Opera Tips

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What is Bel Canto?

Bel Canto

Bel canto means “beautiful singing” and refers to the Italian vocal style of the 17th-19th centuries characterized by beautiful tone and shapely phrasing.

   
What is leitmotif?

Leitmotif

A leitmotif is a musical theme or motive, associated with a particular person, idea or thing in an opera. This short phrase is sounded each time the object of the reference makes an appearance in the drama. The leitmotif is usually associated with the works of Richard Wagner.

   
What other female voices sing in operas besides sopranos?

Other Women's Voices

Mezzo soprano is the term used for a voice which is between soprano and alto. Alto (or contralto) is the lowest pitched female voice. One famous alto is Marian Anderson.

   
What is a soprano?

Soprano Voice

Soprano is the highest women's voice. In opera, there are several types of soprano. The coloratura soprano dazzles the audience with trills, runs and other technical feats. The dramatic soprano produces a powerful sound and sings roles in operas such as those by Wagner and Strauss, and the lyric soprano has a lighter, sweeter voice more suited to the song-like arias such as those found in French and Italian operas.

   
What is the Ring Cycle?

The Ring

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is the composer of the "Ring of the Nibelung." The Ring Cycle is based on Norse mythology and consists of four operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung. Using a system of leitmotifs, or musical themes, Wagner combines the drama and the music into one single dramatic idea.

   
Who is Caruso?

Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso was probably the most famous tenor in the history of opera. One story tells that Caruso showed up at the home of Puccini asking for an audition. After hearing him end his performance on a high C, Puccini asked Caruso “Who sent you to me? God?” Caruso went on to perform in many of Puccini's operas and became famous through recording his arias.

   
Who are the Three Tenors?

Three Tenors

Jose Carerras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavorotti are the three tenors who introduced thousands of people to the world of opera. Their first concert was in 1990 during the World Cup Championship in Rome. They have since performed at many large venues worldwide and have sold over ten million CDs and videos.

   
What is a libretto?

Libretto

Libretto is the Italian term meaning "little book." These booklets contained the plot of the opera and were handed out to the audience. Today, you can find a summary of the libretto in your opera's program, or you can research the libretto in your library or through the internet before listening to a new opera.

   
What is Opera?

What is "Opera"?

“Opera” is a musical theater form that originated at about the turn of the 17th century in Italy. An early composer of opera was Claudio Monteverdi. Early works used mythological subjects for the plot lines, and relied on the virtuosity of the singers to carry the action. Beginning with Mozart at the end of the 18th century, opera began taking advantage of its ability to convey tremendous emotional impact, and plots became less stylized and more humanly believable. This is why Mozart's operas are among the oldest of the ones most commonly performed, a group called the “standard repertoire.”

   
Who is Jenny Lind?

Jenny Lind

Known as the “Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind was born in Stockholm (1820-1887), studied in Paris, and became America's favorite singer. After stepping down from the opera stage, she toured as a soloist in America, before returning to Europe to spend the last 30 years of her life in London.

   
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Patricia Walters-Fischer