March 20th, 2020

woman reading

Friday word: Coloratura

The word coloratura  is originally from Italian, literally meaning "coloring", and derives from the Latin word colorare ("to color").

When used in English, the term specifically refers to elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, with runs, trills, wide leaps, or similar virtuoso-like material.

Its instrumental equivalent is ornamentation. It is also now widely used to refer to passages of such music, operatic roles in which such music plays a prominent part, and singers of these roles.


This came up in conversation with a good friend yesterday--I mentioned that the Met was offering nightly opera streams, but the offerings on Friday and Saturday were two of Donizetti's operas which I wasn't familiar with.

The friend dryly remarked that she did know these two operas, and they are "Nancy Dickybird" operas. I was puzzled, so she explained, "a great deal of coloratura, and not much plot!"

The Sunday offering, on the other hand, is Eugene Onegin, and next week is all Wagner, so if any of that is your cup of tea (or glass of champagne, as the case may be : P), do take a look: