How Delightful would it be to watch theatrical stagings of ROCK OPERAS?
“Simply put, a rock opera is a work of rock music that presents a dramatic story told over multiple songs in the traditional manner of opera. The songs are usually presented in the form of a record album unified by a common theme or narrative.”
It is generally accepted that the first rock opera was in fact a rock operetta called “A Quick One While He’s Away”, a 9 minute song written by Peter Townshend for The Who’s 1966 album “A Quick One”. Two years later, Townshend and The Who created “Tommy”, perhaps the best known rock opera, and the first musical work explicitly billed as a “rock opera”. It tells the story of a boy who has a psychological trauma rendering him deaf, dumb and blind, and his parent’s efforts to find a cure for his illness. Along the way, he becomes a pinball champion, and eventually a messianic spiritual leader who is worshipped by fans who eventually become disillusioned by him and attack and abandon him.
At the same time Pete Townshend was writing Tommy, other artists were working on their own rock operas. In 1967, a British group called Nirvana (not the famous American band) released “The Story of Simon Simopath” and in 1968, The Pretty Things released “S.F.Sorrow”. Most notably, the KInks released “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)” just after Tommy was released in 1969. This would be the first of several great rock operas written by Ray Davies and performed by the Kinks in tours that bridged the gap between rock concerts and theatrical presentations.
The influence of Tommy on the rock music world was profound, and the 1970s was the first golden age of rock opera, with many great works being created.
Often asked , what is the difference between rock opera and rock musical theater? In essence a rock opera (like a traditional opera) is a story that is told entirely through singing, while musical theater usually has spoken dialog as well as songs. Even in sung-through musicals, the songs are always in service of the plot of the story, while in rock opera, the plot could be vague, and (intentionally) open to interpretation. Some rock operas have been transformed into musical theater pieces, with the demands of the story and staging requiring re-writing the music to service the plot. The most famous example of this is probably “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice, which started as a concept album, and then was developed into a Broadway musical. Often rock musical theater shows use the sounds of rock music in their scores, with the composition styles more closely following Broadway tradition and not classic pop and rock song forms, which do not easily translate into drama-centric interpretation and staging.-