Opera was born in Italy around 1600. Operas have been written by a variety of Italian and non-Italian composers but all of them in the Italian Language, and are today played all around the world. The first production considered to be an opera was “Dafne” by Jacopo Peri. The early Operas were not quite the same as what is heard more commonly today as the singing was more of a type of speech that was conducted alongside a musical instrument.
The first works of Claudio Monteverdi saw a stronger relationship between the words and the music. One of his first works was “L’Orfeo” and when it was performed it was accompanied by a 38 strong orchestra. The singing now had greater depth and variety, and this opera is still now regularly performed. As Opera started to spread it found its new home in Rome and the Operas that were performed here were very dramatic with many twists and turns in the story lines. However. Opera still lacked a real home and did not find one until the first public Opera house, the “Teatro di San Cassiano” was opened in Venice in 1637. The opera was no longer just aimed at the aristocracy and it became a commercial venture. Other opera houses were also opened in Venice and to save money small orchestras performed, as the companies saved their money in order employ the best singers. Many of these early operas were about the history of Rome and also the legends about Troy. Comedy and a love interest always appeared to be included in the plots. Although Opera was born in Italy it wasn’t long before it was proving popular abroad with performances occurring in Poland, Spain, Germany, Britain and France. As the opera entered the 18th century the operas started to evolve with the story lines losing their humor and the plots becoming far more-straight forward. In Naples there was the creation of Opera Buffa with the cast being selected for their ability to act as well as sing. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries more composers started to create their own works. First Rossini and then Verdi really captured the imagination of the public because of the vigor of their music and the great choruses that were being performed. The 20th century saw the emergence of Giacomo Puccini and he wrote many operas including “Tosca” and “Madame Butterfly”. Inspired by the popularity of the performances other composers followed such as Luigi Nono and Sylvano Bussotti.
Operas now had a home in many Italian cities and also in other major cities around the world. La Scala in Milan, Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Opera House in London are just a sample of the theatres that have been specially built to house these magnificent performances. Opera is more than just a show it is a spectacle that oozes atmosphere. One of the Italians favorite ways in which to view an opera is to attend one of the open air performance that are held each summer in the Arena di Verona. This is a Roman amphitheatre which can hold up to 15,000 people and has been hosting the opera since the 1850’s. With over 500,000 people attending each year the arena has many of the world top opera singers performing on the stage and the venue regularly holds at least 4 productions each year. The atmosphere of the evening is made more special when the spectators light their candles as night time descends on the performance.