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.
(Z.629) is a masque
by Henry Purcell
; a Restoration spectacular
. It was first performed on 2 May 1692 at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden
, in London by the United Company
. The libretto
is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare
's wedding comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream
. Presumably the author or at least co-author of the libretto is Thomas Betterton
, the manager of Dorset Garden Theatre with whom Purcell worked regularly. This assumption is based on an analysis of Betterton's stage directions. A collaboration between several playwrights is also feasible. Choreography
for the various dances was provided by Josias Priest
, who also worked on Dioclesian
and King Arthur
, and who was associated with Dido and Aeneas
. Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare's text to music; instead he composed music for short masques in every act but the first. The play itself was also slightly modernized in keeping with seventeenth-century dramatic conventions, but in the main the spoken text is as Shakespeare wrote it. The masques are related to the play metaphorically, rather than literally. Many critics have stated erroneously that they bear no relationship to the play, but recent scholarship has shown that the opera, which ends with a masque featuring Hymen
, the god of marriage, was actually composed for the fifteenth wedding anniversary of William
Illustration to Jacques Offenbach's last composition Les contes d'Hoffmann, showing the prologue. Based on the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann, it features three doomed romances, with his friend Nicklausse - actually Hoffmann's muse in disguise - following him around, attempting to protect him, even as tragedies befall all around him. However, in the end he explains the three women he described are actually elements of his fourth love, who he then rejects, and the muse reveals herself and embraces him.
In this month
, better known under the stage name Lays
(14 February 1758 – 30 March 1831), was a French baritone
opera singer. Originally destined for a career in the church, he was recruited by the Paris Opéra
in 1779 and soon became a leading member of the company, in spite of quarrels with the management. Lays enthusiastically welcomed the French Revolution
and became involved in politics with the encouragement of his friend Bertrand Barère
. Barère's downfall led to Lays being imprisoned briefly, but he soon won back the public and secured the patronage of Napoleon
, at whose coronation and second wedding he sang. His association with the Emperor caused him trouble when the Bourbon monarchy was restored and Lays's final years were darkened by disputes over his pension, mounting debts, the death of his only son and his wife's illness. After a career spanning more than four decades, he died in poverty.
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