basso Buffo who often must be a specialist in patter as well as a comic actor. This is carried out in detail in the Fach system of German speaking countries, where historically opera and spoken drama were often put on by the same repertory company.

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. Two French voice types, premiere dugazon and deuxieme dugazon, were named after successive stages in the career of Louise-Rosalie Lefebvre (Mme. Dugazon). Other terms originating in the star casting system of the Parisian theatres are baryton-martin and soprano falcon.

Historical use of voice parts

The following is only intended as a brief overview. For the main articles, see soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, countertenor and castrato.

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. The current emphasis on a wide vocal range was primarily an invention of the Classical period. Before that, the vocal virtuosity, not range, was the priority, with soprano parts rarely extending above a high A (Handel, for example, only wrote one role extending to a high C), though the castrato Farinelli was alleged to possess a top D (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" 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. 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 to the nobility of Wotan in Wagner's Ring Cycle, to the conflicted King Phillip of Verdi's Don Carlos. 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 standard until the mid-19th century.

Famous singers

Senesino portrait edited
The castrato Senesino, c. 1720

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, and by the 18th century, when Italian opera was performed throughout Europe, leading castrati who possessed extraordinary vocal virtuosity, such as Senesino and Farinelli, became international stars. The career of the first major female star (or prima donna), Anna Renzi, 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 and Francesca Cuzzoni, 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 an haute-contre (a high tenor), of which Joseph Legros (1739–1793) was a leading example.[43]

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, Enrico Caruso, Amelita Galli-Curci, Kirsten Flagstad, Juan Arvizu,[44][45] Nestor Mesta Chayres,[46][47][48] Mario Del Monaco, Risë Stevens, Alfredo Kraus, Franco Corelli, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Nellie Melba, Rosa Ponselle, Beniamino Gigli, Jussi Björling, Feodor Chaliapin, Cecilia Bartoli, Renée Fleming, Marilyn Horne, Bryn Terfel and "The Three Tenors" (Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras).

Changing role of the orchestra

Before the 1700s, Italian operas used a small string orchestra, but it rarely played to accompany the singers. Opera solos during this period were accompanied by the basso continuo group, which consisted of the harpsichord, "plucked instruments" such as lute and a bass instrument.[49] The string orchestra typically only played when the singer was not singing, such as during a singer's "...entrances and exits, between vocal numbers, [or] for [accompanying] dancing". Another role for the orchestra during this period was playing an orchestral ritornello to mark the end of a singer's solo.[49] During the early 1700s, some composers began to use the string orchestra to mark certain aria or recitatives "...as special"; by 1720, most arias were accompanied by orchestra. Opera composers such as Domenico Sarro, Leonardo Vinci, Giambattista Pergolesi, Leonardo Leo, and Johann Adolf Hasse added new instruments to the opera orchestra and gave the instruments new roles. They added wind instruments to the strings and used orchestral instruments to play instrumental solos, as a way to mark certain arias as special.[49]

Fotothek df roe-neg 0006329 030 Orchester im Orchestergraben
German opera orchestra from the early 1950s

The orchestra has also provided an instrumental overture before the singers come onstage since the 1600s. Peri's Euridice opens with a brief instrumental ritornello, and Monteverdi's L'Orfeo (1607) opens with a toccata, in this case a fanfare for muted trumpets. The French overture as found in Jean-Baptiste Lully's operas[50] consist of a slow introduction in a marked "dotted rhythm", followed by a lively movement in fugato style. The overture was frequently followed by a series of dance tunes before the curtain rose. This overture style was also used in English opera, most notably in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Handel also uses the French overture form in some of his Italian operas such as Giulio Cesare.[51]

In Italy, a distinct form called "overture" arose in the 1680s, and became established particularly through the operas of Alessandro Scarlatti, and spread throughout Europe, supplanting the French form as the standard operatic overture by the mid-18th century.[52] It uses three generally homophonic movements: fast–slow–fast. The opening movement was normally in duple metre and in a major key; the slow movement in earlier examples was short, and could be in a contrasting key; the concluding movement was dance-like, most often with rhythms of the gigue or minuet, and returned to the key of the opening section. As the form evolved, the first movement may incorporate fanfare-like elements and took on the pattern of so-called "sonatina form" (sonata form without a development section), and the slow section became more extended and lyrical.[52]

In Italian opera after about 1800, the "overture" became known as the sinfonia.[53] Fisher also notes the term Sinfonia avanti l'opera (literally, the "symphony before the opera") was "an early term for a sinfonia used to begin an opera, that is, as an overture as opposed to one serving to begin a later section of the work".[53] In 19th-century opera, in some operas, the overture, Vorspiel, Einleitung, Introduction, or whatever else it may be called, was the portion of the music which takes place before the curtain rises; a specific, rigid form was no longer required for the overture.

