Beginning in 2006, a number of major opera houses began to present live high-definition video transmissions of their performances in cinemas all over the world.Since 2009, complete performances can be downloaded and are live streamed.With the rise of recording technology, singers such as Enrico Caruso and Maria Callas became known to much wider audiences that went beyond the circle of opera fans.Since the invention of radio and television, operas were also performed on (and written for) these mediums.The mid-to-late 19th century was a "golden age" of opera, led and dominated by Giuseppe Verdi in Italy and Richard Wagner in Germany.The popularity of opera continued through the verismo era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss in the early 20th century.
The Italian word opera means "work", both in the sense of the labour done and the result produced.
It started in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri's mostly lost Dafne, produced in Florence in 1598) and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Heinrich Schütz in Germany, Jean-Baptiste Lully in France, and Henry Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century.
In the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe (except France), attracting foreign composers such as George Frideric Handel.
Vocal duets, trios and other ensembles often occur, and choruses are used to comment on the action.
In some forms of opera, such as singspiel, opéra comique, operetta, and semi-opera, the recitative is mostly replaced by spoken dialogue.