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Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.

Operettas are usually shorter than operas, and are usually of a light and amusing character. Operettas are often considered less "serious" than operas.

Topical satire is a feature common to many operettas. However, satire is used in some "serious" operas as well: Formerly, in countries such as France, operas expressed politics in code — for example, the circumstances of the title character in the opera Robert le diable referred, at its first performance, to the French king's parental conflict and its resolution.

Normally some of the libretto of an operetta is spoken rather than sung. Instead of moving from one musical number to another, the musical segments — e.g. aria, recitative, chorus — are interspersed with periods of dialogue. There is usually no musical accompaniment to the dialogue, although sometimes some musical themes are played quietly under it. Short passages of recitative are, however, sometimes used in operetta, especially as an introduction to a song.