Wikipedia:WikiProject Opera/Article guidelines

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This page contains general advice for writing, structuring, and formatting opera articles. These recommendations have been developed over the years via consensus of the project's members through discussions on our talk page. Like all recommendations, they should be used with common sense and if necessary adapted for the needs of particular articles.

Article titles[edit]

Italics in opera article titles[edit]

Per changes in the Wikipedia Manual of Style, the article titles are now italicised. If the article carries a composer navbox, e.g. {{Rossini operas}}, the title will be automatically italicised. For operas where a navbox is unavailable (normally because we have less than three articles by that composer), add the template {{italic title}} to the top of the page. See, for example, Much Ado About Nothing.

Operas: original vs English translation[edit]

The standard practice is to use English titles of operas for article names and in articles when it is common convention (e.g. The Marriage of Figaro. The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville). This reflects the Wikipedia convention use English in titles when possible. These articles should mention the name in the original language, and a redirect from the original language title should be created. See WikiProject Opera/English names for a list of operas commonly known by English names and their original titles.

Titles in languages using a non-Latin alphabet (usually Russian in practice) are customarily listed under an English equivalent (a translation or a transliteration), without diacritics (diacritics can, however, be used in the body of the article). If necessary a redirect under the original title will point to the article with the English name. English names are also normally preferred for eastern European and Scandinavian operas unless the title is a simple proper name.

Nevertheless most operas are performed in English-speaking countries under their original names (e.g. Così fan tutte and Der Freischütz) and English titles for them should not be invented.

Operas: capitalization and diacritics[edit]

When listing operas by their original language title (provided that language uses the Latin alphabet), the letters, accents and diacritics in the original language should be preserved, e.g. Mosè in Egitto not Mose in Egitto, Götterdämmerung not Gotterdammerung nor Goetterdaemmerung, Weiße Rose not Weisse Rose, Les fêtes de Ramire not Les fetes de Ramire. All of these alternatives, however, should exist as redirects.

Capitalization of opera titles should follow the style used in the most recent editions of New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, New Grove Dictionary of Opera, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera and The Viking Opera Guide:

"The University of Chicago Press recommends following a simple rule: In any language but English, capitalize only the words that should be capitalized in normal prose. For all the languages in question [languages using the Latin alphabet] this means capitalizing the first word of the title and of the subtitle and of all proper nouns; in addition, it means capitalizing proper adjectives in Dutch and common nouns in German." (Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (1993), p. 320)

The following examples demonstrate how non-English titles are rendered using the above style. (Note that in the case of French opera titles, this style may differ from the one used by the Académie française.)

The names of works, and other terms, not in English, should be marked up with the {{lang}} template, using the appropriate two-letter language code; for example: {{lang|de|Von heute auf morgen}}.

Redirects should be included whenever possible to make the articles as accessible as possible using the code:

#REDIRECT [[Article name]]

For example, La bohème should have redirects from La boheme, La Bohème, La Boheme, Boheme and Bohème while La traviata should have redirects from La Traviata and Traviata:

Wikipedia:Naming conventions (operas) is a formal, public page which summarizes the guidelines above.

Operas: disambiguation[edit]

The name of the opera is normally the name of the article. However, in order to avoid ambiguity:

(1) If the name of the opera has already been used (e.g. for an article on a mythological deity or a play etc), the word opera should be added to the title in parentheses. For example: Macbeth (opera) refers to the work by Verdi to distinguish it from Macbeth, the play by Shakespeare.

(2) If there are two (or more) operas with the same title, subsequent articles on operas of the same name take the name(s) of the composer(s) in parentheses. For example: Otello is the opera by Verdi, and Otello (Rossini) is the one by Rossini. (Normally, the first article to be created is also on the opera that is more well-known.)

An example combining guidelines (1) and (2) would be: Miss Julie is the play, Miss Julie (opera) is the opera by Rorem, and Miss Julie (Alwyn) is the opera by Alwyn. The various works should also be listed on a disambiguation page, in this case Miss Julie (disambiguation).

Opera houses and opera companies[edit]

We use the English name of an opera house or an opera company if one exists and is used on the official website, otherwise we use the official name in the local language. In accordance with Wikipedia naming conventions, we adopt the shortest possible distinctive name, i.e. La Scala (not Teatro alla Scala or La Scala, Milan), because there is only one La Scala. However, in some cases we have to disambiguate: there is more than one Teatro Regio in Italy, so we have Teatro Regio (Parma), Teatro Regio (Turin) etc.

Although an opera house and an opera company may be separate legal entities, we often treat them as one for convenience (e.g. La Scala). This facilitates writing articles on singers etc.

