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Talk Like An Opera Geek: Musical Signposts

Know your rallentando from your accelerando? Opera singers must follow the composer's musical road signs.
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Know your rallentando from your accelerando? Opera singers must follow the composer's musical road signs.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

From basics like speed limits to STOP, YIELD and KEEP RIGHT, traffic signs tell us how to navigate the road ahead. The same is true for opera singers. Their roadmap is the composer's score, and in it lie plenty of explicit directions (usually in Italian) on how to drive a voice or any other instrument through any given stretch of music.

This week, buckle up for a brief tour past a few of the dozens and dozens of musical road signs, with examples from some of opera's greatest chauffeurs.

Have a bit of operatic jargon that confuses or delights? Let us know.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.