Opera before Opera

To our modern understanding, opera is opera. What was it to those first listening?

Carlo Magni, an Italian nobleman, was interested in attending an early opera in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.“It should be the most unusual”, Magni wrote. “[A]ll the actors are to sing their parts…No doubt I will be driven to attend out of sheer curiosity, unless I am prevented from getting in by lack of space…”

How else could opera be explained then by an odd combination of what Magni already knew of music and theater? It would be curious to see how opera become “opera” in the full sense of the word: when its reception as a sung play transferred into an independent art in of itself.

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