Sharjah24 – AFP: Opera originated in Italy, it was sung by Italian patriots and some of the world's greatest arias came from the peninsula. Now Rome wants credit where credit is due.
Home to Scarlatti and Verdi, Italy has put in a bid for UNESCO -- the UN's cultural agency -- to recognise the art of Italian opera singing on its list of intangible global heritage. A decision is due at the end of the year.
"Opera was born in Italy," said Stephane Lissner, the French director of the San Carlo theatre in Naples, which opened in 1737 and claims to be the oldest opera house in the world.
After various experiments with musical theatre in the 16th century, opera came into being around 1600 in Florence, with the founding of an academy promoting an innovative combination of sung text and music.
The first great composer of opera is considered to be Italy's Claudio Monteverdi, who lived from 1567 to 1643 -- and that was just the start.
But why should Italian opera be a more legitimate entrant into UNESCO's hall of fame than its French or German counterparts?
For Lissner, who also led the Scala in Milan and the Paris opera before taking the helm in Naples in 2020, there is no debate.
In his dressing room backstage, Italian baritone Gabriele Viviani practices his vocal exercises before taking to the stage in Puccini's Tosca.
A few minutes later, the audience spills into the foyer, chatting before taking their seats for the start of the performance.
Even today, there are around 60 opera houses across Italy -- a global record -- while opera singers such as 20th-century tenor Luciano Pavarotti have been venerated as major stars.