Very little, and this show is enjoyable regardless, but there are a few things that might compliment your viewing experience:
Opera is generally broken into 2 types of singing: Arias (big songs) and Recitative (dialogue that is sung).
Arias: These are like the songs that you would see in musicals or movies. The “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Let it Go,” or “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” (But they’re only called “Arias” in Opera.) They don’t move the plot as much, and tend to focus on feelings more than action, but occasionally they will reveal motives or information that is important to the plot. The point of them is to be beautiful or moody, and show off a vocalist’s technical skill while serving the story.
Recitative: You won’t see this in other forms of theater- this is when characters churn through the necessary dialogue and “play the scene” on one to three single pitches. The pitches they sing generally direct the story beats somewhat, but the purpose is to functionally cut through dialogue quickly in a utilitarian manner.
Arias traditionally use the whole orchestra, while recitative is usually accompanied by a single keyboard instrument.
Some operas omit recitative in favor of spoken dialogue, and some newer operas will blend the “recit” into the arias for smoother transitions, but there is generally a very clear distinction between recit and aria.
Our show plans to mostly omit recitative in favor of spoken dialogue.
“Pants roles”: In older traditional opera, often the hero was played by a man who sang in the alto or soprano register. (I will not go into the specifics of how this was accomplished.) Suffice it to say that the methods of obtaining this particular voice type are considered by today’s standards… unethical. When such an opera is performed today, a woman is cast in that part that was written for a man. That is referred to as a “pants role” – a role in which a woman wears pants and acts the part of a man.
We take the opportunity to poke some fun at this silly little quirk of opera.