In Florence, around the year 1600, a group
of intellectuals met to study
Ancient Greek writings about the relationship between music and drama.
Several of these men decided to create a theatrical work in which music
played a significant role, and opera was born. The first great operatic
work was Orfeo, written in 1607 by Claudio Monteverdi . Combining
arias (operatic songs), duets, madrigal-like choruses, recitatives and
instrumental interludes, Orfeo was the blueprint for a form that endures to
Opera certainly has changed over the four
centuries since it was
conceived, but its essence remains unchanged: it is a dramatic work in
which the characters sing most or all of their roles. The singing of the text
greatly intensifies its expression and requires the singer to convey
powerful emotions. The orchestra plays an important role in opera, not
only providing accompaniment for the singers, but--like the score to a
film--creating atmosphere and intensifying the drama.
In the late Baroque
periods, opera was divided into two
types: opera seria (serious, or even tragic works) and opera buffa
(comedies). Although there are operas that cannot be so easily
categorized, these two classifications are still useful for the vast majority
of operatic works.
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