Rent Isn't the First Opera Adapted as a Broadway Musical

Rent Isn't the First Opera Adapted as a Broadway Musical Impressed with the huge success of Rent, Jonathan Larson's adaptation of Puccini's La Bohéme, we have been recalling other operas that have been adapted for Broadway, some with success, others with failure.

Impressed with the huge success of Rent, Jonathan Larson's adaptation of Puccini's La Bohéme, we have been recalling other operas that have been adapted for Broadway, some with success, others with failure.

John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, an eighteenth-century sensation, was brought up to date two centuries later by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in their equally famous The Threepenny Opera. Still another version of it called Beggar's Holiday by Duke Ellington was less successful on Broadway in 1946.

Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus (The Bat) made the Great White Way as The Merry Countess (1912), A Wonderful Night (with Archie Leach, later known as Cary Grant) in 1929, Champagne, Sec with Kitty Carlisle (1933) and the enormously successful Rosalinda, directed by Gottfried Reinhardt, son of the famed Max Reinhardt, which ran for 521 performances in 1942. (Among the cast was a young Shelley Winters.)

One of the most successful opera adaptations was Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones based on Bizet's Carmen with an all-black cast (1943), which changed the opera's setting from Spain to the U.S. South. It ran for 502 performances.

Two less successful adaptations included Once Over Lightly, an Americanized version of Rossini's The Barber of Seville (1942) and Verdi's Aida rendered as My Darlin' Aida, with the setting transferred from Memphis, Egypt to Memphis, Tennessee. Despite sonorous singing by Dorothy Sarnoff and Elaine Malbin, The New York Times critic, Brooks Atkinson, said it was better in Egypt (1952). -- By Louis Botto