A mesmerizing art of combining text and music in a theatrical setting is known as opera! Italian in origin, it has undergone several reforms and through several societies before westernizing in the way we know it today. The epigrammatic information given here may not swivel the intricate veins of opera but it surely covers up the main points…
Inspired by the elite circle of Florentine humanists, Jacopo Peri created Dafne – one of the earliest opera compositions to be known. Unfortunately, this orchestration consisting harpsichord, a lute, a viol, a triple flute and an arch lute is not reserved and is untraceable still. Peri’s another composition – Euridice- is alive today and is one of the most ancient compositions to be known.
It was not until 1637 that opera ventured out of the courts and amongst the common masses. It started gaining popularity and facing inevitable reforms according to different cultures and styles. But this was met by rivalry from people who thought that this reformation would cause opera to lose its originality and its classic elite purity.
In the 19th century, the bel canto movement, literally meaning beautiful singing, popularized giving rise to intricate Italian singing with requirements of high agility and pitch control. Example of this is Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
Then, a new patriotic icon Giuseppe Verdi came along with his more direct, biblical Nabucco. One of his greatest compositions were Grand Opera, Don Carlos and Falstaff inspired from Shakespearean literature. Italian opera started popularizing on international soil after the more realistic compositions of Pietro Mascagni.
Italian opera also influenced the Germans. Though, some of them came about with native styles and original ideas. Richard Wagner, a German composer, conductor and theatre director, had to face many controversies before emerging as one of the most prominent opera composers.
Thomas Arne’s experimentation with comic opera turned into a huge success. His English-language operas and Artaxerxes earned fame during 1762. George Frideric Handel, a German followed by American Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Douglas Moore were great contributors to the English opera. Beethoven and Mozart are still remarked.
Russia welcomed opera in the 1730s with Tsefal i Pokris being the first Russian opera – a seria in three acts- written by Italian Francesco Araia. Mikhail Ginka is the first Russian composer and foreigners like Domenico Cimarosa, Baldassare Galunni and others came to Russia to compose new operas.
In France, Jean-Baptiste Lully revolted against the traditional Italian opera being accepted in France establishing a separate tradition. Founder of the Academy of Music, Lully was followed by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jacques Offenbach.
Facing these auras of times, it has westernized to a certain extent becoming popular amongst many people today. It has far reaching affects with a huge audience around the globe. Opera has developed its own style on every soil but the main theme remains the same being projection of pleasure through music and drama in an artistic way to engross the audience in a good way!