1607 The first opera ever written was Dafne by Italian composers Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) and Jacopo Corsi (1561-1602), which debuted at Corsi's palazzo in 1598. Almost a decade later, L'Orfeo, composed by Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), was written for the Carnival in Mantua where it premiered at the Ducal Palace in 1607. Monteverdi's work blends recitative (musical declamation used in the narrative and dialogue of an opera), songs, and instrumental sequences, and it is the earliest surviving opera still performed today.
Contemporary accounts report that Monteverdi's opera made his audience weep because of his ability to express drama and emotion through music, which remains a signature of the form. Through music and song, L'Orfeo retells the story of Orpheus's descent into Hades to find his dead wife, Eurydice. A castrato—a man whose voice fell in the same range of sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, and contraltos because of castration at puberty—sang the lead. The practice of castration on performers would last for 200 years.
At the time, performances were restricted to the homes and palaces of the aristocracy and royalty. and both ballet and opera trace their origins to these exclusive performances. It took until 1637, when Monteverdi was 70, for the first public opera house to open in Venice, thus broadening opera's reach.