In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater? Stephen Sondheim, Composer and Lyricist


Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim
Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench

The only thing I have to say about the difference between opera and musical theater is that opera is musical theater that takes place in an opera house in front of an opera audience. This is perhaps not as meaningless as it sounds. The opera audience brings different expectations to what they see and demands different things from the performers, which affects the casting and the approach to the work at hand. When Menotti’s The Medium was done on Broadway, it was a Broadway musical. When it was done in an opera house, it was an opera, even though the cast may have been the same.