1. C -- SUPERNUMERARY – Latin – A supernumerary is opera’s version of an extra. Supernumeraries have no dialogue and are directed to create a believable scene, when the environment calls for large groups of people. But they’re actors or artists in their own right. What would Gianni Schicchi have been like without the lively corpse? What would the Pagliacci circus be like without dozens of attentive audience members? Can you imagine the cinematic beauty of Paris in La Boheme without several spirited supernumeraries showcasing the quintessential Parisian “joie de vivre?”
2. E -- PARLANDO – Italian – Parlando literally means “in speaking style” and refers to the moment when singers use technique to bring singing close to speaking. In other words, singers will sound like they are speaking, but using the rhythm and/or inflections used for singing. A famous example of this is mid-way through the famous aria, “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca. At first, Tosca sings along with the melody, but soon diverts from the melody into a section where she’s singing in the style of speech (as if she converses with herself).
3. C -- SOUBRETTE – French – A soubrette is both an operatic voice type and a style of character. Soubrette voices are lighter soprano or mezzos (often sung by younger singers), while soubrette characters are attractive and saucy ladies. Think Musetta in La Boheme.
In our Belle Époque Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme follows the story of six young bohemians, surviving only on laughter and the promise of love. One of them is Musetta, a singer, who early on abandons her rich lover in order to be with her ex. While Mimi may be the La Boheme’s famous femme, Musetta adds a quirky edge and her waltz (“Quando me’n vo’”) is one of the most famous pieces from Puccini’s opera.
4. A -- CADENZA – Italian – A cadenza is an elaborate section (sometimes improvised) towards the end of an aria that allows the singer to really showcase what their voice can do, like the famous “Flute Cadenza” in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
Interestingly enough, Donizetti never wrote such a section into his original score for Lucia. The section was added to showcase Nellie Melba’s coloratura singing during an 1889 performance at the Paris Opera. Other famous singers (Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills) added their own flavor when playing Lucia.
5. B -- SINGSPIEL – German – A singspiel, which literally translates to “sing-play,” is a German comic opera that mixes spoken dialogue with singing. Singspiels are folkloric in nature, often having fantasy elements. If you are slightly more inclined towards musical theater, then singspiels are the opera genre for you. Famous singspiels include Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Magic Flute.
The staff at LA Opera is willing to work with BRAVO to furnish a musical quiz for each issue. Your feedback would be most welcome. Please email BravoQuiz@gmail.com.