Baroque Period

1600 – 1750

The musical period that saw an expansion in harmonic complexity and an emphasis on contrast. Opera saw an emphasis in the aria as opposed to the recitative. Instrumental music saw the rise in sonata form, the suite and the concerto grosso. A few noted composers of this time period are Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach.



Orpheus and Eurydice

Christoph Willibald Gluck – 1762


Giulio Cesare

George Friedrich Handel – 1724

Classical Period


A time period of music that is exemplified by its emphasis on formal order, clarity and balance. The symphony saw its creation and development, as did opera seria (serious opera).


Don Giovanni

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – 1786




Ludwig van Beethoven – 1814


Bel Canto School

1800 – 1850

Bel Canto is the 19th century Italian opera style with the emphasis on the beauty of the human voice to tell its stories. Literally “beautiful singing,” this period showcases elaborate vocal ornamentation, embellishment and trills (coloratura) that require extreme agility and pitch control.



Bellini – 1831


La traviata

Verdi – 1853

Romantic Period


The Romantic movement synthesized themes of individualism and self-expression across literature, art and music. In Romantic opera, this new emphasis on emotional revelation found its voice in more expressive harmony, techniques such as leitmotiv, and a closer approach to equality between vocal and instrumental elements.


La boheme

Puccini – 1896




Bizet – 1875

Modern Era

1900 – Present

Modern opera explores contemporary themes using techniques drawn from twentieth-century musical narrative art forms. From electric instruments and atonality, to jazz and minimalism, this period has seen the definition of opera expand.


Nixon in China

John Adams – 1987



Porgy and Bess

George Gershwin – 1935


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