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Frequently asked questions

This page gives answers to the most frequently asked questions about operas and OperaNights. If your question isn't answered here please email us.

What is an opera?

An opera is a play where the words are sung rather than spoken.

I'm new to opera - can you recommend some operas?

See our feature Building an opera library, which recommends seven operas that are an ideal starting point for any opera collection.

What operas do you recommend for children?

See our feature Operas for children for information about operas popular with children.

Are there any female opera composers?

Yes; for example, Dame Ethyl Smyth and Judith Weir.

Who is the greatest living opera composer?

The greatest living opera composer is generally considered to be the American composer John Adams.

How long do operas last?

Most operas last about three hours, including intervals between the acts.

Who composed the fewest operas?

Several well-known composers completed just one opera. The most famous examples are Ludwig van Beethoven and Claude Debussy.

Who composed the most operas?

One of the most prolific famous opera composers was Gaetano Donizetti, who composed 65 operas.

Which is the most performed opera?

The opera that has had the largest number of public performances is Tosca by Puccini.

What is an aria?

An aria is an emotional solo piece written for the main character in an opera.

What is an operetta?

An operetta is a musical comedy with much of the dialogue spoken, and with musical numbers.

What is a libretto?

The libretto is the text or words of an opera, like the script of a play.

What is opera buffa?

An opera buffa is an opera about ordinary people, usually comic. A classic example is Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro (The marriage of Figaro).

What is opera seria?

Opera seria means "serious opera", usually about ancient heroes or gods and goddesses. A classic example is Mozart's La clemenza di Tito (The clemency of Titus).

What is recitative?

Recitative refers to the sung words that often come before an aria or ensemble, to advance the plot.

Why is opera so boring?

Many people find operas interesting, moving, and exciting. But some operas are more accessible than others. I would recommend starting with one of the following operas: Puccini's La bohème (The Bohemians), George Bizet's Carmen, and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute).