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English 18th-century comic opera in which songs and musical interludes, usually consisting of existing popular tunes or opera melodies with new words, are interspersed with spoken dialogue. The first ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera (1728), by John Gay and J.C. Pepusch (1667–1752), was a sharply satirical work that became wildly popular and led to numerous similar works. Ballad opera led directly to the German singspiel and can be seen as the source of the modern musical.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ballad opera, visit Britannica.com.