Lesson 1: Learning “Casta Diva”

Aim: What makes a healthy classical singing style?
Summary: Students learn to sing in a legato style on “Casta Diva”
Materials: Musical Explorers CD or online audio
Standards: GA: MK-2GM.1, MK-2GM.2, MK-2GM.3, MK-2GM.6, MK-2GM.7, MK-2GM.8
SC: MGK-2.1, MGK-2.2, MGK-2.3, MGK-2.4, MGK-2.5, MGK-2.6
Vocabulary: opera, aria, melody, legato, staccato, bel canto


Meet Rebecca

  • Meet Rebecca on SG15


Learn About Opera

  • An 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.
  • As a class, come up with one funny or dramatic event that has happened during the week. Ask students to try singing a line of text that represents their emotional response to the event, such as “Oh no!”, “I can’t believe it!” or even laughter.
    • If someone couldn’t hear the words of what you sang, how would she know if it was happy or sad?
    • What can we do to the sentences we sang to make them more dramatic or funnier? (i.e., sing higher, lower, louder, softer, etc.)


Warm Up Our Voices

  • Healthy singing is part of a good technique for an opera singer. Prepare your students to sing well in “Casta Diva” by focusing on using their head voice, emphasizing good posture, and breathing from the abdomen. Click here for detailed activities.


Sing “Casta Diva”

  • Listen to “Casta Diva,” Track 11
    “Casta Diva” (“Pure goddess”) is an aria sung by the character Norma in the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). An aria is a song sung in an opera, usually by one person. “Casta Diva” is a prayer for peace to the goddess of the moon.
  • The melody is the tune in a piece of music, the part you can sing or hum.
  • Ask students whether they think the melody is mostly smooth (legato) or choppy (staccato).
  • Listen to the pronunciation guide, Track 12
    and practice the Italian words with Rebecca. Emphasize saying the words smoothly and in a connected way.
  • Sing along with the first part of “Casta Diva,”  Track 13
  • Challenge your students to sing as much as possible without taking a breath!
  • With your students, brainstorm ways to make their singing more legato (i.e., connect the vowels together, breathe deeply in order to take fewer breaths, sing continuously without stopping).
  • Practice singing the chorus legato.


Casta Diva

Casta Diva, che inargenti queste sacre antiche piante,
a noi volgi il bel sembiante
senza nube e senza vel…
Tempra, o Diva, tempra tu de’ cori ardenti
tempra ancora lo zelo audace,
spargi in terra quella pace
che regnar tu fai nel ciel…
Pure Goddess, whose silver covers these sacred ancient trees,
Turn your lovely face to us,
unclouded and unveiled…
Calm the people who are angry,
Calm the people who want to start war.
Spread peace across the earth
The same way you spread peace in the sky…


Bel Canto

“Casta Diva” is the most famous aria from the opera Norma, and is an example of the bel canto (Italian for “beautiful singing”) style of opera and singing popularized in the early 19th century. Bel canto singers specialize in smooth, legato phrases and keeping the same beautiful sound whether singing high or low.

Operatic Singing

Classical singing as a technique was developed to carry voices in large concert venues (like opera halls) before the invention of microphones. Using breath pressure targeted toward the hard bones in the skull and chest, singers are able to capitalize on natural resonances in the human body to amplify the sound, even over an orchestra. It takes years of training to accomplish this without damaging the voice. Opera is still mostly performed without amplification today, even in concert halls as big as (or bigger than!) Savannah’s Lucas Theatre.


Musical Word Wall

Add the words opera, aria, melody, legato, staccato, and bel canto to the Musical Word Wall.



PDF Downloads

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Musical Explorers Audio Tracks