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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ But when he and Slater came to devise the dramatic structure of the libretto, something different resulted.
▪ During the autumn Mozart was commissioned by the emperor to write another opera buffa, again to a libretto by Da Ponte.
▪ He explained the gestures in the libretto he prepared for his audience.
▪ I ask myself whether Chaillot ever glanced at his libretto, let alone read it.
▪ Mozart received the libretto in advance and composed some of the recitatives in Salzburg.
▪ Performed by Mecklenburgh Opera, the libretto is based on a story by the expressionist writer and artist, Bruno Schulz.
▪ The commission that had brought us to Préfleur was for music to a libretto by M. Xavier Frontenac.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Libretto \Li*bret"to\ (l[i^]*br[e^]t"t[-o]; It. l[-e]*br[asl]t"t[-o]), n.; pl. E. Librettos (-t[=o]z), It. Libretti (-t[-e]). [It., dim. of libro book, L. liber. See Libel.] (Mus.)

  1. A book containing the words of an opera or extended piece of music.

  2. The words themselves.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

(plural libretti), 1742, from Italian libretto, diminutive of libro "book," from Latin liber (genitive libri), see library. Related: Librettist.


n. 1 The text of a dramatic musical work, such as an opera. 2 A book containing such a text.

  1. n. the words of an opera or musical play

  2. [also: libretti (pl)]


A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Libretto (; plural libretti ), from Italian, is the diminutive of the word libro ("book"). Sometimes other language equivalents are used for libretti in that language, livret for French works and Textbuch for German. A libretto is distinct from a synopsis or scenario of the plot, in that the libretto contains all the words and stage directions, while a synopsis summarizes the plot. Some ballet historians also use the word libretto to refer to the 15–40 page books which were on sale to 19th century ballet audiences in Paris and contained a very detailed description of the ballet's story, scene by scene.

The relationship of the librettist (that is, the writer of a libretto) to the composer in the creation of a musical work has varied over the centuries, as have the sources and the writing techniques employed.

In the context of a modern English language musical theatre piece, the libretto is often referred to as the book of the work, though this usage typically excludes sung lyrics.

Usage examples of "libretto".

The impression left on the pressmen by him, however, had been that a fight had raged for the possession of his libretto, which must have been won by the Heaths since Claude Heath had set it to music.

Maia hardly paid attention to the libretto, however, which followed a hackneyed theme about the ancient struggle between womanly pragmatism and the spasmodic, dangerous enthusiasms of old-fashioned males.

According to the biographers, Salomon handed the composer a libretto originally selected for Handel from Genesis and Paradise Lost by Mr Lidley or Liddell.

He had a rare and lovely humor which could amuse itself both in English and Italian with such an airy burletta as "Il Pesceballo" (he wrote it in Metastasian Italian, and Lowell put it in libretto English).

Un astronomo danese di 25 anni, Tycho Brahe, la osservò at­tentamente, e scrisse al riguardo un libretto di 52 pagine che lo re­se in breve tempo l’astronomo più famoso d’Europa.

It was a conceit of his never to do the initial letter on a master copy until the rest of the score and libretto was complete.

Einstein mostrava di gradirli tutti moltissimo, anche se i suoi preferiti erano quelli di Parks e soprattutto, per motivi che né Nora né Travis riuscivano a comprendere, gli affascinanti libretti di Rospo e Rana di Arnold Lobel.

Lessi i libretti di tutte le commedie di Broadway, visto che c'erano tutti, sugli scaffali della libreria, e ascoltai tanto Romberg, Rodgers e Hammerstein e Stephen Sondheim, da poter rispondere ai quiz, per sessantaquattromila dollari, sui musical di Broadway.

Irji spent his time composing long devotional libretti in honor of Lurlina.

I wanted to do an opera - how I loved the libretti of Hofmannsthal, and how I envied Richard Strauss that he lived in a time when such things were easier!

Someone once said of him that he hunts women, wild-fowl, and libretti in that order.

Avery—Antonio Marsali, the great culture king, who read more science fiction than opera librettos, and she was the one living it.

Even now there were a few outspoken holdouts like Chad Jaconi, the Master Librarian, who believed that the sounds of the librettos were really words, and said so.

Then came photographs of the lead singers, then scenes from the opera itself, then the outline of the libretto, and the east list.

It was true that Miss Tooley, who kept Tuke (but in a sublimated, disciple-like way), made a few veiled references to the iniquity of diverting trust funds: and it was also true that Tuke, who was deeply hurt because he was not to make the libretto of The Golden Asse (which Giles was adapting himself) was a little bitter about artists who sold themselves for money.