Once upon a time, in what now seems a distant past, opera companies offered their audiences an exclusive diet of melodrama, sumptuous arias and somewhat demanding cultural uplift. The brassier genre of musical comedy was confined to West End commercial theatres, where punters could enjoy a relaxing evening of undemanding fun, with tunes you could whistle.
Providers of material for the opera were called composers and librettists, and were (still are, in fact) regarded with a certain respect. They were artists. The other lot were just writers of words and music. They were artistes: generally they used the tradesman’s entrance…
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