Definition and background:
A comic song in opera and operetta that are characterized by a moderately fast to very fast tempo with a rapid succession of rhythmic patterns that each have a syllable of text to be sung by the singer. The text is often filled with difficult, tongue-twisting lyrics that are very entertaining to listen to. These songs are typically composed for a bass or baritone voice. Patter songs are very prominent in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and can be found in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioacchino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and others. The patter song is still used today and a more recent version can be found in Stephen Sondheim's song Getting Married Today from his Broadway musical Company.A polyphonic work in which one or more voices sings the syllabic text as fast as possible. Modern examples include some Gilbert and Sullivan songs and performances by Danny Kaye. The medieval Petronian motet adopts this texture. A style of comic song, found particularly in opera, operetta and musicals, which for effect depends on being sung at a lively speed.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary