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Operatic Dictionary

DYNAMICS
fff tutta forzaplay softly
mfas softly as possible
phold the bow one inch above string
pppplace instrument in case and think softly of the notes while playing on the case.
p subitoopportunity for some obscure orchestra player to become a soloist.
TEMPO
prestooutside player close eyes and tremolo on any open string, inside player pages furiously
lento molto e sustenuto(groan) prop arms up on music stand
EXPRESSION
arcoplucked string
pizzwith bow; (these terms usually mean just the opposite, but they alternate so rapidly in that it works out best this way)
attaccafire at will col legno (literally, "with wood"):
1. to be played with the back of the bow on the back of the violin (in actual practice the bow hair is used for a more expressive tone at times)
2. sometimes denotes "wood-winds," hence: with the back of the clarinet, etc.
col dorso dell' arcobow needs to be rehaired
col crineliterally "with hair" denoting a certain type of music
col canto, colla voce(both terms mean to follow the singer hence, no definite meter or rhythm, and sometimes no definite pitch
con sordinogo ahead and play without mutes, as there isn't time to put them on anyway
senza sordinoterm to remind the player that he forgot to put his mute on, a few measures back
decisomake up your mind (a term frequently used during rehearsals)
lamentosowith handkerchiefs
la corde (prima corde)passage to be played by first string players only, unless they have fouled out
espressivosway gently from side to side
agitatosway violently from side to side
appassionatojump up and down
sensiblethis term sometimes appears in Italian opera scores, but is obviously a mistake
risolutostubbornly maintain the correct tempo no matter what the conductor tries to do
tacettime for a quick beer (or malt), same as pp
tenutohang on until singer runs out of breath, or, if in last act), dies.
PERFORMERS
conductoran all-round flunkey, carpenter, mechanic, janitor, beast of burden, nursemaid, crying towel, musician, impressario, and financier, who is adept at following many people at the same time
principalsthe star performers according to the program
prompterthe star performer in actual fact; sometimes the man who isn't there
chorusa facetious term applied to the rest of the cast
prima donnathe lady who generally dies in the last act of consumption (obviously over-consumption)
coloratura sopranoone who cannot find the note but who has a wild time hunting for it
dramatic sopranoone who has found the note and won't let go
heroic tenorone who gets by on sheer nerve
MISCLLANEOUS TERMS
ad libitumthe first night's performance
bravo (lit., "what nerve!"), morendo (lit., "drop dead"):these are spontaneous expressions of appreciation on the part of the operagoer, heard after particularly trying scenes
corninot what you might think
dim.descriptive term applied to orchestra lights
lungaa useful device for playing trombones and tubas
piua descriptive slang term
secco (lit. "dry")descriptive term applied to libretto
strep.a condition the prima donna gets just before the opening night, usually treated with penicillin
sotto vocemost powerful register of the college prima donna's voice
troppo"too much", applied to anything after two performances
tuttia kind of fruit used in ice cream