That art is an expression of man's attempts to understand himself and his environment is as important as the purely aesthetic qualities of the piece, whatever it may be. Opera, together with the other performing arts, literature and painting, cannot simply be seen as pure entertainment. It is also a reflection of the society in which the composer and librettist lived, and the issues and values contemporary to those people. Opera with its fusion of words, music and theatre is able to delineate those issues involved and present them with an emotional intensity possibly unequalled elsewhere in art. Musical imagery is used to portray and develop the characters in opera by inflecting the librettist's words and embedding them in a sound world. This is how we can gain access to those characters' thoughts and emotions. As psycho-dramas the works of the late 19th and the 20th centuries reach the greatest level of complexity.
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