The history of opera predates that of the United States. Going back to 16th century Italy, opera reflected a fascination with myth and was mounted for the benefit of the court. As opera spread its roots throughout western and eastern Europe, it evolved as a public form of entertainment and increasingly drew upon history and literature as inspiration. The early American settlers found such entertainment to be at odds with their puritanical ideology, but by the turn of the 18th century opera crept across the US border as a European import. By mid-century William Henry Fry became the first American composer to pen an opera, but opera was still predominantly associated with European composers. This contributed to many in the country viewing opera as an elite art form representing antiquated interests in languages they did not understand.
As the American repertoire has expanded over the centuries, so have American audiences, drawn to contemporaneous topics played out in their native tongue. But American operas are no longer confined to listeners in the US; the works of American composers have been increasingly heard throughout the world. American opera embodies the individualism of its homeland, and with each generation new musical language has found its voice in American opera – a voice that resonates with all who love the music, the drama and the brilliance that is opera.