Opera Terminology Glossary
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Acoustic enhancement is a subtle type of sound reinforcement system used to augment direct, reflected, or reverberant sound. While sound reinforcement systems are usually used to increase the sound level of the sound source (like a person speaking into a microphone, or musical instruments in a pop ensemble), acoustic enhancement systems are typically used to increase the acoustic energy in the venue. These systems are often associated with acoustic sound sources like a chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, or opera, but have also found acceptance in a variety of applications and venues that include rehearsal rooms, recording facilities conference rooms, sound stages, sports arenas, and outdoor venues.
An aria (Italian for air; plural: arie or arias in common usage) in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the most common context for arias is opera, although there are many arias that form movements of oratorios and cantatas. Composers also wrote concert arias, which are not part of any larger work, such as "Ah perfido" by Beethoven, and a number of concert arias by Mozart, such as "Conservati fedele".
The aria first appeared in the 14th century when it signified a manner or style of singing or playing. Aria could also mean a melodic scheme (motif) or pattern for singing a poetic pattern, such as a sonnet. It was also attached to instrumental music, though this is no longer the case. Over time, arias evolved from simple melodies into a structured form. In the 17th century, the aria was written in ternary form (A–B–A); these arias were known as da capo arias. The aria later "invaded" the opera repertoire with its many sub-species (Aria cantabile, Aria agitata, Aria di bravura, and so on). By the mid-19th century, many operas became a sequence of arias, reducing the space left for recitative, while other operas (for instance those by Wagner) were entirely through-composed, with no section being readily identifiable as a self-contained aria.
Aria di sorbetto
The Aria di sorbetto, or "sherbet aria", was a convention of Italian opera in the early nineteenth century.
In classical music, arioso is a style of solo opera singing between recitative and aria. Literally, arioso means airy. The term arose in the 16th century along with the aforementioned styles and monody. It is commonly confused with recitativo accompagnato.
Arioso is similar to recitative due to its unrestrained structure and inflexions, close to those of speech. It differs however in its rhythm. Arioso is similar to aria in its melodic form, both being closer to singing than recitative; however they differ in form, arioso generally not resorting to the process of repetition.
Azione teatrale (English theatrical action, plural azioni teatrali) is a genre of opera, popular in Italy in the late 17th and 18th centuries. It is also sometimes referred to as azione scenica, componimento dramatico or componimento da camera.
An azione teatrale was typically a one-act opera, or musical play, presented in a small, usually private or aristocratic theatre. As such it was an early form of chamber opera. The work was often historical or mythological in character. A similar, but larger scale work was called a festa teatrale.
Baritenor (also rendered in English language sources as bari-tenor or baritenore) is a musical term formed by a blend of the words "baritone" and "tenor". It is used to describe both baritone and tenor voices. In Webster's Third New International Dictionary it is defined as "a baritone singing voice with virtually a tenor range". However, the term was defined in several late 19th century and early 20th century music dictionaries, such as The American History and Encyclopedia of Music, as "a low tenor voice, almost barytone" .
Baritone (or barytone) is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος, meaning 'deep (or heavy) sounding', music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (i.e. F2–F4) in choral music, and from the second G below middle C to the G above middle C (G2 to G4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end.
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C (i.e., E2–E4). Its tessitura, or comfortable range, is normally defined by the outermost lines of the bass clef.
A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice type. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende Holländer, Wotan/Der Wanderer in the Ring Cycle and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner labelled these roles as Hoher Bass ("high bass") — see fach for more details.
The bass-baritone voice is distinguished by two attributes. First, it must be capable of singing comfortably in a baritonal tessitura. Secondly, however, it needs to have the ripely resonant lower range typically associated with the bass voice. For example, the role of Wotan in Die Walküre covers the range from F at the bottom of the bass clef to F# above middle C, but only infrequently descends beyond the C below middle C. Bass-baritones are typically divided into two separate categories: lyric bass-baritone and dramatic bass-baritone.
Bel canto (Bel-Canto) (Italian, "beautiful singing"), along with a number of similar constructions ("bellezze del canto"/"bell’arte del canto"), is an Italian opera term. It has several different meanings and is subject to a wide array of interpretations.
The earliest use of the term "bel canto" occurred in late 17th-century Italy, when it was applied to a sophisticated model of singing that was evolving there among practitioners of operatic and sacred music. The term did not become fairly widely used, however, until the middle of the next century, which was the heyday of opera seria, the static but technically challenging da capo aria, and the now-extinct castrato voice.
A breeches role (also pants role or trouser role, travesti or "hosenrolle") is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing (breeches being tight-fitting knee-length pants, the standard male garment at the time breeches roles were introduced). In opera it can also refer to any male character that is sung and acted by a female singer. Most often the character is an adolescent or a very young man, sung by a mezzo soprano or contralto, or, occasionally, a male countertenor.
A brindisi is a song in which a company is exhorted to drink.
A burletta (Italian, meaning little joke), also sometimes burla or burlettina, is a musical term generally denoting a brief comic Italian (or, later, English) opera. The term was used in the 18th century to denote the comic intermezzos between the acts of an opera seria, but was sometimes given to more extended works; Pergolesi's La serva padrona was designated a 'burletta' at its London premiere in 1750.
In England the term began to be used, in contrast to burlesque, for works that satirized opera but without using musical parody. Burlettas in English began to appear in the 1760s, the earliest identified being Midas by Kane O'Hara, first performed privately in 1760 near Belfast, and produced at Covent Garden in 1764. The form became debased when the term 'burletta' began to be used for English comic or ballad operas, as a way of evading the monopoly on opera in London belonging to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. After repeal of the 1737 Licensing Act in 1843, use of the term declined.
CNN opera is a somewhat deprecatory description of contemporary operas taking as themes news events; or of classical opera transposed to a contemporary setting. The name alludes to Cable News Network, CNN.
Cabaletta describes the two-part musical form particularly favored for arias in 19th century Italian opera, and is more properly the name of the more animated section following the songlike cantabile. As its name ("cabal") implies, it often introduces a complication or intensification of emotion and/or plot, although the word itself derives from the Italian "cobola" (couplet).
The cabaletta formed as part of an evolution from early 19th century arias containing two contrasting sections at different tempi within a single structure into more elaborate arias with musically distinct movements. The term itself was first defined in 1826. It has a repetitive structure consisting of two stanzas followed by embellished variations. The cabaletta typically ends with a coda, often a very virtuosic one.
In music, a cadenza (from Italian: cadenza, meaning cadence) is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display.
Cadenza often refers to a portion of a concerto in which the orchestra stops playing, leaving the soloist to play alone in free time (without a strict, regular pulse) and can be written or improvised, depending on what the composer specifies. This normally occurs near the end of the first movement, though it can be at any point in a concerto. An example is Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, where in the first five minutes a cadenza is used. It usually is the most elaborate and virtuosic part that the solo instrument plays during the whole piece. At the end of the cadenza, the orchestra re-enters, and generally finishes off the movement on their own, or, less often, with the solo instrument.
Cantabile is a musical term meaning literally "singable" or "songlike" (Italian). It has several meanings in different contexts. In instrumental music, it indicates a particular style of playing designed to imitate the human voice. For 18th century composers, the term is often used synonymously with "cantando" (singing), and indicates a measured tempo and flexible, legato playing. For later composers, particularly in piano music, cantabile indicates the drawing out of one particular musical line against the accompaniment (compare counterpoint).
A castrato (Italian, plural: castrati) is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.
Castration before puberty (or in its early stages) prevents a boy's larynx from being transformed by the normal physiological events of puberty. As a result, the vocal range of prepubescence (shared by both sexes) is largely retained, and the voice develops into adulthood in a unique way. Prepubescent castration for this purpose diminished greatly in the late 18th century and was made illegal in Italy in 1870.
Cavatina (Italian diminutive of cavata, the producing of tone from an instrument, plural cavatine) is a musical term, originally a short song of simple character, without a second strain or any repetition of the air. It is now frequently applied to a simple melodious air, as distinguished from a brilliant aria, recitative, et cetera, and often forms part of a large movement or scena in oratorio or opera.
One famous cavatina is Beethoven's 5th movement of his String Quartet No. 13. Another cavatina that became famous recently is "Cavatina" composed by Stanley Myers, used as the theme music in Michael Cimino's 1978 movie, The Deer Hunter. "Largo al factotum", from Gioachino Rossini's opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia and "Se vuol ballare" from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro are also cavatinas.
Chest voice is a term used within vocal music. The use of this term varies widely within vocal pedagogical circles and there is currently no one consistent opinion among vocal music professionals in regards to this term. Chest voice can be used in relation to the following:
Claque (French for "slap") is an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses. Members of a claque are called claqueurs.
Hiring people to applaud dramatic performances was common in classical times. For example, when the emperor Nero acted, he had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five thousand of his soldiers.
Coloratura has several meanings. The word is originally from Italian, literally meaning "coloring", and derives from the Latin word colorare ("to color"). When used in English, the term specifically refers to elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, with runs, trills, wide leaps, or similar virtuoso-like material. It is also now widely used to refer to passages of such music, operatic roles in which such music plays a prominent part, and singers of these roles.
A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs and leaps. The term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Some roles may be sung by either voice. For example, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was famously done at the Metropolitan Opera for many years by Lyric Coloratura Lily Pons, whose voice was quite small and light, but more recently the same role was sung by Ruth Ann Swenson whose voice is larger. Likewise, dramatic coloraturas have been extremely successful in singing the lighter roles. Categories within a certain voice range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.
Comic opera denotes a sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending.
Forms of comic opera first developed in late 17th-century Italy. By the 1730s, a new operatic genre, opera buffa, emerged as an alternative to opera seria. It quickly made its way to France, where it became opéra bouffon, and eventually, in the following century, French operetta, with Jacques Offenbach as its most accomplished practitioner.
The influence of the Italian and French forms spread to other parts of Europe. Many countries developed their own genres of comic opera, incorporating the Italian and French models along with their own musical traditions. Examples include Viennese operetta, German singspiel, Spanish zarzuela, Russian comic opera, English ballad opera, and Savoy Opera.
A Comprimario is a supporting role in an opera. Derived from the Italian "con primario", or "with the primary", the term refers to a performer who sings small role pieces.
Many singers began their careers as comprimario singers; some have made a career out of singing such parts. Among these latter are singers such as Anthony Laciura, Jean Kraft, Nico Castel and Charles Anthony of the Metropolitan Opera.
Comédie mêlée d'ariettes
Comédie mêlée d'ariettes (comedy mixed with brief arias) is a form of French opéra comique that developed in the mid 18th century following the Querelle des Bouffons dispute over the respective merits of the French and Italian styles, between serious drama and comedy in opera.
The best-known ones are Christoph Willibald Gluck's La rencontre imprévue, André Ernest Modeste Grétry's Zémire et Azor, Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny's Le déserteur and François-André Danican Philidor's Tom Jones. The form is particularly associated with the work of the librettist Louis Anseaume.
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C (F3 in scientific pitch notation) to the second G above middle C (G5), although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C (E3) or the second B♭ above middle C (B♭5).
Convenienze (Italian literally conveniences) were the rules relating to the ranking of singers (primo, secondo, comprimario) in 19th-century Italian opera, and the number of scenes, arias etc. that they were entitled to expect.
A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or (less frequently) a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely the normal or modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble. This term is used exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular music artists also prefer employing falsetto.
Coup de glotte
Coup de glotte or 'shock of the glottis' is a term used in the theory of singing technique to describe a particular method of emitting or opening a note by an abrupt physical mechanism of the glottis (the space between the vocal folds). During the 19th century there was disagreement among teachers and performers as to whether the technique should be taught as a normal part of vocal method or not. The technique is still sometimes used to achieve particular effects, dramatic or ornamental, but is usually avoided in the teaching of fundamental vocal method.
Da capo aria
The da capo aria was a musical form prevalent in the Baroque era. It was sung by a soloist with the accompaniment of instruments, often a small orchestra. The da capo aria was very common in the musical genres of opera and oratorio. According to Rendel, a number of Baroque composers (he lists Hasse, Handel, Porpora, Leo, and Vinci) composed more than a thousand da capo arias during their careers.
A diva (English pronunciation: /ˈdiːvə/, Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is a celebrated female singer. The term is used to describe a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and, by extension, in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of "prima donna".
The word entered the English language in the late 19th century. It is derived from the Italian noun diva, a female deity. The plural of the word in English is "divas"; in Italian, dive [ˈdiːve]. The basic sense of the term is "goddess", the feminine of the Latin word divus (Italian divo), a male deity. The word is thus distantly related to the Hindu term deva and the Zoroastrian concept of the daevas.
The male divo does exist in Italian and it is usually reserved for the most prominent leading tenors, like Enrico Caruso or Beniamino Gigli. The Italian term divismo describes the star making system in the film industry.
Divertissement (from the French 'diversion' or 'amusement') is used, in a similar sense to the Italian 'divertimento', for a light piece of music for a small group of players, however the French term has additional meanings.
During the 17th and 18th century, the term implied incidental aspects of an entertainment (usually involving singing and dancing) that might be inserted in an opera or ballet or other stage performance. In the operas of Lully these 'divertissements' were sometimes linked to the main plot, or performed at the close of the performance. (Similar examples during the 19th century include Charles Gounod's opera Faust and Delibes's ballet Coppélia.)
A dramatic soprano or soprano robusto is an operatic soprano with a powerful, rich, emotive voice that can sing over, or cut through, a full orchestra. Thicker vocal folds in dramatic voices usually (but not always) mean less agility than lighter voices but a sustained, fuller sound. Usually this voice has a lower tessitura than other sopranos, and a darker timbre. They are often used for heroic, often long-suffering, tragic women of opera. Dramatic sopranos have a range from approximately middle C (C4) to "high D" (D6). Some dramatic sopranos, sometimes known as 'Wagnerian sopranos', have an exceptionally big voice that can assert itself over a large orchestra (of more than 80 or even 100 pieces). These voices are substantial, often denser in tone, extremely powerful and, ideally, evenly balanced throughout the vocal registers. 'Wagnerian sopranos' usually play mythic heroines. Such sopranos are rare and sometimes Wagnerian roles are performed by Italianate dramatic sopranos.
Dramma per musica
Dramma per musica (Italian, literally: play for music, plural: drammi per musica) is a term which was used by dramatists in Italy and elsewhere between the late-17th and mid-19th centuries. It was sometimes abbreviated to dramma.
A dramma per musica was thus originally (in Italy in the 17th century) a play specifically written for the purpose of being set to music, in other words a libretto for an opera, usually a serious opera. By extension, the term came to be used also for the opera or operas which were composed to the libretto, and a variation, dramma in musica, which emphasised the musical element, was sometimes preferred by composers.
Dramma giocoso (Italian, literally: jocular drama; plural: drammi giocosi) is the name of a genre of opera common in the mid-18th century. The term is a contraction of "dramma giocoso per musica" and is essentially a description of the text rather than the opera as a whole. The genre developed in the Neapolitan opera tradition, mainly through the work of the playwright Carlo Goldoni in Venice. Characteristic of drammi giocosi is the technique of a grand buffo scene as a dramatic climax at the end of an act. Carlo Goldoni's texts always consisted of two long acts with extended finales, followed by a short third act.
A duodrama is a theatrical melodrama for two actors or singers, in which the spoken voice is used with a musical accompaniment for heightened dramatic effect. It was popular at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.
