Music with Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Music with Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television is a new work by composer and librettist Tony Asaro. The work is a site-specific, multi-disciplinary new media event that explores the potential of opera as a television genre.


Aether, the Greek god of the upper air, was said to be the son of Erebus and Nyx. He was a light, fee-flowing spirit who drove the winds and brought light and life to the world.

Aether is also the name of a type of music that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This music was often used in opera and other dramatic works, as well as in films and television.

Aether music is characterized by its use of leitmotifs, or recurring themes that represent characters, objects, or ideas. These motifs are often played on instruments such as the violin or cello, which can create a feeling of eeriness or otherworldliness.

While aether music is not as popular today as it once was, it continues to be used in some film and television scores. In recent years, a number of operas have been written specifically for television, and these often make use of aether music to create a sense of otherworldly drama.

What is Opera?

Opera is a form of musical theatre that combines acting, singing, and orchestral music. It originates from Italy in the 16th century and has been adapted to various cultures around the world. Opera for television is a newer form of the art that has been growing in popularity since the 1950s.

What are the characteristics of Opera?

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Opera is essentiallive music, as opposed to soundtrack recordings of singers or musicians in studio. It is usually though not always dramatic. It may be accompanied by instrumental soloists and orchestra, or there may be only a piano or keyboard accompanist, or it could be entirely a cappella (unaccompanied).

What is the history of Opera?

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Such a “work” (the literal translation of “opera”) is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Opera for Television

The idea of opera for television was first explored in the early 1950s. It wasn’t until the early 1960s though, with the advent of color television, that the idea began to be taken seriously by both opera companies and television networks. The first real opera for television was produced by the BBC in 1965.

What are the benefits of Opera for Television?

Opera for television can provide a unique and engaging experience for viewers. It can help to create a more immersive and intimate experience than traditional television programming, and it can also introduce viewers to new and unfamiliar operas.

Opera for television can also help to broaden the appeal of opera among television viewers. By making opera more accessible and easy to watch, it can help to increase its popularity. Additionally, by featuring operas from a variety of countries and cultures, opera for television can help to promote cultural understanding and appreciation.

What are the challenges of Opera for Television?

The operatic tradition is one of the most demanding vocal forms, both for the soloists and for the chorus. It is also a very physical art, requiring not only breath control and power but also agility, grace, and stamina. So how does one bring opera to the small screen?

There are a number of challenges, the first of which is simply finding the right piece. While there are many great operas, not all of them are well suited to television. The ideal opera for television is one that can be contained within a single episode or two-hour program, without losing any of its impact. It should also be visually interesting, with a variety of locations and characters that can be convincingly interpreted on a smaller scale.

Once the right piece has been found, the next challenge is to find the right performers. While many opera singers have made successful careers in film and television, they are often cast in roles that do not make full use of their vocal talents. In order to create a truly successful television opera production, it is essential to find singers who not only have great voices but who are also comfortable with acting on camera.

Finally, there is the challenge of creating an immersive experience for the viewer. Opera is traditionally experienced live, in a theater setting, with all of its attendant sights and sounds. To bring opera to television requires finding ways to duplicate that experience as closely as possible. This may include using multiple cameras to give the viewer a variety of perspectives on the action, or providing subtitles so that viewers can follow along with the libretto (the text of an opera). Whatever approach is taken, it should always be kept in mind that the goal is to create an experience that feels as close to live performance as possible.


In conclusion, it should be clear that while television opera may not have had the same level of success as its predecessors in the realm of opera, it has nonetheless made a significant contribution to the art form. Operas specifically composed for television have frequently pushed the boundaries of what is possible in terms of form and content, and have often been ahead of their time in terms of stylistic experimentation. It is hoped that this essay has helped to shed some light on this under-appreciated aspect of operatic history.

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