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The operas listed cover all important genres, and include all operas regularly performed today, from seventeenth-century works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Purcell to late twentieth-century operas by Messiaen, Berio, Glass, Adams, Birtwistle, and Weir. The brief accompanying notes offer an explanation as to why each opera has been considered important. For an introduction to operatic history, see Opera. The organisation of the list is by year of first performance, or, if this was long after the composer's death, approximate date of composition.
This list provides a guide to the most important operas, as determined by their presence on a majority of selected compiled lists (dating from between 1984 and 2000) of significant operas: see the Lists consulted section for full details.
Operas not included in the above list, but which were important milestones in operatic history.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
A tenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. It is one of the highest of the male voice types. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A♭2 (two A♭s below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu, or simply Liceu in Catalan, is an opera house on La Rambla in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The Liceu opened on 4 April 1847. The adjacent Liceu metro station is named after the theatre.
The German Fach system is a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. It is used worldwide, but primarily in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries and by repertory opera houses.
The Canadian Opera Company (COC) is an opera company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is the largest opera company in Canada and one of the largest producers of opera in North America. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. For forty years until April 2006, the COC had performed at the O'Keefe Centre.
Casa Ricordi is a publisher of primarily classical music and opera. Its classical repertoire represents one of the important sources in the world through its publishing of the work of the major 19th-century Italian composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi, and, later in the century, Giacomo Puccini, composers with whom one or another of the Ricordi family came into close contact.
A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.
Union Avenue Opera is an opera company based in St. Louis, Missouri. The company was founded in 1994 by Scott Schoonover, the music director of Union Avenue Christian Church, which serves as the company's venue in St. Louis' Visitation Park neighborhood.
Grange Park Opera is a professional opera company and charity whose base is West Horsley Place in Surrey, England. Founded in 1998, the company staged an annual opera festival at The Grange, in Hampshire and in 2016-7, built a new opera house 'Theatre in the Woods' at West Horsley Place – the 350-acre estate inherited by author and broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne in 2014.
The Nashville Opera Association is a professional opera company in Nashville, Tennessee and is a member of OPERA America. The company currently offers four fully staged opera productions and an educational outreach program during an annual season which runs from October through April. Performances are offered at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Downtown Nashville and the Noah Liff Opera Center in the Sylvan Heights section of West Nashville. Designed by architect Earl Swensson, the 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) Noah Liff Opera Center houses the company's executive offices, conference facilities, and a rehearsal studio.
Lois Jeanette McDonall is a Canadian operatic soprano, especially known for her performances in the operas of Mozart and Donizetti.
A bass ( BAYSS) is a type of classical male singing voice and has the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a vocal range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C (i.e., E2–E4). Its tessitura, or comfortable range, is normally defined by the outermost lines of the bass clef. Categories of bass voices vary according to national style and classification system. Italians favour subdividing basses into the basso cantante (singing bass), basso buffo ("funny" bass), or the dramatic basso profondo (low bass). The American system identifies the bass-baritone, comic bass, lyric bass, and dramatic bass. The German fach system offers further distinctions: Spielbass (Bassbuffo), Schwerer Spielbass (Schwerer Bassbuffo), Charakterbass (Bassbariton), and Seriöser Bass. These classification systems can overlap. Rare is the performer who embodies a single fach without also touching repertoire from another category.
This list includes opera productions of the Opera Group and Opera Company of Boston from 1958 to 1990.
Hervey Alan was an English operatic bass and voice teacher. During his career he sang leading roles with most of Great Britain's major opera institutions, including the Edinburgh Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Royal Opera House, the Sadler's Wells Opera, and the Welsh National Opera. He is best known for creating the role of Mr. Redburn in the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House, London, on 1 December 1951. Music critic Elizabeth Forbes wrote that his voice was "dark toned, resonant", and "especially effective as Zaccaria in Nabucco.
Christof Loy is a German stage director especially for opera, whose work received several awards. A freelance director, he has staged operas from Baroque to premieres of new works at major European opera houses and festivals. He is known for directing works by Mozart.
John Del Carlo was an American bass-baritone who had an active international opera and concert career from the 1973-2016. Music critic F. Paul Driscoll, wrote that "Del Carlo had the distinction of being not only one of the busiest artists in opera but one of the best liked, beloved throughout the U.S. by audiences and by his colleagues for decades." He was particularly active with the San Francisco Opera where he performed regularly from 1973-2015, and with the Metropolitan Opera where he appeared in more than 300 performances in 21 seasons from 1993-2016. He also frequently appeared at the San Diego Opera and the Seattle Opera, and gave performances at important opera houses internationally, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Paris Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Zurich Opera among many others. A skilled actor, Opera News stated that "Del Carlo made a career specialty of bringing authentic character to roles that are often dismissed as comprimario parts; in Del Carlo’s shrewdly judged performances, [these parts] became authentic star turns."
John Longmuir is a Scottish-born Australian tenor. Known primarily for operatic roles he is also in demand on the concert platform and has appeared as a judge on channel seven's music competition show 'All Together Now'. Noted for his "generous voice, bright ringing vocal quality and legato phrasing" His operatic studies took place at the Australian Opera Studio. In 2019 John received his first Helpmann Award nomination, for his role as the Captain in Berg's Wozzeck, for Opera Australia.
Krisztián Cser is a Hungarian operatic and concert singer (bass) and physicist, the soloist of the Hungarian State Opera.
This list was compiled by consulting nine lists of great operas, created by recognized authorities in the field of opera, and selecting all of the operas which appeared on at least five of these (i.e. all operas on a majority of the lists). The lists used were: