(Do You Hear The People Sing would be impossible without Wagner's example in Tannhauser)
Shortly after era of Les Miserables's action, musicians of genius like Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner and Modest Mussorgsky composed operas that spoke with complete earnestness to all who heard them about the issues of the world - love and hate, lust and greed, pride and humiliation, obsession and apathy - as directly as contemporary censorship would allow them. The settings of Grand Opera may have been remote from daily life - so full of medieval feuds and pagan rituals. But no one who heard Grand Opera at its greatest ever missed their relevance of these distant figures to contemporary life. The music of their operas
And just as operas like Don Carlo and The Nibelung (or Boris Godunov) spoke to their present through the distant past, so does Les Miserables speak to our time through the prism of the age of Victor Hugo.
It was not only the closest Broadway ever came to Grand Opera, but the closest modern America ever came to loving grand opera. For the civilization of Reagan and Thatcher, Les Miserables recreated not only the world of 19th century, but its spirit, its concerns, its outsize passions, its melodrama, and yes...the full measure of its ridiculousness too.
It was, by some distance, the first musical I ever fell in love with - it had everything an eight-year-old Evan would love about opera, and that my heart loves still in spite of my head screaming against it.