Recitative is a form of musically notated dramatic speech, relatively free in form. Early recitative of the 17th century, with its origin in rhetorical theory and practice, allowed a greater variety of expression than the more formal recitative of the 18th century or later. Recitative became formally distinguished from the aria, the set song, which it frames, and came generally to carry the dramatic dialogue of a plot. By the early 18th century recitative was largely stylised, with a conventional chordal accompaniment, usually provided on a keyboard instrument.

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