For centuries, Italian opera was the standard form, and many operas written by Mozart, for example, are in Italian.
The form of the opera consists of several sung pieces, (aria?s), separated by recitation over accompaniment Recitation in opera is a form of singing intermediate between ordinary melodic singing and formal spoken recitation.
Early operas consisted of recitative accompanied only by harpsichord and arias accompianed by full orchestra. Later operas involved the full orchestra throughout the opera to provide a smoother transition between parts.
This changed reached a climax when Richard Wagner introduced the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerke or the Total Work of Art, where the action is continued, with no stops and repetitions, and the music is a continuous flux, not a few pieces separated by recitatives. Wagner also introduced leitmotif, where each character or idea in the story is represented by a musical line that appears whenever they appear or are mentioned.
The themes of the opera at the beginning were mythological or historical, usually tragic and moral. Later, composers introduced more everyday themes.
Great opera composers