Opera was born in Italy, and so too were the main exponents of bel canto such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini: Handel, one of the early protagonists, was German by birth but Italian by musical training. Theatres throughout Italy, in even the smallest cities, stage opera after opera, particularly by Verdi and Puccini, with a few concessions to Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini. However, why is it that there is now so little baroque and 17th-century opera performed?

From the end of the 19th to the early 20th centuries in Italy verismo gained the upper hand. This form of opera was centred on the force of the drama and on the intense emotions this generated, and so required singing that was excited, tense and vibrating and a vocal formulation that was closer to the spoken word.