The role of the orchestra in accompanying the singers changed over the 19th century, as the Classical style transitioned to the Romantic era. In general, orchestras got bigger, new instruments were added, such as additional percussion instruments (e.g., bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, etc.). The orchestration of orchestra parts also developed over the 19th century. In Wagnerian operas, the forefronting of the orchestra went beyond the overture. In Wagnerian operas such as Tristan, the orchestra often played the recurrent musical themes or leitmotifs, a role which gave a prominence to the orchestra which "...elevated its status to that of a prima donna."[54] Wagner's operas were scored with unprecedented scope and complexity, adding more brass instruments and huge ensemble sizes: indeed, his score to Das Rheingold calls for six harps.

As the role of the orchestra and other instrumental ensembles changed over the history of opera, so did the role of leading the musicians. In the Baroque era, the musicians were usually directed by the harpsichord player, although the French composer Lully is known to have conducted with a long staff. In the 1800s, during the Classical period, the first violinist, also known as the concertmaster, would lead the orchestra while sitting. Over time, some directors began to stand up and use hand and arm gestures to lead the performers. Eventually this role of music director became termed the conductor, and a podium was used to make it easier for all the musicians to see him or her. By the time Wagnerian operas were introduced, the complexity of the works and the huge orchestras used to play them gave the conductor an increasingly important role. Modern opera conductors have a challenging role: they have to direct both the orchestra in the orchestra pit and the singers up on stage.

Language and translation issues

Since the days of Handel and Mozart, many composers have favored Italian as the language for the libretto of their operas. From the Bel Canto era to Verdi, composers would sometimes supervise versions of their operas in both Italian and French. Because of this, operas such as Lucia di Lammermoor or Don Carlos are today deemed canonical in both their French and Italian versions.[55]

Till the mid 1950s, it was acceptable to produce operas in translations even if these had not been authorized by the composer or the original librettists. For example, opera houses in Italy routinely staged Wagner in Italian.[56] After WWII, opera scholarship improved, artists refocused on the original versions, and translations fell out of favor. Knowledge of European languages, especially Italian, French, and German, is today an important part of the training for professional singers."The biggest chunk of operatic training is in linguistics and musicianship," explains mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick. "[I have to understand] not only what I'm singing, but what everyone else is singing. I sing Italian, Czech, Russian, French, German, English."[57]

In the 1980s, supertitles (sometimes called surtitles) began to appear. Although supertitles were first almost universally condemned as a distraction,[58] today many opera houses provide either supertitles, generally projected above the theatre's proscenium arch, or individual seat screens where spectators can choose from more than one language. TV broadcasts typically include subtitles even if intended for an audience who knows well the language (for example, a RAI broadcast of an Italian opera). These subtitles target not only the hard of hearing but the audience generally, since a sung discourse is much harder to understand than a spoken one—even in the ears of native speakers. Subtitles in one or more languages have become standard in opera broadcasts, simulcasts, and DVD editions.

Today, operas are only rarely performed in translation. Exceptions include the English National Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and Opera South East,[59] which favor English translations.[60] Another exception are opera productions intended for a young audience, such as Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel[61] and some productions of Mozart's The Magic Flute.[62]

Funding

Opera singers' tribute to Confidencen 2016 (1)
Swedish opera singers in a tribute to Kjerstin Dellert and the Ulriksdal Palace Theater at the 40-year jubilee in 2016 of its funding, renovation and subsequent reopening

Outside the US, and especially in Europe, most opera houses receive public subsidies from taxpayers.[63] In Milan, Italy, 60% of La Scala's annual budget of €115 million is from ticket sales and private donations, with the remaining 40% coming from public funds.[64] In 2005, La Scala received 25% of Italy's total state subsidy of €464 million for the performing arts.[65] In the UK, Arts Council England provides funds to Opera North, the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera, and English National Opera. Between 2012 and 2015, these four opera companies along with the English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Northern Ballet accounted for 22% of the funds in the Arts Council's national portfolio. During that period, the Council undertook an analysis of its funding for large-scale opera and ballet companies, setting recommendations and targets for the companies to meet prior to the 2015–2018 funding decisions.[66] In February 2015, concerns over English National Opera's business plan led to the Arts Council placing it "under special funding arrangements" in what The Independent termed "the unprecedented step" of threatening to withdraw public funding if the Council's concerns were not met by 2017.[67] European public funding to opera has led to a disparity between the number of year-round opera houses in Europe and the United States. For example, "Germany has about 80 year-round opera houses [as of 2004], while the U.S., with more than three times the population, does not have any. Even the Met only has a seven-month season."[68]

