Viking Oceans: The Origins of Opera


– [Narrator] What began with
improvisation centuries ago, we now know as the most extravagant, spell-binding art form
the world has ever known. Opera. (dramatic orchestral music) (operatic singing) Opera’s passion, intensity, and scale have mesmerized audiences for centuries. Expressing our triumphs and
tragedies, opera endures. Opera houses were adopted by the wealthy in the early day, and quickly became the playground for aristocrats. (operatic singing) But it was opera’s appeal to the emotions that helped the art form flourish. And today, opera remains
as fascinating, romantic, and enticing, as ever. (audience applause) – (speaking Italian) – [Translator] At the end of
the middle ages in Florence, music was prevalent in religious settings, but then people in the theater
arts began to experiment, adding music and drama during intermezzo to hold the audiences between plays. This was the first step
in the birth of opera, which made Italian music
famous around the world. – (speaking Italian) – [Narrator] Though
theaters laid the groundwork for this new form of performance art, the first documented opera
was actually produced in an apartment complex. It’s courtyard serving as an
impromptu rehearsal stage. – In 1573, there was this group of musicians, some of them very talented, and these musicians were patronized by the owner of the building. The Count Giovanni de’ Bardi. – And he was the owner of this building we’re standing in right now. – Exactly. de’ Bardi were a very wealthy family from Florence. And these musicians
were very experimental. They wanted to try new things, and eventually they created opera. The first opera officially
was created in 1600. The words were written
by Ottavio Rinuccini, and the music by Jacopo Peri. The title was Euridice, based on the myth of Orpheus, ancient Greek mythology. Then, two years later, another musician rival with Jacopo Peri, Giulio Caccini, made his version of Euridice. These two beautiful
creations are considered the first operas. – And they were created
right here in Florence. – Exactly. Right inside this building. – Do you think they
might have been singing here in this courtyard? – Yes. – Good acoustics? – Why not? With acoustics,
would you like to try? – Yes. – Let’s try. (singing opera) What you think? (clapping) (orchestral music) – [Narrator] Opera quickly
spread through Italy with major cities soon
competing for the honor of most extravagant performance hall. (dramatic orchestral music) (operatic singing) – [Narrator] Towns and villages built two. Squeezing in smaller venues,
where it was possible to walk from the stage straight
out into the street behind. Many of these small
theaters are still active. More than 500 in fact,
scattered throughout the Italian countryside. (operatic singing) – It’s true. Every village
there is a theater, traditional theater build between the 18th century and 19th century. Certain time in this country they put money each family to build his
own theater, you know? In the village. – Contributed to the culture– – Contributed to the
culture, to the animated, to the life of the small village. (operatic singing) – [Narrator] In the 18th
century, classic Italian opera gave way to opera seria,
the bel canto style, and the creativity of Mozart. While 19th century operas were dominated by Wagner and Verdi, that is, until the rise of the realistic verismo style by Giacomo Puccini. – (speaking Italian) – [Translator] The Puccini’s
were a dynasty of musicians. They were the head musical directors for Lucca’s Cathedral of San Martino for several generations. But Giacomo was drawn to a different path and his career delivered some
of opera’s most loved works: Tosca, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly. His creations still
hold two of the top five spots in opera popularity. – [Narrator] Opera
continues to evolve and it remains immensely popular, with more than twenty-six thousand performances globally in the past year alone. The draw, perhaps, is that
regardless of language, opera speaks directly to the
souls of all who witness them. (operatic singing) – It’s one of the most
ancient kind of work. It is very, very fascinating. Universal stories of love, stories about big fame, you know? As in the Greek tragedy it’s
kind of, think like that. – I know, at least from my experience, the opera can move me to tears. I can watch a beautiful ballet and I can appreciate the aesthetic, but an opera can actually make me cry. And that’s a big difference for me. – The opera is a total work,
and it’s very powerful work. You see on stage 200 people. So you have at least 60,
70 people in the orchestra another 50, 60 in the choir. You have technicians, you
have singers, you have extras. All in one, so it’s so powerful. (dramatic operatic singing) (dramatic orchestral music) – [Narrator] Opera is an
engaging, utterly unique art form that will truly
delight your senses. And it’s a cultural treasure
you really shouldn’t miss when you are in Italy. (audience applause)

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