WHAT IS AN ARIA?
An aria, or "air" in Italian, is a song or tune sung by a single voice with or without accompaniment. Concert arias are arias that are not part of any larger work. Arias are written by composers to provide performers the opportunity for vocal display.
Arias can be traced back to early operas, cantatas and oratorios, where singers usually express intense emotion. The aria stands apart from the psychological drama. The action comes to a halt and the singer turns to face the audience and delivers their thoughts in an "aside" manner.
- W.A. Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro, "Deh vieni, non tardar"
- Puccini: Madama Butterfly, "Un bel di vedremo"
- J.S. Bach: Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, "Bete aber auch dabei"
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Look at the excerpt of Bach’s "Bete aber auch dabei" from Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit. This is an aria for soprano. Notice how the ornamentation shows off the voice.