Opera is a special kind of art form in which a singer performs a dramatic play that combines both spoken lines and music. The music itself is very distinct and difficult to sing. It originated in Italy in the 16th century and soon spread across Europe. Since its early days, opera has spread across the world, making prominent the many famous opera stars.
Born on December 30, 1952, June Anderson is an American-born opera singer. She has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, singing opposite many greats like Luciano Pavarotti and Rockwell Blake. Making her opera debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, she gained international acclaim by 1992, even winning a Grammy. Her most recent role was in Lucrezia Borgia in June of 2009.
Luciano Pavarotti is considered a legend of the opera world. Born October 12, 1935, he began working as a tenor in 1961 in Italy. After traveling the world singing, he made his New York appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968 as Rudolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme. Afterwards, he never stopped performing in famous opera houses but what made Pavarotti so remarkable that he was able to successfully cross over to the mainstream as a celebrity. After his landmark performance at the 1990 World Cup, he even became more famous around the world. Pavarotti’s last opera performance was in March 2004 at the Metropolitan. He passed away on September 6, 2007, succumbing to pancreatic cancer.
Giacomo Puccini is one of opera’s most influential composers. His operas have been routinely performed onstage, especially favorites like Tosca, La bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot. Born on December 22, 1858 in Italy, he composed his first opera in 1882. Puccini’s operas are known for their dramatic power, fuelled by his powerful arias. Although his personal life was often filled with conflict, his compositions remain a mainstay of the opera world. He passed away on November 29, 1924, as a result of complications from throat cancer treatment.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart is one of the world’s most gifted composers, but in the opera world, he is most famous for his Italian comic operas. With over 600 works to his name, he’s also one of the most prolific. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Germany, and he wrote operas in many different styles. Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) is one of his most famous works and it was with Mozart that the idea of marrying drama in both vocal singing and music was truly born. His other famous works include The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.
Richard Strauss was born on June 11, 1864 in Munich, Germany. He was the first composer to ever have a compact disc ever released: Alpine Symphony in 1983. His first two opera attempts, Gunstram in 1894 and Feuersnot in 1901, were both failures but 1905’s Salome premiere was considered a major success. His next opera, Elektra, his most famous, gave him the chance to work with Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the two formed a very productive working relationship. He died in Germany on September 8, 1949.
One of the 19th century’s most important composers, Verdi was born in October 1813 in Italy. His works are still performed today and many of them transcend even the boundaries of genre. His first opera, Oberto, was performed in 1839, garnering much attention on him, and the 1842 composition of Nabucco made him famous. He followed these with many more popular operas and in 1851, he composed one of his greatest works, Rigoletto. In his work, he liked to showcase cultural complexity using comedy and tragedy mixed together. His work Messa da Requiem, or Requiem Mass, is also considered famous. He passed away on January 27, 1901 from stroke complications and his funeral brought the largest public assembly of any event in Italian history.
Heinrich Schütz was the most important German composer to have ever lived before Bach. He is also one of the 17th century’s most important composers ever. He wrote the first German opera, Dafne, in 1627. His works, including some of his books, were considered to be written in the “modal” style. His music has special cadences and structures as well as dissonances that somehow result in harmonic tension. His other works include Psalmen Davids and Symphoniae sacrae. He passed away in 1672 of a stroke.
One of Opera’s most famous composers, Richard Wagner was born May 22, 1813 in Germany. Wagner was one of the few composers who wrote both music and libretto, or text, in his operas. His idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total artwork”, has transformed opera by combining many types of art into one solitary vision. His most famous work, the four-opera cycle known as Der Ring des Nibelungen, is the perfect example of this idea. Wagner died of a heart attack on February 13, 1883, in Italy.