Musicals: A New Tradition
by Bruce E. Bagnell
There are few better ways to spend an evening than enjoying a musical.
Staged performances have a long history in many cultures. The idea of having one or more persons on a stage speaking in front of an audience has been practiced in China, Greece, Rome, and India, among other civilizations, for at least 2,000 years. Many of these performances have included dance and musical accompaniment. Chinese opera, for example, has some dialogues sung by actors, with musicians providing the melody as well as other sounds to help the story along. European opera of the 18th through 20th centuries sometimes involved a cast of dozens in massive opera houses supported by a full orchestra with its many instruments playing throughout the performance. Whether for religious or artistic purposes or both, theater has played a central role in human art.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, musical theater, more simply called musicals, started a new trend in Western staged performances reflecting more modern times. Especially in Britain and the United States, the form of musicals familiar to today's audiences began to take form. For example, unlike classical Western or classical Eastern operas, a musical can be performed in whatever language the audience understands. A famous opera like Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (1786), with lyrics in Italian, has always been performed only in Italian. Today's musicals more easily translate into local languages. Another difference between classical operas and modern musicals is that the former often restrict all dialogues to singing, whereas the latter allow for more spoken dialogues. Still another difference is seen in the role of the performers. Opera singers are primarily singers, with acting being a secondary skill. They hardly ever dance. In musicals, on the other hand, all three skills are required. Despite these differences, operas and musicals have successfully entertained audiences around the world.
音乐舞台剧起源于十九世纪中期，又简称音乐剧，它在西方舞台表演中开创了新的趋势，反映出更多当代社会的生活。特别是在英国和美国，现今观众所熟悉的音乐剧形式逐渐开始成形。举例而言，不像古典的西方或东方歌剧，音乐剧能以任何观众听得懂的语言来表演。象是 1786 年登场的莫札特知名音乐剧《费加洛的婚礼》，因为它的歌词是意大利文，所以向来仅以意大利语演出。现今的音乐剧更容易转换成当地语言。古典歌剧和现代音乐剧之间另一个不同之处在于，前者通常规定所有的对话都必须用唱的，后者则允许更多口说的对白。还有另一个不同点是在表演者的角色。歌剧演员基本上就是歌手，演戏是次要的技能。他们几乎从不跳舞。另一方面而言，这三种技能在音乐剧中都是必需的。尽管有这些不同之处，歌剧和音乐剧都成功地带给世界各地的观众欢乐。