Classical Music For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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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 number. opera buffa: Funny opera, especially from the 18th century.
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 example). opera seria: Formal, serious opera, especially from the 18th century.
cadenza: A moment near the end of an aria for the singer alone, with lots of fast, high, difficult notes, designed for showing off. 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, high notes. recitative (“ress-it-uh-TEEV”): 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 volume. 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.

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About the book authors:

David Pogue is a musician, author, and journalist for both print and television. He's authored or coauthored more than 120 books, including six Dummies books. He has been a conductor on Broadway, worked as a tech columnist at the New York Times, and is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Scott Speck has conducted hundreds of ballet performances throughout the United States and Europe. He is music director of the Joffrey Ballet, artistic director of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, and former conductor of the San Francisco Ballet.

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