Performing a staged version of a musical or opera—or selections from a musical or opera—may involve securing "Grand Rights." Grand rights is a legal and business term which refers to the permissions necessary to stage an opera, play with music, or a work of musical theater. Performance rights organizations such as BMI and ASCAP do not license grand rights in the United States. Grand rights must be negotiated between the producer of a production and the publishers and owners of the copyright of the work. Typically a royalty will be paid to the publishers and owners of a work in exchange for the permission and right to stage the work.
ASCAP clarifies the stipulations for Grand Rights as:
A dramatic performance shall include, but not be limited to, a performance of a dramatico-musical work (including a musical comedy, opera, play with music, revue, or ballet) in its entirety; or, performance of one or more compositions from a dramatico-musical work accompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work from which the music is taken.
The above paragraph is only a brief summary. For more detailed information see the ASCAP website:
Deal or No Deal: A Grand Rights Primer
Explore the issue of Grand Rights more deeply with this article from the New Music Box.
Grand Performing Right Licensing in the United States
Presented by James M. Kendrick
This powerpoint presentation contains some helpful examples of what is considered a "dramatic performance."