Best practice for opera in Dorico 5?

Hi everyone,
The last post I found relevant to this was from about a year ago, so I’m asking now for experience with the current version (5.0.2).

I’m at the early stages of engraving a new opera. The piano vocal score is complete, and the composer has been working on the orchestration. The opera is 2 acts, 3 scenes per act, about 2600 bars total, 25 instrumental players (not yet including all percussion instruments), 21 vocal staves, piano reduction (separate layout), all eventually with condensing. Usually no playback, sometimes turning on NP to check notes.

The last project I did of this scope was in Sibelius, which I did in two files – one for full score, and one for parts. That turned out to be a bit of a nightmare near the end when Sibelius started taking a few seconds to process every time I clicked on something. My dream here is to have a single Dorico file for the whole thing with separate flows for each scene, all part layouts, plus the piano vocal in the same project as its own layout.

So before I get too far down the rabbit hole, I’d like to ask anyone with experience engraving opera in Dorico – how feasible is this? Should I expect Dorico to chug as the job progresses? Would it be better to have a separate project for each act? Or, for each scene (please no)?

I’m running an M1 Max with 64GB ram, so specs should not be a bottleneck.



Hi !
No matter how powerful the machine is, there are some tasks that cannot be parallelized, so it will start to be very hard on the one core working on casting off as soon as you start condensing on a 100+ pages document…
I think it’s a good idea to start with one document per act. You’ll be able to build up one document with everything in it once the whole work is done, but for work, it’s a good idea to keep it that way.
Make sure you keep condensing for the end of the work, because that will take some serious resources too.
If you follow those two advices, you should find Dorico is very reliable and a great tool for this task.
My 2 c.


Thank you! This is very helpful. Yes, condensing always at the end. I didn’t think of re-combining the files for export – that’s an excellent point. Even though I’ve been using Dorico for several years now, sometimes I still plan my work with Sibelius limitations in mind. Habits die hard haha.

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I’ve done lots of operas that are longer (3 Acts, 15 Scenes each), but with fewer instruments/singers.

I’ve made a few notes here that you might find helpful:


I know when I sent a file to PhilipRothman (@Philip_R ?) at NYC Music Services he suggested binding each section of the conductor’s score in a separate booklet. If that is something you may do with each act, then separating the acts into separate files may speed work on each.

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@benwiggy This is a great video! Thanks for sharing. A very different piece for sure, but there’s a lot of overlap with how I’m doing things. The per-flow note spacing changes and comment export are two things I have not thought to use before – excellent tips!

@Derrek Yes, I will most likely be creating separate books for Act 1 and Act 2, although I suppose we’ll see how it ends up after formatting. Either way, I don’t want the parts to be separated, so I’d rather have a consolidated file at the end.

Thanks again everybody for your tips!


Thank you @adtino for starting this thread and thank you @benwiggy for the video!
I’m in the later stages of orchestrating an opera in Dorico right now. 20 scenes in 4 acts, 13 piece chamber orchestra and 3 soloists. Overall it’s been great, with a few hiccups here and there.

But I have a lot to learn yet about getting it into its final form. At the moment, I have (almost) every scene as its own Dorico file. It’s 20 scenes in 4 acts, and I’m planning to group them by act, so each act will be its own book and its own Dorico file. I’m sure I’ll be haunting this forum a lot :wink:

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