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Opera Etiquette

Opera Glossary

Opera Etiquette
Opera Glossary
What to Wear
Many people like to dress up when they go to the opera - it is considered part of the fun. These days you can pretty much wear what you want, although most people still enjoy the glamour aspect. Formal attire or semi-formal would not be out of place for a "night at the Opera".

It is acceptable (and appreciated!) to applaud after an overture. Singers perform arias in the middle of scenes, some of which will be recognizable to you. Show your appreciation if it's done well. Customarily, applauding at the end of each scene is appreciated. If you are not sure if a time is appropriate for applause just follow the lead of the rest of the audience.

Arrive Early:
If you are late the ushers will usually ask you to wait until after the overture or even the first after the first act!

Of course it is disturbing to other audience members if you have to trip through the aisle to you seat at any time after the performance has begun. Best to plan on arriving 30 minutes prior to curtain time.

About the Orchestra
The orchestra members enter the pit and tune their instruments before the show begins. When done, the instrumentalists become quiet. Next the conductor enters the pit. It is acceptable (and appreciated!) for the audience to applaud the entry of the conductor. The conductor nods to the audience, faces the orchestra at his or her podium, and raises arms signaling the start of the overture.

Live Performances
Remember this is a live performance and the performers are encouraged by the response they get from the audience. The performers can hear, and at times, see you! If you are enjoying the performance let the performers know it! 

Things that go "Beep"
For the enjoyment of the entire audience you should turn off cell phones, pagers, and beeping watches, etc... 





Opera Glossary

Opera Etiquette

Glossary of Opera


Etiquette for Opera Singing

aficionado - A devoted fan or enthusiast. 

apron - The front part of the stage between the curtain and the orchestra pit.

aria - Italian word for "air." a song for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment.

baritone - The medium male voice. lies between the low bass voice and the higher tenor voice. 

baroque - The period of music from the early to mid 1600's to the mid 1700's.  Baroque operas are characterized by emotional, highly stylized and flowery presentations.

bass - The lowest of the male voices.

bass-baritone - A male voice which combines the quality of the baritone with the depth of the bass, avoiding the extremes of either range.  

basso profundo - The most serious bass voice. 

bel canto - Italian for "beautiful singing." In a bel canto style opera, the beauty of singing is more important than the plot or the words.

bravo! - Bravo is the Italian word for expressing appreciation to a male performer.

brava! Bravo is the Italian word for expressing appreciation to a female performer

bravi! Bravo is the Italian word for expressing appreciation to two or more performers.

cadenza - Near the end of an aria, a series of difficult, fast high notes that allow the singer to demonstrate vocal ability.

classical - The period in music from roughly the mid 1700's to the early 1800's.

coloratura soprano - A very high pitched soprano. also the description of singing which pertains to great feats of agility - fast singing, high singing, trills, and embellishments.

commedia dell'arte - A style of dramatic presentation popular in Italy from the 16th century on; the commedia characters were highly stylized and the plots frequently revolved around disguises, mistaken identities and misunderstandings.

crescendo - Getting progressively louder.

diminuendo - Getting progressively softer.

diva - Literally, "goddess," a female opera star.  Often used to describe a demanding or fussy opera star.

duet - A musical composition for two performers.

encore - A request to play again

falsetto - The high part of a man's voice, sounding like a woman's voice.

finale - Last song of an act, usually involving a large number of singers.

finale ultimo - The final finale.

grand opera - Opera which is sung from start to finish, as opposed to opera which may have spoken dialogue.

heldentenor - German for "heroic tenor."  a heldentenor has a brilliant top register (high notes) combined with a strong lower voice, almost like a baritone, and is capable of long passages which require great vocal stamina. 

libretto - Italian for "little book."  the libretto is the text of an opera.

maestro - Italian for "master."  a title of courtesy, given, especially in Italy, to conductors, composers and directors.

mezza voce - Italian for "medium voice." when singing mezza voce, the singer reduces the volume so as to intensify the emotion. 

mezzo soprano - The female voice between the soprano (highest) and the contralto (lowest). 

opera buffa - Italian for "comic opera." 

opéra comique - Opera in which there is some spoken dialogue as opposed to grand opera in which there is none. 

opera seria - A formal, serious opera, particularly prevalent in the 18th century.

operetta - Light hearted opera with spoken dialogue, such as a musical.

opus - A single work or composition.

orchestra - The group of musicians which accompany a staged presentation.

overture - The instrumental introduction to an opera. usually incorporates themes which will be heard later in the the opera.

prelude - The instrumental introduction to an individual act within an opera.

prima donna - Italian for "first lady." the female star of an opera.

raked stage - A stage which slants upward away from the view of the audience.

range - The division of the human voice according to six basic types: soprano, mezzo soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone and bass.

romantic - The period of music between the early to mid 1800's and the early 1900's. 

soprano - The highest  female voice..

staccato - Characterized by short, clipped, rapid articulation.

stage right/stage left - The division of the stage from the performer's point of view; when a performer goes stage right, he moves to his own right and to the audience's left.

supernumerary - A performer who appears in a non-singing role.

tempo - The speed of a musical passage or composition.

tenor - The highest male voice.  

trill - Two rapidly and repeatedly alternated notes.

upstage/downstage - The position on stage farthest or nearest the audience. when a performer moves downstage, he goes toward the audience.

verismo - Italian for "truth."  a documentay style of opera involving melodramatice situations.

vibrato - The slightly wavering quality that a singer has in his voice while sustaining a tone.



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