Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work (called an opera) which combines a text (called a libretto) and a musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.
Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's lost Dafne, produced in Florence around 1597) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz in Germany, Lully in France, and Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. However, in the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe, except France, attracting foreign composers such as Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. Today the most renowned figure of late 18th century opera is Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as The Magic Flute, a landmark in the German tradition.
The first third of the 19th century saw the highpoint of the bel canto style, with Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini all creating works that are still performed today. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera typified by the works of Meyerbeer. The mid to late 19th century is considered by some a golden age of opera, led by Wagner in Germany and Verdi in Italy. This 'golden age' developed through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Puccini and Strauss in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, parallel operatic traditions emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia and Bohemia. The 20th century saw many experiments with modern styles, such as atonality and serialism (Schoenberg and Berg), Neo-Classicism (Stravinsky), and Minimalism (Philip Glass and John Adams). With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso became known to audiences beyond the circle of opera fans. Operas were also performed on (and written for) radio and television.
Carl August Nielsen
was a Danish musician
, widely recognized as his country's greatest composer
. Brought up by poor but musically talented parents on the island of Funen
, he demonstrated his musical abilities at an early age. He initially played in a military band before attending the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen
from 1884 until December 1886. The following year, Nielsen began a 16-year stint as a second violinist in the prestigious Royal Danish Orchestra
under the conductor Johan Svendsen
, during which he played in Giuseppe Verdi
at their Danish premieres. In 1916, he took a post teaching at the Royal Danish Academy of Music
and continued to work there until his death. Although his symphonies, concertos and choral music are now internationally acclaimed, Nielsen's career and personal life were marked by many difficulties, often reflected in his music. The works he composed between 1897 and 1904 are sometimes ascribed to his "psychological" period, resulting mainly from a turbulent marriage with the sculptor Anne Marie Brodersen
. In Denmark, his opera Maskarade
and many of his songs have become an integral part of the national heritage.
- 1 August 1831 – The great Italian baritone, Antonio Cotogni was born.
- 2 August 1921 – The famous Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso died in Naples, the city of his birth, at the age of 48.
- 3 August 1778 – La Scala, Italy's leading opera house, was inaugurated with the world premiere performance of Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.
- 13 August 1876 – The Bayreuth Festspielhaus was inaugurated with a performance of Das Rheingold, beginning the first performance of the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
- 22 August 1862 – Claude Debussy, the composer of Pelléas et Mélisande, was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
- 24 August 1817 – Soprano Nancy Storace (pictured), who created the role of Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze de Figaro died in London at the age of 50.
- 27 August 1868 – The Danish tenor Erik Schmedes, particularly known for performances in Wagner's operas, was born in Gentofte, near Copenhagen.
- 28 August 1850 – Richard Wagner's opera, Lohengrin, had its world premiere at the Staatskapelle, Weimar in a performance conducted by Franz Liszt.
- 30 August 1953 – Gaetano Merola, the Italian conductor and founder of the San Francisco Opera, died in San Francisco while conducting a performance of Madame Butterfly.
(20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880) was a German-born French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period
. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas
of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann
. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr.
and Arthur Sullivan
. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffman
remains part of the standard opera repertory.
From Giuseppe Verdi's Il trovatore, sung by Gabriella Besanzoni (1920)