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Citing Sources in the Performing Arts

Additional Formatting Tips for MLA Style

Larger Works

Most titles should be italicized or enclosed in quotation marks. In general, italicize the titles of long-form works (these are often self-contained and independent of other works) and the titles of works that contain other works (e.g., anthologies, musicals and operas).


  • The Formation World Tour (a titled concert series)
  • Avenue Q (a musical)
  • The Nutcracker (a ballet performance)


Smaller Works

Use quotation marks for the titles of short-form works (e.g., a song, an individual essay) and works contained in other works (e.g., an essay in an edited collection, a song from a larger musical).


  • "The chanted mass in Parisian ecclesiastical and civic communities, 1480--1540" (a dissertation)
  • "A Tisket, A Tasket" (a folk song)
  • “When Michelangelo Went to Constantinople” (a magazine article)


Smaller Parts of a Larger Work

When writing the title for a smaller work and also giving the larger work it is a part of, use the same conventions as above (list the smaller work in quotation marks first and then the larger work in italics) and separate them with the word "from".


  • "Run the World (Girls)" from The Formation World Tour
  • “Purpose” from Avenue Q
  • "Miniature Overture" from The Nutcracker

See Also: MLA Handbook 2.89-2.125 - Titles of Works in Your Prose
MLA Handbook 5.23-5.30 - Title of Source Element in Works Cited

Instrumental Works

Musical compositions identified by form, number, and key are capitalized like titles, but are not italicized or enclosed in quotation marks.


  • Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A, Opus 92
  • Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets and Strings in C, RV539

If musical scores are otherwise identified, use the standard conventions (see "Titles of Songs, Operas, and Similar Works" tab.)


  • Night Ferry by Anna Clyne
  • Rest by Frank Ticheli

See Also: MLA Handbook 2.89-2.125 - Titles of Works in Your Prose (2.110 Titles with no formatting)
MLA Handbook 5.23-5.30 - Title of Source Element in Works Cited

Non-English Text


In general, italicize non-English-language words used in an English-language text. The exceptions to this include: quotations entirely in another language; non-English titles of works like poems, short stories, and articles published within larger works; proper nouns, except when italicized through another convention; and words from non-English languages that have been naturalized into English through frequent use.


  • I love it when composers use Sprechstimme​ in their music.
  • Las mañanitas is a traditional Spanish-language song.


When capitalizing titles or including names that are not in English, you can generally use the same conventions as you would in English. However, there are specific differences depending on the language you are using; for more information on this, see the links below.


If you use both an original-language work and a published translation of it, at first reference provide both the original title and the translated title and place one of them in parentheses. Style both the original title and the translation in either italics or quotation marks, according to the type of work. If you are just working with a published translation of a work written in a language other than English, there is no need to provide the original-language title.


  • In Mozart's The Magic Flute, Prince Tamino and Papageno embark on a quest.
  • There are several examples in Kate Thornhill's CD, "Recuerdo latino-americano" ("Memories of Latin-America").

In the works cited list, translations of titles are unnecessary, especially if your audience is composed primarily of people who know the language. If your audience is likely to include readers unfamiliar with the language, however, you can provide a translation of the title, placed in square brackets after the original title and with the same formatting as the original title.

Non-Latin Characters

For titles written in non-Latin characters, you can supply a transliteration and a translation in square brackets following the title. Translations and transliterations of book titles are italicized, but titles written in non-Latin characters are styled roman. Separate a transliteration and translation with a semicolon. In the works cited list, alphabetize the titles according to the transliteration.


  • I played music from 黃允炤怀旧中文歌曲钢琴集 [Huang Yunzhao huai jiu zhong wen ge qu gang qin ji; The Ignatius Wong collection of nostalgic Chinese songs].
  • In Ben-Mosheh's book חוויית הדבקות בניגוני חסידות חב"ד בישראל‎ [Ḥaṿiyat deveḳut be-negine ḥasidut Ḥabad bi-Yiśreʼel; Experiencing Devekut: The Contemplative Niggun of Habad in Israel], he explores many related topics.


In titles in languages other than English, write numbers as shown in the source, whether spelled out or as numerals.

See Also: MLA Handbook 2.63 Non-English-Language Words in an English-Language Text
MLA Handbook 2.64-2.70 - Capitalization of Terms
MLA Handbook 2.73 - Surnames Used Alone
MLA Handbook 2.91 - Capitalizing Titles in Languages Other Than English
MLA Handbook 2.125 Translating Titles in Languages Other Than English
MLA Handbook 2.127 - Use of Numerals or Words (see 2.136 - In Titles)
MLA Handbook 5.123-5.130 - Ordering the List of Works Cited
MLA Handbook 5.30 - Translations of Titles