Unless you’re already an opera buff, you probably think all opera is quite somber. But in reality,
there are two types of opera: seria, which is serious, and buffa, which is comic.
Opera seria developed first, emerging in late 17th-century Naples. The new genre featured tragic and heroic themes taken from history and mythology, and the focus was on elegant verse and expert vocal display.
Opera buffa got its start in the form of short intermezzi performed between the acts of serious operas. As noted, these comic pieces, which focused on characters of low social station drawn from real life, were often more popular than the operas into which they were inserted.
With time, these intermezzi came to include characters of higher social status (especially heroines with high morals), which paved the way for the short spectacles to eventually become full, stand-alone, comic operas.
Well known examples of opera buffa include Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (1813).