What’s The Difference between an Opera and A Musical?

The difference between opera and musical is a hazy boundary between the two.  One thing is they come out of the same traditions of singing onstage to convey a story or drama. An opera is one of the dramatic compositions in all parts.

These instrumentals are including arias, choruses, and recitations and occasionally ballet. Opera may be comic or grand. Musicals like opera are a living art form.

Opera vs. musical are large-scale stage works that tell stories through singing and musical accompaniment.

Opera’s Characteristics

Traditional opera is created up of two modes of singing such as recitations and the aria referred to as number opera.  An opera is called the libretto or little book.

By the 19th Century, Richard Wagner had abolished almost all distinctions between the aria and recitations and the orchestra began to take on a more important role.

The switch was intended to create an endless melody.



Musical Characteristics

The musical is a stage and television or film production and it is utilizing popular style songs like dialogue optional to tell a story or showcase the talents of the writer and/or the performer.  It is a combination of plot, scores, singing and spoken dialogue.

Most musicals are collaborative efforts with one individual writing the lyrics and the other the music. Early musicals were heavily influenced by popular burlesque shows, circuses, and vaudeville acts.

This is evolving from the comic that productions can be musical, musical play, musical revue, opera, and operetta.

Opera and Musical Differences

Operas and musicals are both large-scale stage works and it is enacting a drama through singing with instrumental accompaniment.

The opera and musical differences lie in the manner in which text is handled.

In opera, music serves as the vehicle that propels the story.

Musicals use spoken text between song numbers.  The text is what creates the story.  Opera primarily is used music to move the plot along.

Another difference between musicals and opera is one of the vocal styles.

The style is used in musicals and it is more like popular music.

In operas, there is roundness to the voices that also use vibrato.

Instrumentation is also different

While there are these differences are exceptions. Works such as those written by George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim have been produced in both genres.

The same was noted for older operettas.