What is the difference between musical theatre and opera?
To understand the difference between musical theatre and opera, classification is needed
In fact, when we speak of difference, we are always “between” two concepts or two elements or two names, and so on. And to have a clear vision of this very difference, it is necessary, first of all, to define each element that is in relation with another. This is all the more true when we are faced with the difference between musical theatre and opera, two genres that at first glance appear to be the sun and the moon. And yet …
The difference between musical theatre and opera: 1) opera
As we know, opera was born in Italy over four hundred years ago, at the beginning of the 17th century. Of course, we cannot retrace the whole history of Italian opera here, but we can define opera, based on a funny picture found on the web, as an elderly “lady”. And what are the characteristics of this “lady”? Of course, the singers, the stage sets, the costumes, but above all its intrinsic capacity for evolution and change. Different styles have emerged over time, ensuring that the opera never remains the same. Understanding the difference between musical theatre and opera lies precisely in this evolution of styles.
The difference between musical theatre and opera: intermezzo
A light air blows over the solemnity of the opera, creating a new space: the opera bouffe. You all know Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, don’t you? The elderly lady has changed her appearance, has become comical.
And when the music also lightens up, as opposed to the serious music of the opera, and the sung parts are joined by dance parts, we are looking at another genre: the operetta – notably by Jacques Offenbach. The difference between musical theatre and opera is therefore a difference of degree.
The difference between musical theatre and opera: 2) musical theatre
So our line of evolution has led us to musical theatre, which originated at the turn of the 20th century in the United States; does Broadway remind you of anything? The content of a musical can be both comedic and tragic. The cinema has had a great influence on the production of musicals, so much so that famous films like Mary Poppins or even some Disney films can be considered as such. Musical theatre consists of dialogues, song and dance, and light music, pop, jazz, rock, etc.
Is the difference between musical theatre and opera (or maybe the evolution) a little clearer? Good. And if you want to know more, come and watch a show by I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma and be part of the process of music’s transformation.