Librettists & Librettos For Musical Theater
A librettist writes the words for the musical theater, whether it's a musical play, opera, ballet or even liturgy. Everything you hear actors speak (or sing) is written by one of these professionals.
Think of librettists as professional poets or script writers.
The words written for the musical theater is called "libretto", which is from the Italian word that means "book".
The librettist and music composer work side-by-side to draft the perfect words in their "musical theater book" to fit each arrangement of music created for the show.
Traditionally, the musical theater book (i.e. the libretto) was created first. Then the music was added afterwards with the help of the composer.
But many times the music is created first and then words are added afterwards. Everything is guided by artistic expression, just like with songs.
This one of the less "flashy" music career options if you'd love to write a musical play but want to stay mostly behind the scenes.
Salary When Hired as a Librettist
There are two options for earning a living as a librettist. You can get hired by a show's producer and get paid hourly while you create the musical piece.
Or you can make money from the sales of the libretto after it's published into text with supporting audio of the recorded show.
Remember a libretto is a "musical theater book" and books are published for sale.
Below is the average income if you are hired by the theater.
- Average Hourly Wage: $34/hour
- Average Yearly Income: $70k/year
Librettist Pros & Cons:
- Guaranteed income from the show's producer (if paid hourly)
- Possible publishing royalties if you can work out a deal with the show's producer
- There's a chance you won't be credited with aiding in creating the musical piece
When I have the chance, I'll link to a few books about musical theater if you're interested to learn more about this music career.
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Updated: April 4, 2020
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