Friday, August 20, 2010

Dear Ariagirl: A Cadenza is Not a Piece of Furniture

So...most Fridays I like to let you know what’s coming up for us here at Opera Colorado – any events or performances or such. But sometimes we don’t have anything happening, so today I’d like to introduce my new Friday series: “Dear AriaGirl.”

Dear AriaGirl:
How come there’re always a lot of fancy notes at the end of the soprano’s aria? Did the composer actually write something so complicated for her to sing?
Mario C.

Dear Mario:
I always wondered this myself! A lot of arias – for all voice types – do have a spot at the end for the performer to showcase their talent. It’s called a cadenza, and it’s Italian for “cadence.”

This used to be a point in the opera where the orchestra would stop playing and the singer would improvise a series of notes toward the end of the song. In the 19th century, composers started to give suggestions, or write it out entirely. There were even composers who’d write cadenzas for works that weren’t even their own! (Some of those pieces have become frequently used by some of the best singers.) Today, most singers practice their cadenzas in advance, and some may even write their own.

It’s not just limited to opera; the cadenza can be found in classical music pieces and is often associated with jazz.

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Ciao for now!

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