Classic Arts Features7 Operas That Played on BroadwayFrom Bohème to Bernstein, these classic works each saw their names in lights.
July 11, 2019
Broadway has been home to several showstopping musicals, but the Main Stem has also hosted its fair share of operas.
A number of shows with operatic ties have played Broadway—think the Bernstein operetta Candide or the Gerhswins' Porgy and Bess, heading to the Metropolitan Opera in the fall. However, the seven titles that have lit up Broadway marquees below are more frequently seen in opera companies' repertoire than on the musical theatre stage.
La Bohème (1927 and 2003) Giacomo Puccini’s famed production took its first turn on Broadway in 1927 after its November 7 opening. The operatic tragedy follows the story of Rodolfo and Marcello, two struggling artists in Paris. They both find suffer misfortunes in both the financial and romantic departments, with Rodolfo struggling to commit to his ailing neighbor Mimi and Marcello trying to make his relationship with the overly flirtatious Musetta work. The classic story inspired the trailblazing Jonathan Larson musical Rent. In 2003, La Bohème returned to the Broadway stage in a production from Moulin Rouge!'s Baz Luhrmann.
The Medium/The Telephone (1947) The two-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti tells the story of Madame Flora, a medium who makes her daughter Monica and Toby, their mute servant, assist her in faking seances to earn money from her clients. After Flora insists that she was touched by a phantom hand during one of her appointments, she is forced to admit to her lies and is eventually driven to murder. The show ran in a double bill with Menotti’s comedic one-act The Telephone, in which Ben tried to propose to Lucy while she is bombarded with constant phone calls.
Regina (1949) Marc Blitzstein’s Regina is based on Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes, recently revived on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney. Regina Giddens and her brothers Ben and Oscar devise a plan to become rich and powerful. Regina‘s husband, Horace, is adamantly against their plans and despite her multiple efforts to get his support, he holds out and declines to help. Regina ends with the titular character wealthy, but with no one to share it. The show ran for two months.
The Consul (1950) Gian Carlo Menotti returned to Broadway with The Consul, a three-act opera about Magda, a young woman who battles her home country’s bureaucracy for an exit visa for her and her family after her husband is forced to flee the country. A commentary on how the world turns a blind eye to those who struggle, Menotti‘s drama ran for 269 performances.
The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954) Annina is determined to pursue a religious path after she is dubbed the Saint of Bleecker Street by her community. She claims to hear and see angels, and decides to devote her life to becoming a nun. Her non-believing brother, Michele, is dead set against her wishes and attempts to do everything in his power to prevent her from going through with her plans. The Saint of Bleecker Street won Gian Carlo Menotti a Pulitzer Prize for Music and ran for 92 performances.
Trouble in Tahiti (1955) Leonard Bernstein’s one-act drama follows Sam and Dinah, a married couple who are seemingly perfect on the outside, but miserable in their relationship and unable to communicate their unhappiness to each other without arguing. Their story is narrated by a vocal trio, comparable to a Greek chorus. The show ran alongside Tennessee Williams’ 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and multiple dances choreographed by famed tap dancer Paul Draper.