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CURIOSITIES OF THE OPERA. MODERN COMPOSERS, AND CONCLUSION.
Our series of sketches now draws towards its close. The rise of the many-voiced harmony in Italy, France, Germany, England, and the Netherlands, the contrapuntal works of Palestrina, Dufay, De Lattre, etc., come rather under the head of the history and science of music, than within the scope of a work which only endeavors to collect the curiosities of the art, and things not generally known. But in the rise and progress of the opera, we find some interesting facts which belong to our subject, and which bring our chain of sketches down to the music of our own times.
The opera was the legitimate offspring of the Miracle plays of the Middle ages, which were only sacred operas or oratorios, wherein some events in the life of a holy personage were represented with songs and acting. The first opera (being exactly like a " mystery play," except that the subject was a secular one) was " Orpheus," by Angelo Poliziano, and was performed in Rome in 1480. The libretto was by Cardinal Riario (nephew of Pope Sixtus iv.)