Definition and background:
In an opera, oratorio, cantata, or other multi- movement vocal compositions, a recitative is a narrative song that describes some action, thought, or emotion. The recitative follows the natural flow of the language, and is more a speaking composition than a singing composition. The two styles of recitative are the dry ( secco) style and the accompanied ( stromentato, or accompagnato) style. Also [Fr.] R'citative; [Ger.] Rezitativ; [It.] Recitativo; [Sp.] Recitativo. recitative is used in vocal works, particularly opera and oratorio, usually for a solo voice, in relatively free rhythm. In this respect recitative is distinct from the formal aria. Recitative might be accompanied by basso continuo, harpsichord or other chordal instruments and a bass instrument (recitativo secco or dry recitative), or accompanied by a larger number of instruments (recitativo accompagnato, accompanied recitative). Recitative is often used for narrative or for the forwarding of the plot in opera.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary