Meachem takes the remote mike to greet the students. “How many of you have seen an opera?” Only 20 or so hands are raised. “How is it different than, say, a musical?” he asks again.

Someone in the audience shouts out the proper answer. “That’s right — it’s entirely singing,” says Meachem excitedly. “Not like musicals, where there are some spoken parts.”

And that makes Les Miserables an opera. Same with Evita.

Full article here. (It’s not really about what makes an opera an opera, btw. I just pulled that from the thing.)


  1. That definition also makes Carmen and The Magic Flute musicals.  Frankly, I think there are several instances where the line is blurry, and I haven’t seen a better definition than the one given.  Someone once asked Stephen Sondheim if he thought Sweeney Todd was an opera or a musical.  He said (and this isn’t a direct quote) “when it’s in an opera house, it’s an opera.  When it’s in a theater, it’s a musical.”

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Yes … I wrote what I did precisely because of Carmen and Flute!

    I once heard an opera snob say the difference was that opera isn’t amplified. Hah! I’ve also heard some suggest that it has to do with whether the “songs” progress the story line or not.

    I honestly don’t think there’s a very plain and simple answer.

    And I think Sondheim (my favorite “musical” composer”) can be either. I had heard him say he is not opera, though. Interesting that you have this other quote from him! 🙂