Can You Define an Opera Versus a Musical???
Date: 8 April 2003
What's the difference between an opera and a musical? Where should you go to see which? With the National Theatre mounting its first opera (Jerry Springer) and the Royal Opera House making its first foray into musicals (Sweeney Todd - See News, 7 Apr 2003), the line between the two genres is clearly becoming less clear. In a column this week in the Independent newspaper, arts editor David Lister ponders the conundrum. In their approaches to date, operas have been "publicly funded and presented with due reverence" while musicals have been tackled by the commercial sector with "singers rather than divas, a book rather than a libretto, a coach party rather than corporate entertaining". Not entirely satisfactory as far as definitions go - neither, says Lister, is ROH music director Antonio Pappano's assumption of "operas serious, musicals fun". All of which leads Lister, and us, to wonder: if the demarcations are so fuzzy, why should new operas be granted so much public funding while new musicals are left to fend for themselves? And if the ROH can mount musicals, why can't the West End mount operas? Why indeed? A transfer for Jerry Springer anyone? Or, here's hoping, a transatlantic crossover for Baz Luhrmann's La boheme? "Mr Pappano may have opened a can of worms here, which could yet rebound on the Royal Opera House itself," Lister surmises. If you have good definitions of operas versus musicals, please share them with other theatregoers on the Whatsonstage.com Discussion Forum.
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