Instrumental or vocal parts which are designed to support, amplify or complement a principal voice, instrument or groups of voices or instruments. Thus, in an aria or duet in which the voices are given primary focus, the music of the orchestra is an accompaniment.
A section of the story usually followed by an intermission.
A solo song or sung passage, usually providing the highlights of an opera, in which a character reflects on his or her situation, intentions or desires. An aria may range from a simple, lightly-accompanied song to a most elaborately orchestrated form of vocal music.
Although meaning simply 'beautiful song', bel canto is usually applied to a school of singing prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which gave attention to vocal purity, control and dexterity in ornamentation. The Australian soprano, Dame Joan Sutherland, was regarded as one of the leading exponents of opera written in this style.
During the rehearsal period the staging of the opera is worked out. The moves of the singers are 'blocked' so the singers can see the conductor, not hide each other from the audience, and for general dramatic effect.
The term implied brilliance and dexterity in singing as in the terms 'bravura singing' or 'bravura aria'.
An elaborate passage in a vocal or instrumental solo intended to display agility just before the final phrase.
Refers to runs, trills and other ornaments added to make the effect of a musical passage more brilliant.
An accompaniment played by a keyboard and one or more low-pitched string instruments.
The degrees of sound-volume in a musical piece. These variations can be indicated by the composer with such terms as piano (Italian meaning soft), or forte (Italian meaning loud).
An ensemble is a musical passage performed by a group of singers or players together. Duets (two voices), trios (three voices), quartets and choruses are all examples of ensemble singing.
A voice of high pitch, produced by the vibration of only one part of the vocal chords. The normal male voice sounds strained in falsetto, but the high tenor can produce effective vocal sound by this method. It may also be used intentionally for comic effect.
A confusing term, used by many to denote any large-scale or spectacular work of the musical theatre, which is neither musical comedy nor operetta. It has come more specifically to mean an opera which is sung throughout without use of spoken dialogue.
A group of notes or phrase which is repeated several times throughout a piece as one of the units of construction. In opera, such a motif is often identified with a character or idea and is used to represent this person or theme musically. This technique of composition is most often associated with the operas of Richard Wagner.
(pl. libretti) The libretto is the text or the words for an opera. The choice of the libretto by the composer is a critical part of the creation of any opera, since the libretto sets out the dramatic development, the characters, and the specific words which the characters sing. A person who writes a libretto is called a librettist.
Half-singing to save the voice in rehearsal
An aristocratic entertainment of the sixteenth and seventeenth century stage which combined poetry, music, singing, dancing and acting, usually on a moral theme with mythological subjects.
A form of drama in which spoken dialogue is accompanied by music. Some operas e.g. Beethoven's Fidelio have passages in melodrama form.
Italian comic opera of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century is called opera buffa
French opera of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in which dialogue is used
A serious seventeenth and eighteenth century form of Baroque musical theatre, generally with many arias for display purposes, little or no ensemble singing, and a functional, dry recitative. It usually dealt with serious mythological themes.
A full-length theatre piece on a light subject, with musical numbers and spoken dialogue and characterised by popular tunes, decorative dances, colourful settings, and a whimsical dramatic line.
A combination of musical instruments which, in opera, is used to accompany the singing, sometimes, very simply; at other times depicting very clearly the situation on stage.
This role denotes the role of a young man (usually in his teens) played by a woman singing soprano or mezzo-soprano. It is useful for vocal contrasts with the mature male voice. Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier or Hansel in Hansel and Gretel are just a few examples of pants roles.
The ability of the singing voice to be heard everywhere in the theatre.
The slope of the stage with the highest point at the back.
The sung-spoken dialogue usually inserted between formal numbers such as arias and ensembles of an opera, in which the rise and fall of the speaking voice determines the vocal line. The term 'dry recitative' (recitative secco) indicates that a keyboard instrument provides the accompaniment. The function of recitative, as opposed to arias and ensembles, is to advance the action of an opera.
A stock of opera (or songs or plays etc) that a company knows and can perform. Opera Australia is a repertory company, meaning that it varies the opera it performs from night to night.
A pianist or musical coach in an opera house. Someone who teaches the part to the singers.
A feature of performance in which strict time is for a while disregarded. When done well it introduces a feeling of freedom and spontaneity.
The book of music and libretto of an opera.
German for 'Song-play' - a play with songs between the spoken dialogue. Early eighteenth-century Singspiel was popular and unsophisticated, but Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio was written for bravura singers. The Magic Flute and Beethoven's Fidelio are other well known examples of this form.
A person with a non-singing role in the production.
The soubrette, often a lady's maid in comic opera, was a standardised character, pert and coquettish. The term has come to mean any role of that type. Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro is one of the greatest of these roles because of the depth of character that Mozart gave to it. Adele in Die Fledermaus is another example.
A translation of the text of the opera which is projected on slides above the stage. Because of the need for brevity Surtitiles give the essence of the text rather than being a direct translation.
(pl. tempi) The pace or rate of speed at which a musical passage or piece is performed, how fast or slow. The tempo of a piece has traditionally been indicated by general terms, such as 'quickly', which leaves the interpretation open to the performers. It is also possible to set the tempo more exactly by the use of a metronome which gives a standardised number of beats per minute.
In an operatic role, tessitura refers to the area of vocal range within which the major part of the role is sung.
Describes a musical ornament that requires the rapid alternation of two notes.
A movement in opera popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that advocated 'truth' or realism presented on stage. This meant operas dealt with ordinary people and situations, (although with a heightened dramatic effect), rather than royalty and mythological subjects. Examples of this are Puccini's La bohème, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana.
(pl. virtuosi) A person with highly developed technical ability in opera. Singers who can control the way they sing with great expertise.