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date: 24 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is not structural features, but the presence of styles associated with commerce or entertainment that play the crucial role in separating musical theater from opera. In this chapter, three stage works from the late twentieth century are examined in order to compare what distinguishes opera from musical in finer detail. Each of these works, Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables, and Phantom of the Opera, may be regarded as having operatic aspirations, yet it is argued that they remain firmly within a musical-theatrical tradition that has embraced popular styles of music, characterized by features and techniques that frequently jar with those of the operatic tradition.

Keywords: musical theater, opera, popular styles, entertainment, commerce, Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera

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