Operatic Terminology

  • Libretto – the words of an opera. Some composers wrote their own librettos; some collaborated with their librettists.
  • Orchestral overture – an instrumental opening to most of the operas. Some overtures are based on melodies from the arias.

Listen: Overture

  • Aria – a formal song in which characters expresses their emotions.

Listen: Aria

  • Recitative – the plot-driving passages sung in a style designed to imitate and emphasize the inflections of speech.

Listen: Recitative

Listen to the recitative “Ch’io mi scordi di te” from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.

  • Ensembles – duets, trios, other ensembles, and choruses.

Listen: Chorus