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A Love Affair with Opera - Opera Primer

IntroductionGallery of StarsLiving TheaterGlossary
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A

Aria -- A song for one voice which is accompanied by instrumental music.

Arietta -- A short aria.

Arioso -- An arioso has a melody like an aria, but advances the story like a recitative.

Atonal -- Music that is not in any specific key, usually sounds foreign to most people.

B

Baritone -- This is the medium male voice that falls between the low bass voice and the higher tenor voice.

Bass -- The bass is the lowest of the male voices.

Bass-baritone -- A male voice that combines the baritone and the bass, but avoids the extremes of either range.

basso buffo -- Sung by a bass, this comedic character usually sings quick repeated notes in the very low range.

Bel canto -- Italian for "beautiful singing." A Bel canto is a style of opera in which the human voice receives more importance than the words or even the story.

Brava -- An enthusiastic expression shouted out by audience members at the end of an outstanding act or performance by a female singer.

Bravi -- An enthusiastic expression shouted out by audience members at the end of an outstanding act or performance by more than one singer.

Bravo -- An enthusiastic expression shouted out by audience members at the end of an outstanding act or performance.

C

Cabaletta -- Usually in bel canto operas, this is a fast aria that generally follows a more solemn, thoughtful one. It stresses the singer's vocal abilities and often ends with a high note that the singer sustains.

Cadenza -- A series of fast high notes near the end of an aria.

Castrato -- A male with a high singing voice.

Cavatina -- A short, simple, melodic and expressive aria.

Chest voice -- A term for the low notes that are produced within the chest cavity.

Coloratura soprano -- A high pitched soprano, or a style of fast singing, high singing, trills, embellishments etc.

Contralto -- The lowest, female voice.

Counterpoint -- The coming together of two, three, four or even more independent musical lines.

Countertenor -- A high male voice that generally sings within the female contralto or mezzo soprano range.

Crescendo -- Progressively getting louder.

D

Diminuendo -- Progressively getting softer.

Dissonant -- The notes sound like they do not belong together.

Diva -- A female opera star. Often used to describe a demanding or fussy opera star.

F

Falsetto -- The high part of a man's voice which sounds like a woman's voice.

Forte -- Strong or loud.

Fortissimo -- Very strong or very loud.

H

Heldentenor -- A heldentenor has a wonderful set of high notes combined with a strong lower voice, almost like a baritone. Is also capable of performing long passages, which require good vocal stamina.

L

Leitmotif -- Invented by Richard Wagner, a leitmotif is a musical theme assigned to the main character or idea in the opera.

Libretto -- The text of an opera.

Lyric voice -- A sweet and soft sounding voice.
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