Components of Opera Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Opera music is made up of several different components, each with its own important role to play. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the various parts of opera music and how they all come together to create this unique and beloved art form.


Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers. Such a “work” (the literal translation of “opera”) is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costumes, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

The Orchestra

The orchestra is made up of different types of instruments, each playing their own part. The different sections of the orchestra are the string section, the wind section, and the percussion section.

The string section is made up of instruments that are played with a bow, such as violins and cellos. The wind section is made up of instruments that are blown, such as flutes and trumpets. The percussion section is made up of instruments that are hit or shaken, such as drums and cymbals.

Opera music is written for these different sections of the orchestra to play together. The music tells each section what to play and when to play it.

The Singers

Opera singers are usually classically trained singers who perform in operas. They usually have a strong vocal range and are able to sing with great power and emotion. Many opera singers are also skilled actors, able to convey the emotions of the characters they are playing through their singing.

The Chorus

The chorus in an opera serves several purposes. In addition to adding musical and emotional heft to a scene or number, the presence of a chorus can also help set the tone or location of a particular scene. For example, in Verdi’s “Aida,” the entrance of the slaves singing in their native tongue immediately establishes both the location (Egypt) and the mood (slavery) of the opening scene. The chorus can also act as commentators on the action, helping to move the plot along by foreshadowing events or reacting to what has just transpired onstage.

The Libretto

The libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term “libretto” is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a ballet. Libretto (literally “small book”) came into use by Italians in the 17th century. At first they were Florence Baldi and Gabriello Chiabrera in Poetry set to Music (1606), followed by Aurelio Tadini (La Festa d’Imeneo, Venice 1627). Other important early librettists were Francesco Busenello (Ruggiero, Venice 1627) and Nicola Haym (Rodrigo, London 1628).

From the mid-17th century onwards, Opera seria libretti were mostly written by Metastasio. Other notable 18th-century Metastasian librettists were Pietro Trapassi (better known as Metastasio; La Clemenza di Tito 1734), Giovanni de Gamerra (Il Trionfo dell’onore 1710) and Apostolo Zeno ( Adriano in Siria 1733). By the 19th century, the librettist’s role was generally reduced to providing a basic plot line and text for the composer to work on Please expand this heading in an informative and formal tone.

The History of Opera

The first operas were written in the early 17th century. They were a new type of musical drama, combining humming and vocal soloists with instrumental music. The word opera means “work” in Italian. The first operas were short pieces, lasting about an hour. They were usually based on Greek or Roman myths.

Opera composers wrote the music for all the parts of the opera, including the soloists, chorus, and orchestra. In early operas, the composer also wrote the libretto, or story. But by the late 17th century, professional librettists were hired to write operas.

The first public opera house was built in Venice in 1637. Opera quickly became very popular in Italy. It spread to other European countries in the late 17th century. By the early 18th century, opera was being performed all over Europe.

Most early operas were serious works with tragic endings. But by the mid-18th century, a new type of opera called comic opera became popular. Comic operas are light-hearted works with happy endings. They often make fun of people and situations that are not serious.

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