So, you’ve decided to take the plunge into the beauty, power, and virtuosity of opera. But where do you start? With so many stunning operas from all of the powerhouse composers, finding an entry point may seem overwhelming. But have no fear – Bruce Scott, the producer of World of Opera, is here to be your guide. He has a few suggestions to help you begin your operatic journey.
The tragic ending of La Boheme may be a bit intense. Yet along the way, Puccini gives us some of opera’s most graceful and appealing music — and the tender yet passionate romance that drives the story might just make this the greatest “date opera” ever composed.
Watch: “They call me Mimi”
In Act One, Mimi responds to Rodolfo’s curiosity by introducing herself, in the aria “Mi chiamano Mimi” (“They call me Mimi”). Here, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings in a Victoria State Opera production conducted by John Hopkins.
Porgy and Bess
Some still think of Porgy and Bess as a musical, and it does boast enough great songs for several Broadway hits. But Gershwin’s masterpiece is pure opera, through and through, with a vivid cast of fully-fleshed characters, and a powerful story of human strength, persistence and unflagging devotion.
The Magic Flute
The story of Mozart’s glittering Magic Flute can get a touch confusing, with good and evil tightly intertwined. Still, with music that’s often — and justly — called sublime, and an exotic yet endearing array of characters and settings, this is truly an opera fit for kids of all ages.
Listen: ‘Hell’s Revenge’
Swedish Radio Symhony Orchestra and Chorus – Daniel Harding, conductor
Mozart gave the Queen of the Night one of the most treacherous arias in all of opera: “Der Hölle Rache.” It’s heard in Act Two, as the Queen asks her daughter Pamina to murder Sarastro, and includes four, famously stratsopheric, high F-naturals. Here, Natalie Dessay performs in a 2001 Paris production.
In La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi loosed the full range of his formidable genius. The opera’s taught drama and complex passions are graced by moving portrayals of profound love and painful sacrifice. As for the music, if you don’t leave this opera whistling an unforgettable tune, it’s only because there are too many to choose from.
Watch: “Sempre libera”
Violetta winds up the first act with “Sempre libera” (“Always Free”), a stunning aria reveling in the freedom of her carefree lifestyle — and she sticks with that sentiment even as Alfredo is serenading her. Here, Anna Netrebko performs at the Salzburg Festival.