The Influence of Fairy Tales Throughout the History of Opera

Since I am a music major, I know a great deal about the topic I have chosen.  I found it very interesting that when reading the fairy tales earlier in the semester that I remembered that the same stories were the basis for quite a few operas throughout music history.  These operas actually stayed quite true to the original story lines.  This is a bulk of what I am going to focus on in my paper by doing a comparative analysis of the texts used in three separate fairy tales with their related opera.  Even though there was a lot of freedom in choosing our topic for this paper, this topic is very interesting to me, and I am very excited to write about it.


Something about the text that I will have to do more research to understand is the language aspect of the operas.  Each of the operas are in a different language than their respective fairy tales (French), which is a little puzzling to me.  I am interested in why the different composers chose a French text to base their operas off of, and I am also interested in when the fairy tales and the operas were written in history.  These stories can mean different things to different generations, so I am going to look into this question a little more as well.

Some questions I will answer in my paper are:

1)      Just how closely related are the fairy tales and operas?  How much (if at all) do the operas deviate from the original storylines?

2)      Being that the operas are from different time periods, how can this affect the way that an audience reacts to the story?  How is this reaction different than the way the fairy tales might have been originally heard?

3)      How did the composers decide to assign the roles to certain types of voices?  Is this different than the way the characters were perceived in the original fairy tales?


Once again, I chose this topic because I am more familiar with it.  I actually had the most fun reading through the fairy tales, and when I made the connection of fairy tales and opera, I thought it would be a really exciting paper to write.




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14 responses to “The Influence of Fairy Tales Throughout the History of Opera

  1. aeernst

    This seems like a really cool topic, and I like how its so different from what everyone else is doing. I find it really fun how you were able to relate it to your major and make connections to the literature that not many people could, and I’m glad that you get to share that with us! Something that I would be interested to know is:
    4) Does the delivery of the morals from the fairy tales through song change the impact to the audience?

  2. smboehm

    I really like your topic! I think it is really fun how you found a book that we read in class and related it back to something you enjoy in your spare time. I really enjoyed reading The Classic Fairy Tales in class, and I think that your topic takes an interesting outlook on these stories.

    6) In some versions of the fairy tales, there were more “adult” themes than the childlike material that often times Disney uses. In the opera versions of these fairy tales, which versions are used?

  3. siegvald

    This is a very different twist on fairy tales. Something I would be curious about is just like how you have after a book is written, a movie comes out based on it. So, 7. how long was the time period in between the surfacing of the fairy tale and the making of it into an opera?

  4. I think you topic is very interesting and noteworthy because it differs from all of the others. In response to your #2 do you mean each of the opera are from differing time periods of one another or that they differ from the time period the fairy tale was from? Everyone’s previous questions such as morality and sexuality would make very interesting additions to your paper!

    #8 Since there are generally many variants of the same fairy tale how does the composer decide which is right for their opera? Or is it more of a blending of the different versions? I am very unfamiliar with operas, are there varying versions of the same opera or just one version?

  5. stperry1

    This is a really interesting topic, especially since you have such a passion for the topic. I think the most interesting thing you are looking into is the language of the Operas versus the fairy tales. As I don’t have experience with Operas, I cannot say how big of a role the language plays in the story telling, however, I think it would be an interesting idea to look at.
    #9) If the composer changed the Opera from the fairy tale, why did they do so? What purpose would rewrites serve?

  6. vrosengrant20

    I find it interesting that each of the operas are in different languages and I think you can connect that aspect with your question on how each character is portrayed differently when they are cast as certain voices. The different cultures and translations can affect how the characters are portrayed and may also change how the audience reacts to them. You can further this topic with a question like:
    10.) Do the fairy tales carry a different tone when translated or combined with music?

  7. Samantha Cooke

    I’m not sure how many operas you’re planning on looking at, but you might have too much to say for one 6-7 page, double-spaced paper.

    11. How does the audience change from the intended audience of the fairy tales, and how does this affect the delivery of the operas?

  8. By reading your essay, I am a little unsure of what your thesis is. I know that you are examining the influence of fairy tales on the opera, but remember that our papers need to be an argument and not a comparative analysis so you may want to refine your topic choice. Other than this, I really like you topic choice as it is very unique and will make for an interesting read. One interesting question to ask I think would be:
    1. Are there similarities between music choice and arrangement in operas based on fairy tales? How do they differ from operas that are not based on fairy tales?

  9. looloo14

    It seems to me that opera is a return to fairy tales original mode of telling.That is, they used to be told orally, just as opera’s are preformed orally.
    12. In what way does opera as an oral performance return the story to its original state? For instance, how does having an audience contribute the the fairy tale experience?

  10. autumncassidy

    Knowing little about opera, my question is more about the genre itself:
    Are all operatic pieces based on fairy tales?

    With that being said, I really enjoy how you are incorporating an element of your personal experiences/expertise into your paper. It seems to be (or at least I would hope it is! 🙂 ) something you are very interested in.

  11. Sophi

    It’s really great that you were able to find a link between one of the class readings and your major! In relation to written texts, the closest form of adaptations usually appear in movie form, so it is really interesting that fairy tales have musical adaptations as well.
    I am not familiar with music terminology, so excuse me if the words I use in my question are slightly misused.
    15.) How are the changes in voice pitch and melody used to reveal the “lessons” of the tales? Do they change in a playful way? Dramatic way? Or does it not change? How could the way the lessons are expressed somehow change the “tone” of the fairy tale from its original text, if at all?

  12. Creative topic idea. I love how you mixed your passion with a group of texts to get your topic. I am interested to see which operas go with each fairytale and how so. Your topic is one many may never think of simply by reading a fairytale, because I know prior to reading your post I had no idea fairytales were connected to operas. Interesting. A question I have is:

    16.) By being in the audience and listening to an opera be performed, what characteristics do you look for and use to determine which fairytale goes along with it?

  13. Since the paper is roughly 6-7 pages, I think you should just examine two of the tales, instead of three, because of the operas you are going to have to examine as well. But I think it would be interesting figure what methods these composers use to turn prose into tunes.

    16. What are some of the literary techniques of these fairy tales that indicate the tone that these composers build off of?

  14. ashleighbarraca

    This seems like a really fun paper! It’s very creative. Although, I agree with one of the comments above that I’m not quite sure what your thesis is. However, I think that looking into the languages will be very interesting. My favorite question that you brought up is #3, about how composers chose certain voice parts for different characters. As a former music student, I find this very intriguing as well! A question I thought of is:

    17) Do most of the operas based on fairy tales choose fairy tales that are romantic? What sort of lesson are the operas trying to teach, if they are trying to teach one at all?

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