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The Opera Portal

Teatro alla Scala

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work (called an opera) which combines a text (called a libretto) and a musical score. Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.

Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's lost Dafne, produced in Florence around 1597), and was championed by Claudio Monteverdi with works such as L'Orfeo. It soon spread through the rest of Europe: Schütz in Germany, Lully in France, and Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. However, in the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe, except France, attracting foreign composers such as Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his "reform" operas in the 1760s. Today the most renowned figure of late 18th century opera is Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as The Magic Flute, a landmark in the German tradition.

The first third of the 19th century saw the highpoint of the bel canto style, with Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini all creating works that are still performed today. It also saw the advent of Grand Opera typified by the works of Meyerbeer. The mid to late 19th century is considered by some a golden age of opera, led by Wagner in Germany and Verdi in Italy. This 'golden age' developed through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Puccini and Strauss in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, parallel operatic traditions emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia and Bohemia. The 20th century saw many experiments with modern styles, such as atonality and serialism (Schoenberg and Berg), Neo-Classicism (Stravinsky), and Minimalism (Philip Glass and John Adams). With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso became known to audiences beyond the circle of opera fans. Operas were also performed on (and written for) radio and television.

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The Rhinemaidens are the three water-nymphs (Rheintöchter or Rhine daughters) who appear in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring Des Nibelungen. Their individual names are Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde, although they are generally considered as a single entity and act together accordingly. Of the 34 characters in the Ring cycle, they are the only ones who do not originate in the Scandinavian Eddas. Other legends and myths on which Wagner drew, notably the Nibelungenlied, include stories that involve water-sprites (nixies) or mermaids, and it is likely that he created his Rhinemaidens from these sources. The key concepts associated with them in the Ring operas—their flawed guardianship of the Rhine gold, and the condition (renunciation of love) through which the gold could be stolen from them and transformed into a means of world power—are wholly Wagner's own invention, and are the elements that initiate and propel the entire drama. The Rhinemaidens are the first and the last characters to be seen in the operas, appearing both in the opening scene of Das Rheingold, and in the final climactic spectacle of Götterdämmerung when they rise from the Rhine waters to reclaim the ring from Brünnhilde's ashes. The various musical themes associated with the Rhinemaidens are regarded as among the most lyrical in the whole Ring cycle, bringing to it rare instances of comparative relaxation and charm. It is reported that Wagner played their famous lament at the piano on the night before he died in 1883.
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Credit: Unknown artist. Restoration by Adam Cuerden
The stage setting for Part 1 of Maurice Ravel's opera, L'enfant et les sortilèges. The libretto by Colette tells the story of a rude child whose destructive behaviour is ultimately transformed when the objects and animals he has harmed come to life and reprimand him. Marie-Thérèse Gauley sang the role of the child at both the 1925 world premiere in Monte-Carlo and the opera's first performance at the Opéra-Comique in 1926.

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Dmitri Shostakovich (25 September 1906 – 9 August 1975) was a Russian composer of the Soviet period. He is best known for his satirical opera The Nose, (based on the story by Gogol) and his cycles of symphonies and string quartets, 15 of each. Since his death in 1975, reports about his true personal opinions about life in the USSR have been controversial. While he outwardly conformed with the state and was a public face for state-crafted propaganda, it is now widely known that he deeply disliked the Soviet regime —a view confirmed by his family, by private letters to Isaak Glikman, and the satirical cantata Anti-Formalist Rayok, which ridiculed the "anti-formalism" campaign in Soviet arts and was known only to his closest friends until after his death.
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You have taken far too much trouble over your opera. Here in England that is mere waste of time. What the English like is something that they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear. — George Frideric Handel, to Christoph Willibald Gluck
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Ah! fuyez, douce image (4:07)

From Jules Massenet's Manon sung by Aristodemo Giorgini in 1910.

