Study Guides

What is “Opera”

Opera is an Italian word that means “work.” In the case of music, opera is a musical story in which all or most of the words are sung.

Why do you think the word “work” was chosen to name this musical creation?


Opera Terms


Playing a sport takes talent, skill and lots of practice! Putting an opera performance together is the same. Everyone must work together as a team.

When you see the opera, look for the things below. How do they help tell the story?

  • Singers train and practice their parts just like any dedicated athlete. They attend rehearsals with the director, conductor and other singers to put the story together.
  • Costumes – The clothes each character wears.
  • Props – The objects they use (medicine bottle, money, broom, etc…).
  • Lights – Define time of day, location and weather.
  • Sets – The buildings and furniture that define the location.

Voice Types

Listen for these voices in the opera. Can you tell what voice type each singer is?

Soprano (soh-prah-noh) is the highest female voice. Mezzo-soprano(med-zoh) is a medium high female voice. Contralto (kohn-trahl-toh) is the deepest female voice.
Listen for these voices in the opera. Can you tell what voice type each singer is?

Tenor (teh-nor) is the highest male voice. Baritone (bare-ih-tohn) is a medium high male voice. Bass (base) is the deepest male voice.

Musical Terms

Conductor is the person that leads the orchestra and singers through the opera, using musical gestures that help everyone stay together.

Recitative (reh-sih-tah-teev) is sung dialogue. The term comes from the Italian word recitare (reh-chee-tar-eh), which means “to act.” The vocal range and rhythm resemble speech patterns, and the words forward the story.

An Aria (ah-ree-ah) is a solo song. In an opera, each aria highlights a specific emotional situation for the character.


Ask your teacher a question. Now sing the question. Your teacher will sing the answer back to you. You have created your own recitative!