What Is Opera?


Opera is an art form combining drama, music and singing into one artistic endeavor that has long been part of global culture.

Early operas were known by various titles, such as favola in musica or dramma per musica (drama through song).

Opera has many features that set it apart, such as its capability of taking screenshots directly within its browser.


Opera can trace its roots back to ancient Greek theatre, where poets combined poetry and music into dramatic plays staged with singing and dancing. Later, Christian churches used liturgical drama to set religious stories to music based on Christian scripture; by 1600s composers began using classical Greek legends as themes, and combined vocal music with acting and dance performances.

Jacopo Peri of Florence, Italy first wrote opera as we know it at the end of the 16th century with his piece Dafne (now lost), inspiring an elite circle of Florentine humanists known as Camerata to revive ancient Greek drama using this genre they coined opera.

Opera has taken centuries to become a widespread art form, but by the 17th century its Italian school had come to dominate Europe. Composers such as George Frideric Handel in Germany; Heinrich Schutz in France; Jean-Baptiste Lully in France and Henry Purcell from England all played key roles in helping build national opera traditions.

Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner revolutionized opera during the 19th century by writing highly melodious and dramatic works, often at odds with each other, which have since been adopted by other composers. Their styles continue to influence contemporary composers.

One of the key aspects of any successful opera is its relationship between words and music. Composer-librettist collaboration is essential in this regard; together they must ensure that lyrics allow singers to freely express their musical ideas through song. Over the centuries this balance has fluctuated, but has recently been restored through several reforms; Christoph Willibald Gluck initiated one such reform in 1760 with his New Style opera where vocal lines weren’t so complex but supported by simpler harmony structures and richer orchestral soundscape.


Opera is like any form of drama: its story shifts and evolves over time. At first composers and librettists sought to craft an art form with an even balance between music and poetry or text, but over time this balance has shifted in favour of music over drama.

As nationalism spread and composers became national heroes, different operatic styles emerged across each country during the 19th century. For instance, Jacques Offenbach created operettas such as Orphee aux Enfers; Charles Gounod achieved great acclaim with Faust and Samson et Dalila; George Bizet’s Carmen was very well received, featuring both Romanticism and realism in its composition; George Bizet also created opera lyrique works from Jules Massenet Camille Saint-Saens and Leo Delibes that combined both forms into one composition combining grand opera’s grand opera with spoken dialogue in grand opera works such as Grand Infernal in addition to creating the opera lyrique genres with works such as Faust/ Samson/Dallila/Carmen while Jules Massenet’s opera Lyrique offered an eclectic array of genres that combined grand operatic grand operatic grand opera with spoken dialogue opera comique-inspired works such as Orphee aux Enfers was created and developed further with works such as Orphee aux Enfers creating this unique form which combined grand operatic grand opera with spoken dialogue opera comic opera comique compositions by Leo Delibes’ Opera Lyrique genre which combined grand opera with spoken dialogue opera comique works by Leo Delibes’ Faust Samson et Dalila which combined grand opera with spoken dialogue while being popular; his Faust scored huge successes against Samson et Dalila while his Faust played huge success through out which it developed further by Charles Gounod’s Faust Samson Et Dalila Samson Et Dalila being performed all around it’s own unique genre in addition. Delibes also producing their Carmen creating new genre.

Opera is ever evolving and remains enormously popular today. Modern opera has explored various musical styles from atonality and serialism (Alban Berg and Igor Stravinsky) to minimalism and neoclassicism (Philip Glass and John Adams), with contemporary opera works like Mark Anthony Turnage’s Greek as well as world premieres from sopranos of color such as Leontyne Price providing examples.

Opera is a dramatic art form that explores human passions such as love, tragedy, sacrifice, revenge, enchantment and death through stunning music performed live by some of today’s finest performers and unforgettable stage images that capture these timeless tales from ancient legends or from our modern lives alike. Each operatic plot offers us insight into ourselves and about life itself – each operatic story has something important to tell us about ourselves and life itself.


Opera is an art form combining theater (both comedic and dramatic) with classical music, so its production relies on singers. Vocal range distinguishes male singers into bass, baritone, baritenor, tenor and countertenor categories while women singers fall under contralto, mezzo-soprano and soprano designations respectively.

The voice is an intricate musical instrument. Alongside its recognizable melodies, harmony, and rhythms found in opera performances comes vocal gymnastics that helps make everything possible. Singers must not only learn their musical phrases quickly and intelligibly when performing; this task becomes particularly difficult when performing in languages other than their native tongue.

Prior to electronic amplification, vocalists needed to produce enough volume without straining an orchestra’s own instrumentalists’ volumes; so operatic singing eventually developed into recitatives: almost spoken dialogue interspersed with moments of lyrical accompaniment.

Oratorio refers to any musical composition written for choir, orchestra and soloists focusing on religious or philosophical topics. Handel was an esteemed composer in this field – his Messiah being an example.


Opera production requires extensive stagecraft. At its core, this involves building and designing scenery and costumes; rigging, hanging, focusing lighting; recording, mixing and mastering sound recordings; as well as mixing sounds. Stagecraft differs from scenography in that its purpose is artistic rather than practical – professional production teams could involve hundreds of carpenters, painters, electricians, stitchers wigmakers stagehands among others to manage all this complex activity successfully.

Sets that accompany opera are constructed to reflect both time and place within its narrative. Costumes allow actors to portray characters’ individual traits while setting an atmosphere. Props used onstage to convey action – including any hand props held by characters – help bring this tale alive; orchestra and sound effects further add the drama.

Blocking, the pattern of movement of characters across the stage, is another crucial aspect. This pattern is determined by the director and can have an enormous effect on how audiences interpret the action onstage. Sometimes directors assign specific roles for non-singing performers – this practice is known as supernumerary work.

Stagecraft, developed by ILM and used to streamline this process and increase efficiency, already allows crews to film 30-50% more pages daily compared to what was possible previously. Being used by movies, TV shows and virtual productions alike – Jon Favreau using it while shooting The Mandalorian at Volume, an ILM permanent virtual production facility.


Music plays an integral role in opera by conveying emotions, moods and action – not to mention adding depth to character understanding – through four main musical forms composers employ: recitative, aria, ensemble music and song – each suitable for acting out plot developments or character emotions.

Operatic opera began to emerge in Italy at the beginning of the 17th century, likely as a response to curiosity about what Ancient Greek drama may have looked and sounded like; further inspired by intermedi performances punctuating spoken drama with music, dance, and instrumental accompaniment – such as solo arias and innovative dramatic singing styles like Recitative.

By the middle of the 18th century, German audiences witnessed a new kind of opera focused on ideas rather than simple narrative. Richard Wagner pioneered it as an innovative new form. Not content to just compose music for his operas, he also wrote the libretto, designed sets and costumes, directed and performed actors — creating what he termed Gesamtkunstwerk — as well as built a theatre specifically designed to showcase them.

As in earlier eras, opera’s leading roles often went to those with the best vocal abilities; during this era their skill could be used to convey characterization and move the action along. Handel excelled in using this technique with his use of da capo arias — A sections followed by B sections providing further opportunities for vocal dexterity – for added dramatic impact and dramatic intensity.

Giacomo Puccini and Benjamin Britten both created operas which transcended national borders during the 19th century; Puccini created romantic melodramas like La Boheme and Madama Butterfly by employing sentimental verismo techniques, while Britten adhered to classical integrity principles and was sensitive to words with such operas as Peter Grimes based on George Crabbe’s The Borough (1810).

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