In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Opera: Where Did It All Begin?

Feb 2, 2011 6:54:00 AM
By BLO Staff

In anticipation of BLO's upcoming production, I started to
think about Opera as a genre of music. Then I wondered if opera was always
opera as we know it today or if evolved over time. I wonder when was the first
opera was even written? With the help of my Rough Guide to Opera by Matthew
Boyden, I began to uncover when, where and how the genre of opera began.
Opera began with discussions between Florentine poets and
musicians; know as the Camerata, in the late 1500’s (approximately 1580). These
great scholars were trying to create what they believed was the great
musico-dramatic of the traditional Greek Myths. But in truth these scholars
knew very little of the characters and dramatic music associated with the
original Greek dramatics. Therefore, composers and librettist took inspiration
from works such as Aristotle Poetics to
begin crafting what they believe to be the musico-dramatic of the Greek Myths .
Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) was the first composer to fully
develop this idea. It can be said that the first opera was his Dafne, with text written by Ottavio
Rinuccini, which was first performed in 1594. 
Unfortunately, only pieces of Peri’s Dafne
still survive today. From this, a new style of singing was created called
recitative (sung speech), which we still here recitative in most of operas
performed today.

With this newfound knowledge of how opera began,
I look forward to seeing Boston Lyric Opera’s Performance of The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Quits, Wednesday night this week.
I look forward to discuss the opera and the genre opera with all of you at the
after party at 28 Degrees.  Can’t Wait!!

- Kara Fleishaker, Boston University

Topics: Opera Annex, Student Posts, General Opera

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