A Rock Opera is a collection of rock music songs with lyrics that relate to a story. This is most seen in concept albums and are created to present a message to its audience. The way this translates into live performance is extraordinary; we are left with a performance that isn’t like any other gig you have been to, despite the album not being meant for acting we are able to visually see a story told by the narrator. This can often make us feel a deeper connection to the artist onstage.
Popular rock operas include Green Day’s American Idiot, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and even En Vogue’s Masterpiece Theatre. All these different acts master the genre in different ways and bring a new element to the rock opera genre. By creating a story through music, we are able to see a tale play out on the stage. The masterful thing about these rock operas is that some have even turned into their very own musical for example American Idiot or Jesus Christ Superstar. Webber has stated “the piece was written as a rock album from the outset and set out from the start to tell the story through music itself” when translating to the main stage we saw this beautiful musical which transformed the bounds of live performance.
This can be said for non-traditional rock operas, My Chemical Romance were able to fully captivate The Black Parade when they performed to a live stage wearing extravagant costumes and capturing what the story is really about. When Gerard Way sings “when I was a young boy” onstage we are captivated by the story of a young boy who is finding it hard to find his way, though you may be moshing, crying or dancing to the song whilst live, we are able to see a fully formed story that is only properly translated once its performed live. Every single member of the band is portraying a different character or emotion, like Frank Iero’s guitar showing anger, drums showing conformity whilst the piano sways away from all these themes by being an obscure sound throughout the whole album. We are shown raw emotion and feelings a rock opera can make us feel through the art of live performance.
What makes a rock opera performance different from any other is that each and every song that is played is for a purpose and a part of the story the musician is trying to convey. Unlike seeing a tour that consists of their greatest hits and their newest album, a rock opera aims to only show the songs relevant to the story provided. It’s a musical with no acting, no script, it is instead raw human emotion that is captivated through the art of performance. This is evident in most rock operas but one that truly stands out has to be Green Day’s, they have quite a few concept albums like American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. Both of these albums live show the importance and extraordinary ability that live music can do.
Another standout is Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, for reasons that will never need to be explained. But the truly ground-breaking and legendary album and performances of Queen mark the reason and power behind rock operas.