List of important operas

Last updated

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.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

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 theater. 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.

Claudio Monteverdi 16th and 17th-century Italian composer

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi was an Italian composer, string player and choirmaster. A composer of both secular and sacred music, and a pioneer in the development of opera, he is considered a crucial transitional figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods of music history.

Francesco Cavalli Italian Baroque composer

Francesco Cavalli was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. He took the name "Cavalli" from his patron, Venetian nobleman Federico Cavalli.

Contents

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.

1600–1699

Claudio Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi, 1640 Bernardo Strozzi - Claudio Monteverdi (c.1630).jpg
Claudio Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi, 1640
<i>LOrfeo</i> opera by Claudio Monteverdi, with libretto by Alessandro Striggio

L'Orfeo, sometimes called La favola d'Orfeo[la ˈfaːvola dorˈfɛːo], is a late Renaissance/early Baroque favola in musica, or opera, by Claudio Monteverdi, with a libretto by Alessandro Striggio. It is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, and tells the story of his descent to Hades and his fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back to the living world. It was written in 1607 for a court performance during the annual Carnival at Mantua. While Jacopo Peri's Dafne is generally recognised as the first work in the opera genre, and the earliest surviving opera is Peri's Euridice, L'Orfeo is the earliest that is still regularly performed.

<i>Il ritorno dUlisse in patria</i>

Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria is an opera consisting of a prologue and five acts, set by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto by Giacomo Badoaro. The opera was first performed at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice during the 1639–1640 carnival season. The story, taken from the second half of Homer's Odyssey, tells how constancy and virtue are ultimately rewarded, treachery and deception overcome. After his long journey home from the Trojan Wars Ulisse, king of Ithaca, finally returns to his kingdom where he finds that a trio of villainous suitors are importuning his faithful queen, Penelope. With the assistance of the gods, his son Telemaco and a staunch friend Eumete, Ulisse vanquishes the suitors and recovers his kingdom.

<i>Odyssey</i> Epic poem attributed to Homer

The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other Homeric epic. The Odyssey is fundamental to the modern Western canon; it is the second-oldest extant work of Western literature, while the Iliad is the oldest. Scholars believe the Odyssey was composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.

1700–1749

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, 1733 Haendel.jpg
George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, 1733
<i>Agrippina</i> (opera) 3-act opera seria by G. F. Händel with libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani about Agrippina, the mother of Nero, who plots the downfall of Claudius to install Nero as emperor; premiered in Venice at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo on 26 Dec. 1709

Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. Composed for the 1709–10 Venice Carnevale season, the opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of her son as emperor. Grimani's libretto, considered one of the best that Handel set, is an "anti-heroic satirical comedy", full of topical political allusions. Some analysts believe that it reflects Grimani's political and diplomatic rivalry with Pope Clement XI.

<i>Rinaldo</i> (opera) 1711 opera by George Frideric Handel

Rinaldo is an opera by George Frideric Handel, composed in 1711, and was the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill, and the work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket on 24 February 1711. The story of love, war and redemption, set at the time of the First Crusade, is loosely based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata, and its staging involved many original and vivid effects. It was a great success with the public, despite negative reactions from literary critics hostile to the contemporary trend towards Italian entertainment in English theatres.

<i>Giulio Cesare</i> opera in three acts by Georg Friedrich Händel

Giulio Cesare in Egitto, commonly known as Giulio Cesare, is a dramma per musica in three acts composed for the Royal Academy of Music by George Frideric Handel in 1724. The libretto was written by Nicola Francesco Haym who used an earlier libretto by Giacomo Francesco Bussani, which had been set to music by Antonio Sartorio (1676). The opera was a success at its first performances, was frequently revived by Handel in his subsequent opera seasons and is now one of the most often performed Baroque operas.

1750–1799

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aged 21 in 1777 Martini bologna mozart 1777.jpg
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aged 21 in 1777
<i>La buona figliuola</i> Italian opera

La buona figliuola, or La Cecchina (Cecchina), is an opera buffa in three acts by Niccolò Piccinni. The libretto, by Carlo Goldoni, is based on Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This was Piccinni's most successful Italian opera. There was a sequel entitled La buona figliuola maritata (1761) by the same composer and librettist. La buona figliuola supposta vedova by Gaetano Latilla followed in 1766.

Niccolò Piccinni Italian composer

Niccolò Piccinni was an Italian composer of symphonies, sacred music, chamber music, and opera. Although he is somewhat obscure today, Piccinni was one of the most popular composers of opera—particularly the Neapolitan opera buffa—of his day.

<i>Orfeo ed Euridice</i> Opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck

Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck, based on the myth of Orpheus and set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. The piece was first performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 5 October 1762, in the presence of Empress Maria Theresa. Orfeo ed Euridice is the first of Gluck's "reform" operas, in which he attempted to replace the abstruse plots and overly complex music of opera seria with a "noble simplicity" in both the music and the drama.

1800–1832

Gioachino Rossini, 1820 (International Museum and Library of Music, Bologna) GiorcesRossini1.jpg
Gioachino Rossini, 1820 (International Museum and Library of Music, Bologna)
<i>Fidelio</i> opera by Ludwig van Beethoven

Fidelio, Op. 72, is Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto was originally prepared by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, with the work premiering at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 20 November 1805. The following year, Stephan von Breuning helped shorten the work from three acts to two. After further work on the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, a final version was performed at the Kärntnertortheater on 23 May 1814. By convention, both of the first two versions are referred to as Leonore.

Ludwig van Beethoven 18th and 19th-century German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

Gaspare Spontini Italian composer and conductor

Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini was an Italian opera composer and conductor.

1833–1849

Gaetano Donizetti Gaetano Donizetti 1.jpg
Gaetano Donizetti

1850–1875

Richard Wagner RichardWagner.jpg
Richard Wagner

1876–1899

Giuseppe Verdi by Giovanni Boldini, 1886 Giuseppe Verdi by Giovanni Boldini.jpg
Giuseppe Verdi by Giovanni Boldini, 1886

1900–1920

Richard Strauss Richard Strauss (b).jpg
Richard Strauss

1921–1944

Giacomo Puccini Puccini2.jpg
Giacomo Puccini

From 1945

Igor Stravinsky Igor Stravinsky LOC 32392u.jpg
Igor Stravinsky

Significant firsts in opera history

Operas not included in the above list, but which were important milestones in operatic history.

