The Opera Scene: Where Music Tells the Story

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Opera Scene is a blog that explores the world of opera through music and storytelling. From interviews with opera stars to insights into the creative process, The Opera Scene takes readers behind the scenes of this fascinating art form.


Opera is a unique form of theatre in which music and drama combine to create a powerful and emotive story. The music in opera is used to heighten the emotional impact of the drama, and the action on stage is often dependent on the music being sung. This makes for a highly effective and moving form of storytelling.

Opera began in the early 1600s in Italy, and quickly spread throughout Europe. It was initially seen as a highbrow form of entertainment, and was often performed in royal courts or by wealthy patrons. However, over time it became more accessible to a wider audience, and today there are operas being performed all over the world.

While opera can be enjoyed by everyone, it can be particularly special for those who love music. The best opera scenes are those where the music enhances the drama on stage, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

What is Opera?

A Brief History of Opera

Opera is a performance art that combines music and drama. It originated in Italy in the late 16th century and quickly spread throughout Europe. Opera is usually performed in an opera house, which is a theatre designed specifically for opera.

The first operas were performed in inns and court theatres. The first public opera house was the Teatro di San Cassiano in Venice, which opened in 1637. The first opera written specifically for an opera house was Dafne by Jacopo Peri, which was performed at the Teatro Sant’Angelo in Rome in 1597.

Opera began to spread outside of Italy in the 17th century. The French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully adapted Italian opera for the French court, and his works were very popular at the royal palace of Versailles. German composer George Frideric Handel moved to London in 1710 and wrote several successful Italian-style operas, such as Giulio Cesare and Alessandro Stradella.

The Rules of Opera
One of the most important aspects of opera is the music. The music in an opera is called an aria, and it is always sung by the characters on stage. Arias are accompanied by an orchestra, which usually includes strings, woodwinds, brass instruments, and percussion instruments.

An opera always has a libretto, which is the text of the story that is being told. The libretto is usually written in verse form, and it often contains musical notation to indicate how the singers should perform their parts.

Operas are usually divided into acts, with each act containing several scenes. An act can be as short as a few minutes or as long as an hour. Each scene typically has its own location and time period, which helps to move the story along.

Some famous operas include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata.

The Elements of Opera

Most people who attend an opera are not familiar with the elements of this musical theatre form. They may be able to list a few popular operas, such as “Carmen” or “The Barber of Seville,” and they may even know a little about the histories of these works. But when it comes to defining opera, even avid fans may be at a loss for words.

The Opera Scene

From the beginning, music has been an important part of opera. Opera is a drama set to music. It is usually sung in a foreign language. The first operas were written in the early 1600s. They were called ” sung dramas .”

The Setting

In opera, the music tells the story. But before the music can do its work, the stage must be set. Just as a playwright introduces his characters and their surroundings in the opening scenes of a play, so does an opera composer present the time and place in which his drama will unfold.

This is why every opera begins with an overture, a short piece of music that not only shepherds the audience into the mood of the drama to come but also gives them essential information about its setting. The overture to Verdi’s La traviata, for instance, uses waltz tunes to evoke both 19th-century Parisian gaiety and dangerous dissipation.

In operas such as Tosca and Madama Butterfly, on the other hand, we hear tense, foreboding music that warns us we are about to enter a dark and dangerous world.

The Characters

As in any good story, the characters in an opera are vitally important. The libretto (the opera’s story, written in verse) and the music identify and further develop the characters. The music often anticipates what a character will say or do.

In addition to their spoken words, the characters sing. A character’s musical phrases often reflect his/her emotional state. For example, a carefree, happy character will sing light, fast-moving phrases, while a troubled character might sing long, slow-moving phrases with many pauses for breath.

The characters’ voices are also important in identifying them. In Italian opera, female characters are sung by sopranos, males by tenors or baritones, and evil characters by basses. In German opera (such as those written by Wagner), all the main roles — male and female — are sung by sopranos and tenors.

Certain types of roles are sung by specific voice types regardless of the composer’s nationality:
* evil men — basses or bass-baritones
* evil women — mezzo-sopranos or contraltos
* young boys — treble voices or countertenors (men who sing in falsetto)

The Plot

Music has the ability to tell a story without using any words. An opera is a musical theatre performance that is usually composed of singing and sometimes dancing, with all dialogue being sung. The music in an opera is what propels the story forward and creates the emotions that the characters feel.

There are three main types of opera: comic opera, tragic opera, and heroic opera. Comic operas are usually light-hearted and often end happily. Tragic operas usually have a sad ending, often with the death of one or more characters. Heroic operas are about larger-than-life characters who often go through great trials and tribulations.

No matter what type of opera it is, the music is always an important part of the story. The plot of an opera is conveyed through both the lyrics and the melody of the music. The music can also help to create the atmosphere and mood of the piece.

The Music of Opera

In an opera, the music tells the story. It is the primary means by which the composer conveys the emotional content of the drama. The music of opera is usually sung by the characters in the story. This is different from other types of musical theatre, in which the music is generally sung by a chorus that is not part of the drama.

The Orchestra

The orchestra is the backbone of any opera performance, providing the music that sets the tone and drives the action. In a traditional opera house, the orchestra is located in a pit in front of the stage, hidden from view so as not to distract from the drama unfolding on stage. But whether you can see them or not, the orchestra is an essential part of any opera performance.

The Singers

The star of the opera is the singer. The music of opera is designed to showcase the human voice at its most beautiful and powerful. Opera singers must have not only great vocal technique but also the ability to act and move well on stage.

The lead roles in an opera are usually sung by soloists, who are known as principal or featured artists. Secondary roles are typically sung by chorus members, who may also have speaking parts. In some operas, particularly those with large casts, there may be additional soloists who sing smaller roles or serve as understudies for the principals.

Opera singers are often classified by their voice type, which corresponds to the range, timbre, and color of their voices. The main voice types used in opera are soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass. There are also several subcategories within each voice type.

Successful opera singers must have not only great vocal technique but also the ability to act and move well on stage.


In conclusion, the opera scene is a powerful and emotional form of storytelling that has remained popular for centuries. Opera scenes are often used to convey the most important messages of the opera, and they can be incredibly moving and memorable experiences for both performers and audience members. If you’re looking for a truly unique and powerful form of entertainment, then be sure to check out an opera scene the next time you have the chance!

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