Back into the past, don’t miss all this
The Italian Opera tradition is one of the most famous in the lyric music and Opera around the world.
The Italian word Opera derives from the Latin opera, a singular noun meaning “work”. It was first used in the sense “composition in which poetry, dance, and music are combined” in 1639; Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. It started in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread through the rest of Europe: 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 words of an opera are known as the libretto (literally “little book”). Some composers, notably Richard Wagner, have written their own libretti; others have worked in close collaboration with their librettists, e.g. Mozart with Lorenzo Da Ponte The first third of the 19th century saw the high point of the bel canto style, with Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini all creating works that are still performed today.
The mid-to-late 19th century was a “golden age” of opera, led and dominated by Wagner in Germany and Verdi in Italy. The popularity of opera continued through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Puccini and Strauss in the early 20th century.