Not your usual opera guide, this work forgoes the usual synopses of plots, biographical particulars, and anecdotes to concentrate instead on fundamental elements of opera examining it from many angles. With a discussion of such topics as those who created it--the musicians, writers, and artists--the outcome of their work, commissioners and producers, why opera developed as it did, why particular styles became popular, when operas were given and in what environment or political climate, the reaction of audiences, and the span of success. Opera is viewed, as much as possible, from a perspective of what audiences at the time would have expected and enjoyed. All aspects of opera are explained in language appropriate for those with varying levels of knowledge about the art form. Each chapter features a particularly innovative period of operatic history and each focuses on representative and successful works of that era and concludes with a short selection of other works of the same period and style for further listening or viewing. Plates of little-known engravings--seven of Baroque stage productions--and a glossary, bibliography, and index round out the work.