Television, cinema and the Internet

A milestone for opera broadcasting in the U.S. was achieved on December 24, 1951, with the live broadcast of Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America.[69] Another milestone occurred in Italy in 1992 when Tosca was broadcast live from its original Roman settings and times of the day: The first act came from the 16th-century Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle at noon on Saturday; the 16th-century Palazzo Farnese was the setting for the second at 8:15 P.M.; and on Sunday at 6 A.M., the third act was broadcast from Castel Sant'Angelo. The production was transmitted via satellite to 105 countries.[70]

Major opera companies have begun presenting their performances in local cinemas throughout the United States and many other countries. The Metropolitan Opera began a series of live high-definition video transmissions to cinemas around the world in 2006.[71] In 2007, Met performances were shown in over 424 theaters in 350 U.S. cities. La bohème went out to 671 screens worldwide. San Francisco Opera 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 used for major Hollywood films.[72] European opera houses and festivals including the Royal Opera in London, La Scala in Milan, the Salzburg Festival, La Fenice in Venice, and the Maggio Musicale in Florence have also transmitted their productions to theaters in cities around the world since 2006, including 90 cities in the U.S.[73][74]

The emergence of the Internet has also affected the way in which audiences consume opera. In 2009 the British Glyndebourne Festival Opera offered for the first time an online digital video download of its complete 2007 production of Tristan und Isolde. In 2013 season the festival streamed all six of its productions online.[75][76] In July 2012 the first online community opera was premiered at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Titled Free Will, it was created by members of the Internet group Opera By You. Its 400 members from 43 countries wrote the libretto, composed the music, and designed the sets and costumes using the Wreckamovie web platform. Savonlinna Opera Festival provided professional soloists, an 80-member choir, a symphony orchestra, and the stage machinery. It was performed live at the festival and streamed live on the internet.[77]

