You’re at the opera house. You open the program book or you’re listening to the opera snobs talk, and you can’t understand a word — or at least some words. To get a handle on what they all mean, check out the following list:
|aria: An emotion-expressing song in an opera; the big
|opera buffa: Funny opera, especially from the 18th
|bel canto: A style of sweet singing, taught to singers
even today, that emphasizes breath control, a beautiful tone, and
great flexibility in dynamics (going from loud to soft, for
|opera seria: Formal, serious opera, especially from the
|cadenza: A moment near the end of an aria for the singer
alone, with lots of fast, high, difficult notes, designed for
|prima donna: The singer who plays the heroine, the main
female character in an opera; or anyone who believes that the world
revolves around her.
|coloratura: A singer (usually soprano) with an extremely
agile, light, pure-sounding voice, capable of easily singing fast,
Speech-singing, in which the singer semi-chants the words,
imitating the free rhythms of speech.
|dynamics: The loudness or softness of a musical
composition, or the markings in the sheet music that indicate
|Singspiel (“SING-shpeel”): A German opera with
spoken dialogue (instead of recitative) between arias.
|Leitmotif (“LIGHT-mo-teef”): A little melody
that plays every time a certain character or object appears;
invented by Richard Wagner.
|trouser role: A man’s part played by a woman.|
|libretto: The script of an opera.||verismo: A realistic, “documentary” style of
opera that depicts the seamy underbelly of life.