Opinin' on Opera

Hi O

Here’s a question with perhaps no set answer: does anyone have an opinion/inkling/idea on what would be the most popular operas of all time? I’m not talking about light opera or operetta either. “Madame Butterfly”/ “La Boheme”/“Tosca” spring to mind, but if anyone can supply an altenative opinion I’d be grateful!


Hmmmm, depends how you measure it…

Most performed? Perhaps The Barber of Seville, or Cosi fan tutti.

Most CD sales? You can hit Google for that one :wink:

The one people answer the question ‘what’s your favourite opera’? Ditto, but it depends who you’re asking (the general public, opera audiences, etc.) However, I’m guessing Mozart would come out on top, with Carmen snapping at his heels.

I’d guess Carmen.

Of course, I hadn’t thought through the question as well as GorillaMan did.

(Oh, by the way, I meant Cosi fan Tutte, not the far rarer one I mentioned :wink: )

Which was written by Little Richard, if I’m not mistaken.

Wagner’s Ring Cycle is probably up there, too.

Yeah, GorillaMan, that’s an interesting distinction. I guess the opera is supposed to be about what all women do, not about what all men do. Also, why are the names of some operas usually translated and others aren’t? Cosi fan tutte, but not Die Zauberflöte; Cavalleria Rusticana, but not (typically)* Il barbiere di Siviglia*.

Anyway, there are a few ways of measuring most popular. GorillaMan has already mentioned Most Performed and Most CD sales. There’s also largest number of recorded performances. According to ArkivMusic, there are 67 recordings of La Traviata, making it number one.

And the largest number of productions scheduled in a season. For example, this site, SashaCastel, refers to a NY Times article that puts La Boheme in first place in North America in the 2002 season with 207 productions scheduled.

Another indicator would be: When an opera house is in financial difficulty and they need to sell as many tickets as possible, which opera will they schedule? My guess is that it would be La Boheme.

Both of the Mozart ones mentioned are certainly in the running–along with Don Giovanni–but I would have guessed The Marriage of Figaro was the most popular.

Or Butterfly, but it’s no fun choosing one that’s already in the OP.

My guess is “La Boheme” would win a “what’s the most popular opera” contest if it combined everything from ticket sales to number of performances to number of recordings to fan favorites.

My favorite, “La Traviata” is probably a distant second.

That’s my guess, anyway.

You son of a … you beat me to it by two hours. Grumble grumble grumble …

On what measure? Certainly not on number of performances, nor on CD sales. It may be in the running for the question of the most influential opera, but that’s a different matter entirely.

Cosi fan tutte is pretty much untranslatable.

I doubt it. Mozart and Rossini would be the quick-fix for a broke company - far smaller resources being needed, both onstage and in the pit.

Jeopardy! translated it as “Everybody Does It”, which is iffy but gets the gist, I think.

I would have guessed something by Verdi or Puccini.

What would be the English translation of “Cosi fan tutte”?

Literally, it means: This is the way (Cosi) they all (tutte) do it (fan), but in Italian, pronouns are often omitted since they’re implied by the verb’s conjugation, and “they all” has a gender: *tutti * means “they all” (male), or “all men”, and *tutte * means “they all” (female), or “all women”.

As **Tracy Lord ** points out, the Jeopardy translation gets the gist, but it misses the reference to women. Another translation could be “Women are like that”.

(BTW, the e/i feminine/masculine distinction is the general rule for Italian plurals. There are exceptions, however.)

‘Thus are all women’ is the translation I’ve felt most comfortable with. But, as IAMBIC says, the whole structure of the title is intertwined with Italian grammar.

I’m with twickster – gotta be Carmen by a longshot. Not only has it been performed skillions of times, but if you take someone who’s never seen an opera and play a CD of Carmen for him, odds are he’ll recognize 75% of the score. Even Oscar Madison likes it!

i guess it all comes down to how we are measuing popularity…

id love to say la boheme…but if you asked the regular joe where does "si, mi chiamano Mimi " comes from and your likley to get made fun of.

mabye if we went with most popular opera that someone has seen/listend through that would be closer…
if going for snipets of an opera, which any layman would know, thus making the opera “popular” id say The Barber of Seville, for the overture
or even more popular mabye, Progy and Bess, for summertime.

Le Nozze di Figaro, Der Freischütz and Il Pagliacci are three of my very favorites, but Carmen, Fidelio, Cosi fan tutte and Il Barbiere di Siviglia are very popular ones.

Add Turandot to the list simply because “Nessun dorma” is such a famous aria.

Fidelio? How many people can hum a few bars from it? We’re talking popular, right?

Carmen, yes. After all, the music was used in an episode of Gilligan’s Island.