References

Notes

  1. ^ Some definitions of opera: "dramatic performance or composition of which music is an essential part, branch of art concerned with this" (Concise Oxford English Dictionary); "any dramatic work that can be sung (or at times declaimed or spoken) in a place for performance, set to original music for singers (usually in costume) and instrumentalists" (Amanda Holden, Viking Opera Guide); "musical work for the stage with singing characters, originated in early years of 17th century" (Pears Cyclopaedia, 1983 ed.).
  2. ^ Richard Wagner and Arrigo Boito are notable creators who combined both roles.
  3. ^ Comparable art forms from various other parts of the world, many of them ancient in origin, are also sometimes called "opera" by analogy, usually prefaced with an adjective indicating the region (for example, Chinese opera). These independent traditions are not derivative of Western opera but are rather distinct forms of musical theatre. Opera is also not the only type of Western musical theatre: in the ancient world, Greek drama featured singing and instrumental accompaniment; and in modern times, other forms such as the musical have appeared.
  4. ^ a b Apel, p. 718.
  5. ^ General information in this section comes from the relevant articles in The Oxford Companion to Music, by. P.Scholes (10th ed., 1968).
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. "opera".
  7. ^ Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapter 1; articles on Peri and Monteverdi in The Viking Opera Guide.
  8. ^ Karin Pendle Women and music 2001 p. 65 "From 1587–1600 a Jewish singer cited only as Madama Europa was in the pay of the Duke of Mantua,"
  9. ^ Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 1–3.
  10. ^ Larousse Dictionnaire de la musique
  11. ^ Thomas, Downing A (1995-06-15). Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment. p. 148. ISBN 978-0521473071.
  12. ^ Heyer, John Hajdu (7 December 2000). Lully Studies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521621830 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Lippman, Edward A. (26 November 1992). A History of Western Musical Aesthetics. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803279513 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "King's College London – Seminar 1". www.kcl.ac.uk.
  15. ^ Man and Music: the Classical Era, ed. Neal Zaslaw (Macmillan, 1989); entries on Gluck and Mozart in The Viking Opera Guide.
  16. ^ "Strauss and Wagner – Various articles – Richard Strauss". www.richardstrauss.at.
  17. ^ Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 5, 8 and 9. Viking Opera Guide entry on Verdi.
  18. ^ Man and Music: the Classical Era ed. Neal Zaslaw (Macmillan, 1989), pp. 242–47, 258–60;Oxford Illustrated History of Opera pp. 58–63, 98–103. Articles on Hasse, Graun and Hiller in Viking Opera Guide.
  19. ^ General outline for this section from The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 1–3, 6, 8 and 9, and The Oxford Companion to Music; more specific references from the individual composer entries in The Viking Opera Guide.
  20. ^ Kenrick, John. A History of The Musical: European Operetta 1850–1880. Musicals101.com
  21. ^ Grout, Donald Jay; Grout, Donald; Williams, Hermine Weigel (2003). A Short History of Opera. ISBN 978-0231119580. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  22. ^ General outline for this section from The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 1–4, 8 and 9; and The Oxford Companion to Music (10th ed., 1968); more specific references from the individual composer entries in The Viking Opera Guide.
  23. ^ a b c From Webrarian.com's Ivanhoe site.
  24. ^ The Daily Telegraph's review of Yeomen stated, "The accompaniments... are delightful to hear, and especially does the treatment of the woodwind compel admiring attention. Schubert himself could hardly have handled those instruments more deftly. ...we have a genuine English opera, forerunner of many others, let us hope, and possibly significant of an advance towards a national lyric stage." (quoted at p. 312 in Allen, Reginald (1975). The First Night Gilbert and Sullivan. London: Chappell & Co. Ltd.).
  25. ^ Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 1, 3 and 9. The Viking Opera Guide articles on Blow, Purcell and Britten.
  26. ^ Taruskin, Richard: Russia in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992); Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapters 7–9.
  27. ^ See the chapter on "Russian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian Opera to 1900" by John Tyrrell in The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (1994).
  28. ^ Abazov, Rafis (2007). Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics, pp. 144–45. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313336563
  29. ^ Igmen, Ali F. (2012). Speaking Soviet with an Accent, p. 163. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0822978091
  30. ^ Rubin, Don; Chua, Soo Pong; Chaturvedi, Ravi; Majumdar, Ramendu; Tanokura, Minoru; Brisbane, Katherine, eds. (2001). World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre. Asia/ Pacific. p. 111. Western-style opera (also known as High Opera) exists alongside the many Beijing Opera groups. The Central ... Operas of note by Chinese composers include A Girl With White Hair written in the 1940s, Red Squad in Hong Hu and Jiang Jie.
  31. ^ Zicheng Hong, A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature, 2007, p. 227: "Written in the early 1940s, for a long time The White-Haired Girl was considered a model of new western-style opera in China."
  32. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women – Volume 2 – p. 145 Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A.D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles – 2003 "... of the PRC, Zheng Lücheng was active in his work as a composer; he wrote the music for the Western-style opera Cloud Gazing."
  33. ^ "Minimalist music: where to start".
  34. ^ Chris Walton, "Neo-classical opera" in Cooke, p. 108.
  35. ^ Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapter 8; The Viking Opera Guide articles on Schoenberg, Berg and Stravinsky; Malcolm MacDonald Schoenberg (Dent,1976); Francis Routh, Stravinsky (Dent, 1975).
