1 [op-er-uh, op-ruh]
an extended dramatic composition, in which all parts are sung to instrumental accompaniment, that usually includes arias, choruses, and recitatives, and that sometimes includes ballet. Compare comic opera, grand opera.
the form or branch of musical and dramatic art represented by such compositions.
the score or the words of such a composition.
a performance of one: to go to the opera.
(sometimes initial capital letter) an opera house or resident company: the Paris Opera.

1635–45; < Italian: work, opera < Latin, plural of opus service, work, a work, opus

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2 [oh-per-uh, op-er-uh]
noun Chiefly Music.
a plural of opus.


noun, plural opuses or especially for 1, 2, opera [oh-per-uh, op-er-uh] .
a musical composition.
one of the compositions of a composer, usually numbered according to the order of publication.
a literary work or composition, as a book: Have you read her latest opus? Abbreviation: op.

1695–1705; < Latin: work, labor, a work

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World English Dictionary
opera1 (ˈɒpərə, ˈɒprə)
1.  an extended dramatic work in which music constitutes a dominating feature, either consisting of separate recitatives, arias, and choruses, or having a continuous musical structure
2.  the branch of music or drama represented by such works
3.  the score, libretto, etc, of an opera
4.  a theatre where opera is performed
[C17: via Italian from Latin: work, a work, plural of opus work]

opera2 (ˈɒpərə)
a plural of opus

opus (ˈəʊpəs, ˈɔp-)
n , pl opuses, opera
1.  an artistic composition, esp a musical work
2.  (often capital) (usually followed by a number) a musical composition by a particular composer, generally catalogued in order of publication: Beethoven's opus 61 is his violin concerto
[C18: from Latin: a work; compare Sanskrit apas work]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"a drama sung," 1644, from It. opera, lit. "a work," from L. opera "work, effort" (L. plural regarded as fem. sing.), secondary (abstract) noun from operari "to work," from opus (gen. operis) "a work" (see opus). Defined in "Elson's Music Dictionary" as, "a form of musical
composition evolved shortly before 1600, by some enthusiastic Florentine amateurs who sought to bring back the Greek plays to the modern stage."
"No good opera plot can be sensible. ... People do not sing when they are feeling sensible." [W.H. Auden, 1961]
As a branch of dramatic art, it is attested from 1759. First record of opera glass "small binoculars for use at the theater" is from 1738. Soap opera is first recorded 1939, as a disparaging reference to daytime radio dramas sponsored by soap manufacturers.

1809, "a work, composition," esp. a musical one," from L. opus "a work, labor, exertion" (cf. It. opera, Fr. oeuvre, Sp. obra), from PIE base *op- (Gmc. *ob-) "to work, produce in abundance," originally of agriculture later extended to religious acts (cf. Skt. apas- "work, religious act;" Avestan hvapah-
"good deed;" O.H.G. uoben "to start work, to practice, to honor;" Ger. üben "to exercise, practice;" Du. oefenen, O.N. æfa, Dan. øve "to exercise, practice;" O.E. æfnan "to perform, work, do," afol "power"). The plural, seldom used, is opera.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

opera definition

A musical drama that is totally or mostly sung. A&idie;da, Carmen, and Don Giovanni are some celebrated operas. A light, comic opera is often called an operetta.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
At the border between opera and musical comedy, the barbed wire is obviously
We usually think of opera as a serious idiom that dramatizes the lives of
  illustrious characters.
But the comic opera has meanwhile crystallised doubts about the quality of his
The story of her ascent rivals a modern-day soap opera.
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