Man's instinct for drama expressed by music takes many forms. The tragedies and comedies of the Greeks, the Buffalo dances of American Indian Blackfoots, the Ramayana of India, miracle plays, mysteries, masques, and the Christian Mass itself is where opera is the culmination of a particular form of Western expression; today it is in a constant state of evolution.
Modern opera may have begun in 1600, the date of Peri's Euridice-the first surviving example of the form (his Dafne, 1597, has been lost). At the end of the sixteenth century, a group of aristocratic intelligentsia, known collectively to musical history as "Camerata" were meeting in Florence, Italy...With a restorative aim, the members laid down that the text must at all times be understood. The words must be sung with a scrupulously correct and natural declamation and that above all the music, must interpret the spirit of the whole, not to concentrate on the details of incidents and words or syllables.
Taking the Greeks as their authorities, the composers and poets concerned were anxious to end the distortion of the words which was inevitable in polyphonic music; they were responsible for putting monody (solo song) to form something like the opera we know today (The Definitive Kobbé's Opera Book, 1987).
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