There are so many works that fall under the genre of opera we love. Unfortunately, there are only so many words we can use in a day and we have to select a few, at a time, to highlight for you. With this in mind, we would like to present this recent list of fantastic operas we feel you should see.
Pirates of Penzance
This opera, which we love, is arguably the most recognizable of the infamous duo Gilbert and Sullivan. This is the story of Frederic who is a pirate apprentice. His commitment is going to be completed on his twenty-first birthday and he informs the king of the pirates that he will be on his way shortly afterward. Frederic was not meant to be a pirate and was only in their care because of a misunderstanding by his nurse maid.
Ruth also lies to Frederic and tells him that for women, which he has seen no other besides her, she is in fact beautiful. At first he believes her but then Ruth is rejected when Frederic finds younger, more attractive women. He implores that one of them marry him and Mabel, the youngest consents.
Before they can wed the girls’ father, Major-General Stanley arrives and puts his foot down that he will not take on pirates as husbands for his daughters. He also tells the pirates that he is an orphan, knowing that they have a vow to never rob another orphan since they are all orphans themselves. The concede to their vow and let Stanley take his daughters home.
Frederic joins the girls and their father and helps the local police attempt to attack the pirates. He also learns that the Major-General is not an orphan. Yet, before any of this can take place Ruth and the pirate king return to let Frederic know that he hasn’t fulfilled his obligation to the pirates and must return.
Composed by legendary Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, this version should not be mistaken with the bohemians that Puccini wrote about this opera was written at the same time. It turns out that Puccini and Leoncavallo wrote their versions of La bohéme at the same time but Leoncavallo started his first, which would make it the subject of a public argument between the two composers.
Never the less, Puccini’s version reached the heights to infamy while Leoncavallo’s has nearly disappeared. Puccini’s was an instant hit while Leoncavallo’s, which was premiered a year later, failed miserably. It is said by some that had Leoncavallo’s version come out first than his would be the famous version while others write that the libretto for Leoncavallo’s version is less than par.
Who is to truly know what would have been? Puccini is quoted as saying, when first learning of Leoncavallo’s working on an opera, “The audience will decide” and we suppose this is true. Yet, not many audiences are given the chance since Leoncavallo’s is rarely, if ever, resurrected.
This work consisting of four acts begins with Gaudenzio, an innkeeper, doing his best to get rid of the Bohemians, who are staying at his inn and owe him money for rent. Besides, they were always in trouble. The innkeeper asks for the money he is owed but they do not have it. They fight, comically.
In the next act we meet Musetta. She is heartbroken because her lover has left her. She won’t pay her debts so her belongings including her furniture, has been repossessed and is being taken away. The Bohemians stop by her flat and begin to rejoice in their lives. In doing so they wake up all of their neighbors and another fight begins.
The Magic Flute
Mozart’s two act masterpiece premiered at the Freihaustheater auf der Wieden in Vienna on September 30, 1791. This would be Mozart’s final opera, which he conducted at the premiere while very ill. The prolific composer would die just two months later.
Called a Singspiel, which mean “sing-play” in its literal German terms this Mozart masterpiece is a type of opera which utilizes spoken words as well as singing. While writing this piece, Amadeus knew what singers would be in the production so he wrote specific parts for individual voices.
In the first act we find a handsome prince by the name of Tamino who is lost in an unfamiliar terrain. Tamino is being hunted down by a snake and he implores to the heavens for help. When the pressure of being trailed by a deadly serpent gets to be too much Tamino faints.
Three female aides of the Queen of the Night suddenly appear and vanquish the snake. Tamino, still unconscious, is discovered by the women and they all find the young prince desirable. Each on tries to influence the other two to depart but when they are all unsuccessful they all set out together halfheartedly.
When Tamino regains consciousness he is meets Papageno dressed in a bird costume. He tells Tamino about his time as a bird catcher and whines to Tamino of being alone without female companionship. Tamino assumes that Papageno is the one who killed the relentless serpent and the bird man is glad to let Tamino continue to believe this.
While Papageno declares that the serpent died from his hands around its throat the three women reappear and Papageno is punished for his lies. In the meantime, they show Tamino a portrait of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night. He falls in love with her instantly. Unfortunately, Pamina has been kidnapped by Sarastro, an evil necromancer who is an enemy of the Queen.
Watch Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) today, performed at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, in Germany!
Lesser known of all the Puccini works, this is an opera-ballet has a libretto written by Ferdinando Fontana. The plot was inspired by Les Willis, a short story by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. This short story was inspired by the story of Slavic tales of nymphs, which were also the inspiration for the beloved ballet Giselle.
Originally a one-act opera Le Villi was premiered on May 31, 1884 at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan. The importance of this piece is that it was the first work of Puccini’s to be staged. Puccini originally wrote it in one-act for a contest of one-act operas held by Sonzongno, publisher of the periodical Il teatro illustrato.
In ratings though Le Villi did not fare well and it is said the reason may be because the composer wrote it so quickly that the score is difficult to read. Yet Puccini found an ally in librettist Arrigo Boito who financially backed this first opera. After a positive reaction to Le Villi was published by Giulio Ricordi.
The opera starts with a family and their friends dancing to rejoice in the coming marriage of Roberto and Anna. In attempt to collect his inheritance Roberto leaves for Mainz before the marriage commences. Anna fears that he won’t return.
She tells him of her dreams in which he dies but he consoles her and begs her to relax. Roberto tells her “that she may doubt her God but not his love for her.” He then asks Anna’s father to give them blessings before he departs. Anna worries as she watches Roberto leave for Mainz.
Yet, Roberto is bewitched by a mythical woman called a siren while sailing and he forgets his betrothed. Anna tries to remain patient but dies waiting many seasons for Roberto to return. Of course, Anna’s father is furious with him and begs the Villi to avenge his daughter’s death.