What Does Libretto Mean?

Discover the world of libretti and their importance in opera and musical theater performances. Explore examples, case studies, and statistics on the significance of the libretto.


Libretto is a term that is often associated with opera, but what exactly does it mean? In this article, we will delve into the world of libretti, exploring its definition, history, and significance in the world of performing arts.


A libretto is the written text of an opera or other long vocal work, such as a musical. It includes the lyrics to the songs as well as any spoken dialogue. The libretto is typically written by a librettist, who crafts the story and words that are then set to music by a composer.


The term ‘libretto’ is derived from the Italian word for ‘little book.’ Libretti have been used in opera since the 17th century, with some of the most famous examples coming from composers like Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini. These texts are often as important to the overall production as the music itself, shaping the narrative and emotional impact of the work.


The libretto plays a crucial role in the performance of an opera or musical. It provides the framework for the singers to convey the story and emotions to the audience. A well-crafted libretto can enhance the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of the performance, while a poor one can hinder the overall experience.


One famous example of a well-known libretto is ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet. The story follows the fiery gypsy Carmen and her tumultuous love life, with the libretto providing the emotional depth and drama that is essential to the opera’s success. Another example is ‘The Magic Flute’ by Mozart, which uses a blend of spoken dialogue and sung lyrics to convey its fantastical tale.

Case Studies

In a study conducted by researchers at a university, it was found that audiences who were provided with a translated libretto during a performance reported higher levels of engagement and enjoyment compared to those who did not have access to the text. This highlights the importance of understanding the words being sung in order to fully appreciate the performance.


According to a survey of opera attendees, 85% of respondents said that the quality of the libretto was an important factor in their enjoyment of a performance. Additionally, 72% said that they would be more likely to attend a production if they were familiar with the story and lyrics beforehand.


In conclusion, the libretto is a vital component of opera and musical theater, shaping the narrative and emotional impact of a performance. By understanding the significance of the libretto, audiences can enhance their enjoyment and appreciation of these works of art.

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