Is Dorico 3.5.1. ready for large opera scores?

Dear colleagues, I gather the courage for engraving an opera in Dorico 3.5.1. It’s a score of more or less classical notation. It’s a large opera. That’s why I would appreciate your experiences with what could cause problems on this opera field in the current version of Dorico. Especially, I am speaking about working with vocal parts, lyrics, cues, stage notes, etc. in full score, piano reduction and instrumental parts. I would highly appreciate your observations.

Dorico excels in producing different layouts from the same music: so vocal score, full score and instrumental parts all in one project file.
Cues have the best implementation of any notation software, IMO.
But best of all is the concept of “Flows” - so that you can effortlessly produce music with section headings, with automatic tacets in the parts.
You can also produce table of contents that update automatically.

The only problem is that Dorico can get a bit sluggish with very large files: e.g. over 100 flows and 32 Players. So don’t turn on Condensing until you are finished with the layout. Major changes, like adding a Player, when you’ve almost finished it, can be a bit slow.

I’ve created 3 operas in Dorico, and am working on four more. Here’s one.

There’s literally about 10 manual edits in the whole score.


Absolutely Milos! Dorico is more than ready for more than 200 flows, all the players you need, many different reductions and hundreds of pages!

You can start your job with confidence :wink:


It’s worth thinking about where you need e.g. stage directions to show before you start work. Depending on where they’re needed (scores but not parts, for instance), they might be best as System Text or Staff Text or as page-attached Text Frames. If you explain your use case then the chances are that someone will have found the quickest way of achieving it in Dorico.

The caveat with big files that hasn’t yet been mentioned here is that the minimum system specs (see here) aren’t sufficient. The biggest factor seems to be processor cores - four cores good, two cores bad. Obviously the more cores, the more RAM, running everything from SSDs etc., the better, at least up to a point, but the bottom line is that Dorico makes many more real time calculations than e.g. Sibelius or Finale and it can suffer from bottlenecks with big files on dual-core machines.


I’m with pianoleo on this. In my experience, if you have embedded text frames, it is problematic to keep them in place during editing.

If you want text frames in a predictable location, it is best to create a new Master Page (or Master Page Set to hold both score and part versions) to call up for situations in which those are needed.

Usually it is page overrides that create problems when page order needs to be edited.

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Yes, but while the custom master page supplies the text frame placed on the page, you have to fill it with text… which still creates an override. The only solution would be to create a separate master page for literally every text frame content, which isn’t feasible.

So text items are the way to go, until this functionality expands in the future.

Dan, I was thinking that the Master Page text frame could provide space for the text which could then be added via SHIFT+X text assigned to the first measure.

I am getting ready to test this out on a project I am working on. If I find myself tied up in knots, I’ll let you know.


What I have done for things like Scene Descriptions is use Flow Info fields, and then have Master Pages or Flow Headings with text frames that contain tokens for those fields.


Genius. I think I might steal this. Derrek’s idea is a good one as well.

Perhaps but I’m not seeing it. Courage does appear to be the correct word.

I still find that Finale is better suited for the stage and I don’t think it’s just because it’s the devil I know better.

There are a number of good ideas in this thread, though. Possibly, as restrictions ease and I’m not spending so much time helping others make music online, I’ll try to make Dorico work for my next large project.

Hi Mike, welcome to the forum. I’ve seen you active on the Finale forum for quite a while.

What’s your main concern at present regarding switching? Is it sluggishness on large files, or something else? Just curious.

Hey, Dan,

I’ve had Dorico since v.2.0 and have posted here now and then. I see that the new forum site changed my profile. That’s ok; I see no reason to continue the old one.

My issues are twofold. The big one is time. Though my music industry day job went away with the pandemic, it takes a lot of time and effort to transition to retirement. At the same time, a couple small church jobs morphed into nearly full-time online music making with 2–6 projects a week. Bottom line: not much time for the big works and no one to perform them anyway.

The other is a handicap that has reduced me to the use of one arm only—and it’s the wrong one. When something requires two hands, I must find another way to accomplish the task. As great as adaptive technology has become, everything takes way too long… which brings it back to time.

I hope that, as this pandemic lifts and I can start meeting with my ensembles again, I can take advantage of my retirement and have the time to figure out if there are better tools that can work with Dorico. The goal is always to get the music in my head onto paper. Yes, I know Finale pretty well but it’s a brick wall for the way I’ve been able to work for over a decade.

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Mike, have you looked into a Stream Deck? There’s quite a number of ways you could easily create macros based on combinations of native key commands in Dorico (or whatever notation program you’d use).

I had a scare last week; one of my kids slammed the trunk down on my hand, at the trunk hinge (so, more force). I was sure it was broken, and I started thinking through workflow with Stream Deck. Still an inconvenience, but lots of options there.

One of the main things I use Stream Deck for currently, interestingly enough, is single-key presses for things like Alt-arrow and Ctrl-Alt-arrow. Great for single-hand functions. I use that for speed with bulk key presses, but it could easily translate to accessibility.

I looked at Stream Deck last year and then it fell off my radar. I do need to get one. Thanks for the reminder.

Something else I’m looking for is a 3 switch foot controller that I can use to program the Command, Option and Shift keys on a Mac. All the ones I see require a PC to program it first. Mine is on loan and I don’t want to borrow it back just to program a footswitch.

OMG Dan, I hope your hand is OK! And Mike, I’m sorry to hear about your use of your hand. I janked my wrist doing too much computer work last December, we all need to take care of ourselves.

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benwiggy, thank you for encouragement. Were introductory text pages also created in Dorico? If so, I wonder what these pages look like in Engrave mode > Frames.

The Table of Contents was created in Dorico (using tokens, so the pages and titles update automatically), but the preceding pages were made in Affinity Publisher and then combined in the PDF. I could have done them in Dorico, I suppose, though it would have been more effort.

You can insert Blank pages at the front of the layout, and then add text frames, as you want.

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I have all the music safely in Dorico for the 3-act opera I’m scoring, and have a whole pile of stage directions which will need to appear in the full score and vocal score layouts only. These directions are dotted around the score depending on context. “Hiding/Showing text objects” in the manual seems to be the way to go, but I just need a nudge towards understanding it. If I write the stage directions in the full score, it seems then that I’d need to hide them all in each of the orchestral parts. Is that correct? If I created a Paragraph Style for stage directions, could I filter for that style in order to hide all the occurrences in each part? (I can find only lyric filters in the menu.)

If you only need the stage directions in the full score and the vocal score, then just use SHIFT+X text attached to the vocal line.