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The theater of opera is a type of universal art, mixing four core elements: text, music, song, and stage. Developed in the 16th century, surviving romanticism, orientalism, realism, and the enlightenment. Opera is a production of excess. Extra vocal ranges. Extra costumes. Extra emotions. In opera, more is more, conjuring over-the-top characters and story lines to entertain audiences.
The first core element of opera is text, traditionally known as “liberetto,” which refers to the script. This includes spoken word, stage directions, poetry, novels, or other written elements. Common subjects for liberettos include revenge, love, power, war, mythology, history, and infidelity. These topics fuel the same passion, emotion, and tension today as they did in the 16th century, a nod to the timelessness of these themes.
The second and third components of opera—music and singing—are distinct and grand. Many people have heard the sounds of opera mimicked across pop culture in cartoons that show vocalists shattering wine glasses or erupting of vibrant, reverberating tones. Few types of vocal art contain the intensity and passion of opera. It is atmospheric and often creates repeated ideas or lines throughout the opera. The voice classifications in opera have had a tremendous impact in vocal arts, outlining six essential categories based on high to low pitch capabilities: soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, and bass. Each voice in paired with a particular role or category of roles. For instance, most Disney princess are sung by sopranos. This tradition calls back to opera.
Finally, the staging in opera is important. Opera halls are opulent, extraordinary places known for extravagance and finesse. The visual aspects of a stage and set are supposed to be reinvented throughout a production, contextualizing what the audiences sees and interprets. Opera halls are usually unapologetic glamour and extravagance, and stage designs usually follow suit.
Some popular operas that have stood the test of time include Carmen by Georged Bizet, The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, and Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven. Mozart was a particularly prolific creator of popular operas, known for Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovani, and the Magic Flute. For its boldness, opera is seen as a divisive type of theater: you will either love it or hate it. But you won’t know where you fall until you see an opera for yourself. Pick up tickets to a classic to be transported to a world of extravagance and intensity.