Opera is defined as a dramatic work in one or more acts, set to music for singers and instrumentalists. In other words, an opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by singers. It is distinct from musical theatre. Opera is the key part of the Western Classical Music tradition. The Italian word “Opera” literally means “work”. Opera incorporates a number of performing arts such as acting, singing, instrumental music, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble. This musical ensemble is led by a conductor. There are several different genres of opera. Two of the traditional ones, which date back to the 18th century are the Opera Seria and Opera Buffa.
HISTORY OF OPERA :
Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century. Dafne by Jacopo Peri was the earliest composition considered as opera. It was composed around 1597, largely under the inspiration of an elite circle of literate Florentine humanists. Significantly, Dafne was an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama. Soon after its emergence in Italy, it quickly spread through the rest of Europe. Heinrich Schutz in Germany, Jean Baptiste Lully in France, Henry Purcell in England, all helped to establish their national tradition of opera in the 17th century. Opera did not remain confined to the court audience for long. In 1637, the idea of a “season” of publicly attended operas supported by ticket sales emerged in Venice. Dafne, the foremost opera, however, is lost. A later work by Peri, Euridice, dating from 1600, is the first opera score to have survived till the present day. However, the first opera, still to be regularly performed is Claudio Monteverdi’s L’orfeo, composed for the Court of Mantua in 1607.
FEATURES OF OPERA :
An opera is a form of theatre in which the drama is conveyed wholly or predominantly through music and singing. Opera uses many of the elements of spoken theatre such as scenery, costumes, and acting. Generally, however, opera is distinguished from other dramatic forms by the importance of the song. Some of the salient features of opera are –
• Music is the main component of an opera. Notably, drama in an opera comes through the music.
• Operas are composed by opera composers and a composer score is used by the opera’s music conductor.
• The words of an opera are known as Libretto which literally means “Little Book”. The Libretto is the script that is sung by the soloist and choir. A Librettist is a person who writes the Libretto. A Libretto also includes stage directions and instructions.
• Soloists are singers that play a leading or secondary role in the opera plot. An opera also has a choir and many operas have scenes that can only be performed by trained ballet dancers.
• The non-singing actors in opera are called Supernumeraries.
• An opera is a theatrical performance and is usually performed in a House of Opera. An opera must have an audience.