The big sound and foreign tongues of opera give the genre an intimidating reputation. But the colorful costumes and sets, the larger than life characters, and magical music offer so much to enjoy. Opera is a genre rooted in story and emotion, things everyone can relate to. Here are some recommendations for starting your journey into the world of opera...
The Marriage of Figaro
No opera playlist is complete without Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a perfect place to start. The cheeky comedy follows Figaro’s misadventures as he tries to marry fellow servant, Susanna. However, Count Almaviva is scheming to steal the lovely Susanna for himself! This love story is filled with outlandish humor and duplicity
Check out “Sull'aria” to give Mozart’s Italian opera a try.
La bohème is an Italian opera, composed by Giacomo Puccini in 1896. Set in 19th century Paris, the story centers on a love affair between an impoverished poet and seamstress. The opera is also the inspiration for the famous rock musical, RENT, drawing on La bohème’s themes of camaraderie, first love, and the life of artists.
Give a listen to the romantic “Musetta’s Waltz” to get a taste of La bohème.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is a tale of romance, dances, jealousy, and duels. The globally acclaimed opera is set in 19th century Russia, at the home of the widow Madame Larina and her two daughters, Tatiana and Olga. Their quiet lives are interrupted when Tatiana falls in love with a new visitor, Eugene Onegin.
Try “Puskai pogibnu ya,” often called the Letter Scene, to hear Tchaikovsky’s bold and moving music.
The Pearl Fishers
This French opera by Georges Bizets is set on the island Ceylon, or Sri Lanka, India in modern-day, and centers on a community of pearl divers. In this paradise setting, two men are driven apart by a woman they both swore to give up. The conflict threatens not only their bond but their lives.
One of the most famous songs from The Pearl Fishers is “Au Fond Du Temple Saint,” when the two men meet again after years apart.
The Diary of Anne Frank
Anne Frank’s testimony of her life in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands has seen countless adaptations: graphic novels, plays, movies, and even opera. Grigori Frid’s 1968 adaption brings the original text to life through the music of opera. The one-hour opera is performed by a single actress, making it a good choice for those who are usually scared off by lengthy productions, but it still carries the emotional depth of the genre and Anne Frank’s story.
Different productions are widely available online. As recently as 2015, The Diary of Anne Frank was performed at the Singapore International Festival of Music.