When Is an Opera a "Family" Opera?

A "family opera" is written to be performed for an audience of adults and children, by a cast of adults and children whose talents and experience vary widely. The ideal family opera meets the following seven criteria.

  1. It is an opera, i.e., sung throughout with little or no spoken narration or dialog (see What Is Opera?).
  2. It is based on a story which both children and adults are likely to be interested in and/or already familiar with. Operas have always been a way of presenting an old and well-known story in a new way, giving it a new life and perspective. Besides, opera is much easier to follow when you already know what's going on (i.e., when it doesn't matter if you can't catch all of the words).
  3. It is musically sophisticated enough to appeal to adults, while still accessible to children (see Musical Styles).
  4. It has many solo roles, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard, so that we can provide challenging but realizable solo assignments to participants of diverse experience and ability.
  5. It has solo roles for adults (bass, tenor, alto, and soprano) and children (alto and soprano), and perhaps some roles which can be played by any age or voice part (animals, aliens or androids, for example), allowing for more flexibility in casting.
  6. It contains a substantial part for mixed chorus (i.e., treble to bass voices), ensuring that everyone has ample opportunity to sing.
  7. It is between 60 and 90 minutes long, ideally with an intermission.

Few works meet these criteria. In the popular repertoire, there's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and not much else. In addition to composing our own works, we are continually looking for family operas that we can perform, as well as shows that come close to meeting the family opera criteria which we can adapt. If you are a composer and have written or would like to write a family opera, or if you know of a work which meets or very nearly meets the seven criteria above, we'd love to hear from you. Also, if you would like to review the products of our research and composition efforts, we are happy to share anything from our library of family operas. (see How to contact us.)