I recently attended a performance of Marriage of Figaro, by Mozart, and was struck by the plot similarities of this opera to Kdramas. This wasn't the first time that I've seen this opera, but the first time I've noticed the similarities. That got me to comparing other opera plots to classic kdrama plots, and what do you know, they were exactly the same too!
I guess this is just proof that these plot devices have been around for hundreds of years and the reason they are still being used it that, as silly as they are, we love/hate them and it makes for a more dramatic story. I mean, what is a kdrama without amnesia, love triangles, birth secrets, cross dressing, and rich chaebols? Similarly, what is an opera without love triangles, rich peers, birth secrets, and girls playing boys (which is pretty much cross dressing, even if the plot of the opera says that is really just a boy who can sing really high... right...)
It was so funny to see these same tropes in these famous, really old and not as old operas. So here is some of what I found:
Marriage of Figaro-
It's the sequel to the Barber of Seville, and is basically about how Figaro needs to keep the Count from sleeping with his fiancee before they are married. We've got some old feudal traditions of Europe coming to play there, and it feels like something that would come straight out of a sageuk, with the smart servant having to keep his philandering master in line so that the abandoned wife can get her husband's love back. But it's the women who do all the work in this show. Playing tricks on their husbands and testing faithfulness right and left. Here are some of the tropes of Marriage of Figaro:
Birth Secrets: the moment that really made me want to compare this to a Kdrama was the birth secret scene, when we find out that the villain from the previous show, Bartolo, and the lady who is threatening Figaro with marriage if he doesn't repay the debt (loan sharks are also a Kdrama trope, everyone in Kdrama land owes loan sharks money), are really his parents. That ends her marriage demands really fast. But just like every Kdrama, blood ties win all, because they instantly become one happy family right after the secret is revealed. Naturally.
The best part was that in the show I watched both parents were like 5 feet tall, while Figaro was seriously 6'6"... at least. It was like he was being hugged by two hobbits.
The two ladies (the countess and the fiancee, Susanna) switching places and no one being able to recognize them because it's "dark." Right. Except of course Figaro, who recognizes "the voice he adores" at once. But does he tell her? No, he plays right along, catching her in her joke test and teasing her right to the end. Of course it's true love when they tease each other mercilessly.
The girl fight: that's when Susanna and Marcellina (Figaro's long lost mother) have a
Girl dressed as boy: one of the more iconic roles of this opera is the pageboy Cherubino. He's in love with every woman and gets himself caught in sticky situations with every woman, and ends up having to hide behind chairs, under table cloths, and even dress himself as a woman. If ever there was an awkward cross dressing role, it's this one. But it makes for some good humor.
Everybody getting paired off at the end: there are so many secondary couples in this one that it's unbelievable. But it also makes us happy. We like the feels. Also, the way that everything is magically fixed in the end, so deus ex machina, which is also typical of both operas and kdramas. Especially in the romcom genre. Why would the countess forgive her cheating husband? That's just the way they do it. Can't have the married couple stay split up... at least not in a romcom.
This one might be even more tropey than Marriage of Figaro, which almost pains me to say because it's one of my favorites, but who can deny the similarities when they see this sort of thing:
Yep. The Queen of the Night basically equals Evil Mom from BoF.
When it comes to evil moms, operas are no strangers to the ruin the OTPs happiness through their evil connivingness. Also, the Queen of the Night just might be the evillest mom out there (no offense Goo Jun Pyo's mom, but this mom tries to make her daughter a murderer... so...).
She's also got all the best songs... just saying. This song:
Misunderstandings: Omo, is that just basically the whole plot of this opera. Well, besides the whole love at first sight/sound thing. The main couple falls in love at first sight, basically, but then the girl misunderstands the guy because he won't talk to her (for her protection and that vow he took) and she thinks he doesn't love her anymore, and then she tries to kill herself... yeah... dramatic. Then there are the well meaning cute kids who have to save the day by telling her not to be stupid, and then the main couple works it out and decides to fight together and not alone... sounds like almost every kdrama ever.
Then we have the second male lead that everyone loves more than the male lead. This isn't a love triangle second male lead (although there is one of those too). This is more of the secondary romance dude that saves the comedy of the show while the main couple is being mopey. He is everyone's favorite character and everyone is more excited for this secondary romance couple getting together than the mopey leads.
Yep, he's the comedic relief. The lead's bestie who we all love way more than the lead. If the magic flute was a Kdrama, Popageno would be played by Lee Kwang Soo.
Also... check out those couple costumes. Matchy matchy!
Pirates of Penzance-
Gilbert and Sullivan are like the parody masters of opera, so all of there shows are making fun of the whole genre and all it's tropes. Since this is England it will be about the nobility, but that can easily compare to chaebols.
Like always, we have birth secrets. Our hero was apprenticed to a bunch of pirates instead of a pilot. Also, he was born on leap year, which is a huge plot twist.
We've got some drama with the father, the Major General, screwing over the pirates so they want to take revenge on him. That might make it hard for them to marry his daughters. Also, he did so to keep his daughters from marrying the pirates. All good drama fathers will screw the young suitors over if they are not worthy of their daughters, which usually leads to revenge... but then for the sake of love... you know.
Then we also have hidden noblemen (aka chaebols) who are suddenly revealed at the end, making it a happy ending for everyone. Also, the police force are the comedic relief... sound familiar? And the only way to stop a band of pirates is through their loyalty and nobility to the crown. They're pirates, not queen-hating scum! Also, being forgiven because you are noble/a chaebol... not cool, but good for solving romance issues, right?
Switched at Birth: or as we know it, another birth secret plot. This show is equally as silly and fully of such plot devices, but the huge birth secret that solves everything (especially the disapproving rich daddy) is the biggest one. Oh Gilbert and Sullivan.
Elixir of Love-
A lie told to an impressionable young man gives him super confidence with the ladies. Making him irresistible to everyone, even the bitca he is trying to impress.
A love triangle between a sweet poor boy, the hottest girl in town, and the jerk-faced other man colonel dude.
The girl not appreciating the lead until she almost loses him.
The con-man actually saving the day unintentionally.
There are more I could have mentioned, and I haven't even touched the tragedies/melodramas, which operas win the everything for. Sorry kdrama melodramas, but most operas take it a step further and are outright tragedies with no happy endings... take Carmen for instance... but anyways, I didn't have the time or patience to even go there, but I'm sure if I did, I would find more of the same. These tropes are just everywhere, I guess because they work (even though no one would want to admit that...)