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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

A night at the opera

A play that’s sung instead of spoken, opera can be overwhelming for some people. Familiarise yourself with some basic terms to help get you through an opera.
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - September 18, 2008
By: Goh Mei Yi
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A night at the opera

The stereotypical image of opera is a couple of overweight people on stage posturing and singing at the top of their voices in some foreign language that only a few can appreciate.

The truth is, opera is just a play that’s sung instead of spoken. The plots can be based on history, the Bible, fairy tales, legends, literature, mythology or simply love stories.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand the language in which the opera is sung (usually Italian, German or French), as there will be supertitles, which are the English translation of the lyrics, projected above the stage.

Here’s a quick guide to some basic terms to help you navigate your way through an opera:

Aria: A solo piece which expresses the innermost thoughts and feelings of an operatic character.

Bass: The lowest male singing voice.

Bel canto: Italian phrase literally meaning “beautiful singing”. A term used to describe the elegant Italian vocal style emphasising tone, phrasing and technique. Also the operas written in this style.

Cadenza: A passage of singing, often at the end of an aria, where the singer may improvise, usually in such a way as to best display his or her vocal talents.

Chorus: a group of singers that usually represents any collective groups required by the story of an opera such as the crowd, the villagers, soldiers and so on.

Contralto: The lowest female singing voice.

Libretto: The text or words of an opera.

Overture: An instrumental or orchestral piece that acts as an introduction and sets the tone for an opera.

Recitative: The sung words which often come before an aria for the purpose of advancing the plot.

Soprano: The highest female singing voice.

Tenor: The highest adult male singing voice.

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