What is opera and how does it work? How has this dramatic form developed and what is its relevance in the modern world? Perfect for music students and opera-goers, this introductory guide addresses these questions and many more, exploring opera as a complete theatrical experience. Organised chronologically and avoiding technical musical terminology, the book clearly demonstrates how opera reflected and reacted to changes in the world around it. A special feature of the volume is the inclusion of illustrative tables throughout. These provide detailed, easy to follow analysis of arias, scenes and acts; visual guides to historical movements; and chronologies relating to genres and individual composers' works. Overall, the book fosters an understanding of opera as a living form as it encounters and uses material from an ever expanding repertoire in time, place and culture.