Lesson 1: Learning “La Donna è Mobile”

Aim: What are some elements of opera singing?
Summary: Students will explore the elements of classical singing technique by listening to and learning “La Donna è Mobile.”
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide
Standards: GA: ESGM2.PR.1, ESGM2.RE.1, ESGM2.CN.1, ESGM2.CN.2
Vocabulary: bass, breathing, mezzo-soprano, opera, posture, projection, repertoire, soprano, tenor, vibrato, vocal warm-ups
See Glossary →

Explore Opera
  • Ask students what they know about opera – document as a class.

  • Share that opera is a type of theatrical art form where everything is sung and set to music. Just like plays or movies, operas can be dramatic or comedic, but all of the dialogue is sung instead of spoken.
Ways We Can Use Our Voice
  • Use SG 14 to have students discuss and explore the four ways we can use our voices 

  • Lead a discussion with the class about the four different ways they can use their voices—whispering, talking, calling, and singing.

Where would we use our whispering voice? (e.g., library or movie theater)

Where would we use our talking voice? (e.g., classroom, telephone, or dinner table)

Where would we use our calling voice? (e.g., baseball game, playing sports, or leading a group)

Where would we use our singing voice? (e.g., Musical Explorers concert, car, or shower)

  • Have students explore each vocal quality by using the same sentence and pretending they are in some of the places identified above. (e.g., “Hi, my name is …”)
Warming Up Our Voices to Sing
  • Timothy is an Opera Singer, and he uses his singing voice to tell stories. Opera singers do not use microphones, their bodies ARE the microphones! They train their voices to project by using their breath, posture and voice to sing over a full orchestra of instruments. All singers use vocal warm-ups to keep their voices strong and healthy. Timothy said that he includes singing on scales- a group of notes in a special order and arpeggios – notes that make a chord broken up in his warm-ups everyday.
  • Now that you have seen how Timothy warms up his voice, we can try singing along with Shanna. These exercises are ones we can follow with our voices.
  • Using the videos below, have students practice warming up their voices to sing.
“La Donna è Mobile” Aria
  • There are 4 main voice categories for opera singers: Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Tenor & Bass

  • Opera Singers sing the songs or repertoire that fits the voice category that feels the most comfortable to them

  • Timothy is a tenor

  • Listen to Timothy perform “La Donna è Mobile,” Track 12.

Track 12 – “La Donna è Mobile”

This aria, solo song, is from the opera Rigoletto by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. It is about a woman who keeps changing her mind about who she loves.  As you listen to Timothy sing, you will hear him use vibrato in his voice that helps him project his voice in a healthy way. Vibrato, the waves or movement you hear in some singing, is something that happens to voices naturally as the singer gets older, so when you are practicing singing, make sure you sing with your own unique voice!

  • Sing “La Donna è Mobile”

  • Listen to the chorus of “La Donna è Mobile”, Track 13.

Track 13 – “La Donna è Mobile” (chorus)

  • Notice how there are short & long notes. Remind students to use their breath and posture while singing and contrast the short & long notes by using their breath. 

How did you feel your breath change for the short & long notes?

Creative Extension: Parts of an Opera Production

  • Have your students work as a class to brainstorm as many jobs that they can think of that are important to creating an opera production. Share SG 15 to see if they came up with some of the same ideas. Using a tally, choose three of the jobs that students are interested in learning more about. Use literacy link to read more about those jobs. Have students write a sentence and/or draw a picture of the opera job they are interested in, and why they think that it sounds interesting to them. 
Musical Word Wall

Add the words bass, breathing, mezzo-soprano, opera, posture, projection, repertoire, soprano, tenor, vibrato, and vocal warm-ups to the Musical Word Wall.
See Glossary →

PDF Downloads

↓ SG14 Ways We Can Use Our Voices

↓ SG15 Parts of an Opera Production

Audio Tracks

Track 12 – “La Donna è Mobile”

Track 13 – “La Donna è Mobile” (chorus)

Lesson 2: Exploring “Nessun Dorma” →

Unit 2: Opera with Timothy