  36. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (17 February 2011). "Met Backtracks on Drop in Average Audience Age". The New York Times.
  37. ^ General reference for this section: Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Chapter 9.
  38. ^ "Information about Metropolitan Opera Company student discounts". Metoperafamily.org. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
  39. ^ Opera Carolina discount information Archived 21 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^ "On Air & On Line: 2007–08 HD Season". The Metropolitan Opera. 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  41. ^ Clements, Andrew (17 December 2003). "Sweeney Todd, Royal Opera House, London". The Guardian. London.
  42. ^ Kai Harada, "Opera's Dirty Little Secret" Archived 31 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Entertainment Design, 1 March 2001
  43. ^ The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (ed. Parker, 1994), Chapter 11
  44. ^ The Free Library – Mexican Musicians in California and the United States 1910–50 – Two Mexican Tenors – Juan Arvizu opera tenor in thefreelibrary.com
  45. ^ Agustin Lara: A Cultural Biography – "Juan Arvizu Biography" – operatic tenor Andrew Grant Wood. Oxford University Press New York 2014 p. 34 ISBN 978-0199892457
  46. ^ El Siglo de Torrén – Nestor Mesta Chayres – Biography of Nestor Mesta Chayres - operatic tenor in the National Conservatory of Music and the Chicago Opera (1949) in elsiglodetorreon.com(in Spanish)
  47. ^ The Billboard – Montreal Plans Big Concert Season; 1st Pulls Over 10,000 Critical review of Nestor Chayres performing operatic arias with the Montreal Philharmonic in "The Billboard" June 29, 1946 p. 3 on books.google.com
  48. ^ Biographies – Egly Hill Marin First – Nestor Mesta Chayres – Méjico Biography of Nestor Mesta Chayres – his voice compared to the voice of the operatic tenor Tito Schipa – by Egly Colina Marín on eglycolinamarinprimera.blogspot.com
  49. ^ a b c John Spitzer. (2009). Orchestra and voice in eighteenth-century Italian opera. In: Anthony R. DelDonna and Pierpaolo Polzonetti (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Opera. pp. 112–39. [Online]. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  50. ^ Waterman, George Gow, and James R. Anthony. 2001. "French Overture". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  51. ^ Burrows, Donald (2012). Handel. Oxford University Press. p. 178. ISBN 978-0199737369.
  52. ^ a b Fisher, Stephen C. 2001. "Italian Overture." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  53. ^ a b Fisher, Stephen C. 1998. "Sinfonia". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, four volumes, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0333734327
  54. ^ Murray, Christopher John (2004). Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era. Taylor & Francis. p. 772.
  55. ^ de Acha, Rafael. "Don Carlo or Don Carlos? In Italian or in French?" (Seen and Heard International, 24 September 2013)
  56. ^ Lyndon Terracini (11 April 2011). "Whose language is opera: the audience's or the composer's?". The Australian. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  57. ^ "For Opera Powerhouse Dolora Zajick, 'Singing Is Connected To The Body'" (Fresh Air, 19 March 2014)
  58. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "So That's What the Fat Lady Sang" (The New York Times, 6 July 2008)
  59. ^ "Opera South East's past productions back to 1980... OSE has always sung its operatic productions in English, fully staged and with orchestra (the acclaimed Sussex Concert Orchestra)." (Opera South East website's history of ProAm past productions)
  60. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "Opera in Translation Refuses to Give Up the Ghost" (The New York Times, 25 May 2001)
  61. ^ Eddins, Stephen. "Humperdinck's Hansel & Gretel: A Review". AllMusic.com.
  62. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "A Mini-Magic Flute? Mozart Would Approve" (The New York Times, 4 July 2005)
  63. ^ "Special report: Hands in their pockets". The Economist. 16 August 2001. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  64. ^ Owen, Richard (26 May 2010). "Is it curtains for Italys opera houses". The Times. London.
  65. ^ Willey, David (27 October 2005). "Italy facing opera funding crisis". BBC News.
  66. ^ Arts Council England (2015). "Arts Council England's analysis of its investment in large-scale opera and ballet" Archived 23 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  67. ^ Clark, Nick (15 February 2015). "English National Opera's public funding may be withdrawn". The Independent. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  68. ^ Osborne, William (11 March 2004). "Marketplace of Ideas: But First, The Bill A Personal Commentary On American and European Cultural Funding". www.osborne-conant.org. William Osborne and Abbie Conant. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  69. ^ Obituary: Gian Carlo Menotti, The Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2007. Accessed 11 December 2008
  70. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1 January 1993). "A Tosca performed on actual location". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  71. ^ Metropolitan Opera high-definition live broadcast page
  72. ^ "The Bigger Picture". Thebiggerpicture.us. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  73. ^ Emerging Pictures Archived 30 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  74. ^ "Where to See Opera at the Movies" sidebar p. W10 in June 21–22, 2008 The Wall Street Journal.
  75. ^ Classic FM (26 August 2009). "Download Glyndebourne". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  76. ^ Rhinegold Publishing (28 April 2013). "With new pricing and more streaming the Glyndebourne Festival is making its shows available to an ever wider audience". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  77. ^ Partii, Heidi (2014). "Supporting Collaboration in Changing Cultural Landscapes", pp. 208–09 in Margaret S Barrett (ed.) Collaborative Creative Thought and Practice in Music. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 1472415841