See also

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References

Notes

  1. John Whenham, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  2. 1 2 3 4 Ellen Rosand, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  3. Viking p. 191
  4. Martha Novak Clinkscale, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  5. 1 2 3 Curtis Price, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  6. Viking p. 418: "According to John Mainwaring, Handel's first biographer, 'The theatre at almost every pause resounded with shouts of "Viva il caro Sassone". They were thunderstruck by the sublimity of his style: for never had they known till then all the powers of harmony and modulation so closely arrayed and forcibly combined'".
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  8. Robert D. Hume, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  9. 1 2 Orrey p. 64
  10. Orrey pp. 90–91
  11. 1 2 3 4 Graham Sadler, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  12. Stanley Sadie, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  13. Mary Hunter, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  14. Viking pp. 375–76
  15. Viking pp. 378–79
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Julian Rushton, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  17. Viking p. 381
  18. Caryl Clark, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  19. Viking p. 393
  20. Viking p. 370
  21. Orrey p. 110
  22. 1 2 Orrey p. 113
  23. Viking p. 752
  24. Orrey p. 107
  25. Orrey p. 114
  26. Gordana Lazarevich, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  27. Viking pp. 210–11
  28. Viking p. 59
  29. Viking pp. 1002–04
  30. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Richard Osborne, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  31. Viking pp. 1212–14
  32. Viking pp. 1214–15
  33. Oxford Illustrated p. 136
  34. Clive Brown, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  35. 1 2 Simon Maguire, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  36. A. Dean Palmer, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  37. Viking pp. 884, 917–18
  38. 1 2 William Ashbrook, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  39. Viking p. 38
  40. Viking p. 66
  41. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Julian Budden, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  42. Orrey p. 132
  43. Viking pp. 659–60
  44. Viking p. 70
  45. Viking p. 609
  46. Viking p. 277
  47. Viking p. 278
  48. Viking p. 1176
  49. Viking p. 71
  50. Viking p. 412
  51. Viking p. 280
  52. Oxford Illustrated pp. 246 ff.
  53. Viking p. 660
  54. Viking p. 282
  55. Viking p. 92
  56. 1 2 Viking p. 1125
  57. 1 2 Viking p. 285
  58. 1 2 The New Penguin Opera Guide, p. 265
  59. Viking p. 584
  60. 1 2 3 4 Roger Parker, writing in Grove
  61. Viking p. 1177
  62. Viking p. 368
  63. Viking p. 1179
  64. Viking p. 288
  65. Viking p. 1127
  66. Viking p. 48
  67. Viking p. 1128
  68. Viking p. 1181
  69. 1 2 Viking p. 1132
  70. 1 2 Viking p. 94
  71. Viking p. 328
  72. Viking p. 726
  73. Viking p. 661
  74. Viking p. 1138
  75. Viking p. 968
  76. Viking pp. 1184–86
  77. Viking p. 1139
  78. Oxford Illustrated p. 192
  79. Oxford Illustrated p. 193
  80. Viking p. 1143
  81. Viking p. 1144
  82. Viking p. 228
  83. Viking p. 735
  84. Penguin Guide to Opera on CD, p. 114
  85. Viking p. 1147
  86. The New Penguin Opera Guide, p. 266
  87. Viking p. 97
  88. Viking p. 1149
  89. Viking p. 115
  90. Viking p. 736
  91. Viking p. 397
  92. Viking p. 664
  93. Viking p. 1196
  94. Viking p. 1098
  95. Viking p. 988
  96. Viking p. 1152
  97. Viking p. 116
  98. Viking p. 398
  99. Viking p. 990
  100. Viking p. 1198
  101. Viking p. 1099
  102. 1 2 Viking p. 738
  103. Viking p. 131
  104. Viking p. 1188
  105. Viking p. 1190
  106. Viking p. 718
  107. Viking p. 1020
  108. Viking p. 992
  109. Viking p. 118
  110. Viking p. 1191
  111. Viking p. 1192
  112. Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs, p. 53
  113. Hugh Macdonald, writing in Grove
  114. Viking p. 1087
  115. Viking p. 624
  116. Viking p. 1201
  117. Viking p. 866
  118. Viking p. 252
  119. Viking p. 807
  120. Viking p. 625
  121. Viking p. 1022
  122. Viking p. 720
  123. Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs, p. 54
  124. Oxford Illustrated pp. 164–65
  125. Viking p. 618
  126. Viking p. 134
  127. 1 2 3 Richard Taruskin, writing in Grove
  128. Peter Ross, writing in Grove
  129. Viking p. 1094
  130. Michele Girardi, writing in Grove
  131. Viking p. 564
  132. 1 2 3 Rodney Milnes, writing in Grove
  133. Ian Denley, in The New Grove
  134. Jan Smaczny, writing in Grove
  135. Viking p. 203
  136. 1 2 Oxford Illustrated p. 269
  137. Oxford Illustrated pp. 281–87
  138. Viking p. 728
  139. Oxford Illustrated p. 304
  140. Viking p. 559
  141. Viking p. 1026
  142. Viking p. 729
  143. Viking p. 256
  144. Oxford Illustrated p. 285
  145. Viking p. 871
  146. Viking p. 502
  147. Viking p. 1028
  148. Viking p. 1241
  149. Viking p. 872
  150. Viking p. 635
  151. Viking p. 1029
  152. Viking p. 849
  153. Viking p. 1031
  154. Peter Franklin, writing in Grove
  155. Viking p. 314
  156. Viking p. 137
  157. Viking p. 1045
  158. Viking p. 485
  159. Viking p. 168
  160. Viking p. 1251
  161. Viking p. 773
  162. Oxford Illustrated pp. 286–87
  163. 1 2 3 David Murray, writing in Grove
  164. Christopher Palmer, writing in Grove
  165. Viking p. 505
  166. Oxford Illustrated p. 306
  167. Viking p. 1252
  168. Viking p. 953
  169. 1 2 Michael Kennedy, writing in Grove
  170. Viking p. 506
  171. Oxford Illustrated p. 297
  172. Harman A & Mellers W. Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West. Barrie and Rockliff, London, 1962, p. 950.
  173. Orrey p. 218.
  174. Viking p. 477
  175. Tibor Tallián, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  176. Viking p. 1076
  177. 1 2 John Tyrrell, writing in Grove[ full citation needed ]
  178. Oxford Illustrated, pp. 310–11
  179. Viking p. 542
  180. 1 2 Stephen Hinton, writing in Grove
  181. Viking p. 980
  182. Orrey p. 220
  183. Laurel E. Fay, writing in Grove
  184. Viking p. 1039
  185. Richard Crawford, writing in Grove
  186. Orrey p. 219
  187. Viking p. 1120
  188. Viking p. 1041
  189. Viking p. 613
  190. Viking p. 480
  191. Viking p. 143
  192. Oxford Illustrated p. 316
  193. Viking p. 1115
  194. Viking p. 144
  195. Viking p. 803
  196. Viking p. 802
  197. 1 2 3 Bruce Archibald, writing in Grove
  198. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Arnold Whittal, writing in Grove
  199. Viking p. 307
  200. Viking p. 793
  201. Anthony Sellors, writing in Grove
  202. Viking p. 649
  203. Viking p. 1050
  204. Viking p. 462
  205. Viking p. 152
  206. Viking p. 1208
  207. 1 2 3 Geraint Lewis, writing in Grove
  208. Jon Alan Conrad, writing in Grove
  209. Viking p. 794
  210. 1 2 Barbara B. Heyman, writing in Grove
  211. Viking p. 795
  212. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Andrew Clements, writing in Grove
  213. 1 2 Orrey, p. 234
  214. 1 2 Adrian Thomas, writing in Grove
  215. Viking p. 159
  216. Viking p. 243
  217. 1 2 Paul Griffiths, writing in Grove
  218. Viking p. 854
  219. David Osmond-Smith, writing in Grove
  220. Tim Page, writing in Grove
  221. Viking p. 108
  222. Viking p. 1232
  223. Viking p. 18
  224. 1 2 Oxford Illustrated p. 8
  225. Viking p. 174
  226. Oxford Illustrated p. 31
  227. Viking p. 180
  228. Stein (1999), paragraph six
  229. Russell: "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online

