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From Script to Libretto;
from Play to Opera-the Process of Adaptation


From Script to Libretto;
from Play to Opera-the Process of Adaptation

Used with permission from Washington Opera

The stories told by operas originate in a variety of places; they may be inspired by a historical figure or incident, be an original creation, or may be from a book or play. While it is not uncommon for a play to be made into an opera, it is rare for the script of a play to be set directly to music.

Instead, the script of the play is adapted to become the opera's libretto. One of the advantages to telling a story through song is that music can be used to convey the underlying mood of any conversation or situation that may take place. As a result, ideas and relationships that could take pages of text to establish in a play can be conveyed in just a few moments of song in an opera. For this reason, the librettos of operas are typically much shorter than the scripts from which they were adapted. In addition to reorganizing the script so that the story will be most effectively told through music, the language used by characters may also have to be altered in order to flow with the music. An example of this would be of rewriting dialogue into rhyming lyrics.

In Susannah, Carlisle Floyd has translated the apocryphal story of Susanna and the Elders. This parable is based on malice, hypocrisy and tragedy. A tale of unjust accusation and social ostracism, it carries echoes of the McCarthy era for some.



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 Last Updated: Monday, 01-Dec-2008 15:28:23 EST