Is Opera Music To Be or Not To Be?

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Is Opera Music To Be or Not To Be? This is a question that has long been debated. Some say that opera is a dying art form, while others believe that it is still relevant in today’s society.


Since the early days of opera, this genre of music has been divisive. Some say that it is one of the most beautiful and moving forms of artistic expression, while others believe that it is elitist and outdated. In this article, we will explore both sides of the argument to help you decide whether opera music is to be or not to be.

What is Opera Music?

Opera music is a combination of both vocal and instrumental music that has been around for centuries. It began in the Italain city of Florence in the early 1600s and has since spread to other parts of the world. Opera music is known for its beautiful melodies and grandiose productions.

The three types of opera

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers. Such a “work” (the literal translation of “opera”) is typically a combination of vocal and instrumental pieces with action that is dramatised, as it were, by the various singers.

There are three types of opera:

Opera seria was the most popular form in the eighteenth century. The plots were often based on stories from classical antiquity or patriotic themes, and the characters were noble or heroic. A significant elements was the da capo aria, in which the singer repeated the last section of an aria after each strophe of the text had been sung.

Opera buffa was a comic opera. The plots tended to be light-hearted, and often contained stock characters such as loveable rogues or social climbing wives. Opera buffa reached its height in eighteenth-century Naples, with such composers as Pergolesi and Mozart writing successful works in this style.

Opera semiseria contained elements of both opera seria and opera buffa. As its name suggests (“semi-serious”), it was not as noble as opera seria, but not as light-hearted as opera buffe.

The history of opera music

Opera is a kind of music that means “work” in Italian. It is also the name of a theater where this music is usually performed. Opera music has been around for centuries, and it has evolved a lot since its early days.

The early years

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. Other elements of the performance include acting, costumes, and sometimes stage scenery. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. It started in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Hamburg (Germany), London (England) and Vienna (Austria) became the main centres of its development and codification.

Opera created many firsts in musical theatre. In 1637, Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Tritto became the first composer to write an entirely original opera score, with his work The Siege of Rhodes. This was also the first time that recitative sections were interspersed with fully sung melodies, a style which would become known as secco recitative. In 1643, Francesca Caccini became the first woman to compose and publish an opera score, with her work La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina. She is also thought to be one of the first opera composers to use harmony in her work, rather than just monody. In 1659, Alessandro Stradella wrote what is possibly the earliest known opera plot outline or scenario: Ulysses Returns Chryseis to Her Father.

The Baroque period

The first opera was written in the late 1500s by a group of Italian noblemen who wanted to re-create the ancient Greek dramas. Opera quickly became popular among the upper classes, but it wasn’t until the early 1600s that it began to be performed for a wider audience.

The early operas were long, serious, and often quite dull. They were performed in Latin, which made them even less accessible to the average citizen. But as opera became more popular, composers began writing in the vernacular, or common language, making their works more understandable and enjoyable.

One of the most famous opera composers of the early 1600s was Claudio Monteverdi. His work combined elements of both the ancient Greek dramas and the new Italian operas. His most famous opera is The Coronation of Poppea, which tells the story of two lovers who will stop at nothing to be together.

Monteverdi was followed by a number of other great Italian opera composers, including Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi. Vivaldi’s best-known work is The Four Seasons, a series of four concertos that depict the changing seasons of the year.

Italian opera continued to dominate the European opera scene throughout the 1700s. One of the most popular operas of this period was Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, which tells the story of a young woman dying of tuberculosis and her lover’s efforts to save her. Other great Italian operas from this period include Verdi’s La Traviata and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

The Classical period

Opera as a musical genre originated in Italy in the late 16th century and quickly spread throughout Europe. The heyday of opera music was during the Classical period, which lasted from about 1750 to 1830. This was a time of great experimentation in all forms of art, and opera music was no exception. Many new operatic form and styles were developed during this period, including the singspiel, the German opera genre that featured spoken dialogue between songs.

One of the most important developments in opera during the Classical period was the rise of what is known as “absolute music.” This term refers to music that is not tied to any other art form, such as lyrics or a story. Rather, absolute music is purely musical, and it is this type of opera that is still most prevalent today. The Classical period also saw the rise of the castrato, a type of male singer who had been castrated in order to preserve his high-pitched singing voice.

The Romantic period

From 1815 to 1900, the Romantic period in music was characterized by composers striving to achieve originality in their work. blockquote> Along with this new ideal of originality came a focus on expressive and emotional content in music. The Romantic period saw a marked increase in the size of orchestras and operatic productions, as well as the emergence of new genres such as the poetic lieder of Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann.

During the Romantic period, opera underwent a major expansion in both scope and size. New operatic genres such as grand opera and verismo opera emerged, while established genres such as comique opera continued to thrive. The number of operas composed during the Romantic period is estimated to be around 30,000, with several thousand more written during the subsequent decades up to World War I.

The most famous operas composed during the Romantic period include Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata (1853), Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876), Georges Bizet’s Carmen (1875), and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (1878). Other significant works from this era include Richard Strauss’ Salome (1905), Alban Berg’s Wozzeck (1925), and Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (1911).

The Modern period

The Modern period of opera music began in the late 19th century. This was a time when composers were influenced by the ideas of Romanticism, Nationalism, and Realism. Opera music from this period is characterized by its increased use of harmonies, melodies, and rhythms that were not common in earlier periods. Some of the most famous operas from the Modern period include Tosca (1900), Carmen (1875), and La Bohème (1896).

The future of opera music

It is no secret that opera, as an art form, has been in decline for many years. Attendance at live performances has been falling steadily, and even the most die-hard fans concede that the music has lost its ability to connect with contemporary audiences. So, what does the future hold for opera?

There are those who believe that opera is a dying art form, and that it is only a matter of time before it ceases to exist altogether. Others hold out hope that opera can stage a comeback, and point to initiatives such as “Opera in the Park” as evidence that there is still an appetite for live performances.

It is impossible to say definitively what the future holds for opera. However, one thing is certain: if opera is to survive, it must find a way to connect with modern audiences. Whether this means commissioning new works that speak to contemporary issues or finding creative ways to market existing repertoire, it is clear that opera must evolve if it is to remain relevant in the 21st century.


From all of the evidence gathered, it seems that opera music, though not as popular as it once was, still has a place in today’s society. It is appreciated by many people for its beauty, passion, and drama. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, those who do enjoy opera music consider it to be a valuable and important art form.

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