Specify when to use the librettist relationship (STYLE-591)

Another relatively simple issue where we just need to pick something, anything: STYLE-591.

My original problem:

Some people use “librettist” as “lyricist” for every classical work (including art songs). Some people use it for opera and the like only, but on all works too. Some people use it only on the main opera / musical / whatever work and use “lyricist” for specific arias, etc.

@ListMyCDs.com’s proposal:

Canadian Association of Music Libraries uses these definitions (http://www.rda-jsc.org/archivedsite/docs/6JSC-ALA-13.pdf):

An author of the words of an opera or other musical stage work, or an oratorio. For an author of the words of just the songs from a musical, see lyricist

An author of the words of a popular song, including a song or songs from a musical. For an author of just the dialogue from a musical, see librettist

We could use similar definitions.

I think this suggestion is pretty good (and it helps it’s not just based on a whim), but I’m leaving it open to discussion for a week to see if someone has strong disagreements with the proposal.


Errr… is there some reason to have both? Seems like a pointless distinction (and since works are shared, it can’t just be “use whatever word the credits do”). If we really want to record “is this an opera or not”, we should just record that.

Also, curious where that definition leaves things like Beethoven’s 9th, several of Mahler’s symphonies, etc. I wouldn’t call those oratorios.


At least for musicals, both exist and generally mean different things.

I don’t know what it is so maybe I’ll say nonsense, but it seems to be about who wrote the texts.
Text for poems does not have a specific relationship, we use lyrics and it seems good enough to me.
We couldhave a generic text writing relationship for all kinds of text, no?

For musicals and ballets librettist is the person responsible of the dialogue and story, lyricist just writes lyrics for the songs. It’s common for musicals have libretto and songs written by different persons.

List of all exceptions would be too long to include but based on these examples we could consider adding choral symphonies to this definition (under librettist).

Ah OK, that’s a good reason to keep separate relationships then. :slight_smile:

Actually, for poems (and prose, and plays), we use writer :slight_smile:

If I did that (I have used lyrics all the time), I would feel uncomfortable, because below writer, there are lyrics and music.
It introduces slight ambiguity, IMO.

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Well, it is the current guideline - any changes to that one should probably be discussed in a different topic (but I guess we can split this one if you want to discuss it now!).

I fully agree with ListMyCDs proposal. I would like to specify though that (when both librettist(s) and lyricist(s) are credited) “librettist” should only apply to the complete work and not to every single song

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Would you add librettists on act works as well, for works (musicals or whatnot) in multiple acts? (I’ve been adding them there but I could see it either way)

Adding them to acts makes sense (after all acts – other than just songs – are usually part of the librettist’s, not the lyricist’s work)

Hmm. I would actually not use librettist here. For Mahler’s 8, for example, “Part II is a setting of the words from the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust”. The lyrics are by Goethe, but setting Goethe as the librettist here implies, in my mind at least, a more active participation in the actual setting of the words to the work than lyricist does. But that might be just my own definition of the thing - of course Goethe wasn’t specifically writing the lyrics for this either, being dead.

I’ve added these, with mostly the terms suggested by @ListMyCDs.com.

The Lyricist rel now includes:

Lyricist is to be used for the author(s) of the words of both popular and art songs, including songs from musicals. For the author of the dialogue from a musical, use the librettist relationship instead.

The Librettist rel now includes:

Librettist is to be used for the author(s) of the words of an opera or other musical stage work, or an oratorio, including dialogue from musicals. For the author of the lyrics of the songs from a musical, see the lyricist relationship instead.

and, only at the work level:

For musicals and other cases where the author of the libretto didn’t also write the lyrics, link the librettist only to the main work (and any act works), but not to each song.

Both release level rels now explicitly specify that

The work level relationship is preferred and should be used if possible.

This does still leave a grey area (for things like mentioned on the previous post) but it does specify the expected usage for musicals and the like and also that lyricist rather than librettist should be use for art songs. Further improvements and discussion definitely welcome :slight_smile:


I don’t feel librettist would be too much when it’s not just the lyrics but basically full scene of the play with all the different characters. If 2nd part of the symphony would have been published separately we would most likely define it as oratorio. According to our definition oratorios have librettists.