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Italy is known for being the birthplace of opera. Works and pieces composed by Italian composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, are amongst the most famous operas ever written. Famous Italian opera singers include Enrico Caruso, Alessandro Bonci, the late Luciano Pavarotti, and Andrea Bocelli, to name a few.

The Romantic period (1820-1900) was a “golden age” for opera in Italy. It was led and dominated by Giuseppe Verdi whose works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world. Romantic opera placed emphasis on the imagination and the emotions.

Before Verdi, Gioacchio Rossini had introduced a new style of opera featuring complex and ornate melodic lines, which vocalists could ornament at will. One of his notable operas was The Barber of Seville in 1816. Later, Verdi introduced a new realism and intensity of expression to the form.  His operas, like “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata,” combined rhythmic vitality with superbly crafted melodies.

Verdi transformed the whole nature of operatic writing. His first great successful opera, Nabucco (1842), which was based on the ancient Jews’ exile from their homeland, caught the public fancy because of the driving vigor of its music and its great choruses. Va, pensiero, one of the chorus renditions, was interpreted and gave meaning to the struggle for Italian independence and to unify Italy.

After Nabucco, Verdi based his operas on patriotic and romantic themes. Verdi experimented with musical and dramatic forms, attempting to discover things which only opera could do. In 1877, he created Otello, which is described by critics as the finest of Italian romantic operas.

Opera became a marriage of the arts, a musical drama full of glorious song, costume, orchestral music and pageantry; sometimes, without the aid of a plausible story. From its conception it was the medium through which tales and myths were revisited, history was retold and imagination was stimulated.

It was during the Romantic period of opera that Mary Inez Colosi-Bongiovanni had her opera career. It was said he performed in opera houses in Rome. I’m not sure at what age she began singing, but her main career years were likely during the 1870s and possibly beyond.

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