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Operatic Conventions


Length: 1-2 days



Language Arts, Performing Arts

Subtopics: Theater, Music, Literature
Intelligences Being Addressed: Interpersonal, Musical/Rhythmic, Verbal/Linguistic
Dimensions of Learning: Acquisition and integration of knowledge, Extension and refinement of knowledge, Meaningful use of knowledge

While discussing the differences between plays and operas, students will define and identify operatic conventions. They will again use their dialogue developed in Lesson 5 to help create their own operatic conventions.


TV/video player
CD player
Bulletin board

Materials: The Black Dog Opera Library Series
video starring Pavoratti (Jean Pierre Ponelle film version)
Hand Outs:

The students should have their handouts from the previous lessons:

Direction Cards
Verdi and Piave: A typical Partnership
Rigoletto's Story; parts 1 and part 2

Student Supplies: Pencil and paper
Teacher Internet Resources:

Lesson and Extension-Specific Resources: See unit overview

General Internet Resources: See unit overview


National Standards for Arts Education:
Music 5-8, Standards 6, 7, 8, 9
Instructional Objectives:

Students will be able to define the conventions of traditional opera.


Teacher-led discussion
Compare and contrast exercise
Group instruction
Writing to inform

Instructional Plan:

1. Briefly review the synopsis of the opera and the dialogue that the students developed in Lesson 5. Discuss plays or musicals that the students may have seen. What kinds of things were presented on the stage (solos, monologues, etc.)?

2. Discuss the differences between a play and an opera. How are they similar? How do opera singers' voices differ from that of other types of singers? Bearing in mind that opera is sung without a microphone, why do the students think that opera singers sing in their manner?

3. Define the terms ARIA, DUET, TRIO, QUARTET, and CHORUS. These are conventional forms in opera.

4. Play selections from Rigoletto and identify them by operatic convention. (CD1, Tr3, Aria; CD1, Tr12, Duet; CD1, Tr13, Trio; CD2, Tr14, Quartet; CD1, Tr18, Chorus) What are the characteristics of each convention (arias reveal a character's feeling, duets are dialogues, trios and quartets allow us to see several perspectives of the scene at once, and the chorus creates commentary and crowd action)?

5. Discuss the difference between song-like sections of the opera and RECITATIVE, music, which is similar to sung dialogue. Which moves faster, song material or recitative? When would a composer want to use a recitative? When would they want to create more song-like material?

6. Have students return to their dialogues from Lesson 5. Ask them to identify places in their dialogue where the characters are expressing feelings. Where are the characters moving the plot along faster?

7. Have the students write an answer to the question, "How do the conventions of opera help the composer and the librettist tell the story?"



Can the students tell the difference between the various operatic conventions?


Continue on to lesson 8.

Teacher References:

Black Dog Opera Series Rigoletto CD


Submission Date: November 1, 2000

© ARTSEDGE, 2000