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Q: A perfect portrayal of the power of the human voice?

A: Opera.

Originating in the royal courts of Italy in the 16th century, opera (translation: "work" or opus) was a grand attempt at restoring something akin to the ancient Greek chorus to the public stage.

By turns dramatic and spectacular, opera productions soon spread to other parts of Europe as an elite entertainment, but quickly transformed into more popular fare to attract wider audiences.

Although Italy still maintained dominance over the art form into the 18th century, Mozart became the most famous of opera composers of the time as he ushered in comic operas such as The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as The Magic Flute, a landmark in the German opera tradition.

With the ever growing popularity of opera in the 19th century, the bel canto ("beautiful singing") style emerged and was best typified by the works of composers such as Rossini and Donizetti. At the forefront of the bel canto era were spectacular stagings and orchestrations with which singers had to compete — resulting in equally impressive swoops, trills and high C's that required almost superhuman control and agility.

la boheme librettoFollowing closely behind was the "golden age' of opera, exemplified by the works of Wagner and Verdi in the grand style, later joined by the verisimo era best typified by scenery-chewing "real life" drama in such works as Bizet's Carmen. More popularly, Puccini's Tosca, Madame Butterfly and La Boheme remain to tug at the heartstrings of young audiences even today.

20th century inventions such as the phonograph and radio later helped anoint the mass media opera star beginning with Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and later followed by Jan Peerce, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. The opera "diva" also enjoyed skyrocketing fame as fans lined up to buy recordings or see live performances by the likes of sopranos Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, and Beverly Sills at opera houses worldwide.

Today, the opera tradition continues in iconic venues such as La Scala (Italy) The Royal Opera House (London), The Metropolitan Opera House (New York) as well as in Australia's Sydney Opera House, L'Opéra National de Paris and the Vienna State Opera House.

Around the Web, check out the classics including singers, online librettos, famous arias, history, opera appreciation and education....along with top sites for opera-related information, and a look at the lighter side of the ages-old art form ...

also see in Renaissance History -> Who was the real Lucrezia Borgia?

More about opera around the Web:

With his signature aria "Nessun Dorma" (from Puccini's Turandot), Italian tenor
Luciano Pavarotti helped put opera on the pop culture map in the 20th century.

The Best Opera for Beginners
- A favorite Hubpage with a wrap-up of the world's most popular operas with plot lines and videos of such classics as La Boheme, The Barber of Seville, Carmen and more.

Wikipedia - Opera - The grand sweep - with a complete history, a discussion on the emergence of singing styles, important composers, operas, and individual stars, related photos, references and resources.

OperaGlass - Prime sources to opera and opera-related sites, fan sites, e-zines and more, courtesy of Stanford University.

OperaStuff - Opera singers, opera-related links, and a classical singer resource including competitions, youth training programs, and workshops.

Operabase - Powerful, cross-searchable databases to past and future performances around the world, news and reviews, opera houses, festivals, singers.


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