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"style of musical declamation intermediate between speech and singing, form of song resembling declamation," 1650s, from Italian recitativo, from recitato, past participle of recitare, from Latin recitare "read out, read aloud" (see recite). From 1640s as an adjective. The Italian form of the word was used in English from 1610s.
A part of a cantata, opera, or oratorio in which singers converse, describe action, or declaim. It moves the action forward between the high musical moments. Recitatives are distinguished from arias, which are more expressive and musically more elaborate. Recitatives usually have only one syllable of text for each note of music, and the accompaniment by instruments is often very simple.