19th Century Italian Opera

Early Romantic opera in Italy retained a series of recitatives, arias, duets, and choruses, with little dramatic continuity.  Later in the century, mainly under the influence of Verdi, it showed greater dramatic unity, better-developed characters, and more credible plots.  These plots were often quasidramatic, but there was a general improvement in quality.  The recitative and aria were still the principal closed forms, with melody in the popular bel canto style and an emphasis on virtuosity.  There was also greater balance among voices and instruments, but the orchestra still served as accompaniment.

Another development in Italian Romantic opera was the style embraced by Leoncavallo, Mascagni, and Puccini, know as "verismo," or realism.  Realism was not limited to music.  It was also shown in the choice of libretti that presented subjects from everyday life and depicted people in familiar situations.

(see Opera)