Closely related to opera, the most famous example were the 1775 works Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea by Georg Benda. Mozart admired Benda's work and used similar techniques in Zaide (1780) and Thamos, König in Ägypten (c. 1773-1780). He considered writing a duodrama himself, to be called Semiramis. Beethoven's Fidelio (1805-1814) and Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz (1821) also contain duodramas. The style is also used in lieder and song.
The Electronic libretto system is used primarily in opera houses and is a device which presents translations of lyrics into an audience's language or transcribes lyrics that may be difficult to understand in the sung form.
Since 1983, projected Supertitles or surtitles have been commonly used in opera or other theatrical and musical performances and they have proven to be a commercial success in art forms such as opera which are generally performed in their original language.
Travesti (literally "disguised") is a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character in an opera, play, or ballet by a performer of the opposite sex. Some sources regard 'travesti' as an Italian term, some as French. Depending on sources, the term may be given as travesty, travesti, or en travesti. The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English explains the origin of the latter term as "pseudo-French", although French sources from the mid-19th century have used the term, e.g. Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'opéra (1876), La revue des deux mondes (1868), and have continued the practice into the 21st century.
For social reasons, female roles were played by boys or men in many early forms of theatre, and travesti roles continued to be used in several types of context even after actresses became accepted on the stage. The popular British theatrical form of the pantomime traditionally contains a role for a "principal boy", a breeches role played by a young woman, and also one or more pantomime dames, female comic roles played by men. Similarly, in the formerly popular genre of Victorian burlesque, there were usually one or more breeches roles.
Entr'acte is French for "between the acts" (German: Zwischenspiel, Italian: Intermezzo, Spanish: Intermedio). It can mean a pause between two parts of a stage production, synonymous to an intermission, but it more often indicates a piece of music (interlude) performed between acts of a theatrical production. In the case of stage musicals, the entr'acte serves as the overture of Act Two (and sometimes Acts Three and Four, as in the case of The Student Prince). In roadshow theatrical releases, films that were meant to be shown with an intermission, there was frequently a specially recorded entr'acte on the soundtrack between the first and second half of the film.
The German Fach (pl. Fächer, literally "compartment" or also "subject (of study)", here in the sense of "(vocal) specialization") system is a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. It is used world wide, but primarily in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries and by repertory opera houses.
The Fach system is a convenience for singers and opera houses. A singer who is identified as being of a certain Fach or voice type will usually be asked to sing only roles that belong to that Fach. This prevents a singer from being asked to sing roles which he or she is incapable of performing. Opera companies keep lists of available singers by Fach so that when they are casting roles for an upcoming production, they do not inadvertently contact performers who would be inappropriate for the part.
Below is a list of Fächer, their ranges as written on sheet music, and roles generally considered to appropriate to each. When two names for the Fach are given, the first is in more common use today. Where possible, an English equivalent of each Fach is listed; however, not all Fächer have ready English equivalents. Note that some roles can be sung by more than one Fach and that many singers do not easily fit into a Fach: for instance some sopranos may sing both Koloratursopran and Dramatischer Koloratursopran roles. In addition, roles traditionally more difficult to cast may be given to a voice other than the traditional Fach. For instance, the "Queen of the Night" is more traditionally a dramatic coloratura role, but it is difficult to find a dramatic coloratura to sing it (particularly given the extreme range). Therefore, the role is often sung by a lyric coloratura.
Falsetto (Italian diminutive of falso, "false") is the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave. It is produced by the vibration of the ligamentous edges of the vocal folds, in whole or in part. Commonly cited in the context of singing, falsetto, a characteristic of phonation by both men and women, is also on speech pathology.
The falsetto voice—with its characteristic breathy, flute-like sound relatively free of overtones—is more limited than its modal counterpart in both dynamic variation and tone quality. The term falsetto is most often used in the context of singing to refer to a type of vocal phonation that enables the singer to sing notes beyond the vocal range of the normal or modal voice.
Falsettone is a term used in modern Italian musicology to describe an ancient vocal technique consisting of strengthening and amplifying falsetto’s white sounds, so as to utter the highest and brightest notes, which still sound rather piercing and quivering. The term falsettone is also used for the mixed vocal register which can be achieved using this technique.
Farsa (Italian, literally: farce, plural: farse) is a genre of opera, associated with Venice in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is also sometimes called farsetta.
Farse were normally one-act operas, sometimes performed together with short ballets. Many of the recorded productions were at the Teatro San Moisè in Venice, often during Carnival. Musically they may have derived from the two-act dramma giocoso, although there were other influences, including the French comédie mêlée d'ariettes.
Few of the original 18th-century farse are now performed. The German composer Johann Simon Mayr, who lived in Northern Italy, wrote about 30 farse. Rossini wrote five examples: La cambiale di matrimonio (1810), L'inganno felice (1812), La scala di seta (1812), Il Signor Bruschino (1813), and Adina (1818). In addition, his L'occasione fa il ladro (1812), though called a Burletta per musica, is a farsa in all but name.
"Fioritura" is the name given to the flowery, embellished vocal line found in many arias from nineteenth-century opera. It is derived from the Italian fiore, meaning "flower".
Género chico (literally, "little genre") is a Spanish genre of short light musical plays. It is a subgenre of zarzuela, the Spanish operetta. It differs from zarzuela grande and most other opera forms both by being short and by aiming at a proletarian audience.
A Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form, or total artwork) is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word which has come to be accepted in English as a term in aesthetics.
The term was first used by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff in an essay in 1827. The German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in an 1849 essay. It is unclear whether Wagner knew of Trahndorff's essay. The word has become particularly associated with Wagner's aesthetic ideals.
Grand Opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and (in their original productions) lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events. The term is particularly applied to certain productions of the Paris Opéra from the late 1820s to around 1850, and has sometimes been used to designate the Paris Opéra itself, but is also used in a broader application in respect of contemporary or later works of similar monumental proportions from France, Germany, Italy and other European countries.
The haute-contre is a rare type of high tenor voice, predominant in French Baroque and Classical opera until the latter part of the eighteenth century.
Head voice is a term used within vocal music. The use of this term varies widely within vocal pedagogical circles and there is currently no one consistent opinion among vocal music professionals in regards to this term. Head voice can be used in relation to the following:
A rich, dark, powerful and dramatic voice. As its name implies, the Heldentenor (English: heroic tenor) vocal fach features in the German romantic operatic repertoire. The Heldentenor is the German equivalent of the tenore drammatico, however with a more baritonal quality: the typical Wagnerian protagonist. The keystone of the heldentenor's repertoire is arguably Wagner's Siegfried, an extremely demanding role requiring a wide vocal range and great power, plus tremendous stamina and acting ability. Often the heldentenor is a baritone who has transitioned to this fach or tenors who have been misidentified as baritones. Therefore the heldentenor voice might or might not have facility up to high B or C. The repertoire, however, rarely calls for such high notes. A Heldentenor is sometimes less a true tenor than a baritone with an unusually strong top register. Lauritz Melchior epitomises the Heldentenor sound in this regard.
In music, an intermezzo (Italian, plural: intermezzi), in the most general sense, is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work. In music history, the term has had several different usages, which fit into two general categories: the opera intermezzo and the instrumental intermezzo.
Intermède is a French term for a musical or theatrical performance involving song and dance, also an 18th-century opera genre.
The context in which the 'intermède' was performed has changed over time. During the 16th century they were court entertainments in which ballet was an important element. The intermède was sometimes given between the acts of spoken plays, especially in the 17th century when they were performed with the works of Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine.
