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Exploring Music
What is an Opera?
Room: F-04 A play in which people sing. In most operas, all the words are sung.
psmartin@psmartin.com If an opera is just a play, then why do people sing?
Singing is a very special form of music because the instrument
This is a study guide to comes from inside us. Our voice expresses how we feel. We’ve
what you might see on used singing to express their feelings from the beginning and
the test. Use this guide opera is only about 400 years old. Operas combine drama/theater/
to help you pick out the music (vocal/instrumental) to create the lasting art that is enjoyed
notes needed in the throughout the world.
A Short History of Opera
lectures. All questions
“Opera” is the plural form of the Latin “opus,” which means
listed will be addressed.
“work.” Today “opera” is a theatre based musical art which the
A copy of this is available drama is propelled by the sung text accompanied by instrumental
@ psmartin.com/online. music. Operas origins are from tragedies and comedies popular
during ancient Greek times. The Romans added music as a part of
Lecture Topics: the theatrical activities. It continued through the Middle Ages.
Musical Terms
 Aria It is a nonstop entertainment comprised of recitative and arias.w
 Conductor off. The chorus is used as extras and musical filler. Composers in America
 Opera changed traditions to focus on their own roots exploring the country’s folk
 Opera Buffa
music. Composers like Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Leonard
 Opera Seria
 Overture
Bernstein all crafted operas that are presented throughout the world.
 Recitative Composers enjoy success worldwide and created an infusion of new life
into an art that continues to evolve as it surpasses its fifth century.
How it Works
Opera begins with a libretto—the words to be sung. The librettist creates
words that tell emotions in the story. When done, they entrust their work
to the conductor and stage director. They are responsible for bringing the
story to life. The conductor prepares the music, the stage director is in
charge of what we see on the stage. The design team takes charge of the
physical production of the story on stage. Set designers, lighting designers,
costume designers, wig and makeup designers help create a new
production. As a performance nears, rehearsals are held on the set, using
costumes, lights, and orchestra to put together a performance that will be
both dramatic and satisfying to the audience. It’s hard to make, DUH!
Aria (AH-ree-ah) - A musical piece for solo voice.
Designer - Person who creates the scenery, costumes, and light.
Libretto (lih-BREHT-toh) – this is the text or words
Opera (AH-peh-rah). A play that uses singing instead of speaking
and is accompanied by instrumental music.
Opera buffa (BOOF-ah) - Funny or lighthearted themed opera.
Opera seria (SEH-ree-ah) - Dramatic or serious themed opera.
Overture - The prelude by the orchestra, introduces the themes.
Recitative (reh-chih-tah-TEEV) - A type of musical speaking where
the words of the singer are sung in the rhythm of natural
speech with Usually used between arias to propel the
story line.

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