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form of 18th-century vocal music combining many features of cantata, oratorio, and opera. Use of the term extends back at least to the 16th century. In its most general sense, it referred to music written and performed in someone's honour; at times the term was used for purely instrumental music as well. According to its most frequent usage, however, the serenata was semi-dramatic in nature; it was shorter and not as elaborately staged as opera, and it was usually performed by a small orchestra and several costumed singers. There was little scenery, and it was simple and unpretentious; the performance traditionally was presented as an evening entertainment in a palace reception room