House opera has become quite popular since its inception in the late 16th century. It consists mainly of a staged act that is dramatized through use of song. It is usually an elaborate performance that entails embellished costumes, make up and ingenious props. Initially, a house opera was performed for the dignified in society. These performances were mostly held in residences and private rooms. The beginning of the 17th Century saw the first opera house in Venice, The Teatro San Cassiano, which was open to the public. This was the initiation of the spread of house opera.
House opera takes on different presentation styles depending on what part of the world it is being performed. There is Italian, Russian, German, English, French, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, and Spanish house opera. During the 1900’s, countless opera performances took place. However, a number of opera songs stood out and to this day, they are some of the most revered house opera performances. These include;
Tosca, composed by Giacomo Puccini in 1900 – This house opera consisted of a number of outstanding opera songs. Giacomo Puccini is renowned for his amazing compositions throughout Italian opera. The opera had songs, E lucevan le stelle, Recondita armonia and Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore. Madame Butterfly was another of Giacomo Puccini’s compositions in 1904. He had ‘Un bel di’ in Madame Butterfly. However, this house opera almost become one to tarnish his famous compositions due to claims of reproduction. In 1910 he did La fanciulla del West, a composition he dubs his best work. 1918 saw the beginning of II trittico; II tabarro followed by Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica.
Louise composed by Gustave Charpentier in 1900 – A French house opera that was trying to match the Italian works Verismo.
Jenůfa, composed by Leoš Janáček in 1904 – This Czech opera depicting a peasant lifestyle turned out to be the very first of Jenůfa’s successful opera creations. The Cunning Little Vixen is another great Czech composition by Janáček in 1924. It is one of his most popular house opera compositions.
Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten composed by Richard Strauss in 1905, 1909, 1911, 1916 and 1919 respectively – A few of his many opera compositions, Strauss had a string of successes in house opera. He collaborated with Hugo Von Hofmannsthal for many years and worked on a number of libretto compositions.
Bluebeard’s Castle composed by Béla Bartók in 1918 – This was Béla Bartók only opera work but it is highly recognized.
Tips and comments
The love for three oranges composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1921 – This house opera was based on a comedy. One of his most amazing works, The Fiery Angel, was performed a little too late. He did not get to see it.
The Rakes progress composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1951 – The music in this opera is congruent to that of Mozart.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten in 1960 – This is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s great works. Britten however incorporated his own libretto version that had a counter-tenor male in the lead performance. This is unlike any other performances in house opera.
There are many more house opera songs from the 1900s though these stand out. These composers were great and their work is still appreciated to date.