Top 5 Operas That Should Become Musicals

For centuries, opera singers and more recently musical theater actors have had the hard task of expressing all the passion and conflict of the heart to the exact measurement, like a small ingredient in a big cake recipe, to entertain audiences around the world through song. It’s not an easy task.

But are operas and musicals the same? They are similar because both tell stories using songs and both use an orchestra, but the similarities end there. In operas, we have powerful voices and repetition, and in musicals, we have speakers and microphones, but they were both considered sometimes elitist and sometimes popular through time.

But would it be effective to make an opera cross into the world of musicals and vice-versa? There are a lot of operas that have already been adapted into successful musicals, like Miss Saigon, which was adapted from Madame Butterfly by Puccini, or The Magic Flute, which was adapted from Mozart’s opera with the same name.

But transforming an opera into a musical is complex task, first because people will usually freak out when you bring this up. After all, how can you adapt a four-act two-hundred-year-old complex story into a two-hour show with tap dancing? Don’t get me wrong, tap dancing is great, but it’s hard to imagine Pavarotti doing it.

But restrictions aside, operas have the power to become good musicals and bring substance that musical theater needs from time to time. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 operas that would be great musicals.

5. Carmen

What? This is not a musical?! This is a soap opera waiting to happen. We have Micaela, who likes José, who likes Carmen, who’s trouble. Don José is taking care of his life when Carmen throws a rose to him that turns his life upside down, like in a 80s movie with a plot twist at the end. What’s not to like? This is a great story with beatiful songs.

Watch this video on YouTube.

4. Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)

Thankfully, some men are smarter than Don José – like Count Almaviva, a Spanish Count who falls in love with a girl called Rosine. He’s rich and like every rich guy, he’s worried that his loved one is with him just for his money. Instead of saying positive affirmations to a mirror like any guy that lacks self-confidence would do, he disguises himself as a poor student, but Rosine’s guardian Doctor Bartolo decides to lock her up to marry her because apparently this is the way people did things two hundred years ago. The Count’s luck changes when he meets an ex-servant of his who’s working as a barber, called Figaro. The rest is history. Now, why isn’t this a musical already? It’s funny, it has great songs, and people love it.

Watch this video on YouTube.

3. Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)

Like The Phantom Of The Opera, The Barber of Seville also has a sequel, called The Marriage of Figaro. The difference is that this sequel makes sense and has all the plot twists you would expect, instead of a crazy dude with a mask demoted to a fun house. Now Rosine is a Countess and the evil Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge, except that now the Count wants Figaro’s wife, because apparently this is how they did things in those days. It’s a rare achievement to make an opera sequel as famous and successful as the first one (right, Andrew Lloyd Webber?).

Watch this video on YouTube.

2. Pagliacci

There’s this guy that we’ll call Pagliaccio. His work life is great, he’s a success, but his love life is a mess because apparently his wife is cheating on him. We all know this story, but the goal of this opera is, to put in a simple way, to show that a clown can cry and that artists on stage have personal problems like everyone else. It’s like A Chorus Line but (unpopular opinion) not boring after the first song.

Watch this video on YouTube.

1. Don Giovanni

Wait, this is the third Mozart/Lorenzo De La Ponte opera on the list. What’s going on? Well, I’m not sure, but it may be the fact that both were really good at doing operas and Don Giovanni is one of my favorite operas, so, impartial as I am, I had to put it on the list. First, let me introduce you to Don Giovanni, or as you might know him, Don Juan. He’s a womanizer basically that uses everyone around him to get what he wants, because apparently this is how people do…did things in those days. On one night after sneaking out of one of his mistresses’ rooms, he stumbles upon her father, has a fight and kills him because he’s basically a psycopath that has no feelings.

This opera has the full package of characters that you may find in anything that is showing on any screen these days, like the nice guy who thinks his wife is a saint, the guy who doesn’t dump his fiancee even knowing she’s flirting with another man (Don Juan), the woman who tries to change the “bad boy,” and… the statue that comes back to life to grab your foot. The songs are great and Mozart did an exceptional job in this opera. My favorite part is when the Commendatore comes back to life because all the productions of Don Giovanni go the extra mile and do something different. Sometimes it’s a statue, sometimes it’s someone hidden, sometimes it’s just a guy who shows up by the door, like in the video below.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Don Giovanni is the kind of opera that works in a simple or expansive set so it wouldn’t be too expensive to turn into a musical. By the way, if you are planning to watch it, go for the Royal Opera House from 2014 because it’s one of the best versions I’ve seen so far.

Watch this video on YouTube.

What operas do you think should become musicals?

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