Sources

Lists consulted

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:

  1. "A–Z of Opera by Keith Anderson, Naxos, 2000".
  2. "The Standard Repertoire of Grand Opera 1607–1969", a list included in Norman Davies's Europe: a History (OUP, 1996; paperback edition Pimlico, 1997). ISBN   0-7126-6633-8.
  3. Operas appearing in the chronology by Mary Ann Smart in The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (OUP, 1994). ISBN   0-19-816282-0.
  4. Operas with entries in The New Kobbe's Opera Book, ed. Lord Harewood (Putnam, 9th ed., 1997). ISBN   0-370-10020-4
  5. Table of Contents of The Rough Guide to Opera. by Matthew Boyden. (2002 edition). ISBN   1-85828-749-9.
  6. Operas with entries in The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera ed. Paul Gruber (Thames and Hudson, 1993). ISBN   0-393-03444-5 and/or Metropolitan Opera Stories of the Great Operas ed. John W Freeman (Norton, 1984). ISBN   0-393-01888-1
  7. List of operas and their composers in Who's Who in British Opera ed. Nicky Adam (Scolar Press, 1993). ISBN   0-85967-894-6
  8. Entries for individual operas in Warrack, John, and Ewan West (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-869164-8.
  9. Entries for individual operas in Who's Who in Opera: a guide to opera characters by Joyce Bourne (Oxford University Press, 1998). ISBN   0-19-210023-8

Operas included in all 9 lists