Recitative: three top tips

Recitative moves the plot along and is one of the most exciting features in an opera. If you’re looking to improve your skills in Italian recitative, keep these three top tips from our coaches in mind.

1. Pacing is key

Consider the trajectory of each section: is there a particular point that the rhythm of the music or text is driving towards, or that the meaning of the words, or perhaps the harmony, indicates is a highpoint? If you know where each section is headed, you’ll create more excitement for the audience and give more structure for your continuo player to work with.

2. Speed isn’t an end in itself

Recitative is a sung musical line much the same as any other, requiring the same attention to phrasing and cadence. You have near unlimited scope to play with tempo, timbre, and dynamic, but recitativo secco feels its most fluent and engaging when the exchange of line between singers makes musical sense.

3. Recitative isn't the same as speech

Recitative is still sung language that needs to be clearly expressed and projected in a performance space, and it should be approached in the same way as an aria. While recitativo secco may not have melismas and coloratura, its syllabic, fast pace still requires advanced and controlled articulation of the language, particularly the correct articulation and sequencing of long and short consonants. Meanwhile, simpler tessitura means there is more flexibility for singers to experiment with the brightness or darkness of vowel timbres as an expressive tool.

Keen to know more?

If you’d like to develop your skills in Italian recitative, why not attend one of our Art of Italian Recitative workshops? They provide an opportunity to:

  • Benefit from one-to-one coaching sessions to improve clarity, phrasing and expression in your choice of Italian recitative, secco or accompagnato
  • Learn how to use 'anchoring points', where to breathe and how to interpret rests and punctuation
  • Get a useful overview of Italian metrics and a better understanding of the structure of Italian recitative
  • Feel better prepared to perform Italian recitative in scenes

For any queries or to enquire about one-to-one coaching in Italian recitative, feel free to get in touch here!