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A hit 1970s comic book about tragic love in 18th-century France that spawned its own musical is to become an opera, the author of “Berusaiyu no Bara” (“The Rose of Versailles”) said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

Riyoko Ikeda

“I’ve long wanted to make an opera out of ‘Berusaiyu no Bara,’ ” Riyoko Ikeda said about writing a libretto based on the tale, which has sold more than 12 million hardcover copies in Japan.

The opera version, which will take years to complete, will be translated into Italian from Japanese in a bid to make it a world-class work, she said.

Set against the backdrop of the French court before and during the revolution of 1789, the story revolves around the heroine Oscar, a noblewoman raised as a man who becomes a bodyguard for Queen Marie Antoinette, and the commoner Andre, her attendant, best friend and lover.

Ikeda said she will solicit compositions based on the libretto such as for a duet by Oscar and Andre and a Marie Antoinette aria. The opera is expected to last well over three hours.

The story first appeared as a cartoon series in the weekly girls’ comic Margaret in 1972. Besides massive sales in Japan, it gained a large following elsewhere in Asia, Europe and the United States, mainly due to an animated version.

In 1974, the story was made into a musical by famed all-female Japanese troupe Takarazuka, which is staging a revival this spring. The immense popularity of the story was dubbed the “Berubara boom.”

Ikeda, who majored in voice at Tokyo College of Music, said she aims to create an accessible opera while she seeks sponsors to shoulder the heavy production costs that performances will entail.

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