What I know about Opera

Opera house
It’s me, Renee Ryan, and I’m sorry to say my head is a bit jumbled today.  I have a book due in two weeks and still 13,000 words to write.  This is not good.  So not good.


I’m not here to whine about m deadline.  No, seriously. The end is in sight.  I’m really looking forward to finishing up the story, which then means I’ll be starting on my next book.  Ah, the glamorous life of a writer.

With my head buried in writer-mode, I’ve had to do some last minute research.  I left my hero and heroine at the opera together.  Since I know so very little about opera I had to spend much of yesterday delving into the exciting world of drama set to incredible music.

Here’s what I discovered.

Opera, put simply, is an art form in which singers and musicians work together to perform a dramatic story set to a musical score.  Duh, right?  In other words, opera is a form of musical theater in that it has all the common elements of acting, scenery, elaborate costumes and dance.  The modern opera incorporates full orchestras, but this wasn’t always true in its earliest form.  Often, singers performed with no musical accompaniment or very little.  I’m thinking of the movie Pitch Perfect (if you haven’t seen it, you MUST).

I digress.Opera house 1

Opera was born in Italy at the end of the 16th century.  Although England, Germany, and France soon developed their own traditions, Italian opera dominated most of Europe for centuries after its birth.  Even Mozart, probably the most renowned opera composer and an Austrian, is famous for his Italian comic operas, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

The words that are sung in an opera are called libretto.  Some composers often write both the music and the libretto.  Mozart was not one of them.  However, he did work closely with his librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte.  Traditional operas consist of two types of music/singing—the passage that drives the plot, and the aria, where the singer gets to express the character’s emotional reaction to an event in the storyline.  My heroine loves arias. My hero, not so much.

sheet-musicThe “golden age” of opera was the 19th century.  And I bet that’s all you ever wanted to know about opera.  I’ll probably never make it to the Met, but one of these days I plan to watch a performance at my local movie theater that often shows a performance on the big screen.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Since I have several books with scenes at opera houses, leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of LOVING BELLA, FINALLY A BRIDE or my upcoming release HIS MOST SUITABLE BRIDE.

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21 thoughts on “What I know about Opera”

  1. The opera and the Old West. That would be an interesting comblination but hard to picture since it’s not how I imagine the Old West to be.

  2. Renee, good luck on making your deadline! You know more about opera than I do. 🙂

    I once had an editor question my having an opera house in a western town. She insisted that no such thing existed in the Old West and I ended up having to send her photographs. Of course in some towns the word “opera” was used to cover a lot of sins. The word “theater” was looked upon as being low-class, so “opera houses” became all the rage.

    I keep thinking I should see an opera when it comes to the local theater. One day . . .

  3. Not my thing! I would have disappointed Richard Gere in Pretty Woman…

    although, on a side note, I have performed in two operas as a ‘super’ (a non singing part) That was fun!

  4. Renee, don’t know if you can use this but it’s fun to read:

    The gentleman must on no account leave the lady’s side during a performance. If it be a promenade concert or opera, she may be invited to promenade during the intermission. If she declines, the gentleman must remain in his seat. To go out between the acts to smoke or for refreshments is an unpardonable breach of etiquette, and scarcely less than an insult to the lady. No gentleman will ever be guilty of conduct so reprehensible.
    —Daphne Dale’s Our Manners and Social Customs, 1891

  5. Lori, there really were “opera” houses. Although, as Margaret said these theaters didn’t always showcase operas. There were a lot of traveling companies that went out west. The Barrymores were some of the first. I’ll have to write another post about the family. Very interesting!

  6. I love this, Renee. I love Making it to the Met…because it reminds me of Moonstruck, one of my favoritest movies ever. Sigh. I have been to many many “light” operas but never La Boheme or anything like that. Maybe someday…Sydney Opera House kinda calls out to me.

    Great post…good luck with the deadline. Try to enjoy yourself! xo

  7. I love the idea for your book! I would love to go and see a real opera! I think the gift given to those who can sing like that is amazing. I’ll pray for swiftness to complete your deadline! 🙂

  8. I love Petticoats & Pistols! I learn so many fun facts! I love the whole idea of musical theater, opera, not so much.

  9. I was blown away when I saw my first Broadway play in Junior High… I was amazed by the scenery, the costumes, the voices… after that I purchased a bunch of CDs of other Broadway plays and sang along… never actually saw an Opera though… a few things on TV, but not live.

  10. Connie J, I remember attending Phantom of the Opera and thinking, okay…bet that’s as close as most people want to get to a real opera.

  11. Hi Renee- Though I like opera, I’ve never been and I found your post enlightening! I think opera is very romantic, even the tragedies, but I’d rather see a light and fun one. I’ve only watched them on television. I bet being there, is all the more glorious.

  12. I must say I’ve never been to an opera but I would love to some day. Just listening to the music confuses me but I know if I was there in person watching I would understand what was going on. Must put that on my bucket list.

    Would love to win one of your books.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  13. I’ll be thinking of you as you write fast and furiously over the next two weeks, Renee! Thank you for sharing this lovely post about the opera.

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