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Opera history: Origins of opera • Italian opera • Opera in German • French opera • Opera in English • Polish opera • Russian opera • Hungarian opera • Armenian opera • Opera in Latin America

Opera genres: Azione teatrale · Ballad opera · Comédie en vaudevilles · Comédie mêlée d'ariettes · Dramma giocoso · Dramma per musica · Farsa · Festa teatrale · Género chico · Grand Opera · Music Drama · Opéra-ballet · Opera buffa · Opéra bouffe · Opéra bouffon · Opéra comique · Opéra féerie · Opera semiseria · Opera seria · Operetta · Pastorale héroïque · Romantische Oper · Savoy opera · Semi-opera · Singspiel · Spieloper · Tragédie en musique · Verismo · Zarzuela · Zeitoper

Opera terms: Aria · Aria di sorbetto · Arioso · Bel canto · Breeches role · Burletta · Cabaletta · Cadenza · Cantabile · Castrato · Cavatina · Chest voice · Claque · Coloratura · Comprimario · Convenienze · Coup de glotte · Da capo aria · Diva · Entr'acte · Fach · Falsetto · Fioritura · Gesamtkunstwerk · Head voice · Intermezzo · Kammersänger · Leitmotif · Legato · Libretto · Literaturoper · Mad scene · Maestro · Melodrama · Melodramma · Monodrama · Messa di voce · Opera house · Passaggio · Portamento · Prima donna · Prompter · Recitative · Regietheater · Répétiteur · Sitzprobe · Spinto · Sprechgesang · Squillo · Stagione · Surtitles · Tessitura · Timbre · Vibrato

Opera voices: Baritenor · Baritone · Bass · Bass-baritone · Coloratura soprano · Contralto · Countertenor · Dramatic soprano · Haute-contre · Lyric soprano · Mezzo-soprano · Soprano · Soubrette · Spinto soprano · Tenor · Tenore contraltino · Tenore di grazia

Opera lists: Opera topics • List of operas by composer • Important operas • Major opera composers • Opera librettists • Opera houses • Opera companies • Opera festivals • Opera directors • Operetta composers • Orphean operas • Zarzuela composers • Opera genres • Operas set in the Crusades • The Record of Singing • Bayreuth canon

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  • 1899 poster of Mme. M. Sissieretta Jones
    1899 poster of Mme. M. Sissieretta Jones
  • Adolphe-Joseph-Louis Alizard from Le Charivari
    Adolphe-Joseph-Louis Alizard from Le Charivari
  • Advertisement for the music score of La Bohème, 1895
    Advertisement for the music score of La Bohème, 1895
  • Aida poster colors fixed
    Aida poster colors fixed
  • Al quartiere latino, bozzetto di Adolf Hohenstein per La Bohème (1896) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON000086 - Restoration
    Al quartiere latino, bozzetto di Adolf Hohenstein per La Bohème (1896) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON000086 - Restoration
  • Albert Pierre-René Maignan - Jules Massenet - Ariane
    Albert Pierre-René Maignan - Jules Massenet - Ariane
  • Albert Reiss LOC ggbain-25651
    Albert Reiss LOC ggbain-25651
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    Alexandre Charles Lecocq - Giuseppe Verdi - La forza del destino
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    Alexandre Fragonard - Scène de L'orage (Barbier de Séville)
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    Alexandre Lacauchie - Gilbert Duprez as Gaston in Verdi's Jérusalem
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    Alfredo Edel - Jules Massenet - Le mage
  • Alice Neilsen's production of Victor Herbert's The Fortune Teller
    Alice Neilsen's production of Victor Herbert's The Fortune Teller
  • Amilcare Ponchielli (before 1886) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO000794 - Restoration
    Amilcare Ponchielli (before 1886) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO000794 - Restoration
  • Atelier Nadar - Fly scene from Offenbach's Orphée aux enfers with Jeanne Granier as Eurydice and Eugène Vauthier as Jupiter, 1887 revival, wide-angle shot
    Atelier Nadar - Fly scene from Offenbach's Orphée aux enfers with Jeanne Granier as Eurydice and Eugène Vauthier as Jupiter, 1887 revival, wide-angle shot
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    Atelier Nadar - Galli-Marié in Bizet's Carmen
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    Atelier Nadar - Jacques Isnardon, Vaudeville
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    Barbier, Jules, Nadar, Gallica
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    Boris Kustodiev - Portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin - Google Art Project
  • Carl Nielsen c. 1908 - Restoration
    Carl Nielsen c. 1908 - Restoration
  • Carloz Schwabe - Vincent d'Indy's Fervaal
    Carloz Schwabe - Vincent d'Indy's Fervaal
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    Cavalleria Rusticana - Alfio and Turiddu embrace
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    Cavalleria Rusticana - Santuzza and Turiddu outside the church
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    Charles Gounod (1890) by Nadar
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    Charles Motte - Rossini et Georges IV - la soirée de Brighton
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    Charles-Antoine Cambon - La Esmeralda, Act 3, Scene 2 set
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    Charles-Antoine Cambon - La Esmeralda, Act III, Scene 1 set design (Version 2)
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    Charles-Antoine Cambon - Set design for Act V, Scene 2 of Fromental Halévy's La reine de Chypre
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    Charles-Antoine Cambon - Set design for the première of Rossini's Robert Bruce, Act III, Scene 3
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    Cherubini, Luigi - Medea - Restoration
  • Christine Nilsson Nadar
    Christine Nilsson Nadar
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    Colette and Maurice Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, 1st scene
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    Colette and Maurice Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, 2nd scene
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    Collina presso Nagasaki, bozzetto di Alexandre Bailly, Marcel Jambon per Madama Butterfly (1906) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON000079 - Restoration
  • Composer Rossini G 1865 by Carjat - Restoration
    Composer Rossini G 1865 by Carjat - Restoration
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    Célestin Nanteuil - Jules Massenet - Don César de Bazan
  • Edmond Cavé 1844 Ingres - NY Met Museum of Art
    Edmond Cavé 1844 Ingres - NY Met Museum of Art
  • Ethel Smyth
    Ethel Smyth
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    Eugène Du Faget - Costume designs for Guillaume Tell - 1-3. Laure Cinti-Damoreau as Mathilde, Adolphe Nourrit as Arnold Melchtal, and Nicolas Levasseur as Walter Furst
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    Eugène Du Faget - Costume designs for Les Huguenots - 2. Julie Dorus-Gras as Marguerite, Adolphe Nourrit as Raoul, and Cornélie Falcon as Valentine
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    Eugène Grasset - Jules Massenet - Werther
  • Falstaff 3
    Falstaff 3
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    François-Joseph Bélanger - Set design for Gluck's Alceste
  • Fromental Halévy, L'Éclair score cover - Restoration
    Fromental Halévy, L'Éclair score cover - Restoration
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    Georges Rochegrosse - Henry Février - Henri Cain and Louis Payen after Victorien Sardou - Gismonda
  • Georges Rochegrosse - Poster for Gabriel Fauré's Pénélope (1913)
    Georges Rochegrosse - Poster for Gabriel Fauré's Pénélope (1913)
  • Georges Rochegrosse - Poster for the prèmiere of Claude Debussy and Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande
    Georges Rochegrosse - Poster for the prèmiere of Claude Debussy and Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande
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    Georges Rochegrosse's poster for Jules Massenet's Don Quichotte
  • Giacomo Puccini (1924) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO003293 - Restoration
    Giacomo Puccini (1924) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO003293 - Restoration
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    Gilbert Duprez & Rosine Stoltz in Donizetti's La Favorite
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    Giuseppe Barberis - Carlo Cornaglia - Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlo at La Scala
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    Giuseppe Verdi, Giovanna d'Arco, Vocal Score - Restoration
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    Giuseppe Verdi, La traviata title page - Restoration
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    Giuseppe Verdi, Lombardi alla prima crociata. Libretto, 1843 - Restoration
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    Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto, Vocal score illustration by Roberto Focosi - Restoration
  • Giuseppe Verdi, Simon Boccanegra first edition libretto for the 1881 revision of the opera - Restoration
    Giuseppe Verdi, Simon Boccanegra first edition libretto for the 1881 revision of the opera - Restoration
  • Giuseppe Verdi, Un Ballo in maschera, Vocal score frontispiece - restoration
    Giuseppe Verdi, Un Ballo in maschera, Vocal score frontispiece - restoration
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    Haydée, ou Le secret Act II - Philippe Chaperon
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    Hector Berlioz, Béatrice et Bénédict score title page - Restoration
  • Hector Berlioz, La Prise de Troie score cover - Restoration
    Hector Berlioz, La Prise de Troie score cover - Restoration
  • Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens vocal score cover - Restoration
    Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens vocal score cover - Restoration
  • Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens à Carthage vocal score cover - Restoration
    Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens à Carthage vocal score cover - Restoration
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    Henri C. R. Presseq - Camille Erlanger - Le juif polonais
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    Henry Atwell Thomas - Franz von Suppé - Fatinitza
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    Il signor Tambourossini - Delaroche
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    Illustrated London News - Giuseppe Verdi's Attila at Her Majesty's Theatre, London
  • Ivor Novello
    Ivor Novello
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    Jacques Offenbach - A. Jannin - Robinson Crusoé
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    Jacques Offenbach by Nadar
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    Jean de Paleologu - Jules Massenet - Sapho
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    Johann Strauss II by Fritz Luckhardt
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    John Phillip Sousa - De Wolf Hopper - El Capitan1
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    Joseph Albert - Ludwig und Malwine Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Tristan und Isolde, 1865f
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    Jules Massenet - Le Cid 2e Acte, 3e Tableau - L'Illustration
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    Jules Massenet - Le Cid 3e Acte, 6e Tableau - L'Illustration
  • Jules Massenet by Eugène Pirou
    Jules Massenet by Eugène Pirou
  • La Juive Act 1 set 1835 - Restoration
    La Juive Act 1 set 1835 - Restoration
  • Le comte Ory - Dubois & chez Martinet - Final scene
    Le comte Ory - Dubois & chez Martinet - Final scene
  • Louis Guéymard as Robert le Diable by Gustave Courbet - The Metropolitan Museum of Art 436015 (cropped)
    Louis Guéymard as Robert le Diable by Gustave Courbet - The Metropolitan Museum of Art 436015 (cropped)
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    Lucy Arbell as Queen Amahelli in Massenet's Bacchus, wide view
  • Lucy Arbell in Massenet's Thérèse
    Lucy Arbell in Massenet's Thérèse
  • Lucy Arbell photographed by Paul Nadar
    Lucy Arbell photographed by Paul Nadar
  • Luigi Verardi after Dominico Ferri - Gaetano Donizetti - Carrefour de St Jean et Paul. Dans l'Opéra Marino Faliero
    Luigi Verardi after Dominico Ferri - Gaetano Donizetti - Carrefour de St Jean et Paul. Dans l'Opéra Marino Faliero
  • Luigi Verardi after Dominico Ferri - Vincenzo Bellini - Théatre Royal Italien. Salle d'armes dans l'Opéra I Puritani
    Luigi Verardi after Dominico Ferri - Vincenzo Bellini - Théatre Royal Italien. Salle d'armes dans l'Opéra I Puritani
  • M. Browne - Herbert Railton - Sydney Grundy - Arthur Sullivan - Haddon Hall
    M. Browne - Herbert Railton - Sydney Grundy - Arthur Sullivan - Haddon Hall
  • Mademoiselle Maupin de l'Opéra (Julie d'Aubigny)
    Mademoiselle Maupin de l'Opéra (Julie d'Aubigny)
  • Mademoiselle Priola de l'Opéra Comique, rôle de Javotte dans "Le Roi l'a dit" de Delibes
