4 Sets of Things to Converse on @Opera
by Pollyanna Eyler, dramaturg
Grasp four facts in any of these four lists to enhance your operatic education:
4 Historical Opera Events:
- 700-480 BCE – operas can be traced to ancient Greece.
- 1561-1633 CE – Daphne, considered the first true opera, is composed by Jacopo Peri.
- 1600 CE – Euridice, by Jacopo Peri, performed for a royal wedding, our earliest surviving complete copy of an opera.
- 1683 CE – Venus and Adonis, composed by John Blow, is performed in London; considered the first opera composed in English.
- 1735 CE – La Flora, composed by Marco da Gagliano and Jacopo Peri with libretto by Andrea Salvadori, is the first opera known to have been performed in the American colonies.
4 Operas for Beginners:
- The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) – composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder (1791).
- The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) – composed by Gioachino Rossini with libretto by Cesare Sterbini (1775).
- Carmen – composed by Georges Bizet with libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy (1875).
- La Bohème – composed by Giacomo Puccini between 1893 and 1895 with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (1896).
4 Opera Composers: (other than Handel, Mozart, Verdi, and Beethoven)
- Gioachino Rossini – (1792-1868) a prolific composer of 39 operas, including Barber of Seville
- Richard Wagner – (1813-1883) reinvented the opera with leitmotifs, musical themes for main characters.
- Giacomo Puccini – (1858-1924) leading Italian composer of his generation, specializing in verismo operas.
- Richard Strauss – (1864-1949) the most significant German opera composer of the 1900s.
4 Opera Librettists:
- Lorenzo da Ponte – (1749 –1838) a Venetian who wrote 28 operas by 11 different composers, including three of Mozart’s greatest: Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and Così fan tutte.
- W.S. Gilbert – (1836-1911) authored 75 plays and libretti, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado.
- Oscar Hammerstein II – (1895-1960) American librettist, more famous for over 800 songs in popular Golden Age musicals, such as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I.
- Stephen Sondheim – (1930-2021) a librettist mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II; also more famous for his musicals such as West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods.
Why do you think modern opera librettists are more famous for their work creating lyrics on musicals?