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Solo song with instrumental accompaniment in opera, cantata, or oratorio. The strophic or stanzaic aria, in which each new stanza might represent a melodic variation on the first, appeared in opera in Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607) and was widely used for decades. The standard aria form c. 1650–1775 was the da capo aria, in which the opening melody and text are repeated after an intervening melody-text section (often in a different key, tempo, and metre); the return of the first section was often virtuosically embellished by the singer. Comic operas never limited themselves to da capo form. Even in serious opera, from c. 1750 a variety of forms were used; Gioacchino Rossini and others often expanded the aria into a complete musical scene in which two or more conflicting emotions were expressed. Richard Wagner's operas largely abandoned the aria in favour of a continuous musical texture, but arias have never ceased to be written.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on aria, visit Britannica.com.