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A History of Opera Theater

History of Opera Header

Opera is a form of art that involves singing, drama and heavy scenery. Some opera pieces include dance numbers and entire orchestras. This form of art is respected for its longevity and complexity, as it began toward the latter parts of the 16th century. Its roots trace back to Europe, the country of Italy in particular.

The term opera literally translates into "labor" or "work". This thought process is identified throughout the art form, as it contains very involved processes every step of the way. In Venice, operas became popular during the 1600's, as they used a mix of tragedy, comedy and movement. Throughout the centuries, notable artists like Mozart, Alessandro Scarlatti and Gioachino Rossini have had a huge impact on the art form.

Operas were traditionally, and still are, performed in opera theaters, known as opera houses. These large structures typically feature elegant architecture and huge stages and seating arrangements. These theaters feature the stage, a pit for the orchestra, audience seating, backstage provisions and costume areas. Classic and modern contemporary performances fill these opera houses on a regular basis.

People who love classical music, dramatic pieces and range in music and acting will enjoy the opera. Going to the opera is typically an event, with patrons dressing up to make an evening of it. People are also able to purchase opera recordings when they were not able to make it to the event. Some of the greatest opera houses still remain in Europe, with people coming from all over the world to catch a show. The United States is home to a number of noted opera houses, with New York, Chicago and Los Angeles putting on some of the best work in the country. Going to the opera is a tradition that has stood the test of time due to its charm and many elements that set it apart from other art forms. The art form is continuously evolving, while retaining the tenants that made it a phenomenon to begin with.

Opera Vienna Poster from 2008

Anybody looking to learn more about opera should do their research and become familiar with its history.

  • A History of Opera – This New York Times article discusses history and the development of the opera, while referencing a book by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker.
  • A History of Opera: The Seductive Power of Song – The Telegraph goes into detail about the beauty of opera, stating that the voice is the element that progresses it.
  • 16th Century Opera Manuscript Page
  • A Timeline of Opera – Oxford gives a detailed timeline of opera history.
  • Metropolitan Opera – This opera house details important moments in its history.
  • The Opera: A History – The Met details art history through the years.
  • History, Performance, Theory – From the 16th century to the reformation era, this article provides a detailed timeline of opera history.
  • Early History & Development of Opera – This site explains opera, its origins and key elements.
  • 20 Questions About Opera – Readers are provided answers to 20 frequent questions about opera.
  • Introduction to Opera (PDF) – Inquiring minds will receive a detailed explanation about opera and its many features.
  • Opera Composers – Stanford provides a list of noted opera composers throughout the years.
  • Opera Composers: Past & Present – Opera Arts provides resources of valuable information on the best composers, musicians and maestros throughout the centuries.
  • Opera Pronunciation Guide – It pays to gain an understanding of opera. This site provides pronunciation guides and historical information on the art.
  • History of Italian Opera – This library features a list of influential Italian opera composers.
  • Italian Composers – Opera historians can read profiles on the greatest classical opera composers, including Bellini, Corelli and Donizetti.
  • Top 50 Operas – The Guardian profiles the top 50 opera works of all time.
  • 10 Operas You Need to Know – The public radio station offers ten operas that they feel everyone should become familiar with.
  • 100 Best Opera Classics – All Music provides a list of the 100 best operas of all time.
  • Vienna State Opera at Night
  • Top 10 Opera Houses – The magazine travels to Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, Russia and other locations in order to pinpoint the best opera houses in the world.
  • 10 Greatest Opera Houses – This travel and leisure publication details a number of excellent opera houses throughout the world.
  • Great Opera Houses of the World – Pertinent information about the best opera houses throughout the world.
  • World's Greatest Opera Houses – This magazine offers pictures of noteworthy houses from an opera enthusiast.
  • Opera & Its Many Elements (PDF) – This detailed PDF document provides information on the many elements of opera. These operatic elements include story, act, scenes, choruses, ballets, duets and more.
  • Development of Opera (PDF) – An in-depth article about the development of opera as well as opera singers.
  • Biography of Pavarotti – A biography of Luciano Pavarotti, one of the most commercially successful opera singers of all time.
  • Maria Callas – A biography of Maria Callas, a famous Greek opera singer in the early 1900s.

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