What is opera?
Opera is a very unique type of entertainment- it is a play that is sung throughout. Because it combines the musical and theater arts it can be one of the most moving art forms and can tell a story in a way unlike many other art forms.
Act- A portion or section of an opera designated by the composer, which has a dramatic structure of its own.
Baton- The short stick the conductor uses to lead the orchestra.
Blocking- Staging directions given to the actors for their on stage movements and actions.
Composer- Someone who write the music.
Conductor- The leader of the orchestra, sometimes called the maestro.
Cover- The name given to an understudy in an opera.
Encore- Literally means "again".
Intermission- A long break in between acts, usually about 20 minutes.
Libretto- (Italian for "little book") this is the words of the opera, much like the script for a play. However a libretto is usually much shorter than a script.
Librettist- the person who wrote the words of the opera.
Opera Seria- A "serious" opera. Usually they had ancient heros in them.
Overture- An orchestral introduction to an opera.
Pants Role- A role depicting a young man or a boy but that is sung by a woman.
Patter Song- A song or an aria in which the character sings as many words as possible in a short amount of time.
Principal- a lead part in the performance.
Prompt- to help a singer remember lines, some opera houses will place a person (prompter) in a box below or at the very front of the stage.
Recitative- Words sung in a conversational style. This usally advances the plot.
Score- The written music for the show.
Sitzprobe- Literally "seated rehearsal," it is the first rehearsal of the singers with the orchestra and no acting.
Vibrato- A natural wavering of pitch while singing a note.
Aria- A solo piece written for a main character. Similar to a monologue in a play.
Aside- A comment from a character to the audience that the other singers cannot hear.
Cadenza- A passage of singing, often at the end of an aria, that shows off the singers vocal ability.
Concert Master- The first chair violinist who plays occasional solos and is responisble for the other orchestra members. They start the tuning before the show and they decide on the bowing for all of the other strings.
Duet- An extended musical passage performed by two singers.
Finale- The last musical number of an opera or the last number of an act.
Interlude- A short piece of instrumental music played between
Leitmotiv- A short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular character or event.
Opera Buffa- An opera about ordinary people, usually, but not always comic, which first developed in the 18th century.
Orchestration- The art of applying orchestral color to written music by assigning various instruments different parts of the music. This requires a complete knowledge of instrumental and their range and sound.
Pit- The sunken area in front of the stage where the members of the orchestra play with the conductor.
Prelude- usually a short introduction that leads in an act or an aria without a break.
Props- Small items carried or used by performers on stage to enhance their character.
Run- A quick succession of notes sung on one syllable.
Set- The background and furnishing on the stage.
Strophic- Describes an aria in which the same music repeats for all of the text.
Vocal Ranges & Types
Soprano: The highest female voice
Mezzo-Soprano: (sometimes called alto) The lower female voice
Contralto: An even lower female voice
Tenor: The highest of the male voices
Baritone: The middle of the male voices
Bass: The lowest of the male voices
Listening examples for each voice type