October 26 marks the beginning of National Opera Week! To celebrate, Pepperdine Libraries invites you to explore some of our music databases.
History of Opera
Opera’s origins can be traced back to ancient Greek tragedies and comedies, which were accompanied by choral music. These choruses would further explain the plot and comment on the players’ actions. Roots can also be found in liturgical dramas of the Middle Ages. Though the genesis of opera is complex and multifaceted, it is generally agreed that the artform as we know it emerged and flourished during the Italian Renaissance, originating in Florence sometime in the early 17th century, eventually spreading throughout Italy, France, Germany, England, and Spain.
The 18th century gave way to the works of notable composers such as Scarlatti, Handel, and Mozart, with a greater distinctions between styles of comedic and tragic operas (opera seria and opera buffa), and further stylistic developments of arias and recitatives.
By the 19th century, opera became a worldwide phenomenon, with performances throughout major European countries and beyond. The 19th century also saw the emergence a new genre known as operetta, or operas with dialogue, a precursor to the modern musicals we see today.
The 20th and 21st centuries has seen opera evolving for a more modern audience, with a wider range of themes and subjects, from Madame Butterfly to Der Rosenkavalier, with composers such as Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinksy, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Philip Glass pushing operatic works into new and contemporary places.
Music Resources at Pepperdine Libraries
To kick off National Opera Week, we would like to highlight some of the resources Pepperdine Libraries offers relating to opera and music performance:
- Medici.tv, described as “The world’s leading classical music channel,” features recordings of over 150 opera performances from various composers and time periods. It also features master classes, documentaries, and concerts.
- Digital Theatre Plus also has recordings of operas, as well as musicals, plays, and concert performances.
- Naxos Music Library and Classical Music Library, our classical music streaming services, offering more than 1.4 million tracks. Recordings of operas can be found on these sites.
- To read more about the history of opera, composers, and other various topics, you can consult Grove Music Online.
- We also subscribe to two opera magazines, Opera America and Opera News, which can be found at Payson Library.
See an Opera!
Pepperdine’s Flora L. Thornton Opera Program also puts on an opera every school year. This year’s production will be Die Fledermaus (The Bat), composed by Johann Strauss II, and runs Thursday, February 21, 2019, 7:30PM and Saturday, February 23, 2019, 7:30PM.
Abbate, C., & Parker, R. (2015). A history of opera. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Brown, H., Rosand, E., Strohm, R., Noiray, M., Parker, R., Whittall, A., Savage, R., & Millington, B. (2001, January 01). Opera (i). Grove Music Online. Ed. Retrieved 17 Oct. 2018, from http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000040726.
Grout, D. J., & Williams, H. W. (2003). A short history of opera. New York: Columbia University Press.
Stevens, J., Rastall, R., Klauser, D., & Sage, J. (2001, January 01). Medieval drama. Grove Music Online. Ed. Retrieved 17 Oct. 2018, from http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000041996.