In Italy, opera is the music of the soul! It was originated in Florence during the Reniassance by a group of musicians and philosophers that revived Greek drama adding a musical line to the plot. In the early seventeenth century, the first Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi added the idea of melody songs, called arias, so the characters in the play, rather than the chorus would actually sing. These two elements, combined with elaborate scenery and costumes formed the basis of opera as we know it today. Italian operas were of two types - Opera Seria based on classical and Opera Buffa or comic. In 1778, the jewel of Italian opera theaters, La Scala, opened in Milano with a production of Antonio Salieri's "Europa Riconosciuta." La Scala was bombed in World War II, but remains the premier opera venue in the world today, and no diva or tenor can be said to arrived on the top until he or she has sung there!
Italian opera flourished in the nineteenth century with many great composers like Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Rossini and, of course, the great Guiseppe Verdi, giving us beautiful opera that continues to be performed all over the world and their melodies are familiar to all of us. Rossini's famous "William Tell Overture" has become popular in America because it was the theme of the radio and television drama "The Lone Ranger" of the forties and fifties.
Opera is about passion, drama, and emotion, with betrayal, love, death, and intrigue. The story line, the costumes, the settings, the full orchestra and the great tenors, sopranos, and other singers on the stage. But it's not surprising, of course, that something so dramatic, emotional, and intense was born in Italy!!!