The birthplace of opera, Italy has produced some of history’s most gifted, influential and famous composers. From opera’s origins as a form of lavish court entertainment to its expansion throughout Europe, Italy has been at the heart of Western classical music and shaped some of the world’s greatest opera composers.
Originating in Florence, opera was created by the Camerata de’ Bardi, a small group of Florentine intellectuals who sought to revive and re-modernise classic Greek dramas. Composed by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), the result was Dafne, which was first performed in 1598. Unfortunately, this work has largely been lost and as such, his second work, Euridice, is the earliest surviving example of opera.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), perhaps one of the most famous Baroque opera composers, is recognised as the founder of modern opera. Having written his first composition, La favola d’Orfeo in 1606, Monteverdi’s subsequent works transformed opera into the artform we recognise today. Introducing costumes, sets and an orchestra to create rich and dramatic performances, his works remain prominent in the opera repertoire.
During the 17th century, opera spread throughout Europe, producing talented composers including Henry Purcell in England, George Frideric Handel in Germany and Jean-Baptiste in France. This grew at an unprecedented rate during the 18th century, resulting in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s reforms of opera seria (serious opera), the rise of opera buffa (comic opera), and composition in other languages, including works by the most famous composer of the period, Mozart.
The era that produced some of the most famous Italian opera composers, the 19th century was opera’s romantic period. Beginning with Gioachino Rossini, this century boasts many of the most well-known compositions, including Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata (1853) and Aida (1871), as well as Georges Bizet’s Carmen (1875).
The prominence of opera continued throughout the 20th century, with many of the most revered composers rising to fame during this period. Widely recognised for giving rise to celebrated and successful Italian operas, this includes Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca (1900) and Madama Butterfly (1904).
Offering expertly composed melodies and incredible performances, opera remains a beloved artform that possesses the power to transport the viewer. That’s why at Opera Tours Italy, we craft our itineraries to include works by some of the most famous Italian opera composers, for a truly unforgettable viewing experience.
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