A CAPPELLA [ah kuh-pél-luh] - Singing without instrumental accompaniment.
ARIA [áh-ree-uh] - An extended vocal solo, usually a showpiece for the singer.
BRAVO! - Audience members shout this Italian word after an exciting aria, scene, act, or performance. It is pronounced "brah-voh" and means "well done." A female performer would be accorded a "brava," and a group of performers (duets and ensembles) would receive a "bravi."
CADENCE [káy-dens] - A closing statement at the end of a musical phrase. An OPEN CADENCE sounds like a resting point or a thought that is incomplete.
A CLOSED CADENCE - sounds like a stopping point or the end of a song/section.
CADENZA [kuh-dén-zuh] - A fast, fancy-sounding passage sung by a soloist, usually in an aria.
CHORUS - A group of singers who sing and act together; also a piece of music sung by such a group of singers.
CHORUSMASTER - The leader of the chorus.
COLORATURA [color-uh-tóo-ruh] - A highly decorative style of singing with many flourishes, trills, and CADENZAS, usually for the soprano voice.
COMPOSER - One who creates musical works.
COMPRIMARIO [kahm-prih-máh-ree-oh] - A secondary role in an opera, usually the maid, servant, messenger or confidante on one of the leading characters. Often provides comic relief.
CONDUCTOR - The leader of a musical ensemble responsible for controlling such matters as speed, volume, balance and togetherness through the use of silent gestures.
DOWNSTAGE - The position on a stage nearest to the audience. Because the "raked stage" prevalent in early opera houses was slanted, the closer a singer came to the audience, the lower the stage was to the ground.
DUET - A musical piece for two voices or two instruments.
ENSEMBLE - The delicate equality of singing together in tonality and emotional contact. Also, a piece for three or more singers.
FINALE [fih-náh-lay] - The ending of a large piece of music such as an opera.
GRAND OPERA - The most elaborate and formal presentation of opera, signified by grandeur and size in cast, orchestra and sets.
LEITMOTIV [líght-moh-teef] - A melodic theme used throughout an opera to identify a character or idea (love, hate, jealousy, etc). German Romantic opera composer Richard Wagner developed this concept in the late 19th century.
LIBRETTIST [lih-brét-tist] - Author of an opera's text or the LIBRETTO.
LIBRETTO [lih-brét-toh] - The text of an opera (Italian word for little book).
OPERA BUFFA - A comic opera with elements of farce.
OPERA SERIA [opera sáir-ee-ah] - A dramatic opera, usually dealing with serious or historical subject matter.
OVERTURE - An instrumental introduction to an opera that often makes use of thematic material from the entire opera.
RECITATIVE [reh-sih-tah-téev] - A style of singing designed to be similar to natural speech.
SCENE - The time and location where the action takes place; also a section of an act in a dramatic or operatic production.
SCORE - The written music including vocal and instrumental parts used by the CONDUCTOR and the singers for a performance.
SET - The scenery on the stage, built to represent a particular location (short for setting).
STAGE LEFT/RIGHT - The division of the stage from the singer's point of view. For example: A singer moves to his/her left, which is the audience's right.
SUPER (OR SUPERNUMERARY) - A non-singing, non-speaking actor in an opera
THEME - A central melody in a piece of music. In opera, a theme may be associated with a particular character, setting, object, or emotion. This kind of theme is also called a LEITMOTIV.
UPSTAGE - The position on stage farthest from the audience. (see DOWNSTAGE for further explanation)
VIBRATO [vih-bráh-toh] - Italian for vibration. Slight and rapid fluctuations in pitch. The quality that produces warmth in the human voice.
Stage Director - blocks the action of the show; helps the singers interpret characters; shows actors how to move and gesture; works with designers to create sets and costumes
Music Director/Conductor - guides the musical shape of the opera; conducts during rehearsals and performances
Repetiteur (Rehearsal Pianist) - plays for all music and staging rehearsals until rehearsals with orchestra begin; the pianist plays a piano reduction of the orchestral score
Stage Manager - Oversees scheduling and supervises singers and technical staff during rehearsals and performances ensuring the correct flow of such things as the singers' entrances and exits, lighting and occasional sound cues, set changes and the organization of and distribution of props, the movement of scenery, the use of props.
Lighting Designer - plans or designs the color, intensity, and frequency of the light onstage
Technical Director - coordinates the lighting, set, costumes, and the crews that handle those things
Costume Designer - plans or designs the costumes and supervises their construction
Wardrobe Master or Mistress - assists with the costumes: how to take care of them and how they are to be worn
Wigs and Make-up Designer - designs and oversees hairstyles, wigs, and make-up
Properties Manager - designs and oversees all moveable objects that are not part of the set or costumes (props)
Production Manager - coordinates between the artistic and business aspects of production; insures that everything happens on time and within budget
Crew or Stagehands - assist in construction, installation, and changes of the set, costumes, lights, and props
Adapted from Nashville Opera's 2005 OperaNET (Nashville Educational Tour) Study Guide. Original version written by Kelly Claus, Education Director
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