    Mademoiselle Priola de l'Opéra Comique, rôle de Javotte dans "Le Roi l'a dit" de Delibes
  • Marcel Jambon - Giuseppe Verdi - Otello Act I set design model
    Marcel Jambon - Giuseppe Verdi - Otello Act I set design model
  • Maria Carrara Verdi, Barberina Strepponi, Giuseppe Verdi, Giuditta Ricordi, Teresa Stolz, Umberto Campanari, Giulio Ricordi, Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1900) - Archivio storico Ricordi FOTO003107 - Restoration
    Maria Carrara Verdi, Barberina Strepponi, Giuseppe Verdi, Giuditta Ricordi, Teresa Stolz, Umberto Campanari, Giulio Ricordi, Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1900) - Archivio storico Ricordi FOTO003107 - Restoration
  • Marian Anderson
    Marian Anderson
  • Maritana - Nov 22 1845 Illustrated London News
    Maritana - Nov 22 1845 Illustrated London News
  • Max Brückner - Otto Henning - Richard Wagner - Final scene of Götterdämmerung
    Max Brückner - Otto Henning - Richard Wagner - Final scene of Götterdämmerung
  • Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots - Décor Acte II
    Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots - Décor Acte II
  • Napoli, strada Acquaquilia, bozzetto di Riccardo Salvadori per A Basso Porto (1894) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON002556
    Napoli, strada Acquaquilia, bozzetto di Riccardo Salvadori per A Basso Porto (1894) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON002556
  • Nelly Martyl by Jean Reutlinger (Image 10715)
    Nelly Martyl by Jean Reutlinger (Image 10715)
  • Paul Maurou - Poster for Edmond Audran's Gillette de Narbonne
    Paul Maurou - Poster for Edmond Audran's Gillette de Narbonne
  • Philippe Chaperon - Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots Act I (1896)
    Philippe Chaperon - Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots Act I (1896)
  • Philippe Chaperon - Rigoletto
    Philippe Chaperon - Rigoletto
  • Pierre Gaveaux by Edmé Quenedey (1821)
    Pierre Gaveaux by Edmé Quenedey (1821)
  • Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, Giulietta act
    Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, Giulietta act
  • Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, Olympia act
    Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, Olympia act
  • Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, prologue
    Pierre-Auguste Lamy (?) - Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, prologue
  • Pierre-Luc-Charles Cicéri - Eugène Cicéri - Philippe Benoist - Adolphe Jean Baptiste Bayot - Décorations de théâtre, Robert le diable, 3e act
    Pierre-Luc-Charles Cicéri - Eugène Cicéri - Philippe Benoist - Adolphe Jean Baptiste Bayot - Décorations de théâtre, Robert le diable, 3e act
  • PikiWiki Israel 13773 AIDA AT MASADA 2011
    PikiWiki Israel 13773 AIDA AT MASADA 2011
  • Poster for Jules Massenet's La Navarraise with Emma Calvé in the rôle of Anita
    Poster for Jules Massenet's La Navarraise with Emma Calvé in the rôle of Anita
  • Poster for Le pardon de Ploërmel 1859
    Poster for Le pardon de Ploërmel 1859
  • Prudent-Louis Leray - Poster for the première of Georges Bizet's Carmen
    Prudent-Louis Leray - Poster for the première of Georges Bizet's Carmen
  • Robert Jacob Hamerton - Poster for F. C. Burnand and Arthur Sullivan's The Contrabandista
    Robert Jacob Hamerton - Poster for F. C. Burnand and Arthur Sullivan's The Contrabandista
  • Rosa Raisa (1917) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO002701 - Restoration
    Rosa Raisa (1917) - Archivio Storico Ricordi FOTO002701 - Restoration
  • Set design by Philippe Chaperon for Act1 sc2 of Aida by Verdi 1871 Cairo - Gallica - Restored
    Set design by Philippe Chaperon for Act1 sc2 of Aida by Verdi 1871 Cairo - Gallica - Restored
  • Set design by Philippe Chaperon for Act4 sc2 of Aida by Verdi 1880 Paris
    Set design by Philippe Chaperon for Act4 sc2 of Aida by Verdi 1880 Paris
  • Strauss, Richard - Ariadne auf Naxos - Restoration
    Strauss, Richard - Ariadne auf Naxos - Restoration
  • Tavola 5, bozzetto di Gebrüder Brückner per Tannhäuser (s.d.) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON011721 - Restoration, crop
    Tavola 5, bozzetto di Gebrüder Brückner per Tannhäuser (s.d.) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON011721 - Restoration, crop
  • Teatro Municipal de São Paulo 8
    Teatro Municipal de São Paulo 8
  • The Mikado Chappell Vocal Score cover (c.1895)
    The Mikado Chappell Vocal Score cover (c.1895)
  • Thespis - Illustrated London News Jan 6 1872
    Thespis - Illustrated London News Jan 6 1872
  • Trial by Jury - Chaos in the Courtroom
    Trial by Jury - Chaos in the Courtroom
  • Utopia Limited Poster
    Utopia Limited Poster
  • Vasta spianata presso Courtray, bozzetto di Giuseppe Palanti per Edgar (s.d.) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON000128 B
    Vasta spianata presso Courtray, bozzetto di Giuseppe Palanti per Edgar (s.d.) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON000128 B
  • Verdi conducting Aida in Paris 1880 - Gallica - Restoration
    Verdi conducting Aida in Paris 1880 - Gallica - Restoration
  • Wally (soprano), figurino di Adolf Hohenstein per La Wally (1892) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON004639 - Restoration
    Wally (soprano), figurino di Adolf Hohenstein per La Wally (1892) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON004639 - Restoration
  • Émile Bertrand - Jules Massenet - Cendrillon poster
    Émile Bertrand - Jules Massenet - Cendrillon poster

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