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An "aria" (Italian for ''air''; plural: ''arie'' or ''arias'' in common usage) in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. It is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the most common context for arias is opera; there are also many arias that form movements of oratorios and cantatas. Composers also wrote "concert arias", not part of any larger work, such as "Ah Perfido" by Beethoven and a number of concert arias by Mozart.

The aria first appeared in the 14th century. In that time, it signified a manner or style of singer or plating. Aria could also mean a melodic scheme (motif) or pattern for singing a poetic pattern, such as a sonnet. It was also attached to instrumental music, though this is no longer the case. Over time, arias evolved from simple melodies into a structured form; in about 17th century, the aria was written in ternary form (ABA); these arias were known as ''da capo arias''. The aria later "invaded" the opera repertoire with its many sub-species (''Aria cantabile'', ''Aria agitata'', ''Aria di bravura'', and so on). By the m...

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