Opera and Broadway style are dramatically different from one another in many ways – and yet many people still confuse the two for being rooted in the same art. If you've ever heard someone describe Phantom of the Opera as an opera, you'll have heard a classic example of this confusion. Here are three ways in which Opera and Broadway are significantly different from one another.
While many Broadway stars study classical and operatic technique, the vocal styles used in each are hugely different from one another. Operatic technique often features more of what one may think of as an antique or classic style, very elegant, strong, and emotive; Broadway style features belting more often than gradual dynamic shift, vibrato is not often heard or even encouraged, and emotionality is expressed more with movement than with the voice (with some exceptions).
Broadway style, regrettably, tends to induce “vocal fry” in many singers if not rooted in classical singing technique, reducing the vocal careers of Broadway singers significantly when compared with opera or classical singers.
Opera versus Musical Theatre
One of the major differences between operas and musicals is that in opera, everything is sung – even dialogue between characters; there is no spoken dialogue whatsoever. In musicals, arias, duets, and chorals are interspersed with actual spoken dialogue. Additionally, what people have come to expect in terms of artistic discipline is different – in opera, the singing is expected to be superb, but the acting does not have to be, whereas in musicals, excellent acting is expected alongside more mediocre singing.
Part of what accounts for the difference in discipline acumen is the training that opera singers and musical thespians receive if they pursue degree study. In musical theater degree programs, much more emphasis is placed on stagecraft and acting, and the study of singing is fairly minimal; in opera and classical music programs, the main emphasis is on musicianship and performance, and acting and stagecraft classes are secondary to the musical studies.
In addition to the aforementioned, the ways in which operas and musicals are composed are quite different. Operas tend to be musically complex, and this is a hallmark of the craft itself; musicals, having popularly sprung to light during the twentieth century, has its roots much more in pop and rock style, making it musically far more simplistic (with exceptions such as Phantom of the Opera). Operas also rarely boast modern instrumentation, whereas musicals frequently do.
While certainly opera and musical theatre have certain similarities, the study and execution of them are wildly different – and as for enthusiasts for either craft, it simply comes down to personal taste in musical style.