Tonight I surprised myself. I have just come from seeing my first ever opera. It was Madame Butterfly by Puccini and it was bloody brilliant! The villian (Pinkerton) was revolting in so much as wanting to nail a 15 year old, which proves that there’s nothing new on the earth (the opera was written in 1903 and staged for the first time in 1904). So, my appetite is whetted and now I need some recommendations for some more to ‘cut my teeth on’.
Two of the most accessible and enjoyable operas are The Magic Flute and Carmen. I know they’re accessible because I love them, and I don’t like opera. It’d be hard to pick a favorite between the two. The first is comic, the second tragic, so I guess it depends on your mood.
My first introduction to opera (lo these many years ago) was Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. It’s wonderfully accessible for those approaching opera for the first time and it has some ravishing melodies. I’m sure you’d enjoy Verdi. Try the ‘big three’ of his middle years: Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Rigoletto.
I’d also recommend Rossini, The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola (Cinderella).
I warn you, once bitten by the opera bug you’ll be an addict for the rest of your life!
…am not an opera expert.
Those are the two I came in to recommend as well.
I saw Butterfly in Victoria this February. I brought tissue. I needed the tissue. This coming spring, I am going to see Flute. Can’t wait! I have “seen” it on TV and at the Met at the Movies, but I want to be IN the audience for the Queen of the Night’s aria!
Shiver me timbers, isn’t that bit amazing?!
Anyway, try those two. Great melodies and music, though I find the plot of Flute to be silly. It doesn’t matter, as the music’s so gorgeous.
I would add Don Giovanni by Mozart to the list, and add The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.
I would go for an older D’Oiley Carte performance instead of the canadian one, the canadian one updates some lyrics to canadian politics. Leave the thing the way they wrote it fer gosh sakes. The Mikado doesnt need updating, thanks=)
Another you can get as a movie is The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Klein and Linda Ronstadt which I like and s very accessable.
Interesting that La Boheme hasn’t appeared yet - it’s a perennial audience favourite for both the music and the story line. Same composer as Butterfly, Puccini’s first big hit.
I’d also recommend Tosca, another Puccini opera - a story of tyranny, abuse of political position, sexual harrasment with wonderful music.
I highly recommend seeing whatever you can live, rather than film or DVD. I just find it’s so much more impressive on stage, where you can choose where to focus your attention, rather than the artificial perfection of recording. Something about seeing the singer make the show work in front of you is much more compelling to me. YMMV.
I got up too early today. Quoting **cricetus **because that’s the words I would have used. This part: “…am not an opera expert” refers to me, not cricetus.
I re-read the post and it looked like I was being insulting, and it wasn’t meant that way.
(Originally Posted by cricetus:
Two of the most accessible and enjoyable operas are The Magic Flute and Carmen. I know they’re accessible because I love them, and I
Added by me:
…am not an opera expert.)
Well, to be fair, Gilbert updated the lyrics on the tours all the time. He would scour the local newspapers for a few weeks looking for local scandals, and it went over in a huge way when something the Mayor of Manchester (for example) had done would appear in the show when it opened in Manchester. They were like the SCTV or SNL of their day, only consistently funny, and always positive.
That being said, I also prefer the versions that have been handed down to us, if only because I’ve yet to hear anyone that is as clever as Gilbert.
I knew what you were doing, Savannah, and didn’t flinch for a second. Not that being called not an opera expert would really sting that much anyway!
This whole thread has made me want to listen to Carmen. The bullfighting song will be awesome while watching muted Big 10 football.
It’s interesting that you should mention Carmen. Years ago the Australian Opera Company were advertising and used a couple in a car getting nasty to a top 20 pop song and parked a little way were another couple getting nasty to one of the pieces from Carmen. Needless to say the couple doing it to Carmen, ah, went a long longer.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions, I’m off to the library to start (or continue) my education!:)
I love MB and I’m glad that was your introduction.
… and now I’m going to blow you away by steering you towards Wagner.
Seriously. Der Fliegender Hollander (aka The Flying Dutchman) is a very entertaining story, nice music, and you’ll be entertained.
Save the Ring for later, it’s freaking huge
I got some good responses when I did this a few months ago:
One nice tip that I actually ended up using was to check out the DVD from the library. So much better than listening to the CD while reading the libretto.
This past May, I saw my first live opera Tosca in L.A.- loved it. My brother saw the new Cronenberg-Howard Shore production of The Fly- thought it was OK but not his style. I watched the PBS production of Wagner’s *Ring Cycle *from over a decade ago - I totally adore *Der Walkure *& plan to see it in L.A. next Spring.
Seeing the Ring Cycle is something I’m very much looking forward to. (Ohh, they finally announced that Das Rheingold starts in February!!)
I think the two most accessible operas are *Carmen *and *Rigoletto *. . . both have one “hit tune” after another.
On my recent trip to Spain, I had *Carmen *in my iPod, and played it in Seville, while visiting Carmen’s cigarette factory (now the University of Seville) and the bullfighting ring (which has a statue of Carmen across the street). And there are also locations there from *The Marriage of Figaro *and of course The Barber of Seville.
Yeah, unfortunately, I can’t fly out there in Feb to see DRG & then again next month for DW, so I’d rather see DW.
Let me know when you’re planning on going. Would love to have company for the show. (My SO will go if I really want him to, but he won’t really enjoy himself) Oh, I hadn’t realized that Placido will be performing as Siegmund. Now I really can’t wait.
But surely the most cool operas in the world. I started with the Ring and listened to the Flying Dutchman later. The scene where the locals taunt the Dutchman’s crew, and their doomed souls sing back is cool, but the Ring has a lot more neat stuff. The descent to Neibelheim, however you spell it, the Volsungs, Valkyries…Go for it!