notating a recitative

There’s a section of secco recitative within the score of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and I’ve reserved 14 bars for it. These bars have a free meter, anywhere from 4 to 18 quarters, although the piano just shows a whole note chord. At the moment, these placeholder bars are in 4/4, but any attempt to change one of these bars resulted in Dorico rebarring everything after that. So I worked backward, inserting time signatures so that Dorico would stop rebarring at those spots. That seemed OK until I tried to enter music. It appears that despite the displayed time signatures, all the bars are all still actually in 4/4. What have I done wrong?

You could just leave it all in 4/4 time, then count how many extra beats you needed, and add those using the bars and barlines popover (Shift-B, 3/4 to add 3 quarter notes). Then hide the extra rests in the piano part. It’ll still be in “4/4,” officially.

If you’re having some unexpected meter issues, it’s probably an XML import, and you should delete the initial meter at the beginning of the flow and re-enter it.

Try changing a time signature to unmeasured (type X in the popover). Then you can have bars any length you like, until you change back to 4/4. Enter the notes in insert mode, and add bar lines with the B popover (or the right hand panel) where you need them.

You can hide the unmeasured time signature if it displays as something you don’t want, and hide any unwanted rests after your whole-note chords.

It is indeed an XML import but I’d already replaced the key and time signatures. The rest of the opera is all in one flow, as I have problems with dividing it into flows:

  1. Singling out a section to be in a separate flow takes a fast computer almost 3 minutes to accomplish; in addition, Dorico jumps to a completely unrelated spot when I do this (the well-known ‘whack a mole’ problem) and I have to find the spot where I was;
  2. I lose cautionary key and time signatures; I know I can create something that looks like these but it’s a complicated workaround;
  3. Sometimes the lyrics continue through sections. If I split the flow, I lose the hyphen in the lyric;
  4. Measure and rehearsal numbers need to be changed to continue where the previous flow left off;
  5. I need the beginning of the new flow to look like the default page of the previous flow and not like the first page, with all the irrelevant headers and footers, flow name, full staff names, etc. I haven’t found the way to assign the default page layout to the first page of a new flow, nor have I found out how to make layout options apply only to the new flow.
    The question remains, why does Dorico display a 4.4 bar as 14/4 when it isn’t? Why can’t I create a bar with room for 14 quarters?

I’ve tried changing the time signature to X but it still remains 4/4. I can’t insert notes as the caret just keeps jumping to the next bar.

Have you viewed the signposts for hidden time signature changes, or selected the bar lines to see what the properties are?

Some programs create a hidden time signature in every bar of an XML file.

I’m sure there is a fix for this, but it’s hard to guess what you need to delete to “unstick” the time signatures without seeing the score.