The Opera Portal
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work (called an opera) which combines a text (called a libretto) and a musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.
Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's lost Dafne, produced in Florence around 1597) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz in Germany, Lully in France, and Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. However, in the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe, except France, attracting foreign composers such as Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. Today the most renowned figure of late 18th century opera is Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as The Magic Flute, a landmark in the German tradition.
The first third of the 19th century saw the highpoint of the bel canto style, with Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini all creating works that are still performed today. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera typified by the works of Meyerbeer. The mid to late 19th century is considered by some a golden age of opera, led by Wagner in Germany and Verdi in Italy. This 'golden age' developed through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Puccini and Strauss in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, parallel operatic traditions emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia and Bohemia. The 20th century saw many experiments with modern styles, such as atonality and serialism (Schoenberg and Berg), Neo-Classicism (Stravinsky), and Minimalism (Philip Glass and John Adams). With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso became known to audiences beyond the circle of opera fans. Operas were also performed on (and written for) radio and television.
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria
325, The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland
) is an opera in a prologue and five acts (later revised to three), set by Claudio Monteverdi
to a libretto
by Giacomo Badoaro
. The opera was first performed at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo
during the 1639–1640 carnival season. The story, taken from the second half of Homer's Odyssey
, tells how constancy and virtue are ultimately rewarded, treachery and deception overcome. After his long journey home from the Trojan Wars
Ulisse, king of Ithaca
, finally returns to his kingdom where he finds that a trio of villainous suitors have seized the realm and are importuning his faithful queen, Penelope
. With the assistance of the gods, his son Telemaco
and a staunch friend Eumete, Ulisse
vanquishes the suitors and recovers his kingdom. Il ritorno
is the first of three full-length works which Monteverdi wrote for the burgeoning Venetian opera industry during the last five years of his life. Together with Monteverdi's other Venetian stage works, it is considered one of the first modern operas. Its music, while showing the influence of earlier works, also demonstrates Monteverdi's development as a composer of opera, through his use of fashionable forms such as arioso
, duet and ensemble
alongside the older-style recitative
. By using a variety of musical styles, Monteverdi is able to express the feelings and emotions of a great range of characters, divine and human, through their music.
Cover of a first edition of the vocal score for La Prise de Troie (The Fall of Troy), the first two acts from Hector Berlioz's opera Les Troyens. Berlioz himself wrote the libretto based on Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid. The opera originally premiered with only its last three acts, under the title Les Troyens à Carthage (The Trojans at Carthage). The complete Les Troyens was Berlioz's most ambitious work, the summation of his entire artistic career, but he did not live to see it performed in its entirety.
In this month
- 1 July 1995 – Powder Her Face, an opera by Thomas Adès and based on the scandalous life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, had its world premiere at the Cheltenham Music Festival.
- 5 July 1953 - Titta Ruffo, considered one of the greatest Italian baritones of his generation, died in Florence at the age of 76.
- 6 July 1845 – Soprano Ángela Peralta, a leading figure in the operatic life of 19th century Mexico, was born in Mexico City.
- 11 July 1937 - George Gershwin, the composer of Porgy and Bess, died in Los Angeles at the age of 38.
- 13 July 1924 – The Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, admired for his warm timbre and elegant phrasing, was born in Vidalenzo, near Parma.
- 17 July 1852 – Salvadore Cammarano, who wrote the libretto for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, died in his native Naples at the age of 51.
- 22 July 1847 – Verdi's opera I masnadieri had its world premiere at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. The performance was conducted by Verdi himself, with Jenny Lind (pictured) singing the role of Amalia.
- 30 July 1793 – The Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal's leading opera house, was opened by Queen Maria I.
Sir Harold Malcolm Watts Sargent
(29 April 1895 – 3 October 1967) was an English conductor
widely regarded as Britain
's leading conductor of choral
works. The musical ensembles
with which he was associated included the Ballets Russes
, the Royal Choral Society
, the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
, and the London Philharmonic
, Liverpool Philharmonic
, BBC Symphony
and Royal Philharmonic
orchestras. As chief conductor of London's internationally famous summer music festival the Proms
from 1948 to 1967, Sargent was one of the best-known English conductors. His fame extended beyond the concert hall: to the British public, he was a familiar broadcaster in BBC
radio talk shows, and generations of Gilbert and Sullivan
devotees have known his recordings of the most popular Savoy Operas
. Sargent toured widely throughout the world and was noted for his skill as a conductor, his debonair appearance, and his championship of British composers.
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