However, when an opera company is associated with two or more houses (e.g. Opéra National de Paris which performs at both the Opéra Bastille and the Palais Garnier) we need separate articles. Moreover, there are cases where the history of the theatre as well as the company are extensive and complex. In these cases, two articles are called for (e.g. Royal Opera House Covent Garden (London), which has more than 200 years of mixed history, and The Royal Opera, London, which was created only in 1946).

Moving pages to new titles[edit]

Established articles should not be moved to new titles without prior discussion on their talk page. If in doubt about the desirability/feasibility of re-naming an article, the issue can also be raised on the Opera Project talk page. Note that many articles on operas or opera terminology also have navigation templates, e.g. Template:Gluck operas or Template:Opera genres. If an article is moved, the associated navigation template must also be updated and each page containing it refreshed. (To refresh a page, you can make a null edit)

Article styles and formats[edit]

The Styles and formats page has more detailed guidelines and suggested examples. Below is a quick guide.

Articles on specific operas[edit]


Articles may be divided into an introduction, performance history, list of roles, synopsis, recordings, and references/sources – as appropriate to the opera. An example of this arrangement is Il campiello.) A navigation box may be provided on the upper right of the page to enable easy navigation to other operas by the same composer (see the templates section on the project's main page for more details).

The introduction is normally in the present tense, and should begin with the opera's title in bold italics (with English translation where appropriate), the genre (opera, or a more specific sub-genre, e.g. operetta, zarzuela, etc.), the number of acts, the composer, librettist, language of the libretto, source of the libretto (when based on another work), and the date of the premiere e.g.

Il campiello (The Little Square) is an opera in three acts by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. The Italian-language libretto was by Mario Ghisalberti, after the famous comedy of the same name written for the 1756 Venetian Carnival by the great Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni. It premiered on 11 February 1936 at La Scala, Milan.

The performance history as well as covering the world premiere and significant premieres in other countries, may indicate the popularity of the work and the regularity with which it is performed (in the world as whole) – as appropriate.

When available, it is helpful to include the cast at the premiere(s) in the list of roles The norm when listing or referring to roles is to give proper names in their original form (in whatever language), while translating the others into English. For example the roles in Richard Strauss's Salome are given as: Herodes, Herodias, Salome, Jochanaan, Narraboth, the page of Herodias, first Jew, second Jew (etc.), first Nazarene, second Nazarene (etc.), first soldier, second soldier, a Cappadocian, a slave.

Arias, duets, choruses etc.[edit]

Individual 'numbers' from operas are often referred to in different ways. For example, the song and duet from act 1 of Carmen may be called (by the first line) "Près des remparts de Séville", or (in translation) "Near to the walls of Seville" or as the "Seguidilla". We recommend referring to the first line in the original language, followed by the popular title (if there is one) or English translation. Thus "Près des remparts de Séville" (The Seguidilla) and "La donna è mobile" (Woman is fickle). It is preferable to incorporate such highlights in the synopsis rather than list them out of context.

Articles on opera singers[edit]

We have found that the following formula for the introduction works well for opera singers: Their name in bold, dates of birth and death in parentheses, nationality, voice type, career span, closely associated roles. e.g.

Carlo Baucardé or Boucardé (1825–1883) was an Italian operatic tenor who from 1847 until his retirement in 1863 sang leading roles throughout Italy, as well as in London, Madrid, Paris, and New York. He is most remembered today for creating the role of Manrico in Verdi's opera Il trovatore and the title role in Donizetti's Poliuto.

We then follow with biographical information, highlighting important operatic debuts and the roles most closely associated with the singer. If singers are still living, we refer to them in the present tense, but make clear that they are retired and indicate when they were active. Note that all articles on living singers must be meticuoulously referenced per Wikipedia's policy on biographies of living people.

Referring to roles[edit]

When talking about singers, the opera world has the habit of referring to roles rather than the names of the opera, i.e. "she made her Met debut as Mimì and went on to sing Liù." This is a useful shorthand, but it is not entirely helpful for people new to opera. One way to clarify a potentially unfamiliar role to its opera is to use the formula [[Opera title|Role name]] providing a link to the opera through the role name.



Per the Wikipedia Manual of Style:

The use of infoboxes is neither required nor prohibited for any article. Whether to include an infobox, which infobox to include, and which parts of the infobox to use, is determined through discussion and consensus among the editors at each individual article.

Infobox opera is available as an option for articles on individual operas. Horizontal, footer navboxes are available for most of the major opera composers which provide links to their other operas in chronological order. Where these footers are not available, the composer's other operas which have Wikipedia articles can be added in a collapsed list in Infobox opera. See Infobox opera Example 3.

Biographical infoboxes for opera singer and opera composer biographies are not currently recommended by this project. The consensus among project participants has been that the use of the available biographical infoboxes, and especially those designed for non-classical musicians is often counterproductive. The information that can be given below the image in these boxes is often anachronistically labelled, not sufficiently flexible, and can lead to misleading oversimplification and ambiguity. This position similar to that of Classical Music Project and the Composers Project.

