In Europe, traveling shows featuring popular songs and slapstick comedy had been common since the Middle Ages, and grand opera had thrived since the Renaissance. When someone finally bridged the gap between these forms, the first recognizable musical was born...
The operetta is a light, short opera. It usually has gay, lilting music and an unpretentious plot. Operettas are sometimes called light operas, comic operas (England), or musical comedies because they are musical-dramatic works noted for their comedy. It should be stated however that comic operas are sometimes longer than operettas, and musical comedies are actually the evolution of operettas (they did not appear until the early twentieth century).
The following pages will briefly examine the history of the operetta in Paris, starting with the Early Days, then on to the Golden Age, and finishing with Late Century composers.