Sketching/creating texts (theater texts, stage directions, etc.) directly in the score? (Dorico 4)

Hello Community!

Has anyone had experience composing musicals/operas with Dorico 4 and sketching/creating texts (theater texts, stage directions, etc.) directly in the score? Are there any good/ new tutorials in this regard…?

Thanks and best wishes!

We are several users with experience with opera-operetta-musicals copying with Dorico — I’m obviously not an opera composer. There are different threads about problems we have encountered when it comes to staging text or dialogs. Some tools prove very efficient, such as staff text (for staging text), specific flow headings (for text cues).
Text does not flow through text frames as music in music frames, so if you have a lot of dialogs to type in… You’ll need to create some specific page templates for each (because you really don’t want any overrides in your document), and this is a little bit tedious.
I’m confident others will chime in to share their preferred workflows!


I am one of those users who’s done opera copying. 100% agree on everything Marc wrote above. It’s currently certainly not as streamlined as it could be, especially when you require a lot of text—indeed text doesn’t flow through frame chains, and staff-attached text requires completely manual casting-off. There’s no hyphenation/justification engine, and OpenType font features (ligatures, stylistic sets, small caps etc) for the most part aren’t accessible. (Some typefaces include a standalone smallcaps font.) That being said, you can still achieve quite a lot if you are prepared for manual adjustments. If the piece in question is still a work in progress, try as much as you can to avoid finalising too much of the score if the layout’s still liable to change :wink:

Staging directions I usually attach to the topmost stave with Shift-X text. Fortunately you can then go through (for example) the Flute 1 part, set properties to local, and hide every single one of them. This text will claim space between systems, but not above the topmost system of a page so if it’s a big chunk of text it might collide with any headers or even flow off the page entirely.

For another piece that wasn’t staged but did include a narrator, I created a 1-line unpitched stave for them and attached all the text to that with Shift-X. The advantage of this was of course that the text didn’t “pollute” any other staves. A small caveat: you can only hide rests in a staff when it contains at least one note in that flow, so I put one whole note in bar 1 of each flow, rescaled to 1%.
Downside of this method: every bit of text needs to be attached to a flow, so there were flows with only one bar, solo narrator, looking like a big chunk of text with a strange stave line underneath.
Another caveat: Shift-X text does not respace music horizontally, so also be prepared to use the manual note spacing tool a lot more than you’d maybe want.

General tip that Marc already hinted at: take as much advantage of flow-specific tokens and custom flow headings as you can. All the tokens in the Project Info dialog have a specific name (lyricist, composer dates, whatever) but nobody’s stopping you from appropriating one or more of them for anything else you might want to put in the flow heading, like a dialog cue.

Disclaimer: all of this is “at time of writing”, version 4.0.30. The developers are certainly aware of the slight practical shortcomings in the current version, and I’m not expecting everything to stay this way forever, but the list of feature requests is long and priorities are tricky.


Why not 4.0.31?

That was a single bugfix in a bit of the software that I literally never use, so I didn’t bother. Certainly it did not contain any changes to the handling of text…

I tend to put stage directions above the topmost vocal line so it appears in the full score and the piano/vocal score, but then I put the vocal lines at the top of the full score rather than above the strings. I also use the Other Info token/field to cue the start of a musical theater song (in a custom Flow Header), although I miss the ability to use bold and italics where needed.

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