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For 400 years, opera has illuminated the innermost recesses of human existence. Once the sport of kings and princes, it now provides the soundtrack of our lives, its best-loved tunes heard on football terraces, in films and advertisements, and even at the opera house. From Monteverdi’s Orfeo to Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus, by way of Handel and Mozart, Verdi and Wagner, Puccini and Stravinsky, Discover Opera surveys the entire history of this extravagant yet intimate art form. Along the way we encounter duelling composers, superstar castratos, abandoned heroines driven mad by passion and swashbuckling heroes striving for elusive high notes. There is love, there is murder, there are shepherds and nymphs, gypsies and queens, an earthquake and a poisonous snake. All play their part in the history of opera, the art form that brings together all the arts in a lavish combination of emotion and spectacle. Includes 2½ hours of music by Monteverdi, Purcell, Gluck, Mozart, Wagner, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Debussy, Berg, Britten, Birtwistle, Adams and others. Audio samples are contained in the text: just tap to listen while you read.