Main sources

  • Apel, Willi, ed. (1969). Harvard Dictionary of Music, Second Edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. SBN 674375017.
  • Cooke, Mervyn (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521780098. See also Google Books partial preview. Accessed 3 October 2009.
  • Silke Leopold, "The Idea of National Opera, c. 1800", United and Diversity in European Culture c. 1800, ed. Tim Blanning and Hagen Schulze (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 19–34.
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie (1992), 5,448 pages, is the best, and by far the largest, general reference in the English language. ISBN 0333734327, 1561592285
  • The Viking Opera Guide, edited by Amanda Holden (1994), 1,328 pages, ISBN 0670812927
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, ed. Roger Parker (1994)
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, by John Warrack and Ewan West (1992), 782 pages, ISBN 0198691645
  • Opera, the Rough Guide, by Matthew Boyden et al. (1997), 672 pages, ISBN 1858281385
  • Opera: A Concise History, by Leslie Orrey and Rodney Milnes, World of Art, Thames & Hudson

Other sources

  • DiGaetani, John Louis: An Invitation to the Opera, Anchor Books, 1986/91. ISBN 0385263392.
  • Dorschel, Andreas, 'The Paradox of Opera', The Cambridge Quarterly 30 (2001), no. 4, pp. 283–306. ISSN 0008-199X (print). ISSN 1471-6836 (electronic). Discusses the aesthetics of opera.
  • MacMurray, Jessica M. and Allison Brewster Franzetti: The Book of 101 Opera Librettos: Complete Original Language Texts with English Translations, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1996. ISBN 978-1884822797
  • Rous, Samuel Holland (1919). The Victrola Book of the Opera. Stories of The Operas with Illustrations.... Camden, NJ: Victor Talking Machine Company. View at Internet Archive.
  • Simon, Henry W.: A Treasury of Grand Opera, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1946.

See also

Bibliography

Further reading

  • Abbate, Carolyn; Parker, Roger (2012). A History of Opera. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN 978-0393057218.
  • Grout, Donald Jay (1947). A Short History of Opera. Columbia University Press.
  • Valls, María Antonia (1989). Hitos de la Música Universal y Retratos de sus Grandes Protagonistas. (Illustrated by Willi Glasauer). Barcelona: Círculo de Lectores.

External links

Baritone

A baritone is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος (barýtonos), meaning heavy sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F# above middle C (i.e. F2–F#4) in choral music, and from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (F2 to F4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end. The baritone voice type is generally divided into the baryton-Martin baritone (light baritone), lyric baritone, Kavalierbariton, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble baritone, and the bass-baritone.

Carmen

Carmen (French pronunciation: ​[kaʁmɛn]; Spanish: [ˈkaɾmen]) is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences.

Bizet died suddenly after the 33rd performance, unaware that the work would achieve international acclaim within the following ten years. Carmen has since become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon; the "Habanera" from act 1 and the "Toreador Song" from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias.

The opera is written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue. It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous matador Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial.

After the premiere, most reviews were critical, and the French public was generally indifferent. Carmen initially gained its reputation through a series of productions outside France, and was not revived in Paris until 1883. Thereafter, it rapidly acquired popularity at home and abroad. Later commentators have asserted that Carmen forms the bridge between the tradition of opéra comique and the realism or verismo that characterised late 19th-century Italian opera.

The music of Carmen has since been widely acclaimed for brilliance of melody, harmony, atmosphere, and orchestration, and for the skill with which Bizet musically represented the emotions and suffering of his characters. After the composer's death, the score was subject to significant amendment, including the introduction of recitative in place of the original dialogue; there is no standard edition of the opera, and different views exist as to what versions best express Bizet's intentions. The opera has been recorded many times since the first acoustical recording in 1908, and the story has been the subject of many screen and stage adaptations.

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (Italian: [dʒuˈzɛppe ˈverdi]; 9 or 10 October 1813 – 27 January 1901) was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.

In his early operas, Verdi demonstrated a sympathy with the Risorgimento movement which sought the unification of Italy. He also participated briefly as an elected politician. The chorus "Va, pensiero" from his early opera Nabucco (1842), and similar choruses in later operas, were much in the spirit of the unification movement, and the composer himself became esteemed as a representative of these ideals. An intensely private person, Verdi, however, did not seek to ingratiate himself with popular movements and as he became professionally successful was able to reduce his operatic workload and sought to establish himself as a landowner in his native region. He surprised the musical world by returning, after his success with the opera Aida (1871), with three late masterpieces: his Requiem (1874), and the operas Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893).

His operas remain extremely popular, especially the three peaks of his 'middle period': Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata, and the 2013 bicentenary of his birth was widely celebrated in broadcasts and performances.

La traviata

La traviata (Italian: [la traˈvjaːta; traviˈaːta], The Fallen Woman) 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 (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past, "c. 1700". It was not until the 1880s that the composer and librettist's original wishes were carried out and "realistic" productions were staged. La traviata has become immensely popular and is the most frequently performed of all operas.

