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American opera had its’ beginnings in the 1700s. Opera houses in the United States date to the 1800s in cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. However, as the popularity of Broadway evolved in New York, some of America’s opera composers began to incorporate elements of musicals into their works, thus blurring the lines. Brothers George and Ira Gershwin were successful Broadway composers, but their best-known work, “Porgy and Bess” is one of the most often performed American operas to date. Scott Joplin is another well-known American composer of jazz and ragtime music, who also wrote opera.

Other prolific American opera composers of the 20th century include Gian Carlo Menotti and Kurt Weill. Menotti’s opera, “The Old Maid and the Theif” was the first work written especially for radio, and his Christmas classic “Ahmal and the Night Visitors” premiered on television in 1951. Kurt Weill, a German-born immigrant, was one of America’s most versatile composers and had great success on Broadway and in Europe. His best known opera is The Threepenny Opera, on which he collaborated with Bertold Brecht.

Opera grew in America during the 1960s and 1970s, with more and more opera houses opening in cities across the states. Fans no longer needed to travel to the bigger cities of New York or San Francisco to enjoy a performance. Today, American operas depict a variety of subjects, including many that come from popular works in literature.


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