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Thread: Composing, Musical vs. Opera

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    Default Composing, Musical vs. Opera

    Hello,

    From a composers/writers viewpoint,
    what are the differences between creating an opera vs creating a musical?
    Last edited by gsoler; Jul-04-2018 at 12:22. Reason: also writer

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    Senior Member shirime's Avatar
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    The music for an opera is typically composed by a composer to a libretto (by someone else or sometimes by the composer).

    A musical is a much more collaborative effort; the composer often composes a series of songs with a lyricist, there is usually someone else who writes the book (i.e. the spoken dialogue), someone else who orchestrates the songs and arranges an overture drawing on some of the tunes from the songs the composer wrote. Not only that, but often a musical has a much stricter 2 act structure than an opera that can be anywhere from one to five acts (or even just a single scene or a series of scenes). The second act of a musical is shorter than the first act and it often features a reprise of one (or some) of the most important songs of the first act.

    I think.......

    I am no expert.


    In terms of the style of music, a musical tends towards the lighter or more popular styles of music and an opera is typically just classical music of the style of the composer. An opera is more likely to have continuous music (some comic/lighter genres have spoken dialogue), and a musical is almost always broken up into numbers with spoken dialogue between each song. The story of the musical happens largely in the dialogue.
    Last edited by shirime; Jul-04-2018 at 11:48.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    What Shirime said ^ ^ ^ — plus the hope of far greater remuneration!

    'Ere I am J.H., the ghost in the machine.

    Terry Gilliam, Brazil

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    Thank you very much!

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shirime View Post

    . . .

    A musical is a much more collaborative effort; the composer often composes a series of songs with a lyricist, there is usually someone else who writes the book (i.e. the spoken dialogue), someone else who orchestrates the songs and arranges an overture drawing on some of the tunes from the songs the composer wrote. Not only that, but often a musical has a much stricter 2 act structure than an opera that can be anywhere from one to five acts (or even just a single scene or a series of scenes). The second act of a musical is shorter than the first act and it often features a reprise of one (or some) of the most important songs of the first act.

    I think.......
    Don't forget the director, sometimes the producer(s), choreographer . . . If you want to read about how a musical is made, check out "Everything was Possible" by Ted Chapin. Ted is the son of Schuyler Chapin, who ran the Met for many years. Ted, himself, is president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. For this book, however, the relevant portion of his CV is that in 1971 he was a production assistant on the legendary original production of "Follies" - and he kept a diary. Parts of this process have evolved since, but the creative chaos still survives.

    I do disagree about form. While historically, many musicals are two acts, more and more are one act (including "Follies" in some of its incarnations). The recent Tony award winner, "The Band's Visit" and the current hit "Come From Away" are both in one act. Overtures and full reprises are getting fewer and further between, although motifs are often repeated.

    And then there's "Hamilton."
    Last edited by jegreenwood; Jul-06-2018 at 12:00.

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    Thanks!
    I'm ok familiar with musicals. It's more a question of operas, and if there any big differences.

    Yes, I understand the musical style is different.
    I need to see more full operas I guess. Been listening quite a bit, but are not really familiar with the stage-thing.

    Being a composer/writer, and starting on some opera-work now,
    and I feel there are some aspects I should know more about.

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    Senior Member shirime's Avatar
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    There are far fewer conventions with operas, from what I know, especially these days (although I guess the same would be true for musical theatre).

    Considering your experience and knowledge of musicals, would you wish to transfer some of that over to the opera that I assume you are working on? The main thing I would keep in mind is that with operas there is much more storytelling through the music...........

    Have you watched many operas? There is a youtube channel called OperaVision that provides streaming for some opera companies in Europe and typically each opera is up there for a few months at a time. Be sure to turn subtitles on!

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