If you’re curious about the foundations of opera and game for some not-so-light reading, peruse Donald J. Grout’s A Short History of Opera. Not including the bibliography or extensive index, it is 728 pages long and required reading for any college voice major.
Opera wasn’t really known as “opera” until the 17th century, but Grout identifies the dramma per musica Dafne, with lyrics by Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621) and music by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) and Jacopo Corsi (1561-1602) as the first. Now – more than 400 years later – opera is not only of historical, musical, and cultural importance. It is a fascinating pastime. One can spend a lifetime learning about opera, comparing interpretations, and following the latest trends and opera superstars.