Definitions

-aria

aria

[ahr-ee-uh, air-ee-uh]

Solo song with instrumental accompaniment in opera, cantata, or oratorio. The strophic or stanzaic aria, in which each new stanza might represent a melodic variation on the first, appeared in opera in Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607) and was widely used for decades. The standard aria form circa 1650–1775 was the da capo aria, in which the opening melody and text are repeated after an intervening melody-text section (often in a different key, tempo, and metre); the return of the first section was often virtuosically embellished by the singer. Comic operas never limited themselves to da capo form. Even in serious opera, from circa 1750 a variety of forms were used; Gioacchino Rossini and others often expanded the aria into a complete musical scene in which two or more conflicting emotions were expressed. Richard Wagner's operas largely abandoned the aria in favour of a continuous musical texture, but arias have never ceased to be written.

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This article is about the musical term "aria." For other meanings or uses of the word, see Aria (disambiguation).

An aria (Italian for air; plural: arie or arias in common usage) in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the most common context for arias is opera, although there are many arias that form movements of oratorios and cantatas. Composers also wrote 'concert arias', which are not part of any larger work, such as "Ah Perfido" by Beethoven, and a number of concert arias by Mozart.

The aria first appeared in the 14th century when it signified a manner or style of singing or playing. Aria could also mean a melodic scheme (motif) or pattern for singing a poetic pattern, such as a sonnet. It was also attached to instrumental music, though this is no longer the case. Over time, arias evolved from simple melodies into a structured form; in about 17th century, the aria was written in ternary form (ABA); these arias were known as da capo arias. The aria later "invaded" the opera repertoire with its many sub-species (Aria cantabile, Aria agitata, Aria di bravura, and so on). By the mid-19th century, many operas became a sequence of arias, reducing the space left for recitative, while other operas (for instance those by Wagner) were entirely through-composed, with no section being readily identifiable as a self-contained aria.

An arietta is a short aria.

Notable arias
Voice range Aria Opera Composer
soprano O mio babbino caro Gianni Schicchi Giacomo Puccini
Sì, mi chiamano Mimì La bohème Giacomo Puccini
Vissi d'arte Tosca Giacomo Puccini
Der Hölle Rache The Magic Flute Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Summertime Porgy and Bess George Gershwin
mezzo-soprano Habanera Carmen Georges Bizet
Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix Samson et Dalila Camille Saint-Saëns
Voi, che sapete Le nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ombra mai fu Serse George Frideric Handel
tenor La donna è mobile Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi
Celeste Aida Aida Giuseppe Verdi
Vesti la giubba Pagliacci Ruggero Leoncavallo
Nessun dorma Turandot Giacomo Puccini
E lucevan le stelle Tosca Giacomo Puccini
baritone Largo al factotum The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini
Votre toast (Toreador song) Carmen Georges Bizet
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja The Magic Flute Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
bass Non più andrai The Marriage of Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
O Isis und Osiris The Magic Flute Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Madamina, il catalogo è questo Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Notable operatic duets
Voice ranges Aria Opera Composer
tenor and soprano Libiamo ne' lieti calici La traviata Giuseppe Verdi
O soave fanciulla La bohème Giacomo Puccini
Parle-moi de ma mère Carmen Georges Bizet
tenor and mezzo-soprano Già i sacerdoti adunansi Aida Giuseppe Verdi
tenor and baritone O Mimì, tu più non torni La bohème Giacomo Puccini
soprano and mezzo-soprano Che soave Zeffiretto The Marriage of Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
soprano and mezzo-soprano Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini
soprano and contralto The Flower Duet Lakmé Léo Delibes

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