Building an opera library
A recommended selection of seven operas for anyone new to opera, and wanting advice about where to begin in building a collection on CD or DVD.
Here are the criteria we have used in making this selection:
- The music should be accessible to the beginner; this ruled out some great but difficult operas, such as Wozzeck.
- They should feature comprehensible and plausible plots; a beginner may find it hard to suspend disbelief in the face of a ludicrous plot, even if the music makes up for it.
Possibly Mozart's most-loved opera, probably because it succeeds on many different levels: theatrically, musically, and intellectually.
Verdi's most accessible opera, about a beautiful woman whose dissolute life conflicts with her search for true love.
Puccini manages to take sketches of life among impoverished artists in Paris, and make an opera that is witty, romantic, and finally tragic, with wonderful music and lively action.
The ideal introduction to Wagner for the beginner, it features a great story, superb music, and introduces Wagner's use of motifs to convey a vocabulary of thoughts and feelings through music.
Tchaikovsky's marvellous version of Pushkin's poem about the unrequited love of Tatanya for the worldly Onegin.
Richard Strauss's romantic comedy, in which a country Baron's farcical attempts to seduce a maid accompany a moving commentary on the problems of love between a young man and a middle-aged woman.
Britten's light-hearted look at life in a small English village, where a boy is chosen as May Queen because the local girls are all considered too dissolute.