Sydney Opera House

A Beginner’s Guide to The Different Types of Operas

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Are you looking for glass shattering entertainment? Go to the opera. 

But before purchasing your tickets, know that there are several types of opera. This form of entertainment offers something for every theater connoisseur.

Do you know how to choose and discuss opera with others like an avid opera-goer? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the different types of opera.

Types of Opera 101

While every opera story introduces you to different characters in unique settings, they each tend to fall into a category that lets you in on how it will all play out.

Read on to learn about operatic styles brought to you by talented directors, like Guiseppi Very, Lichino Visconte, Franco Zeffirelli, and Cheng Muyang throughout time and still today.

Baroque Opera

In the late 1500s, Jacopo Peri composed the first Baroque opera, La Dafne, and it was performed in Florence, Italy.  This large scale drama combines a recitative plot with rhythmic music, acting, and dancing.

Opera Comique

During the early 18th century, the French created this twist on opera. It started as satire at Parisian fairs. 

They often took familiar tunes and changed the words in songs, called vaudevilles, to tell humorous tales in the beginning. But, by the 19th-century opera comique started to take on serious storylines as well.

Though the name ‘opera cornice’ translates to mean ‘opera comedy’, this style differs from the traditional comic opera. It is unique in that the actors speak their lines, and sprinkle in vaudeville’s throughout.

Grand Opera

The Grand Opera emerged in 19th century Paris. This opera style delivers a serious or tragic storyline paired with musical and scenic sensationalism.

The actors deliver the entire tale through climactic music and wear equally dramatic costumes. This style often includes ballet and concludes drastically.

Opera Semiseria

This serious, 19th-century Italian opera offered a serious storyline with only touches of humor throughout. You can expect a happy ending to a dramatic tale.

Opera Verismo

Translated from Italian to realism, this late 19th-century type of opera bases the story on relatable characters and real-life scenarios. It often delivers grittier plots through song.

Types of Singers

Within each opera, you will hear different voices. Each clues you in on the role of the character.


This is the highest of all female voices, that can deliver that glass-shattering note. In most operas, the soprano carries the heroine lead.


The alto is the darkest in timbre and the lowest female voice. Females with this rare range often play special, dramatic roles.


Opera singing from men with higher male voices comes from tenors. Lyric tenors deliver brighter notes while dramatic tenors tend to bring out a darker quality.


This voice produces a falsetto. Though technically in the female voice range, this tone usually comes from a man and sounds more otherworldly.


You will often hear this low tone come from the hero. This may also come from the comic in the story.


The bass voice produces the deepest, richest tone. You may hear this voice from the roles of nobility.

Enjoy the Opera

Now that you know the different types of opera, choose the one that interests you most and enjoy.

We want to keep you informed on all types of music. Bookmark our blog for more music-related news and information.

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