Ever wonder what was the first production to be classified an opera? Or who it was by? What was Mozart’s first opera and when was Wagner’s first opera performed? Check out the table below for a timeline of some of the major landmarks in the history of the artform. 

If viewing this on a tablet or phone the table might not display at its best. Click here to access a colour PDF of the timeline. You can also download the PDF by clicking on the image below the table. 









Jacopo Peri

A pastoral drama featuring a new style of sung dialogue, more expressive than speech but less melodious than song
 1600EuridiceJacopo PeriThe first opera to survive in tact
 1607OrfeoClaudio MonteverdiThe earliest opera still performed today
 1639Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses)Claudio Monteverdi 
 1643L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea)Claudio Monteverdi 
 1647OfeoLuigi Rossi 
 1649GiasoneFrancesco Cavalli 
 1651La CalistoFrancesco Cavalli 
 1674AlcesteJean-Baptiste Lully 
 1676AtysJean-Baptiste Lully 
 1683Venus and AdonisJohn BlowConsidered the first English opera
 1686ArmideJean-Baptiste Lully 
 1689Dido and AeneasHenry Purcell 
 1700L’EracleaAlessandro Scarlatti 
 1710AgrippinaGeorge Frederick Handel 
 1711RinaldoGeorge Frederick Handel 
 1721GriseldaAlesandro Scarlatti 
 1724Giulio CesereGeorge Frederick Handel 
 1728The Beggar’s OperaJohann Christoph Pepusch 
 1731Acis and GalateaGeorge Frederick Handel 
 1733La serva padrona (The Servant Turned Mistress)Giovanni Battista Pergolesi 
 1737Castor and PolluxJean-Philippe Rameau 
 1744SemeleGeorge Frederick Handel 
 1745PlateeJean-Philippe Rameau 


