Opera: A Staged Drama to Music

Opera: A Staged Drama to Music

Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition. The English word opera is an abbreviation of the Italian phrase opera in musica. Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work called an opera which combines a text called a libretto and a musical score. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and sometimes includes dance. Aside from solo, ensemble, and choral singers onstage and a group of instrumentalists playing offstage, the performers of opera since its inception have often included dancers. 

In some operas the music is continuous throughout an act; in others it is broken up into pieces, or “numbers,” separated either by recitative or by spoken dialogue. 

The preparation of an opera performance involves the work of many individuals. The first, often unintentional, recruit is likely the writer of the original story. Then comes the librettist, who puts the story or play into a form usually involving poetic verse that is suitable for musical setting and singing. The composer then sets that libretto to music. That’s how an opera is made.


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