Portal:Opera

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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.

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Doctor Ox's Experiment is an opera in two acts by Gavin Bryars (pictured). It has an English-language libretto by Blake Morrison after the novella of the same name by Jules Verne. It was first performed on 15 June 1998 at the London Coliseum by English National Opera (ENO) who co-commissioned the opera with BBC Television. In the experiment of the title, Doctor Ox introduces a gas into a sedate and conservative Flemish village with the result that everyone and everything becomes speeded up and chaotic. (Ox's and his assistant's names combine to make Oxygėne, the French name for Oxygen.) The opera explores the conflict between Ox's advocacy of modernity and scientific and political change and Ygène's belief that liberation and the accompanying loss of the traditional rhythms of life might bring unhappiness. The music is predominantly slow-moving and quiet. Bryars allocated distinct voice types to the different types of roles: town elders, young lovers and scientists. He also included some unusual instruments in his orchestra: an oboe d'amore and an amplified jazz bass in the love scene, an electronic keyboard and a flugelhorn instead of trumpets in the brass section. The reception was mixed with several critics complaining of boredom while others wrote of members of the audience being entranced by the music.

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Credit: Antoine Barbizet; restored by Adam Cuerden

Title page of the first edition vocal score of Hector Berlioz's 1862 opera Béatrice et Bénédict, based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It is the first notable version of Shakespeare's play in operatic form, and was followed by works by among others Árpád Doppler, Paul Puget and Reynaldo Hahn. Berlioz biographer David Cairns has written "Listening to the score's exuberant gaiety, only momentarily touched by sadness, one would never guess that its composer was in pain when he wrote it and impatient for death".

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Selected biography

Patrice Chéreau
Patrice Chéreau (2 November 1944 – 7 October 2013) was a French opera and theatre director, filmmaker, actor and producer. In France he is best known for his work for the theatre, internationally for his films La Reine Margot and Intimacy, and for his staging of the Jahrhundertring, the centenary Ring Cycle at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976. Winner of almost twenty movie awards, including the Cannes Jury Prize and the Golden Berlin Bear, Chéreau served as president of the jury at the 2003 Cannes festival. His other opera productions included the first performance of the three-act version of Alban Berg's Lulu, completed by Friedrich Cerha, at the Paris Opera in 1979; Berg's Wozzeck at the Staatsoper Berlin in 1994; Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at La Scala in 2007; Janáček's From the House of the Dead, shown at several festivals and the Metropolitan Opera; and, as his last staging, Elektra by Richard Strauss, first performed at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 2013. He was awarded the Europe Theatre Prize in 2008.

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Gioachino Rossini
Monsieur Wagner has good moments, but awful quarters of an hour!

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From Giuseppe Verdi's La forza del destino, sung by Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe de Luca.

Did you know...

Georgette Leblanc

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Parent projects

WikiProject ArtsWikiProject MusicWikiProject Theatre

WikiProject Opera
Main project

WikiProject Opera

Descendant projects

WikiProject Richard WagnerWikiProject Gilbert and Sullivan

Similar projects

WikiProject Classical musicWikiProject Composers

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Template:/box-header Opera history: Origins of opera • Italian opera • Opera in German • French opera • Opera in English • Polish opera • Russian opera • Hungarian opera • Armenian opera • Opera in Latin America

Opera genres: Azione teatrale · Ballad opera · Comédie en vaudeville · Comédie mêlée d'ariettes · Dramma giocoso · Dramma per musica · Farsa · Festa teatrale · Género chico · Grand Opera · Music Drama · Opéra-ballet · Opera buffa · Opéra bouffe · Opéra bouffon · Opéra comique · Opéra féerie · Opera semiseria · Opera seria · Operetta · Pastorale héroïque · Romantische Oper · Savoy opera · Semi-opera · Singspiel · Spieloper · Tragédie en musique · Verismo · Zarzuela · Zeitoper

Opera terms: Aria · Aria di sorbetto · Arioso · Bel canto · Breeches role · Burletta · Cabaletta · Cadenza · Cantabile · Castrato · Cavatina · Chest voice · Claque · Coloratura · Comprimario · Convenienze · Coup de glotte · Da capo aria · Diva · Entr'acte · Fach · Falsetto · Fioritura · Gesamtkunstwerk · Head voice · Intermezzo · Kammersänger · Leitmotif · Legato · Libretto · Literaturoper · Mad scene · Maestro · Melodrama · Melodramma · Monodrama · Messa di voce · Opera house · Passaggio · Portamento · Prima donna · Prompter · Recitative · Regietheater · Répétiteur · Sitzprobe · Spinto · Sprechgesang · Squillo · Stagione · Surtitles · Tessitura · Timbre · Vibrato

Opera voices: Baritenor · Baritone · Bass · Bass-baritone · Coloratura soprano · Contralto · Countertenor · Dramatic soprano · Haute-contre · Lyric soprano · Mezzo-soprano · Soprano · Soubrette · Spinto soprano · Tenor · Tenore contraltino · Tenore di grazia

Opera lists: Opera topics • The opera corpus • Important operas • Major opera composers • Opera librettists • Opera houses • Opera companies • Opera festivals • Opera directors • Operetta composers • Orphean operas • Zarzuela composers • Opera genres • Operas set in the Crusades • The Record of Singing • Bayreuth canon

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