An opera is a theatrical piece that tells a story totally through the music. It consists of recitatives which provide the narrative plot line and elaborate chorus singing, along with duets and arias, which are the parts we most remember.

We get the word opera from the Latin and, later, from the Italian, a noun formed from the word operari, "to work." The style evolved in Italy around 1600, and was initially unrealistic, mainly a chance for soloists to show off. In the mid-18th Century the focus shifted to both strong story and exquisite singing. Emotion is an important quality, a trait carried over to "soap operas" which have no singing but plenty of fake tears.

Definitions of opera

n a drama set to music; consists of singing with orchestral accompaniment and an orchestral overture and interludes

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bouffe, comic opera, opera bouffe, opera comique
opera with a happy ending and in which some of the text is spoken
grand opera
opera in which all the text is sung
musical drama
opera in which the musical and dramatic elements are equally important; the music is appropriate to the action
light opera, operetta
a short amusing opera
Type of:
classical, classical music, serious music
traditional genre of music conforming to an established form and appealing to critical interest and developed musical taste

n a building where musical dramas are performed

opera house
Type of:
house, theater, theatre
a building where theatrical performances or motion-picture shows can be presented

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