By the 18th century, opera had developed into a fully-fledged art form, and one commanded by a new wave of prodigious composers. Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach – the iconic composers of the age transformed opera forever, cementing it as a high art form, and one of the most influential cultural movements in Europe.
If the likes of Handel, Mozart and Beethoven laid the foundations of opera, Verdi, Wagner, Mussorgsky and Janacek finished the building. These legendary 19th-century composers became national heroes for their contribution to the operatic form – transcending the fame of their predecessors, and taking the movement into new, bold directions.
By the 20th century, opera was transformed beyond recognition, both by the nationalist trends of the mid-19th century, and the audacious, innovative approach taken by the likes of Debussy and Strauss. Opera had become multi-faceted, not affixed to a single theme or musical genre, but flexible, adaptable and influenced by all musical and artistic styles and trends – from jazz to chamber to classical.