Question of the Week
Posted by Melissa Wimbish (via The Telegraph)
What’s the difference between opera and musical theater?
The line between operas and musicals is blurring. Earlier this month the English National Opera announced that the company will team up with Michael Grade and Michael Linnit to stage musicals – on top of their regular programme of operas. Aside from making full use of the Coliseum round the year, ENO is hoping that musicals will form part of an “audience development programme”, nurturing opera goers of the future.
Will it work? The answer seems to be yes. When the Lyric staged Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! last year, a staggering 50 per cent of the audience had never set foot inside an opera house before. Over the next few years, the Lyric will present The Sound of Music,Carousel, The King and I and South Pacific, whilst the Theatre du Châtelet in Paris will do Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris in their 2014-15 season.
Yet musicals are tricky to pull off – if you’re an opera company. In 2003 the Royal Opera House attempted Stephen Sondheim’s most operatic work Sweeney Todd with mixed results. The problem was that the production (originally from the Lyric) had all the refined sensibilities of an opera and none of the grit of the musical. It was an interesting experiment but the main stage has not presented a musical since. Rumour has it that Sondheim was so displeased with their Sweeney that he banned it from ever being revived – but, alas, I cannot confirm this bit of gossip. I’d love to know, so do tell me if it’s true.