February 8 – Opera Day

Posted on February 8, 2015
Most opera houses are...um...a bit on the fancy side.

Do you enjoy the opera?

I was wondering if, indeed, I had ever even experienced opera (let alone enjoyed it). For sure, I have seen and heard and enjoyed a lot of musicals, including Jesus Christ, Superstar, The Lion King, Oklahoma!, and Phantom of the Opera (which has the word “opera” right there in the name!).

This musical is sometimes
called a rock opera.
But what is the difference between operas and musicals? And what about folk opera, jazz opera, rock opera, and pop-art opera?

Both operas and musicals have stories, characters, costumes and sets, and most importantly music.

In operas, there tends to be continuous singing, but in most (not all) musicals, there are dialogues that are spoken separate from the songs that are sung. However, some musicals have an awful lot of dialogue that is sung, not spoken (Jesus Christ, Superstar is an example), and some are sung straight through (Les Miserables is an example). If a musical fudges this spoken-sung line, it is often called a popular opera or rock opera or other, similar name.

Operas tend to be more difficult to understand and more serious. (However, I ask you, what could be more serious than Les Miserables?)

Musicals tend to have more dancing.

According to one fellow, if there is a successful movie adaptation of the piece, it's a musical. 

Hmm...easy to understand,
spoken dialogue separate from songs,
often light-hearted,
and a popular movie was made from it...

Definitely a musical!

I get the impression that there really isn't a hard-and-fast rule of what makes something a musical rather than an opera. Defining opera is a bit like defining art; some people might say, if you have to ask, you won't get it, anyway.

Here are some short and funny answers from some British folks:
What is the difference between opera and musical theatre?

  • About 50 pounds ($76) per ticket. – John Peniket
  • Snobbery. – Art Butler
  • When someone starts singing after being stabbed, it's an opera. – Michael Whooley
  • Ears. – Steven Thomson

Here is a website dedicated to helping kids learn about opera. 

Here is a short “children's opera.” 

Here is a video of a then-seven-year-old girl singing a song from Phantom of the Opera. (Hey, it has the word “opera” right there in the title!) 

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