Further reading

The following archives document some past Opera Project infobox discussions: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Nationality in biographical articles[edit]

The nationality of composers, singers etc. has sometimes been controversial. Here are three guidelines:

  1. Nationality should refer to national identity, in other words the national group with which the person identified, not the state of which the person was a citizen or subject.
  2. Nationality should not be anachronistic/retrospective, i.e. for historic figures it should not be defined by present-day borders and states, but by contemporary ones.
  3. If there is any doubt about the nationality of an individual, we should be inclusive and use a double designation (e.g. Anglo-German etc.) both in the introduction and in the categories.

Referring to opera houses[edit]

It is a habit in the opera world to refer to performances at certain opera houses simply using the name of the city, ie Milan, Paris, New York, which is an indirect reference to La Scala, Opera Garnier, or the Met. One can link the city name to the relevant city article, ie [[Milan]] or pipe it to the relevant opera house, ie [[La Scala|Milan]]. The latter solution seems elegant except its violates the Wikie principle of least surprise (it isn't exactly what the reader expects). On the other hand, a singer's Berlin debut is in fact a debut in front of the audience of a given city, not just an appearance in a theater. This issue is compounded by the fact that some big cities have more than one opera house, for which we have separate articles (London, Berlin, and Paris) and that sometimes historical references are made to theaters which no longer exist.

A special note regarding London. The opera world customarily refers to the main opera house there as Covent Garden. However, the Wikipedia article Covent Garden is on the neighborhood of London of that name, not the opera house. The Royal Opera House is the name of the article, and that is what needs to be linked. A reasonable solution is to refer to them both, ie: "[...] at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden."


Chronological lists of operas (in articles and navigation boxes) are arranged by the date of first performance if the opera was first performed during the composer's lifetime, or shortly after his/her death. If the first performance was greatly after the composer's death, the date of composition is used. Non-chronological lists should be in alphabetical order.


"Historical" recordings" should not be listed in an article unless they have been subsequently released under a reasonably well-known commercial label, e.g. Naxos Historical, Opera d'Oro, Myto, Testament Records, or Marston Records. It is recommended that where possible, references be provided for listings such as their appearance in books such as The Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Disc. "Unofficial" recordings, i.e. bootleg or pirate recordings available from sellers such as House of Opera, Premiere Opera, Opera Heaven, etc., should not be listed. These recordings are made surreptitiously during performances or recorded off-air and are blatant copyright violations, often with poor or erroneous documentation.

Images, audio files, and fair use[edit]

We welcome contributions of good quality photographs for articles about operas, singers and composers etc. Images must either be already in the public domain or have written permission from the photographers (or copyright holders) to release them under a free license. Under this arrangement the holder (who would be credited) retains the copyright of the work, but grants permission to others to freely use and publish the image, even for commercial purposes. See Wikipedia:Donating copyrighted materials and Wikipedia:Requesting copyright permission

Regrettably we are unable to use photos of living people on a 'fair use' basis in their articles. 'Fair use' images may only be acceptable in articles dealing directly with publications, recordings etc. or in articles whose subjects are deceased and therefore there is no possibility of providing a free equivalent. However, note that according to Wikipedia:Non-free content, images copyrighted to press agencies such as Associated Press, Corbis and Getty Images may not be used.

When adding an image or audio file under 'fair use', detailed fair use rationales and detailed information as to source and possible copyright holder must be provided as well as a suitable copyright tag. Fair use images and other media cannot be used for purely decorative purposes and they must be closely tied to the article text. See Concerto delle donne for an example of appropriate fair use audio files and Richard Versalle, Pagliacci (1982 film), and Opera News for examples of appropriate fair use images.

Galleries, i.e. collections of fair use material, whether visual or audio, are not permitted under any circumstances.

See also the Online research page, and particularly the Image sources section.


When it comes to anecdotes, influences on pop culture, and other peripheral content or "trivia", information should only be included in opera articles if it is likely to be of interest to a typical reader of the article. Examples of content which almost always fail this test are: songs, albums, video games, TV shows, or movies that reference the opera. Examples of content passing the test are: Apocalypse Now's use of the Ride of the Valkyries and direct adaptations such as Carmen Jones.

Spoiler warning tags[edit]

The use of spoiler tags before synopsis/plot summaries is regarded as unnecessary and distracting.

Future performances[edit]

While the addition of an external link to schedules for a particular singer, composer or opera on a reputable site like Operabase can be appropriate, listing future schedules for singers, opera houses, and operas within articles is generally inappropriate when they relate to the standard repertoire of frequently performed operas. Future performances should only be mentioned in the text of the article if they are noteworthy, e.g. a rarely performed opera, a world premiere, or a significant role debut for a singer. In all cases, the planned performance should carry an inline citation.