Operatic Ensembles

THE OPERATIC ENSEMBLE: In opera, characters often sing at the same time. When two characters sing together, it is called a duet. When three or more soloists sing together, it is called an ensemble—from the French word meaning “together” or “as a whole.” While in spoken drama, it is nearly impossible to understand characters who speak simultaneously, in opera, the musical setting amplifies the meaning of the words so that the viewpoints and emotions of each character are still communicated clearly. In some settings, operatic ensembles take the form of long sections, especially at the ends of acts, that rapidly advance the plot and increase the dramatic tension. In other settings, the operatic ensemble is an opportunity for a reflective pause away from the action, in which each character reveals his or her inner thoughts.