During the 18th century, the term was used for the Italian genre of opera called intermezzo as performed in 18th-century France, either in the original language or in French translation (such as La servante maîtresse, the French version of Pergolesi's La serva padrona), but also for original French works of similar style in one or two acts, with or without spoken dialogue. During the course of the century, the intermède gradually disappeared as it was developed and transformed into the opéra comique.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the term was occasionally used, usually anachronistically, by opera composers, but also as a term in relation to instrumental music.
Kammersänger (or Kammersängerin for female singers), abbreviation: "Ks.", literally means "Chamber singer." It is a German honorific title for distinguished singers. Historically, the title was bestowed by princes or kings, when it was styled Hofkammersänger(in).
In musical notation the Italian word legato (literally meaning "tied together") indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, in transitioning from note to note, there should be no intervening silence. Legato technique is required for slurred performance, but unlike slurring (as that term is interpreted for some instruments), legato does not forbid rearticulation. In standard notation legato is indicated either with the word legato itself, or by a slur (a curved line) under the notes that are to be joined in one legato group. Legato, like staccato, is a kind of articulation. There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non-legato.
A leitmotif, sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term (though occasionally used in theatre or literature), referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe. The term itself comes from the German Leitmotiv, literally meaning "leading motif", or, perhaps more accurately, "guiding motif."
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio and cantata, musical, and ballet. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata.
Libretto (pl. libretti), from Italian, is the diminutive of the word "libro" (book). A libretto is distinct from a synopsis or scenario of the plot, in that the libretto contains all the words and stage directions, while a synopsis summarizes the plot.
The relationship of the librettist (that is, the writer of a libretto) to the composer in the creation of a musical work has varied over the centuries, as have the sources and the writing techniques employed.
Literaturoper (literature opera, plural Literaturopern) is opera with music composed for a pre-existing text, as opposed to an opera with a libretto written specifically for the work.
Although the term is German, the term can be used for any kind of opera, irrespective of style or language. (In that sense it can be regarded as a term rather than a genre as such.)
A lyric soprano is a type of operatic soprano that has a warm quality with a bright, full timbre which can be heard over an orchestra. The lyric soprano voice generally has a higher tessitura than a soubrette and usually plays ingenues and other sympathetic characters in opera. Lyric sopranos have a range from approximately middle C (C4) to "high D" (D6). There is a tendency to divide lyric sopranos into two groups, light & full.
In opera, a mad scene is an enactment of insanity in an opera or play. It was a popular convention of Italian and French opera in the early decades of the nineteenth century.
Mad scenes were often created as a way to offer star singers a chance to show off their abilities, though many of them are also very dramatic. The vocal writing is often exciting and highly demanding, requiring immense skill. Most mad scenes were composed for the soprano voice, but there are examples for the baritone and the tenor.
They are most popularly associated with works of the bel canto period, though examples may also be found in earlier works, such as George Frederick Handel's Orlando and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Idomeneo. Almost all mad scenes were composed for either opere serie or opere semiserie; Gaetano Donizetti was probably the most famous exponent of the form.
Maestro (from the Italian maestro, meaning "master" or "teacher") is a title of extreme respect given to a master musician. The term is most commonly used in the context of Western classical music and opera. This is associated with the ubiquitous use of Italian vocabulary for classical music terms. Composers, performers, impresarios, music directors, conductors and music teachers are all frequently given this title.
The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in sixteenth and early 17th century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio (a public version of the masque was the pageant). Masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. Professional actors and musicians were hired for the speaking and singing parts. Often, the masquers who did not speak or sing were courtiers: James I's Queen Consort, Anne of Denmark, frequently danced with her ladies in masques between 1603 and 1611, and Henry VIII and Charles I performed in the masques at their courts. In the tradition of masque, Louis XIV danced in ballets at Versailles with music by Lully.
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work which exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them. It is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term originated from the early 19th-century French word mélodrame, which in turn is derived from Greek melos (music) and French drame (drama).
Melodramma is an Italian term for opera, used in a much narrower sense by English writers to discuss developments in the early 19th century Italian libretto. Characteristic are the influence of French bourgeois drama, female instead of male protagonists, and the practice of opening the action with a chorus.
It should not be confused with Victorian stage melodrama (drama of exaggerated intensity), to which it seems to be, however, related, or with melodrama (spoken declamation accompanied by background music) (in Italian, melologo), both of which are spelled without a double m.
Messa di voce
Messa di voce (Italian, placing the voice) is a musical technique that involves a gradual crescendo and decrescendo while sustaining a single pitch. That is, a note is sung at a very quiet volume, gradually and smoothly made louder until it reaches a high volume, then similarly made quiet again. The technique can be used on many instruments, but is perhaps best known for its use among singers.
Messa di voce should not be confused with mezza voce (Italian, half voice) which means to sing at half strength.
A mezzo-soprano (meaning "medium" or "middle" "soprano" in Italian) is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3-A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the G below middle C (G3) and as high as "high C" (C6).
While mezzo-sopranos generally have a heavier, darker tone than sopranos, the mezzo-soprano voice resonates in a higher range than that of a contralto. The terms Dugazon and Galli-Marié are sometimes used to refer to light mezzo-sopranos, after the names of famous singers. A castrato with a vocal range equivalent to a mezzo-soprano's range is referred to as a mezzo-soprano castrato or mezzista. Today, however, only women should be referred to as mezzo-sopranos; men singing within the female range are called countertenors. In current operatic practice, female singers with very low tessituras are often included among mezzo-sopranos, because singers in both ranges are able to cover the other, and true operatic contraltos are very rare. For information regarding non-classical mezzo-sopranos see Voice classification in non-classical music.
A money note is a music industry slang term which refers to a part of a live or recorded singing performance which is subjectively judged to be very dramatic or emotionally stirring. This is usually at a climactic point of a song or aria, in which the singer's melody makes a large interval jump to the song's highest note (especially for female soprano singers or male tenor or countertenor singers) or falls to its lowest note (especially for male bass or baritone singers). In some cases, a section or phrase of a vocal melody may captivate the listener's interest because of the tone quality of the singing-either because of the strident emotionalism, or due to the quiet sensitivity of the voice. As well, a "money note" might be an impressive vocal display or a note which is held for a long time with clear pitch and expressive vibrato.
A monodrama (also Solospiel in German; "solo play") is a theatrical or operatic piece played by a single actor or singer, usually portraying one character.
The Italian term musico (plural musici) has a number of meanings:
A number in music is a self-contained piece that is combined with other such pieces in a performance. In a concert of popular music, for example, the individual songs or pieces performed are often referred to as "numbers." The term is applied also to sections of large vocal works (such as opera, oratorio, or musical) when the written or printed score for such a work designates the titles of the pieces with sequential numbers, hence the aptness of the term. The use of numerical designations in extended vocal musical works has the practical advantage of facilitating rehearsal plans, especially when their designations include assignment of characters.
Offstage brass and percussion
An offstage brass and percussion part is a sound effect used in Classical music, which is created by having one or more trumpet players (also called an offstage trumpet call), french horn players, or percussionists from a symphony orchestra or opera orchestra play a note, melody, or rhythm from behind the stage. This creates a distant, muted effect which composers use to suggest "celestial voices", melancholy, or nostalgia, or to create a haunting effect.
Opéra bouffe is a genre of late 19th-century French operetta, closely associated with Jacques Offenbach, who produced many of them at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens that gave its name to the form.
Opéras bouffes are known for elements of comedy, satire, parody and farce. The most famous examples are La belle Hélène, Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard), La vie parisienne, La Périchole and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein.
Opéra bouffon is the French term for the Italian genre of opera called opera buffa performed in 18th-century France, either in the original language or in French translation. The term was also used by Offenbach for three of his works: Orphée aux enfers, Le roman comique and Le voyage de MM Dunanan père et fils.
The term is sometimes confused with the French opéra comique.
Opéra comique (plural: opéras comiques) is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent (and to a lesser extent the Comédie-Italienne), which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections. Associated with the Paris theatre of the same name, the Opéra-Comique, opéra comique is not always comic or light in nature — indeed, Carmen, probably the most famous opéra comique, is a tragedy.
Opéra féerie (plural, opéras féeries) is a French genre of opera or opéra-ballet based on fairy tales, often with elements of magic in their stories. Popular in the 18th century, from the time of Jean-Philippe Rameau onwards, the form reached its culmination with works such as La belle au bois dormant by Michele Carafa and Cendrillon by Nicolas Isouard at the beginning of the 19th century.
The distantly related English genre of "fairy opera" includes Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. Earlier in the 19th century, James Planché had popularised the "fairy comedy".
The German genre of Märchenoper (fairy-tale opera), though similar in subject matter, has its roots in Italian opera.
Opera seria (usually called dramma per musica or melodramma serio) is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770. The term itself was rarely used at the time and only became common usage once opera seria became unfashionable, and was viewed as a historical genre. The popular rival to opera seria was opera buffa, the 'comic' opera that took its cue from the improvisatory commedia dell'arte.
Italian opera seria (invariably to Italian librettos) was produced not only in Italy but also in Habsburg Austria, England, Saxony and other German states, even in Spain, and other countries. Opera seria was less popular in France, where the national genre of French opera was preferred. Popular composers of opera seria included Alessandro Scarlatti, Johann Adolf Hasse, Leonardo Vinci, Nicola Porpora, George Frideric Handel, and in the second half of the 18th century Tommaso Traetta, Gluck, and Mozart.
Opera buffa (Italian, plural: opere buffe) is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc. It is especially associated with developments in Naples in the first half of the 18th century, whence its popularity spread to Rome and northern Italy. It was at first characterized by everyday settings, local dialects, and simple vocal writing (the basso buffo is the associated voice type), the main requirement being clear diction and facility with patter.
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building. While some venues are constructed specifically for operas, other opera houses are part of larger performing arts centers.
Opera semiseria ('semi-serious opera') is an Italian genre of opera, popular in the early and middle 19th century.
Related to the opera buffa, opera semiseria contains elements of comedy but also of pathos, sometimes with a pastoral setting. It can usually be distinguished from tragic operas or melodramas by the presence of a basso buffo. One of the better known examples is Gaetano Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix. Another example is Gioacchino Rossini's La gazza ladra. Vincenzo Bellini's La sonnambula has all the characteristics of the genre except the presence of the required basso buffo, hence it fails to qualify.
Opéra-ballet was a popular genre of French Baroque opera, "that grew out of the ballets à entrées of the early seventeeth century". It differed from the more elevated tragédie en musique as practised by Jean-Baptiste Lully in several ways. It contained more dance music than the tragédie and the plots were not necessarily derived from Classical mythology and even allowed for the comic elements which Lully had excluded from the tragédie en musique after Thésée (1675). The opéra-ballet consisted of a prologue followed by a number of self-contained acts (also known as entrées), often loosely grouped round a single theme. The individual acts could also be performed independently, in which case they were known as actes de ballet.
Operetta (Italian, plural: operette) is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.
A Parsifal bell (German: Parsifal Klavier Instrument) is a stringed musical instrument designed as a substitute for the church bells that are called for in the score of Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.
The instrument was designed by Felix Mottl, a conductor of Wagner's works, and constructed by Schweisgut, of Karlsruhe, Germany.
Passaggio is a term used in classical singing to describe the pitch ranges in which vocal registration events occur. Beneath passaggio is the chest voice where any singer can produce a powerful sound, and above it lies the head voice, where a powerful and resonant sound is accessible, but usually only through training. The historic Italian school of singing describes a primo passaggio and a secondo passaggio connected through a zona di passaggio in both the male and female voice. A major goal of classical voice training in classical styles is to maintain an even timbre throughout the passaggio. Through proper training, it is possible to produce a resonant and powerful sound.
In music, a pasticcio or pastiche is an opera or other musical work composed of works by different composers who may or may not have been working together, or an adaptation or localization of an existing work that is loose, unauthorized, or inauthentic.
Pastorale héroïque was a type of ballet héroïque, a form of the opéra-ballet genre of French Baroque opera. The first work to bear the name was Jean-Baptiste Lully's final completed opera Acis et Galatée (1686), although musical works on pastoral themes had already appeared on the French stage. The pastorale héroique usually drew on Classical subject matter associated with pastoral poetry. Like the tragédie en musique, it had an allegorical prologue; however, its structure consisted of three acts, rather than the five of the tragédie en musique. Later examples were written by Jean-Philippe Rameau; these include Zaïs (1748) and Naïs (1749).
Portamento (plural: portamenti, a noun meaning literally "carriage" or "carrying") is a musical term originated from the Italian expression "portamento della voce" (carriage of the voice), denoting from the beginning of the 17th century a vocal slide between two pitches and its emulation by members of the violin family and certain wind instruments, and is sometimes used interchangeably with anticipation. It is also applied to one type of glissando as well as to the "glide" function of synthesizers. (see main article glissando).
Posse mit Gesang
Posse mit Gesang ("farce with singing", plural: Possen) is a form of popular German-language music drama, that developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Early examples are sometimes called 'Possenspil' or 'Possenspiel'. It is also sometimes referred to simply as 'Posse' (farce).
Associated with Vienna, and also Berlin and Hamburg, the Posse mit Gesang was similar to the Singspiel, but generally had more action and less music than the more operatic form. Viennese examples included Ferdinand Raimund's Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind of 1828. Composers who contributed music for Posse included Wenzel Müller, Conradin Kreutzer, and Philip Jakob Riotte.
Originally used in opera or Commedia dell'arte companies, "prima donna" is Italian for "first lady". The term was used to designate the leading female singer in the opera company, the person to whom the prime roles would be given. The prima donna was normally, but not necessarily, a soprano. The corresponding term for the male lead (almost always a tenor) is "primo uomo".
Famous opera prima donnas have often caused opera enthusiasts to divide into opposing "clubs" supporting one singer over another. The rivalry between the respective fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, for example, was one of the most famous of all opera, despite the friendship of the two singers.
The designation prima donna assoluta (absolute first lady) is occasionally applied to a prima donna of outstanding excellence. This is applied by popular consensus, to those whose achievements place them in a category above all others.
The prompter in an opera house gives the singers the opening words of each phrase a few seconds early. Prompts are mouthed silently or hurled lyrically in a half-voice, audible (hopefully) only on stage. (This is in contrast to the prompt in a spoken-drama theater who aids actors who have forgotten their words or lines.)
Opera prompters are traditionally housed in a stuffy wooden box at the center-front edge of the stage, above the orchestra pit. They are visible to the performers and no one else. Technology has brought cool air and small display screens, among other advances, to support their work.
Recitative is a style of delivery (much used in operas, oratorios, and cantatas) in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech. The mostly syllabic recitativo secco ("dry", accompanied only by continuo) is at one end of a spectrum through recitativo accompagnato (using orchestra), the more melismatic arioso, and finally the full-blown aria or ensemble, where the pulse is entirely governed by the music.
Regietheater (German for director's theater or producer's theater) is a term that refers to the modern (mainly post-World War II) practice of allowing a director (or producer) freedom in devising the way a given opera (or play) is staged so that the composer's original, specific stage directions (where supplied) can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot.
In music, a register is the relative "height" or range of a note, set of pitches or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument or group of instruments. A higher register indicates higher pitch.
* Example 1: Violins are in a higher register than cellos.
In woodwind and brass instruments, the word register usually distinguishes pitch ranges produced using different normal modes of the air column, with higher registers produced by overblowing. Often the timbres of different woodwind instrument registers tend to be markedly different.
