What was the first opera?

In 1598, Italian composer Jacopo Peri had the idea of putting on a musical play in which every single line was sung and the orchestra played throughout.

What was the first opera? © Wikimedia Commons

The words were written by Ottavio Rinuccini, inspired by the story of Daphne and Apollo, and the work was named La Dafne. Peri called the show an ‘opera’, meaning simply ‘piece of work’. The idea caught on and, soon, operas were performed across Italy and, from around 1650, Europe.


This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Rupert Matthews.