The main difference between Opera and the previous polyphonic vocal music is the unique melodic line, resulting from the merging of bass and singing. In polyphonic music different vocal lines work independently, overlapping one another and making a text often incomprehensible. Opera instead offered a new way for making words expressive and intelligible, by creating a single melodic line, supported by an accompaniment.
The libretto for Monteverdi’s Opera L’Incoronazione di Poppea was mainly drawn from the roman historians Tacitus. Its leading character is Poppea, the beautiful mistress who became wife to the Roman Emperor Nero, one of the most loved and, at the same time, hated emperor of the ancient Rome. Nero after the great fire of Rome, built on the Colle Oppio, the most lavish and vast villa of the ancient Rome, the Domus Aurea.
I Capuleti e i Montecchi is considered by many Bellini’s first masterpiece. It certainly recalls in many ways the great belcanto era, particularly in the way the roles are organized: the mezzo-soprano as male protagonist, the soprano as his lover, the tenor as the hero’s rival, bass and bariton respectively as the noble father and the tyrant. However, Capuleti is not strictly a belcanto opera because of its intimate and at times dramatic atmosphere. So much so that the many embellishments, counterbalanced by a well-defined melodic core, are not ornamentation anymore but start to take an expressive connotation.
La Sonnambula was a complete triumph, since its premiere. The newspapers wrote of “a melody that goes to the heart, an instrumentation always beautiful and well built” and reported of “endless applauses”. The story revolves around the character of Amina, the archetypal of the slandered innocent.