* Example 2: The Western concert flute plays approximately three and a half octaves and generally has three complete registers and one partial register. The musical note C4 (corresponding to middle C on the piano) would be in that instrument's first register, whereas C5 (one octave higher) would be in its second register.
However, on the clarinet the notes from (written) G4 or A4 to B♭4 sometimes are regarded as a separate "throat register", even though both they and the notes from F♯4 down are produced using the instrument's lowest normal mode; the timbre of the throat notes differs, and the throat register's fingerings also are distinctive, using special keys and not the standard tone holes used for other notes.
The register in which an instrument plays, or in which a part is written, affects the quality of sound or timbre. Register is also used structurally in musical form, with the climax of a piece usually being in the highest register of that piece. Often, serial and other pieces will use fixed register, allowing a pitch class to be expressed through only one pitch.
Répétiteur (Fr.), repetitore (It.), or Korrepetitor / Repetitor (Ger.), originally from the French verb répéter meaning "to repeat, to go over, to learn, to rehearse".
In opera, répétiteur is the name given to the person responsible for coaching singers and playing the piano for music and production rehearsals. When coaching solo singers or choir members, the répétiteur will take on a number of the roles of a vocal coach: advising singers on how to improve their pitch and prononciation, and correcting note or phrasing errors.
Repetiteurs are skilled musicians who have strong sight-reading and score reading skills. In addition to being able to sight read piano parts, a répétiteur can "fake" an orchestral reduction by reading from a large open score of all of the instruments and voice parts. Répétiteurs are also skilled in following the directions of a conductor, in terms of changing the tempo, pausing, or adding other nuances.
In ballet, a répétiteur teaches the steps and interpretation of the roles to some or all of the company performing a dance.
Rescue opera is a modern term used to describe a popular genre of opera in the late 18th and early 19th century. Generally, rescue operas deal with the rescue of a main character from danger and end with a happy dramatic resolution in which lofty humanistic ideals triumph over base motives. Operas with this kind of subject matter became popular in France at around the time of the French Revolution, and a number of such operas dealt with the rescue of a political prisoner. Stylistically and thematically, they were influenced by the French opéra comique, and in turn influenced German Romantic opera and French grand opera. The most famous rescue opera is Ludwig van Beethoven's Fidelio.
A ritornello (Italian; "little return") is a recurring passage in Baroque music for orchestra or chorus. The first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria may be in "ritornello form", in which the ritornello is the opening theme, always played by tutti, which returns in whole or in part and in different keys throughout the movement, in which particulars the form differs from the rondo.
Ritornello form was favoured by Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and Handel in chamber works, vocal pieces and, most prominently, in the solo concerto in a ‘tutti-solo-tutti-solo-tutti’ pattern in which the ritornello, the ‘tutti’ section, functions as a refrain or chorus while the solo sections may expand upon the short melodic lines of the tutti. At the end of the movement the entire ritornello returns in the home key. J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos offer excellent examples. In opera seria, the ritornello functioned as the main structural support for the da capo aria, in which it was successively repeated.
Romantische Oper (literally German romantic opera) was a genre of early nineteenth-century German opera, developed not from the German Singspiel of the eighteenth-century but from the opéras comiques of the French Revolution. It offered opportunities for an increasingly important role for the orchestra, and greater dramatic possibilities for reminiscence motifs - phrases that are identified with a place, person or idea and which, when re-used in a work, remind the listener of the place, person or idea in question.
The terms Semi-opera, dramatic[k] opera and English opera were all applied to Restoration entertainments that combined spoken plays with masque-like episodes employing singing and dancing characters. They usually included machines in the manner of the restoration spectacular. The first examples were the Shakespeare adaptations produced by Thomas Betterton with music by Matthew Locke. After Locke's death a second flowering produced the semi-operas of Henry Purcell, notably King Arthur and The Fairy-Queen. Semi-opera received a deathblow when the Lord Chamberlain separately licensed plays without music and the new Italian opera.
In music, a serenade (or sometimes serenata) is a musical composition, and/or performance, in someone's honor. Serenades are typically calm, light music.
The word Serenade is derived from the Italian word sereno, which means calm.
A Singspiel (German literally meaning "song-play") (plural: Singspiele) is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera. It is characterized by spoken dialogue, which is alternated with ensembles, songs, ballads, and arias (which were often lyrical, strophic, or folk-like), rather like an operetta.
Sitzprobe (German) is a term used in opera and musical theatre to describe a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups. It is often the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together. The equivalent Italian term is prova all'italiana.
A sopranist (also, sopranista or male soprano) is a male singer who is able to sing in the vocal tessitura of a soprano usually through the use of falsetto vocal production. This voice type is a specific kind of countertenor. In rare cases an adult man may be able to sing in the soprano range using his normal or modal voice and not falsetto due to endocrinological reasons, like Radu Marian, and Jorge Cano or as a result of a larynx that has not completely developed as in the case of Michael Maniaci.
A soprano is a singing voice with a vocal range (using scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4) from approximately middle C (C4) to "high A" (A5) in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) or higher in operatic music. In four part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part which usually encompasses the melody. For other styles of singing see Voice classification in non-classical music.
Typically, the term "soprano" refers to female singers but at times the term male soprano has been used by men who sing in the soprano vocal range using falsetto vocal production instead of the modal voice. This practice is most commonly found in the context of choral music in England. However, these men are more commonly referred to as countertenors or sopranists. The practice of referring to countertenors as "male sopranos" is somewhat controversial within vocal pedagogical circles as these men do not produce sound in the same physiological way that female sopranos do. The singer Michael Maniaci is the only known man who can refer to himself as a true male soprano because he is able to sing in the soprano vocal range using the modal voice as a woman would. He is able to do this because his larynx never fully developed during puberty.
In the art of singing, the term "soprano sfogato" (unlimited soprano) designates a singer (contralto or mezzo soprano) capable of by sheer industry or natural talent to extend her upper range and be able to encompass the coloratura soprano tessitura. An alternative concept is that of the "Assoluta".
Soubrette is a term referring to a type of female role—specifically, a stock character—in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy".
Spinto (from Italian, "pushed") is a vocal term used to characterize a soprano or tenor voice of a weight between lyric and dramatic that is capable of handling large musical climaxes in opera at moderate intervals. (Sometimes the terms lirico-spinto or jugendlich-dramatisch are used to denote this category of voice.)
The spinto voice type is recognisable by its tonal "slice" or squillo. This enables the singer to cut through the wall of sound produced by a full Romantic orchestra in a wide variety of roles, excluding only the most taxing ones written by the likes of Richard Wagner (such as Brünhilde, Isolde, Tristan and Siegfried), Giacomo Meyerbeer (John of Leyden), Verdi (Otello), Puccini (Turandot, Calaf) and Richard Strauss (Elektra).
* Spinto soprano: a fundamentally lyric soprano with a fair amount of extra "pulp" in her tone and a distinct thrust in her vocal attack. As they possess both a lyric and a dramatic quality, spinto sopranos are suitable for a broad spectrum of roles, ranging from genuine lyric parts such as Micaela in Carmen and Mimì in La Bohème through to histrionically demanding Verdi heroines such as Leonora (in Il trovatore and La forza del destino) and Aida, not to mention Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Tosca. Lighter Wagnerian roles such as Elsa in Lohengrin or Elisabeth in Tannhäuser also fall within their domain. Elisabeth Rethberg is a famous example of a soprano who sang exactly this kind of mixed Italian and German repertoire.
* Tenore spinto: the tenor equivalent of the above. They can convincingly sing roles as lyrical as Rodolfo in La Bohème, the Duke in Rigoletto and Alfredo in La traviata, yet still excel in parts as heavy as Cavaradossi in "Tosca", Don Jose in "Carmen" and Radames in Aïda. Canio, the tenor lead in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and Lohengrin in Wagner's opera of the same name, are other well-known examples of spinto tenor parts.
