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Rock opera

A rock opera or rock musical is a musical production in the form of an opera or a musical in a modern rock and roll style rather than more traditional forms. It differs from conventional rock and roll music, which is often a song that is unlinked in plot or story with other songs, but overlaps considerably with concept album, song cycle, or rock musical. More recent developments include metal opera and rap opera.

Which of these categories a particular work falls into is largely defined by the intent and self-definition of the work by its creator. The formal distinction may be that the rock opera tells a coherent (if sometimes sketchy) story, often with first-person lyrics sung by characters, while a concept album or song cycle sets a mood or maintains a theme, but some albums share aspects of both of these cases. The rock musical is generally first performed as a theatrical production rather than appearing as an album, has little or no identification with a particular band and a generally stronger air of show business. The categories are flexible, to say the least.

Pete Townshend, both with and without his band The Who, is arguably the single artist most associated with the term rock opera. The earliest example of the form was seen in the track "A Quick One While He's Away" from The Who's second album, A Quick One (1966), a nine-minute suite of song snippets telling an operatic story. In 1968 The Pretty Things released S.F. Sorrow, thought to be the first attempt at a single thematic concept expressed over an album's worth of songs. Less than a year later The Who returned with Tommy, the first album explicitly billed as a rock opera. Tommy remains the most famous rock opera, with concert, film and theatrical productions mounted over the course of three decades. The Who would later release Quadrophenia, also made into a film.

Townshend is also considered the originator of the term itself. In 1966, he played a comedy tape to his friends called "Gratis Amatis". One of his friends made the comment that the odd song was "rock opera." Kit Lambert, the Who's producer, is than believed to have said "Now there's an idea!"

What appears to be the first actual experiment in Rock Opera – officially accepted and so baptized by all major specialistic press in Italy – is "Then an Alley", aka The Beat Opera, conceived and staged by Tito Schipa, Jr., composer and director, son of the tenor Tito Schipa, at Piper Club in Rome (Italy), May 1967, adapting in a scenic form 18 Bob Dylan's songs. Schipa Jr. eventually wrote and staged at the Sistina Theater in Rome "Orfeo 9", first original italian Rock Opera and probably the first to be staged in the world (January 1970). "Orfeo 9" became also a double record and a film under the musical conduction of the Oscar winner Bill Conti.

Rock operas and rock musicals

Examples of notable rock operas and rock musicals include:

  • Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow (1968): Either the first rock opera or the first concept album.
  • The Who, Tommy (1969): The album which arguably popularized the term rock opera. Later a movie and revival as well, in a Broadway production.
  • Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, Grease, (1972)
  • Pete Townshend, Psychoderelict (1993): An album of linked songs with dialogue advancing the story between the music; a version without the dialogue was also released.
  • ABBA, Mamma Mia!, (2001): A book musical with the story built around ABBA songs.
  • Say Anything, Say Anything is a Real Boy (2004): The story of a boy who is cursed by having all his innermost thoughts and feelings burst forth from him in the form of fully-orchestrated rock anthems. [1]
  • Kayak, Nostradamus – Fate of Man (2005): About French author of prophecies Nostradamus.


This list does not include song cycles or concept albums that often include some of the characteristics of rock operas and/or rock musicals.

External links

See also

Wagnerian Rock, a Rock opera genre created by Jim Steinman








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