Washington Concert Opera on stage at Lisner Auditorium, 2009

A concert performance or concert version is a performance of a musical theater or opera in concert form,[1] without set design or costumes, and mostly without theatrical interaction between singers.[2]

Concert performances are commonly presented in concert halls without a theater stage, but occasionally also in opera houses when a scenic production is deemed too difficult or expensive. During a concert performance in an opera house, the orchestra does not play in the orchestra pit. Frequently, they play on the stage, with the choir (chorus) behind them and the soloists standing in front of them.

Concert performances, which cost less to produce and require less rehearsal, have been produced since some of the earliest operas of the 17th century; this mode has become increasingly popular in the 21st century.[3]

Since 1960, concert performances have been a part of the annual Salzburg Festival alongside scenic productions.[4] In Theater an der Wien, concert performances have been presented regularly since 2006, particularly of baroque operas with elaborate set designs.[5]

Opera performances

Some companies such as Washington Concert Opera, the American Opera Society, Eve Queler's Opera Orchestra of New York and the Baltimore Concert Opera[6] have specialized in performing operas in concert version.[7] Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, led by James Levine, performed a concert version of Elektra in 2006. The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed semi-staged concerts of Elektra, led by Seiji Ozawa, in 1987 and 1988.[8][9]

Musical theatre performances

Ongoing musical theatre concert series are given in some cities, such as the Encores! and Musicals Tonight! concert series in New York City[10][11] and the Lost Musicals series in London.[12] York Theatre Company in New York City presents staged concerts in its "Musicals in Mufti" concert series, which "has uncovered a number of needlessly forgotten gems ... presenting more titles than any other theatrical concert series in the world."[13][14] 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, California, presents staged concerts of musicals to highlight "early and lesser-known works".[15] The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois also presents staged musical theatre concerts. For example, the festival presented a concert version of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone in 2006.[16][17]

Symphony orchestras also present concert versions of musical theatre, such as the New York Philharmonic concert series in New York.[18] San Francisco Symphony presented a concert version of West Side Story in 2013,[19] and a semi-staged production of On the Town in 2016.[20] Philadelphia Orchestra presented a staged concert version of the musical A Little Night Music in 2001.[21]

The English National Opera (ENO) presented a semi-staged concert of Sunset Boulevard in 2016.[22] In 2015 the ENO gave a concert production of Sweeney Todd.[23]


Concert versions of operas and musicals are also presented as benefits. For example, Actors Fund of America has presented concerts of musicals such as On the Twentieth Century, Dreamgirls, Funny Girl, Chess and Hair.[24] A concert version of Anyone Can Whistle was presented as a benefit for Gay Men's Health Crisis at Carnegie Hall in 1995.[25] The 10th Anniversary reunion of Into the Woods was presented as a concert in 1997, to benefit Friends In Deed and God's Love We Deliver. James Lapine noted that this concert was "a bit more informal" than the concert reunion of Sunday in the Park with George, which was given in formal dress.[26][27]

Some companies produce staged concerts to benefit the company. For example, Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City has presented such concerts, including Assassins (2012)[28] and She Loves Me (2011).[29]


  1. ^ Hotz, Jürgen (2006). Brockhaus Musik: Komponisten, Interpreten, Sachbegriffe (3 ed.). Mannheim: Brockhaus. p. 349. ISBN 3-7653-0393-3.
  2. ^ "concert performance: definition of concert performance in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)". oxforddictionaries.com. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015.
  3. ^ Belcher, David. "Concert Versions Take Opera to a More Personal Level", The New York Times, 31 March 2015, accessed February 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "Salzburger Festspiele / Konzert". salzburgerfestspiele.at.
  5. ^ "Theater an der Wien - Spielplan". theater-wien.at.
  6. ^ About baltimoreconcertopera.com, accessed February 22, 2016
  7. ^ McLellan, Joseph. "Concert Opera: For Your Ears Only; Shedding the Visual Effects Makes the Medium More Accessible", The Washington Post, 13 May 1990.
  8. ^ "Program Notes. Elektra, October 15, 2015", Boston Symphony Orchestra, accessed February 18, 2016
  9. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "At Tanglewood, James Levine Transforms Students Into Pros", The New York Times, July 17, 2006, accessed February 18, 2016
  10. ^ "History of New York City Center", New York City Center, accessed February 17, 2016
  11. ^ "Stagestruck by Peter Filichia: It’s Miller Time - Producing on a Shoestring" Reprint from Playbill, June, 1999" Archived 2016-10-05 at the Wayback Machine musicalstonight.org, accessed February 21, 2016
  12. ^ Peschek, David. "Camp? Oh no", The Guardian, June 28, 2005, accessed February 17, 2016
  13. ^ Kenrick, John. "Plain and Fancy, York Theatre Company – October 2006", Musicals101.com, accessed February 17, 2016
  14. ^ "York Theatre Past Series History", York Theatre, accessed February 18, 2016
  15. ^ "Unearthing rare musical gems", Stage Directions, December 1, 2001
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew. "LuPone, McDonald, Mitchell, Stritch and White Set for Ravinia Festival", Playbill, March 23, 2006, accessed February 17, 2016
  17. ^ Delacoma, Wynne. "Centennial summer: 100 years of Ravinia", Chicago Sun-Times, May 30, 2004, accessed February 17, 2016
  18. ^ Reich, Ronni. "Upcoming arts events: Sweeney Todd's Woods,' 'Show Boat,' Jeremy Jordan", NJ.com, October 21, 2014, accessed February 17, 2016
  19. ^ Kosman, Joshua, "'West Side Story' review: SF Symphony inspires", sfgate.com, June 28, 2013
  20. ^ "On the Town Concert" Archived 2016-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, sfsymphony.org, accessed February 18, 2016
  21. ^ Lefkowitz, David. "Worth, Kudisch, Pawk to Make Night Music w/ Philadelphia Orchestra, July 11-12", Playbill, July 3, 2001, accessed February 18, 2016
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Casting Complete for ENO's 'Sunset Boulevard', Starring Glenn Close", Playbill, February 22, 2016
  23. ^ Christiansen, Rupert. "'Sweeney Todd', English National Opera, review: 'a whacking great banquet'", The Telegraph, April 1, 2015
  24. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Actors' Fund to Present On the Twentieth Century Sept. 26", Playbill, June 27, 2005, accessed February 17, 2016
  25. ^ "'Anyone Can Whistle' in Concert", sondheimguide.com, accessed February 18, 2016
  26. ^ Lyman, Rick. "On Stage and Off", The New York Times, September 26, 1997, accessed February 18, 2016
  27. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Into the Woods Reunion Set for Nov. 9", Playbill, November 6, 1997
  28. ^ "Assassins Reading", roundabouttheatre.org, accessed February 18, 2016
  29. ^ "She Loves Me Reading" roundabouttheatre.org, accessed February 18, 2016

Further reading