Libretto

A libretto (lit. "booklet") is the text used in, or intended for, 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 the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Libretto (pronounced [liˈbretto]; plural libretti [liˈbretti]), from Italian, is the diminutive of the word libro ("book"). Sometimes other language equivalents are used for libretti in that language, livret for French works and Textbuch for German. A libretto is distinct from a synopsis or scenario of the plot, in that the libretto contains all the words and stage directions, while a synopsis summarizes the plot. Some ballet historians also use the word libretto to refer to the 15–40 page books which were on sale to 19th century ballet audiences in Paris and contained a very detailed description of the ballet's story, scene by scene.The relationship of the librettist (that is, the writer of a libretto) to the composer in the creation of a musical work has varied over the centuries, as have the sources and the writing techniques employed.

In the context of a modern English language musical theatre piece, the libretto is often referred to as the book of the work, though this usage typically excludes sung lyrics.

Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera (commonly known as The Met) is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. The company's music director-designate is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The Met was founded in 1880 as an alternative to the previously established Academy of Music opera house, and debuted in 1883 in a new building on 39th and Broadway (now known as the "Old Met"). It moved to the new Lincoln Center location in 1966.

The Metropolitan Opera is the largest classical music organization in North America. It presents about 27 different operas each year from late September through May. The operas are presented in a rotating repertory schedule, with up to seven performances of four different works staged each week. Performances are given in the evening Monday through Saturday with a matinée on Saturday. Several operas are presented in new productions each season. Sometimes these are borrowed from or shared with other opera companies. The rest of the year's operas are given in revivals of productions from previous seasons. The 2015–16 season comprised 227 performances of 25 operas.The operas in the Met's repertoire consist of a wide range of works, from 18th-century Baroque and 19th-century Bel canto to the Minimalism of the late 20th century. These operas are presented in staged productions that range in style from those with elaborate traditional decors to others that feature modern conceptual designs.

The Met's performing company consists of a large symphony-sized orchestra, a chorus, children's choir, and many supporting and leading solo singers. The company also employs numerous free-lance dancers, actors, musicians and other performers throughout the season. The Met's roster of singers includes both international and American artists, some of whose careers have been developed through the Met's young artists programs. While many singers appear periodically as guests with the company, others, such as Renée Fleming and Plácido Domingo, long maintained a close association with the Met, appearing many times each season until they retired.

Opera (web browser)

Opera is a web browser for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems developed by Norwegian company Opera Software AS. It is a Chromium-based browser using the Blink layout engine. Opera differentiates itself with a distinct user interface and other features.

Opera was conceived at Telenor as a research project in 1994 and was bought by Opera Software in 1995. It was commercial software for the first ten years and had its own proprietary Presto layout engine. The Presto versions of Opera received many awards, but Presto development ended after the big transition to Chromium in 2013.

There are also three mobile versions called Opera Mobile, Opera Touch and Opera Mini.

Plácido Domingo

José Plácido Domingo Embil (; Spanish: [xoˈse ˈplaθiðo doˈmiŋɡo emˈbil]; born 21 January 1941) is a Spanish opera singer, conductor, and arts administrator. He has recorded over a hundred complete operas and is well known for his versatility, regularly performing in Italian, French, German, Spanish, English and Russian in the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Although primarily a lirico-spinto tenor for most of his career, especially popular for his Cavaradossi, Hoffmann, Don José, and Canio, he quickly moved into more dramatic roles, becoming the most acclaimed Otello of his generation. In the early 2010s, he transitioned from the tenor repertory into almost exclusively baritone parts, most notably Simon Boccanegra. He has performed 149 different roles.

Domingo has also achieved significant success as a crossover artist, especially in the genres of Latin and popular music. In addition to winning fourteen Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, several of his records have gone silver, gold, platinum and multi-platinum. His first pop album, Perhaps Love (1981), spread his fame beyond the opera world. The title song, performed as a duet with country and folk singer John Denver, has sold almost four million copies and helped lead to numerous television appearances for the tenor. He also starred in many cinematically released and televised opera movies, particularly under the direction of Franco Zeffirelli. In 1990, he began singing with fellow tenors Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras as part of The Three Tenors. The first Three Tenors recording became the best-selling classical album of all time.Growing up working in his parents' zarzuela company in Mexico, Domingo has since regularly promoted this form of Spanish opera. He also increasingly conducts operas and concerts and is the general director of the Los Angeles Opera in California as of 2017. He was initially the artistic director and later general director of the Washington National Opera from 1996–2011. He has been involved in numerous humanitarian works, as well as efforts to help young opera singers, including starting and running the international singing competition, Operalia.

