All my theatre vocal score requests!

Defining “chorus principals”

Within a Section of singers (e.g. “Tenors”), you should be able to define named “Chorus Principals”. These will mainly be a convenience feature to do divisi: when you choose divisi, the chorus principals within that section will be listed as pre-defined options that you can tick or untick.

When these chorus principals are divisi’d, they should appear vertically positioned with the solo singers, not vertically positioned next to the chorus stave they came from. I’m not sure if this is already possible with divisi but I suspect not?

‘Music’ vs ‘Spoken’ bits

In write mode, you should be able to do “Create a switch to music section” or “Create a switch to spoken section”. A spoken section has no rhythmic grid. It is instead comprised of text elements one after another (pieces of spoken dialog or stage directions — see description later). No staves are shown in a spoken section. Any given flow has a setting for whether it starts in music mode or spoken mode.

Spoken dialog, and stage directions

These are new types of text object. A piece of spoken dialog is attached to one or more characters — the possible character names are the instrument names for the soloists (plus the “chorus principals” I defined above). Spoken dialog is written as free text.

Stage directions are the same, but not attached to a character. I guess we’d display them in italics by default.

If a piece of spoken dialog is entered in a music section, it is placed on the stave that belongs to that character (and attached to a rhythmic location for where the speaking starts). However, it’s very important that we have a way to hide/show a character’s staff without hiding their spoken dialog — use case, in a scene where a certain character is not singing but has a spoken line, we would not want to display a stave for that character. Maybe this should be a separate option, to hide/show spoken dialog vs hide/show staff.

Spoken lines of dialog should have a layout option for where to display them — either above the character’s staff, or at the top of the whole system.

A stage direction always appears at the top of the system in a music part.

In a spoken part, the stage direction and text objects are placed sequentially. (I assume we’d want to be able to drag-rearrange them.)

Simultaneous dialog

Inside a ‘spoken’ part, you should be able to define a sub-section for simultaneous dialog. This will create two columns (or more I guess!) that you can independently put spoken dialog pieces or stage directions in.

Libretto layouts

A new kind of layout should exist, that is libretto. Not only will this list all the spoken dialog and stage directions (as written), but it should also display lyrics. I guess it should use some intelligent logic to know where to do line breaks etc for lyrics, and likewise to display multiple columns for when multiple characters/groups are singing different lyrics at the same time.

I think this would be the killer feature, fwiw. If I can write an operetta as a score, including the bits of spoken dialog, and just automatically convert it to a textual libretto, where changes propagate automatically… that would be something no other software does!

(Libretto layouts could be a special kind of condensing, fwiw. I’m OK with not being able to edit the lyrics text from within a libretto. It would be nice to edit the spoken text and stage directions from within a libretto layout however).


I have seen some claims on the forums that condensing is only useful if you want both condensed and non-condensed layouts of the same score. For vocal music I disagree. One of my main uses for condensing is if I have not yet decided when and which characters to combine staves for. With the custom condensing feature, this is already pretty good. I would like to see improvements though:

As requested here, I would essentially like to see condensing changes and/or hide/show players changes take effect at a barline not just at a system break. As I described in the linked thread, I can nearly approximate this by hiding rests… but I still need to be able to specify lyrics to go above or below the staff. (I wouldn’t want lyrics above the staff unless there were multiple singers within the same bar!)

I also want to use the full character name (aka instrument name) above the staff when changing ‘instrument’, and to show the shortened version of all the character names on a staff in the left margin. (So even if a new character only starts singing a number of bars into the line, that character’s name should appear in the left margin for the staff, along with anyone else who’s on that staff.)

Arrows for splitting/merging/moving staff via condensing

If you use divisi, you get a nice set of arrows at the end of a stave to show that it splits or merges on the next system. I’d like to get these when a condensing change puts a certain character on a different stave. Ideally I’d like the option to have the arrows show up even if the condensing change is in the middle of a line (although I would usually try to avoid having someone sing from two different staves within one system, sometimes when moving from chorus to a solo it’s actually the most readable thing to do!)

Completely empty stave (no rests) before a character is condensed on to it

As a related point to the above, if I have someone singing with the chorus, then they have a solo starting part way through a system, there are three things I could do:

  • Give them a staff for the whole system, and duplicate the chorus notes/lyrics on that person’s staff before they start the solo.
  • Give them a staff just from the point they start the solo (so this staff starts part way through a system, with whitespace to the left of it)
  • Give them a staff for the whole system, but that staff is empty (no rests, no barlines, just the staff lines) up until they start their solo.

Having these options to choose from would be great.

Dramatis Personae

We should be able to make an automatic Dramatis Personae list. This should be a special type of flow. It’d be great if Dorico could automatically pull the vocal range for each character. (Naturally, the character list will be taken from the names of the character ‘instruments’ held by the solo singers, and there should be the option to include the chorus (i.e. ensemble singers) in here as well). There should also be the ability to write a small amount of text description per character.

Contents page

Another special kind of flow, which automatically generates a table of contents with page numbers for each flow.

(You might wonder why I’m suggesting special kinds of flow rather than special kinds of frame to be manually placed on pages. This is essentially because I don’t like how the frames are attached to absolute page numbers, and don’t move when you insert more music. It’d probably be ok as frames in the case of Dramatis Personae or Contents, because they both would go at the start of the document before any music.)

Text page

A page with free text, that is attached to a certain flow (or is itself a special kind of flow). It’d be useful to me if I could drop a text page somewhere, and if I later add more music before it, the text page still appears at the same relative position to the music. I’m fine if these have to go between flows (as it wouldn’t make much sense in the middle of a flow, since the music would reflow across page boundaries too often.)

Text pages are probably the least important of all my requests… if I didn’t get these, but did get all the others, I’d still be absolutely delighted!


Thanks for this list of requests. We are certainly aware of many of the special requirements for opera and musical theatre scores and parts, and I hope that in the future we’ll be able to address them.

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Thanks Daniel! I had fun trying to think of Dorico-like ways to implement solutions to my problems. (You’ll be better at that of course!)

I do think libretto layouts could be a killer feature. Nothing else does that.

TBH, I’m a bit at a loss to imagine precisely what you mean by a “libretto layout”. It sounds like a task for a text editing program to me.

I think Amy means exactly what you think she means, but I agree with you in the sense that even if Dorico develops text with styles, programming Dorico to lay out a libretto would take them far away from their core focus, as welcome as the feature might be for a few users.

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In any case, a very useful feature to create that libretto (I have a beautiful and effective workflow in XeLaTeX) would be to be able to export all text objects as well as lyrics in a file the same way as comments. I’d be very happy with this!!!

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That I could certainly support!

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I have a LaTeX workflow as well at the moment :slight_smile: