Who invented Opera

Season 2 Episode 1  [Who invented Opera] 


Today we are going to visit an important idea: Who invented Opera.

My name is Carlos Andres Botero, and this is Our Music, A podcast to unlock your imagination to the possibilities of Classical music. I hope you are having an inspiring week.


By the end of the 1500s, a group of intellectuals and artists gathered every single week in order to recreate, what they thought, the Greek tragedies were all about. Using as a reference the written words and the descriptions of the time, they came up with an idea: let’s bring together all possible expressions of Arts into one single work, actually, the word opera means work, where a story is narrated through the power of music.

Overture | Prelude | Sinfonia

Every opera starts with an instrumental introduction that helps preparing the audiences for the soundscape that they are going to enjoy the rest of the evening. Such introduction might bear the title of Prelude, or Overture, or sometimes even Sinfonia, which is the origin of what we call today a Symphony. Regardless of the title it is just a preparation for the mood and the feelings that are going to be displayed throughout the rest of the night. 


After the overture, the Opera is then organized and successive acts. Each of this acts will be organized in scenes, and each of the scenes will be made up of numbers. There are two possibilities for the composer that wants to advance the plot: 1) either use a ‘Recitative’ with a lot of text that is delivered, almost speaking almost singing, to go and further the plot in a very quick fashion. 2) If the composer needs a moment to reflect on the human emotion, on the impact of those events in each of the characters, then he will use ‘Arias.’

Aria: the song that belongs to the Opera.

This is particularly the moment that differentiates opera from every other genre. It is the possibility that the composer has to focus, to narrow the attention of the listener in one specific emotion, and to extend it for a period of time so we ourselves as the audience, can live into the plight of each of the characters.

 When you have only one singer, then you have an Aria, if you have 2 a Duett, 3 a trio, a quartet, and so forth.

A few types of Opera

Expressions like opera seria, or opera ‘Buffa’, light opera, grand opera, (etc) refers to specific ways to approach the genre. Light opera and opera ‘Buffa’ refers to a topic that is not so serious but instead wants to apply all the drama and the concept of opera in the service of comedy, the relaxation of the audience. An opera seria will dedicate all the efforts into a specific point of drama. It is pure emotion. 

In every case an opera allows the composer to peel out all the layers and feelings of each character, therefore allowing us the opportunity to identify with them, and to reconsider our own emotions.

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