1760La buona figliuola (The Good-natured Girl)Niccolò Piccinni 
 1762Orfeo ed EuridiceChristoph Willibald Gluck 
 1768Bastien und BastienneWolfgang Amadeus MozartMozart’s first opera
 1777Il mondo della luna (The World on the Moon)Joseph Haydn 
 1779Iphigénie en TaurideChristoph Willibald Gluck 
 1781IdomeneoWolfgang Amadeus Mozart Mozart’s first mature opera
 1782Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio)Wolfgang Amadeus MozartThe first of Mozart’s comic masterpieces
 1782Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)Giovanni PaisielloNot to be confused with Rossini’s more well-known opera of the same name
 1786Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
 1787Don GiovanniWolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
 1790Così fan tutte (Women Are Like That)Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
 1791Die zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
 1797MédéeLuigi Cherubini 
 1805FidelioLudwig van BeethovenBeethoven’s only opera
 1812La scala di seta (The Silken Ladder)Gioachino Rossini 
 1816Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)Gioachino Rossini 
 1816OtelloGioachino Rossini 
1821Der Freischütz (The Marksman)Carl Maria von WeberThe first great German Romantic opera
 1823SemiramideGioachino Rossini 
 1826OberonCarl Maria von Weber 
 1829Guillaume TellGioachino Rossini 
 1830Anna BolenaGaetano Donizetti 
 1831NormaVincenzo Bellini 
 1832L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love)Gaetano Donizetti 
 1835Lucia di LammermoorGaetano Donizetti 
 1836A Life for the TsarMikhail GlinkaThe first great Russian opera
 1836Les HuguenotsGiacomo MeyerbeerOne of the most famous French grand operas
 1842NabuccoGiuseppe Verdi 
 1843Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)Richard Wagner 
 1851RigolettoGiuseppe Verdi 
 1853Il trovatore (The Troubadour)Giuseppe Verdi 
 1853La traviata (The Fallen Woman)Giuseppe Verdi 
 1858Les TroyensHector Berlioz 
 1859FaustCharles Gounod 
 1859Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball)Giuseppe Verdi 
 1862La forza del destino (The Power of Destiny)Giuseppe Verdi 
 1865Tristan und IsoldeRichard Wagner 
 1868Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nurenberg)Richard Wagner 
 1869Das RheingoldRichard WagnerThe first of Wagner’s four The Ring of the Nibelungen series
 1870Die WalküreRichard Wagner 
 1871AidaGiuseppe Verdi 
 1874Boris GodunovModest Mussorgsky 
 1874Die Fledermaus (The Bat)Johann Strauss II 
 1875CarmenGeorges Bizet 
 1876SiegfriedRichard Wagner 
 1876Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)Richard Wagner 
 1879Eugene OneginPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 
 1882ParsifalRichard WagnerWagner’s final opera
 1884ManonJules Massenet 
 1887OtelloGiuseppe Verdi 
 1890Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry)Pietro MascagniOften performed as a double bill with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci
 1890Prince IgorAlexander BorodinBorodin died in 1887, leaving the opera unfinished
 1892IolantaPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 
 1892Pagliacci (Clowns)Ruggero LeoncavalloOften performed as a double bill with Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana
 1892WertherJules Massenet 
 1893FalstaffGiuseppe Verdi 
 1893Hänsel und GretelEngelbert Humperdinck 
 1893Manon LescautGiacomo Puccini 
 1896La bohème (The Bohemians)Giacomo Puccini 
 1900ToscaGiacomo Puccini 
20th century
1901RusalkaAntonín Dvořák 
 1902Pelléas et MélisandeClaude Debussy 
 1904Madama ButterflyGiacomo Puccini 
 1904Jenůfa (Her Stepdaughter)Leoš Janáček 
 1905Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)Franz Lehár 
 1905SalomeRichard Strauss 
 1907A Village Romeo and JulietFrederick Delius 
 1909ElektraRichard Strauss 
 1910La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)Giacomo Puccini 
 1910TreemonishaScott JoplinA ragtime opera not staged until 1972
 1911Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose)Richard Strauss 
 1912Ariadne auf NaxosRichard Strauss 
 1918Bluebeard’s CastleBéla Bartók 
 1925WozzeckAlban Berg 
 1926TurandotGiacomo PucciniLeft unfinished at his death in 1924
 1928The Threepenny OperaBertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill 
 1934Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk DistrictDmitry Shostakovich 
 1935Porgy and BessGeorge Gershwin 
 1941Paul BunyanBenjamin BrittenBritten’s first foray into opera
 1942Capriccio (Caprice)Richard StraussHis final opera
 1945Peter GrimesBenjamin Britten 
 1945War and PeaceSergei Prokofiev 
 1946The Rape of LucretiaBenjamin Britten 
 1951The Pilgrim’s ProgressRalph Vaughan Williams 
 1951The Rake’s ProgressIgor Stravinsky 
 1953GlorianaBenjamin Britten 
 1954The Turn of the ScrewBenjamin Britten 
 1954Troilus and CressidaWilliam Walton 
 1958VanessaSamuel Barber 
 1960A Midsummer Night’s DreamBenjamin Britten 
 1962King PriamMichael Tippett 
 1966Antony and CleopatraSamuel Barber 
 1970The Knot GardenMichael Tippett 
 1972TavernerPeter Maxwell Davies 
 1973Death in VeniceBenjamin BrittenBritten’s final opera, it was performed three years before his death
 1978Le Grand MacabreGyörgy Ligeti 
 1983Saint François d’AssiseOlivier Messiaen 
 1984Un re in ascolto (A King Listens)Luciano Berio 
 1984AkhnatenPhilip Glass 
 1986The Mask of OrpheusHarrison Birtwistle 
 1987A Night at the Chinese OperaJudith Weir 
 1987Nixon in ChinaJohn Adams 
 1995A Streetcar Named DesireAndré Previn 

Click on the image below to access a downloadable PDF of this timeline.