Opera seria (opera) (It: ‘serious opera’)
- Marita P. McClymonds
- and Daniel Heartz
(It: ‘serious opera’)
A term used to signify Italian opera on a heroic or tragic subject during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was rarely used at the time. It can sometimes be found on manuscript scores, particularly in the last quarter of the 18th century, but ‘dramma per musica’ is the usual genre description on most 18th-century and many early 19th-century printed librettos. ‘Opera seria’ begins to appear on librettos late in the century, but infrequently, for example for Prati’s Armida abbandonata (1785, Munich). Only as serious opera of this period came to be viewed historically was the term ‘opera seria’ applied exclusively to it (particularly to that part of it in which the librettos of Metastasio dominated the stage). So completely had the literary, dramatic and musical principles of Metastasian opera been rejected, forgotten or misunderstood by that time, the late 19th century, that the distinguishing attributes tended to be set forth in a negative way: ...