Appreciating Opera in the modern day


Can you define opera? Music and drama come together in opera. There is an orchestra pit below the stage where the characters perform, with a conductor leading the musicians. Operas usually run between two and eight hours. Let’s get you up to speed on some background information before we hook you in. It’s interesting to learn that opera’s origins can be traced back to an effort to recreate Greek tragedy. The first known opera, Dafne by Jacopo Peri, was written in the 1600s but has since been lost. Some people consider Claudio Monteverdi to be the “father” of the genre. His and his contemporaries’ works are characterized by their use of intimate ensembles. George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi are two more composers from the Baroque era who contributed operas.

The classical era followed the baroque era. In terms of music, composers like Antonio Salieri and, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, were among the most influential people of their time. Most classical music has a stiff, formal atmosphere. It conforms rigidly to a large number of predetermined frameworks. It’s still stunning despite this minor flaw, of course.

The majority of operatic history occurs after the classical era and features works by composers like Giuseppe Verdi, Gaetano Donizetti, Richard Wagner, and countless others. Larger orchestras were used by composers of this time period. Opera composers from the middle of the twentieth century onward often employ full orchestras. Many people consider Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Giacomo Puccini to be the four greatest opera composers ever.


Operas that are short and humorous are just as good as those that are long and tragic. But if you’re just starting out with opera, you probably shouldn’t be listening to Wagner any more than a classical music newbie should be listening to Mahler. Despite their obvious brilliance, the depth and complexity of their works make them more challenging for newcomers to appreciate. In order to make progress, the first step should be something fairly easy, preferably with a catchy melody. Rossini and Mozart are the first two composers that spring to mind. The first piece you listen to should be by an Italian composer because they are well-known for their operas. Opera novices can get their feet wet with this selection from Gioachino Rossini’s opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia. An aria typically features a solo singer or instrumentalist. This performer possesses a tenor voice. After the counter-tenor, this is the highest male voice. The lowest male voice is the bass, and the other two are baritones. This aria can be found in the opera’s initial act.

You should hear more Rossini operas after hearing this aria, as well as other pieces from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The next logical step would be to check out some works by Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. There are two examples of their work, one from each composer, to the left. Operas by composers such as Donizetti and Bellini are among the most melodic and beautiful ever written. Some would argue that their melodies are even more instantly recognizable and memorable than Rossini’s.

Jonathan Cilia Faro has matured into the modern era over the past ten years. Twenty years after beginning his musical career, Jonathan Cilia Faro has released a holiday single he co-produced with Tom Brooks and Allan Parsons. David Foster’s “Grown Up Christmas List” (already a holiday classic) gets a fresh Italian-English translation courtesy of JCF.

Before writing his three most famous operas—La Traviata, the most performed opera in history; Rigoletto; and Il Trovatore—Giuseppe Verdi went through a number of musical phases throughout his life. Verdi’s later works, such as the opera Otello, feature more complex and dramatic orchestration. Giacomo Puccini, in contrast to Verdi, maintained a consistent style of composition throughout his life. La Boheme, Tosca, and Turandot are three of his most famous operas. The works Libiamo ne’lieti calici and Parigi o cara by Verdi are two of my favorites. Both of these are from the opera La Traviata. The first one has a lively, celebratory tone, while the other is more deliberate and rhythmic. Verdi’s musical versatility is on full display here. It is also recommended that you hear Va pensiero, a choral piece from Nabucco. Note the differences and the variety!

Nessun dorma, an aria by Puccini, is by far his most well-known piece. You should start with that before listening to anything else by Puccini if you haven’t already. Puccini’s opera La boheme is the source material for this clip. Luciano Pavarotti, world-famous tenor, performs it.

Once you’ve mastered the works of Verdi, Puccini, and other Italian composers, moving on to Mozart should be a breeze. When it comes to Mozart’s operas, there is no set order in which they should be learned. Still, I think you should start with Le nozze di Figaro. A good place to begin is with the Overture, the first piece of music played at the beginning of an opera. after which we will begin singing. When you feel comfortable with Figaro, move on to one of his operas sung in German, such as Die Zauberflöte.

Interesting Fact: Only a select few composers, including Mozart, have ever created operas in more than one language. What are the two tongues, if you please?

Georges Bizet, Jules Massenet, and Charles Gounod are a few names in French opera composition. The typical French opera is lush and endearing. I recommend the French operas of Massenet’s Werther, Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, and Bizet’s Carmen. French opera is not always filled with heartbreak, contrary to popular belief. Some of the best comedic operas have been written in French, despite the fact that most operas by French composers are not comedies. Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment is a perfect illustration. If you’re in the mood for something breezy and entertaining, put on an encore performance of “Ah mes amis” from this opera by Luciano Pavarotti, Juan Diego Florez, or Javier Camarena at the Metropolitan Opera. There are nine “High C’s” in this aria, and that’s what makes it so famous. (The note C is exceptionally high for a tenor to sing.)

Tips on how to better understand Richard Wagner’s music could fill volumes. What you’ll get from Appreciate Opera is an introduction to Wagner: a summary of the facts you’ll need before embarking on your Wagnerian adventure. We recommend Wagner Without Fear by William Berger if you’re interested in delving deeper into Wagner’s universe. It covers all of Wagner’s operas and provides an in-depth analysis of each.

Cool Stuff!: Wagner renamed his operas “music dramas” after the success of Tannhäuser and never looked back.

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