Opera is a dramatic form in which music carries the burden of the drama. Its background lies in the late- Renaissance courtly entertainments -- variously called intermedi in Italy, ballets de cour in France or masques in England -- which brought music, drama, dancing and spectacle together. The form as we know it arose at the beginning of the Baroque period as an attempt to revive the ancient Greek drama.
- The first opera is generally accepted to be Dafne by Jacopo Peri, staged in Florence in 1597.
- In 1607 at the court of Mantua Claudio Monteverdi took up the new form with Orfeo . Later he was involved with the first public opera houses, which opened in Venice in the 1630s.
- During the Baroque period opera spread around the courts of Italy and with the introduction of opera houses became ever more widely known. Important native traditions began in France, Germany and England.
- By the Classical period opera was a popular public entertainment throughout Europe. Christoph Willibald Gluck and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made the most significant contributions to the genre at this time.
- In the Romantic period the already strong national traditions of Italian and French opera were joined by increasingly significant German, Russian and Czech productions.
- In Italy Giuseppe Verdi built on the achievements of Rossini , Bellini and Donizetti to revitalise opera from within. The structural freedom of his later works impacted on Giacomo Puccini .
- The more overtly revolutionary approach of Richard Wagner was embodied in a series of music dramas mostly based on mythological subjects. His approach influenced the works of Richard Strauss .
- During the modern period the Czech composer Leos Janácek created an individual group of works that are increasingly admired.
- In Germany Alban Berg produced two masterpieces, while Hans Werner Henze , German-born though resident in Italy, has returned repeatedly to the genre.
- British opera once again reached an international audience with the works of Benjamin Britten .
- After the death of Puccini , Italian opera produced two more creative figures of distinction in Luigi Dallapiccola and Luciano Berio .
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