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Why performing Opera Concerts with Piano accompaniment?

The standard instrumental ensembles for opera concerts

First, let’s state that the standard for performing opera concerts is the voice with accompaniment of a symphonic orchestra or piano. So it is at Metropolitan Opera House in NY, Covent Garden in London, Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, La Scala Theater in Milan, etc. So it is in all the major theaters and the major musical institutions in the world.

Placido Domingo and James Levine performing an opera concert
Placido Domingo and James Levine performing an opera concert

Therefore, apart from full symphony orchestra and piano no other ensemble is used to accompany opera singers during a professional concert. With the exception of course for the Baroque opera.

This means no string quartet, no strings and piano and so on, performing opera concerts.

The reasons why instrumental ensembles other than the standard ones are not eligible

A string quartet is intended for chamber music. It is never used for opera in an opera house: it could never sustain a powerful lyric voice. Worst if it is a duet.

Likewise, having a string quartet with a piano does not improve the situation that much. The piano should play softly so as not to overwhelm the strings.

All the great opera composers have composed their operas on the piano and only after completing them they orchestrated them.

When the conditions for having the broad instrumental ensemble normally envisaged by the composer are not met, or when vocal chamber music is played, originally written for voice and piano, the only professional alternative can therefore be the piano.

In a concert hall with a hundred seats or so you can’t do otherwise. And this has its great charm for the audience: the proximity of the artists and the feeling of participating in a private concert, like those that were so popular in the nineteenth century.

The concerts realized by RomeOperaConcerts

RomeOperaConcerts therefore realizes its concerts with the accompaniment of the piano. With great professionalism and high quality testified by the many enthusiastic reviews received over the years.

Because in this field, we reiterate, the only possible professional alternatives are the complete orchestral ensemble provided by the composer and the piano. Those ensembles represent the true state of the art.

Luciano Pavarotti during an operatic  recital

Piano and Belcanto singing

The audience can compare, performance after performance of vocal and piano pieces of music, the way the piano can be played with a “singing style” in a romantic solo piano piece.

The piano is an essential part of the concerts and shows of Rome Opera Concerts. This not only for practical reasons but also because in all Italian opera productions the piano is used to coach the singers. In the Italian operatic tradition the piano was always conceived as the only substitute of the orchestra.

Maria Callas farewell recital in London was a recital with piano. Many recitals with piano we have by Luciano Pavarotti  and plenty of recordings by Enrico Caruso with piano accompaniment.


The practice of a keyboard instrument for the  accompaniment of the voice dates back to the Baroque era. At that time we had the “Basso Continuo” which originally was used as an accompaniment to solo instruments. This both in the sonatas and also in the tipical baroque concert in the Italian style. In the concerto grosso the solos were accompanied by the basso continuo . The “intermezzi” where played by the whole orchestra.

In the nineteenth century the piano become the king of any Musical ensemble because of his great extension, robust sound and wide range of possibilities: from the accompaniment of lieder and Italian “arie da camera” to  the solo recital  conceived by Liszt, to the preparation of all the Italian operas.

Giuseppe Verdi used to compose his operas at the piano and only after finishing them he used to orchestrate the work, during the reharsals with the singing company.


A wonderful example of this  is well described by Verdi himself  in a memoir dictated to his publisher Giulio Ricordi in 1879 . Verdi recalls his reluctancy  for the libretto and the refusal to compose the music he opposed to the impresario Merelli . Merelli managed at that time  the La Scala Shows. The first rehearsal was with the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi , the baritone Giorgio Ronconi and the bass Prosper Derivis. Verdi was sitting at the piano in a first reading of the opera, explaining to the singers the various sections.

Giuseppina Strepponi would have been a constant presence in Verdi’s life marrying hime in   1859.

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