Manifestations of Prog:
Genre: Art (Symphonic) Rock,
Rock Operas can be devided into two categories. The first is "full", whereby vocal parts are performed by different singers. The second is "symbolic", one singer singing with different voices for all the cast of the album. The first category contains, first of all, "Jesus Christ Superstar". This is really the very first full-bodied Rock Opera, also concerning Progressiveness. Since "Hair" with a combined team of the performers and "Tommy" of Who, issued a bit earlier, have a long way to go to the Progressive territory (nearer to it is the second related album by Who "Quadrophenia", 1973). In addition to this they called these works operas on the ground of conception and participation of other singers, though audible voice variations of Roger Daltrey, the singer of Who, can hardly be detected.
The second category was more successfully developed by Genesis, especially in "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" of 1974: Peter Gabriel did change the voices of the heroes of the play - those of Rael's, Doctor's, and so on. Later it was King Diamond, who has worked and still works most fruitfully in this field, certainly the best singer-"imitator" (and in my view, the best singer in all regards, plus he is a leading composer) in whole history of Rock Music. We'll hardly ever hear a similar, close to impossible, variety of the voices made by Diamond for the heroes of his Rock Operas from dilogy "Them" / "Conspiracy" to "The Graveyard" and others (all conceptual and even non-conceptual albums by King Diamond and Mercyful Fate).
Pink Floyd with their "The Wall" is, doubtless, a lot more progressive than the mentioned Who (not easy to forget how "Superstar" was heavily criticized in the Russian magazine "Rovesnik", and as an alternative they suggested "much more musical "Tommy"), nevertheless the vocal variety we do not, sadly, find here. That's why the term Rock Opera assigned to the album was determined because of the conception. The same holds true for the "Brave" (and the others) by Marillion, or for the double album of IQ "Subterranea".
Thus, there have been no full-bodied works of the given category for long, ever since the authors of "Superstar" (A.L.Webber & T.Rice) produced in 1976 "Evita", about hard fate of the spouse of South American dictator, where the elements of Opera prevailed over those of Rock. Recent exceptions are latest albums of Therion (Sweden, 1996 & 1998), arranged in the Progressive Doom-Metal styling.
The works of this manifestation of the genre belong on the whole to Classic Art Rock with their distinctive feature of multiple vocals. However, in the mid-'90s a Dutch named Arjen Lukasssen with his project Ayreon (actually it's his nickname, and in addition one of the two characters in his debut Rock Opera "The Final Experiment") has restored the production of Rock Operas with the help of different vocalists (most of them are famous people in ProgLand). He already has three Rock Operas with the latest for now of more than 130 min. Of course, the works of Ayreon do not match the origin and the standard of the Rock Opera "Jesus Christ Superstar". The material, however, is quite remarkable, rather innovative (the new is the well forgotten old), and its appearance on the field of Progressive Rock cannot but gladdening: for it is an expansion if his own horizon.
VM (Vitaly Menshikov): October 1998