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ballad opera. Opera with spoken dialogue and using popular tunes of the day provided with new words. Form originated in England with Allan Ramsay's The Gentle Shepherd (1725), but the success in 1728 of Gay's The Beggar's Opera started the vogue for this type of entertainment which lasted for nearly 30 years. Charles Coffey's The Devil to pay (1731) was adapted in Ger. in 1743 as Der Teufel ist los and est. the Singspiel tradition which culminated in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. There are also wider definitions of the genre; and in the 20th cent. Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover (1914) is described as a ‘romantic ballad opera’ by the composer although it has no spoken dialogue and does not exclusively comprise traditional tunes.
ballad opera, in English drama, a play of comic, satiric, or pastoral intent, interspersed with songs, most of them sung to popular airs. First and best was The Beggar's Opera (1728) by John Gay. The vogue for these operas lasted until c.1750.