A spinto soprano (also lirico-spinto or "pushed lyric") is a category of operatic soprano voice that has the limpidity and easy high notes of a lyric soprano, yet can be "pushed" on to achieve dramatic climaxes without strain. This type of voice may possess a somewhat darker timbre, too, than the average lyric soprano. It generally uses squillo to "slice" through the sound of a full orchestra, rather than singing over the orchestra like a true dramatic soprano.
Spinto sopranos are also expected to handle dynamic changes in the music that they are performing with skill and poise. They command a vocal range extending from approximately middle C (C4) to "high D" (D6).
The spinto repertoire includes many roles written by Verdi, by the various verismo composers, and by Puccini. Some of these roles are extremely popular with opera audiences. Certain Wagnerian heroines such as Elsa, Elisabeth and Sieglinde are also sung by spinto sopranos. The fact that spinto sopranos are uncommon means that parts that are ideal for their voices are often performed by singers from other classifications, and more than a few lyric sopranos have damaged their voices singing heavier spinto roles.
Sprechgesang and Sprechstimme (German for spoken-song and spoken-voice) are musical terms used to refer to an expressionist vocal technique between singing and speaking. Though sometimes used interchangeably, sprechgesang is a term directly related to the operatic recitative manner of singing (in which pitches are sung, but the articulation is rapid and loose like speech), whereas sprechstimme is closer to speech itself (because it does not emphasise any particular pitches).
Squillo is a technical term attached to the resonant, trumpet-like sound in the voice of opera singers. The purpose of the squillo is to enable an essentially lyric tone to be heard over thick orchestrations, e.g. in late Verdi, Puccini and Strauss operas. Achieving a proper amount of squillo is imperative: too much and the tone veers towards the sharp; too little and the purpose of the squillo cannot be achieved.
Training the squillo involves increasing the intensity of the higher formants of the voice without altering the fundamental i.e. without altering the pitch of the note. This is done mainly by using the head resonance, which provides very little volume but ample opportunity for projection. Among methods employable to achieve this include messa di voce. Voices with naturally acquired squillo, i.e. having naturally strong higher formants, are especially prized in opera because they maintain certain lyric qualities e.g. limpid high notes, homogenous registers etc even in dramatic singing. Voices which have properly trained squillo are also easier to record.
Stagione (Italian 'season') is an organizational system for presenting opera, often used by large companies. Typically each production is cast separately and has a brief but intensive run of performances. By contrast, companies that use a repertory system maintain a permanent company and rotate productions over many months or even years. Historically the stagione system has been preferred in Britain, the United States. and most large international houses.
Surtitles, also known as supertitles, are translated or transcribed lyrics/dialogue projected above a stage or displayed on a screen, commonly used in opera or other musical performances. The word "surtitle" comes from the French language "sur", meaning "over" or "on", and the English language word "title", formed in a similar way to the related subtitle. The word Surtitle is a trademark of the Canadian Opera Company.
Surtitles are used either to translate the meaning of the lyrics into the audience's language, or to transcribe lyrics that may be difficult to understand in the sung form. The two possible types of presentation of surtitles are as projected text, or as the electronic libretto system. Titles in the theatre have proven a commercial success in areas such as opera, and are finding increased use for allowing hearing impaired patrons to enjoy theatre productions more fully. Surtitles are used in live productions in the same way as subtitles are used in movie and television productions.
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C (A4) in choral music, and up to high C (C5) in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B♭2 (two B♭s below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to two Fs above middle C (F5).
The term tenor is also applied to instruments, such as the tenor saxophone, to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group.
The tenore contraltino is a specialized form of the tenor voice found in Italian opera around the beginning of the 19th century, mainly in the Rossini repertoire, which rapidly evolved into the modern 'Romantic' tenor. It is sometimes referred to as tenor altino (or contraltino) in English books.
Tenore di grazia
Leggiero Tenor, also called tenor leggiero or tenore di grazia, is a lightweight, flexible tenor type of voice. The tenor roles written in the early 19th century Italian operas are invariably leggiero tenor roles, especially those by Rossini such as Lindoro in L'italiana in Algeri, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola, and Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Bellini; Gualtiero in Il pirata, Elvino in La sonnambula and Arturo in I Puritani are classic examples of the voice. Many Donizetti roles, such as Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore and Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Tonio in La fille du régiment, are also tenore di grazia roles.
In music, the term tessitura (plural tessiture; Italian, meaning "texture", and from the same Latin word: textura) generally describes the most musically acceptable and comfortable range for a given singer or, less frequently, musical instrument; the range in which a given type of voice presents its best-sounding texture or timbre. This broad definition is often interpreted to refer specifically to the pitch range that most frequently occurs within a given piece, or part, of music. For example, throughout the entirety of Wagner's Ring, the music written for the role of Siegfried ranges from C♯3 to C5, but the tessitura is described as high because the tenor phrases are most often in the range of C4 to A4.
In musical notation, tessitura is used to refer to the compass in which a piece of music lies—whether high or low, etc.—for a particular vocal (or less often instrumental) part. The tessitura of a piece is not decided by the extremes of its range, but rather by which part of the range is most used. The tessitura of a part will often influence what clef a particular piece of music is written in. Melodic contour may also be considered to be an important aspect of vocal tessitura.
In music, timbre the quality of a musical note or sound or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices or musical instruments. The physical characteristics of sound that mediate the perception of timbre include spectrum and envelope. Timbre is also known in psychoacoustics as tone quality or tone color.
Tragédie en musique
Tragédie en musique (French lyric tragedy), also known as tragédie lyrique, is a genre of French opera introduced by Jean-Baptiste Lully and used by his followers until the second half of the eighteenth century. Operas in this genre are usually based on stories from Classical mythology or the Italian romantic epics of Tasso and Ariosto. The stories may not have a tragic ending - in fact, they generally don't - but the atmosphere must be noble and elevated. The standard tragédie en musique has five acts. Earlier works in the genre were preceded by an allegorical prologue and, during the lifetime of Louis XIV, these generally celebrated the king's noble qualities and his prowess in war. Each of the five acts usually follows a basic pattern, opening with an aria in which one of the main characters expresses their feelings, followed by dialogue in recitative interspersed with short arias (petits airs), in which the main business of the plot occurs. Each act traditionally ends with a divertissement, offering great opportunities for the chorus and the ballet troupe. Composers sometimes changed the order of these features in an act for dramatic reasons.
The trill (or shake, as it was known from the 16th till the 19th century) is a musical ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, which can be identified with the context of the trill. (compare mordent and tremolo). It is sometimes referred to by the German triller, the Italian trillo, the French trille or the Spanish trino.
Sometimes it is expected that the trill will end with a turn (by sounding the note below rather than the note above the principal note, immediately before the last sounding of the principal note), or some other variation. Such variations are often marked with a few Appoggiaturas following the note that bears the trill indication.
The Tristan chord is a chord made up of the notes F, B, D♯ and G♯. More generally, it can be any chord that consists of these same intervals: augmented fourth, augmented sixth, and augmented ninth above a root. It is so named as it is heard in the opening phrase of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde as part of the leitmotif relating to Tristan.
Verismo (meaning "realism", from Italian vero, meaning "true") was an Italian literary movement which peaked between approximately 1875 and the early 1900s. Giovanni Verga and Luigi Capuana were its main exponents and the authors of a verismo manifesto. Capuana published the novel Giacinta, generally regarded as the "manifesto" of Italian verismo. Unlike French naturalism, which was based on positivistic ideals, Verga and Capuana rejected claims of the scientific nature and social usefulness of the movement.
Verismo is also employed by musicologists to refer to a post-Romantic operatic tradition associated with Italian composers such as Pietro Mascagni, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano and Giacomo Puccini. They sought to bring the naturalism of influential late 19th-century writers such as Emile Zola and Henrik Ibsen into opera.
Vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music. Vibrato is typically characterised in terms of two factors: the amount of pitch variation ("extent of vibrato") and speed with which the pitch is varied ("rate of vibrato").
Vocal resonation is the process by which the basic product of phonation is enhanced in timbre and/or intensity by the air-filled cavities through which it passes on its way to the outside air. Various terms related to the resonation process include amplification, enrichment, enlargement, improvement, intensification, and prolongation, although in strictly scientific usage acoustic authorities would question most of them. The main point to be drawn from these terms by a singer or speaker is that the end result of resonation is, or should be, to make a better sound.
Vocal weight refers to the perceived "lightness" or "heaviness" of a singing voice. This quality of the voice is one of the major determining factors in voice classification within classical music. Lighter voices are often associated with the term lyric and are usually brighter and more agile; heavier voices are often associated with the term dramatic and are usually powerful, rich, and darker. Other voice types like the spinto soprano have a more medium vocal weight. Vocal weight can also affect overall vocal agility; heavier voices often have more difficulty maneuvering through florid coloratura passages than their lighter counterparts, as their weight and power compromises agility. Likewise, dramatic roles are often written with larger orchestras in mind as dramatic voices can carry more easily over larger ensembles.
The vocal folds, also known commonly as vocal cords, are composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx. They vibrate, modulating the flow of air being expelled from the lungs during phonation.
Open during inhalation, closed when holding one's breath, and vibrating for speech or singing (oscillating 440 times per second when singing A above middle C), the folds are controlled via the vagus nerve. They are white because of scant blood circulation.
Vocal pedagogy is the study of the art and science of voice instruction. It is utilized in the teaching of singing and assists in defining what singing is, how singing works, and how proper singing technique is accomplished.
Vocal pedagogy covers a broad range of aspects of singing, ranging from the physiological process of vocal production to the artistic aspects of interpretation of songs from different genres or historical eras.
Vocal range is the measure of the breadth of pitches that a human voice can phonate. Although the study of vocal range has little practical application in terms of speech, it is a topic of study within linguistics, phonetics, and speech and language pathology, particularly in relation to the study of tonal languages and certain types of vocal disorders. However, the most common application of the term "vocal range" is within the context of singing, where it is used as one of the major defining characteristics for classifying singing voices into groups known as voice types.
A vocal register is a particular series of tones in the human voice that are produced by one particular vibratory pattern of the vocal folds and therefore possess a common quality. Registers originate in laryngeal function. They occur because the vocal folds are capable of producing several different vibratory patterns. Each of these vibratory patterns appears within a particular range of pitches and produces certain characteristic sounds.
In speech pathology, the vocal register has three components: a certain vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, a certain series of pitches, and a certain type of sound. Although this view is also adopted by many vocal pedagogists, others define vocal registration more loosely than in the sciences, using the term to denote various theories of how the human voice changes, both subjectively and objectively, as it moves through its pitch range. There are many divergent theories on vocal registers within vocal pedagogy, making the term somewhat confusing and at times controversial within the field of singing .
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types. These qualities include but are not limited to: vocal range, vocal weight, vocal tessitura, vocal timbre, and vocal transition points such as breaks and lifts within the voice. Other considerations are physical characteristics, speech level, scientific testing, and vocal registration. The science behind voice classification developed within European classical music and is not generally applicable to other forms of singing. Voice classification is often used within opera to associate possible roles with potential voices. There are currently several different systems in use including: the German Fach system and the choral music system among many others. No system is universally applied or accepted. This article focuses on voice classification within classical music. For other contemporary styles of singing see: Voice classification in non-classical music.
Voice classification is a tool for singers, composers, venues, and listeners to categorize vocal properties, and to associate possible roles with potential voices. There have been times when voice classification systems have been used too rigidly, i.e. a house assigning a singer to a specific type, and only casting him or her in roles they consider belonging to this category.
The Wagner tuba is a comparatively rare brass instrument that combines elements of both the French horn and the tuba. Also referred to as the "Bayreuth Tuba", it was originally created for Richard Wagner's operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Since then, other composers have written for it, most notably Anton Bruckner, in whose Symphony No. 7 a quartet of them is first heard in the slow movement in memory of Wagner. The euphonium is sometimes used as a substitute when a Wagner tuba cannot be obtained.
Wagner was inspired to invent this instrument after a brief visit to Paris in 1853, when he visited the shop of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. Wagner wanted an instrument that could intone the Valhalla motif somberly like a trombone but with a less incisive tone like that of a horn. That effect was obtained by a conical bore (like a horn) and the use of the horn mouthpiece (tapered as opposed to a cup mouthpiece such as on a trombone). The instrument is built with rotary valves which, like those on the horn, are played with the left hand.
The Wagner tuba nominally exists in two sizes, tenor in B-flat and bass in F, with ranges comparable to those of horns in the same pitches while being less adept at the highest notes. Several 20th-century and later manufacturers have, however, combined the two instruments into a double Wagner tuba in B-flat and F. Wagner tuben are normally written as transposing instruments, but the notation used varies considerably and is a common source of confusion—Wagner himself used three different and incompatible notations in the course of the Ring, and all three of these systems (plus some others) have been used by subsequent composers. An additional source of confusion is the fact that the instruments are invariably designated in orchestral scores simply as "tubas", leaving it sometimes unclear as to whether true tubas or Wagner tuben are intended (for example, the two tenor tubas in Janáček's Sinfonietta are sometimes wrongly assumed to be Wagner tuben).
The sound of the Wagner tuba is mellower than that of the horn and sounds more distant, yet also more focused. Bruckner generally uses them for pensive melodic passages at piano to pianissimo dynamics. They can hold their own in a forte tutti but Bruckner generally gives them sustained tones rather than melodic motifs in such passages. In Bruckner's Eighth and Ninth Symphonies, the four Wagner tuben are played by four players who alternate between playing horn and Wagner tuba, which is the same procedure Wagner used in the Ring. This change is simplified by the fact that the horn and Wagner tuba use the same mouthpiece.
Zarzuela (Spanish pronunciation: [θarˈθwela]) is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. The name derives from a Royal hunting lodge, the Palacio de la Zarzuela near Madrid, where this type of entertainment was first presented to the court.
There are two main forms of zarzuela: Baroque zarzuela (c.1630–1750), the earliest style, and Romantic zarzuela (c.1850–1950), which can be further divided into two. Main sub-genres are género grande and género chico, although other sub-divisions exist.
Zarzuela spread to the Spanish colonies, and many Hispanic countries – notably Cuba – developed their own traditions. There is also a strong tradition in the Philippines where it is also known as zarzuelta. Other regional and linguistic variants in Spain includes the Basque zartzuela and the Catalan sarsuela.
A masque-like musical theatre had existed in Spain since the time of Juan del Encina. The zarzuela genre was innovative in giving a dramatic function to the musical numbers, which were integrated into the argument of the work. Dances and choruses were incorporated as well as solo and ensemble numbers, all to orchestral accompaniment.
Zeitoper (German: "opera of the time") was a short-lived genre of opera associated with Weimar Germany. It is not known when or by whom the term was coined, but by 1928 Kurt Weill ("Zeitoper" in Melos) was able to complain that it was more a slogan than a description. Like opera buffa it used contemporary settings and characters, comic or at least satiric plots (Max Brand’s Maschinist Hopkins is a sole tragic example) and aimed at musical accessibility. Two distinguishing characteristics are a tendency to incorporate modern technology (Jonny spielt auf: trains, Der Lindberghflug: airplanes, Von Heute auf Morgen: telephones, and even elevators) and frequent allusions to popular music, especially jazz. This last, more than any social satire, earned the suspicion of the political right and ensured that it would not survive into the Nazi era.
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Published - February 2011
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