This book is a lively, entertaining grammar of the kind of Italian that is sung on the opera stage. Operatic Italian is complex, often convoluted and terse. It tends to be archaic. This book attempts to bring clarity by using a variety of teaching techniques and visual aids, including the following:

  • a systematic grammatical approach
  • hundreds of memorable extracts from operas. These help you to remember the language point. Many of these come with the actual staff lines and notes. Seeing the notes helps you to appreciate and remember the words.
  • accurate, word for word translations so you can see how the English and Italian are connected.
  • lots of IPA–International phonetic alphabet–Chapter 2 deals with phonetics, stress patterns, etc.
  • 14 detailed exercises (with new passages) to help you integrate your knowledge and monitor your progress
  • many comments on historical background, operatic themes, composers’ lives, nuances contained in the original Italian and which do not translate well, if at all, into English
  • a chapter on Dante’s important influence. He was the greatest model for librettist and composer.
  • a useful bibliography of books, websites and movies.
  • Operatic Italian helps you to appreciate the libretto in depth and to start thinking in Italian. You can start to bypass the surtitles.


  • “The essential component of a successful teacher is a deep knowledge of a subject. A great pedagogue, however, is one who combines this expertise with a love for the material so palpable that it inspires students. Thomson is such a teacher. Aficionados of Italian opera, as especially singers and their teachers, should own this book. Operatic Italian has a rightful place next to the Italian dictionary and handbook of Italian diction on the shelf of every serious student of opera.” – Debra Greschner in NATS Journal of Singers.