Richard Strauss

Richard Georg Strauss (German pronunciation: [ˈʁɪçaʁt ˈʃtʁaʊs]; 11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (; German: [ˈʁɪçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ] (listen); 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas, or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. The Ring and Parsifal were premiered here and his most important stage works continue to be performed at the annual Bayreuth Festival, run by his descendants. His thoughts on the relative contributions of music and drama in opera were to change again, and he reintroduced some traditional forms into his last few stage works, including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his final years, Wagner's life was characterised by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have attracted extensive comment, notably, since the late 20th century, where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; his influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theatre.

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

The current building is the third theatre on the site following disastrous fires in 1808 and 1856. The façade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, but almost every other element of the present complex dates from an extensive reconstruction in the 1990s. The main auditorium seats 2,256 people, making it the third largest in London, and consists of four tiers of boxes and balconies and the amphitheatre gallery. The proscenium is 12.20 m wide and 14.80 m high. The main auditorium is a Grade I listed building.

Soap opera

A soap opera is an ongoing drama serial on television or radio, featuring the lives of many characters and their emotional relationships. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas being sponsored by soap manufacturers.BBC Radio's The Archers, first broadcast in 1950, is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera; the world's longest-running television soap opera is Coronation Street, first broadcast on ITV in 1960.

Soprano

A soprano [soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) =880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) =1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody.

The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.

Space opera

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music, but is instead a play on the terms "soap opera" and "horse opera", the latter of which was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic Western movies. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, television and video games.

An early film which was based on space opera comic strips was Flash Gordon (1936) created by Alex Raymond. In the late 1970s, the Star Wars franchise (1977–present) created by George Lucas brought a great deal of attention to the subgenre. After the convention-breaking "New Wave", followed by the enormous success of the Star Wars films, space opera became once again a critically acceptable subgenre. Throughout 1982–2002, the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel was often given to a space opera nominee.

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is one of the 20th century's most famous and distinctive buildings.Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the building was formally opened on 20 October 1973 after a gestation beginning with Utzon's 1957 selection as winner of an international design competition. The Government of New South Wales, led by the premier, Joseph Cahill, authorised work to begin in 1958 with Utzon directing construction. The government's decision to build Utzon's design is often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns as well as the architect's ultimate resignation.The building and its surrounds occupy the whole of Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour, between Sydney Cove and Farm Cove, adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens, and close by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Though its name suggests a single venue, the building comprises multiple performance venues which together host well over 1,500 performances annually, attended by more than 1.2 million people. Performances are presented by numerous performing artists, including three resident companies: Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, more than eight million people visit the site annually, and approximately 350,000 visitors take a guided tour of the building each year. The building is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, an agency of the New South Wales State Government.

On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been listed on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate since 1980, the National Trust of Australia register since 1983, the City of Sydney Heritage Inventory since 2000, the New South Wales State Heritage Register since 2003, and the Australian National Heritage List since 2005.

The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute (German: Die Zauberflöte pronounced [ˈdiː ˈt͡saʊ̯bɐˌfløːtə]), K. 620, is an opera in two acts 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. The work was premiered on 30 September 1791 at Schikaneder's theatre, the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna, just two months before the composer's premature death.

In this opera, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro; instead, he learns the high ideals of Sarastro's community and seeks to join it. Separately, then together, Tamino and Pamina undergo severe trials of initiation, which end in triumph, with the Queen and her cohorts vanquished. The earthy Papageno, who accompanies Tamino on his quest, fails the trials completely but is rewarded anyway with the hand of his ideal female companion Papagena.

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) is a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serialization in Le Gaulois from 23 September 1909, to 8 January 1910. It was published in volume form in late March 1910 by Pierre Lafitte. The novel is partly inspired by historical events at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century and an apocryphal tale concerning the use of a former ballet pupil's skeleton in Carl Maria von Weber's 1841 production of Der Freischütz. It has been successfully adapted into various stage and film adaptations, most notable of which are the 1925 film depiction featuring Lon Chaney, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical.

The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical)

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber wrote the musical's book together. Stilgoe also provided additional lyrics. Based on the eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opéra House.The musical opened in London's West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988. It won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. It is the longest running show in Broadway history by a wide margin, and celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012, the first production ever to do so. It is the second longest-running West End musical, after Les Misérables, and the third longest-running West End show overall, after The Mousetrap.With total estimated worldwide gross receipts of over $5.6 billion and total Broadway gross of $845 million, Phantom was the most financially successful entertainment event until The Lion King surpassed it in 2014. By 2011, it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries, and continues to play in London and New York.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his early death at the age of 35. The circumstances of his death have been much mythologized.

He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote: "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years".

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