Literaturoper (literature opera, plural Literaturopern) is opera with music composed for a pre-existing text, as opposed to an opera with a libretto written specifically for the work.

Although the term is German, the term can be used for any kind of opera, irrespective of style or language. (In that sense it can be regarded as a term rather than a genre as such.)

According to a more recent definition by Hans-Gerd Winter and Peter Petersen, the term means „a special form of music theater in which the libretto is based on a literary work whose linguistic, semantic and aesthetic structure remains recognizable in the musical-dramatic work as a structural layer.“[1]

Some Literaturopern based on plays

Some Literaturopern based on novels


  1. Peter Petersen: Der Terminus "Literaturoper" – eine Begriffsbestimmung. In Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 56, 1999, H.1, S. 52–70.


  • Literaturoper by Julian Budden, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7
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