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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:

Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)

Possibly Mozart's most-loved opera, probably because it succeeds on many different levels: theatrically, musically, and intellectually.

La traviata (The Fallen Woman)

Verdi's most accessible opera, about a beautiful woman whose dissolute life conflicts with her search for true love.

La bohème (The Bohemians)

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.

Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)

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.

Eugene Onegin

Tchaikovsky's marvellous version of Pushkin's poem about the unrequited love of Tatanya for the worldly Onegin.

Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose)

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.

Albert Herring

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.