Opera has remained the musical form most closely linked with Italian identity and Italian music. This was most obvious in the 19th century through the works of Giuseppe Verdi, an icon of Italian culture.
For many centuries, different musical influences came to Italy, so that by the end of the XVI century melodrama was born, the most complete musical expression that has occurred in Italy.
Italian musical theatre had its beginnings in the XVII century at the Medici court in Florence, when at the Pitti Palace the work of Jacopo Peri, Euridice, was represented. The play was staged for the marriage of Maria de Medicis to Henri IV of France.
The operatic theatre began in Venice before the year 1637. To overcome the high cost of production, was necessary present the same show several times for the public, it soon became fashionable to go to the theater; above all, opera came into its own as entertainment at Carnival time.
Composers and librettists of the time based their themes in classical mythology, but also were inspired by the poems of chivalry by Ariosto and Tasso as well as erotic stories for the worlds of Virgil and Homer. In 1893 was composed "Everything in life is a farce", a maxim from Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi, for a libretto by Arrigo Boito. In the world of opera itself everything is exaggerated. On the other hand lyrical opera has-been defined as being a literary genre.
The opera became the form of expression of those feelings of society, as a clear example we have the play Don Carlos by Verdi in which it expresses the discontent produced by the unification of Italy.
We must highlight the temperament of the woman who shines to perfection in the female characters in the opera. One of the most dramatic female figures is portrayed in Lucia of Lammermuir by Donizetti. In the Italian opera highlight real women such as Violetta, Tosca, Santuzza, Amelia in The Masked Ball, and Gilda in Rigoletto.
In Italy there are numerous opera theatres and almost always these have the own architecture of the XVIII and XIX centuries, with twelve grand theatres of fame, including the world-famous La Scala in Milan, the Petruzzelli of Bari and The Fenice Theatre of Venice. Riccardo Muti is one great opera director who has in recent times perfected some highly original and moving interpretations particularly for the operas of Verdi.
Among the opera singers of the highest reputation highlights names such Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni and Renata Scotto and on the current international scene are emerging new names such as Barbara Frittoli, Sonia Ganassi and Michele Pertusi.