BLO works with hundreds of students each Season through our School Partnership initiatives, and we find that they are VERY curious about the fabulous, multifaceted, unique art form of opera that we know and love so well! This is the first in a series where we tackle the adorable, the silly, and the thought-provoking questions about opera that we’ve received from students. Read on – you just might learn something too!
Why is it called "opera," where did the word originate? - Jordan, Brown Elementary School, 3rd grade
Great question, Jordan! In the late 1500s, a group of thinkers and intellectuals began meeting in Italy, discussing art and music and theatre. They were known as the Florentine Camerata, and they decided to recreate Ancient Greek theatre by marrying music and drama together in a new style of art. This became what we now know as opera, which in Italian translates to work – meaning both the effort dedication it takes to produce and the final, finished product. The first full “opera” was written in 1597 and called Dafne.
Has there ever been a single person opera? -Oliver, Miles River Middle School, 7th grade
Opera is very well-known as an art that includes many voices and people – some of the most popular operas can have more than 200 onstage – so it’s less common for operas to include only one singer – but there are a few! One of the most well-known is Erwartung, meaning Expectation, which was written in 1909 by the famous Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. It is a 30-minute piece sung by a soprano, with a large orchestra. It tells the story of a woman who is looking for her lover, only to realize that he has died.
If you’re curious, check out this guide from Stanford University – it contains detailed lists of operas that range from one person to six people!