Articles

In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater?

Stephen Sondheim“…opera is musical theater that takes place in an opera house in front of an opera audience…” Jack Beeson“…In musicals, all the words…are to be understood. Opera audiences…are awed when…they understand an English libretto, and forget to watch the supertitles…” Philip Glass“…Basically, I don’t care what you call it…” Elizabeth Swados“I don’t think those […]

Soundtracks: April 2001

The relationship between music and theater has always been controversial – and productive. On one end of the spectrum are pieces in which text is obviously or completely dominant. Though there are no solely text-based pieces in this month’s new discs — if you want one, try Randy Hostetler’s Happily Ever After, featured in the […]

In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater? Jack Beeson, Composer

Jack BeesonPhoto by Dietrich Dettmann, courtesy Boosey & Hawkes Surrounded by Columbia composers, faculty and students, Stephen Sondheim was asked, “Since a couple of your musicals have been performed in opera houses, why don’t you write a real opera?” Answer: “Because I don’t like their audiences.” Then he asked, “Why don’t you write musicals, Jack?” […]

In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater? Mark Adamo, Composer and Librettist

Mark AdamoPhoto by Christian Steiner, courtesy G. Schirmer, Inc. Even if we limit discussion to contemporary American work, we first need to define terms. The musical play, as defined by Rodgers and Hammerstein, extends from Oklahoma through Fiddler on theRoof to Ragtime. The songbook-style musical comedy, covers most of the Rodgers & Hart, Gershwin, Berlin, […]

In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater? Diane Wondisford, Producing Director, Music-Theatre Group

Diane Wondisford The differences that exist between opera and music theatre, have to do with form, dramatic structure, scale, style, and tone. In opera, the story is conveyed through aria and recitative, very rarely unaccompanied spoken word, and sometimes the dance. In the creation of a music-theatre piece, artists borrow from many forms and structures. […]

In your opinion, what is the difference between opera and musical theater? Grethe Barrett Holby, Artistic Director, American Opera Projects

Grethe Barrett HolbyPhoto by Arthur Elgort In Music-Theater, the music is in the theater; in Opera, the music is the theater. It is not only that generally opera is through-composed and that most often all the lines are sung. It is that the composition and performance of the music not only embodies, but expands, lays […]