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Opera is a fine art form where singers and musicians perform a drama by combining a musical score with text (called a libretto.) Some describe opera as musical theatre. Opera tells a story; itís a blending of the arts, music and drama, beautiful costumes, orchestral music and pageantry. Operas are generally performed in an opera house, with an orchestra, or smaller musical ensemble. The great opera singers needed enough volume with their voice to compete with the overwhelming volume of the orchestra. Centuries ago, before electronic devices or microphones that could amplify them, operatic singers needed special techniques to make sure the people in the end rows of the theatre could hear them as well as those in the front rows. Therefore a singing technique was developed to make sure they could stand out, without the musicians having to compromise in volume.

There have been many different trends in opera over the years. One of the more common trends in the 20th century was the use of smaller orchestras as a cost-cutting measure. Sadly, the grand Romantic-era orchestras with huge string sections, several harps and horns, and multiple percussion instruments were no longer feasible. Government and private patronage of the arts begane to decrease throughout the 20th century. As a result, new works were often commissioned and performed with smaller budgets, very often resulting in chamber-sized works, and short, one-act operas.

Another trend to emerge in the 20th century is opera houses and production companies that broadcast their performances to local cinemas throughout the United States and in many other countries. As an example: The Metropolitan Opera, which first opened in 1883, began high-definition television transmission of its performances in 2006. Many of itsí performances are also shown live in movie theaters around the world.


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