10 OPERA TERMS SIMPLIFIED

Whenever I talk to people about opera there are myriad questions about what it is or why I enjoy it, but the common thread is that people don’t understand how to talk about it. Here take 10 common terms in opera down to their basic meanings.

LIBRETTO / LIBRETTIST

This is nothing more than the text of the opera and the person who wrote it; much like the play and the playwright.

ARIA

Quite simply, a solo in musical form. Very similar to a monologue in theatrical terms, and usually repetitive.

COMPRIMARIO

A secondary character

COVER

An understudy

SUPERNUMERARY

An extra, not unlike a movie extra, or a character who does not speak in a play. Also commonly referred to as “super”.

OPERA BUFFA / OPERA SERIA

Think comedy (buffa) and tragedy (seria)

PANTS ROLE

A woman in a man’s role; usually as a young boy.

PRIMA DONNA

Literally the “first lady” or female star of an opera. It has negative connotations because of pop culture.

RÉPERTOIRE

All of the characters an opera singer has played/sung and in his or her vocal range.

SITZPROBE

Essentially a sing (read) through rehearsal with an orchestra. No acting is involved (unless the singer chooses to).

BONUS: TOI TOI TOI!

If you hear your opera friends say that, it basically means “Break a leg!”