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Life is filled with tragedy at times and art imitates life so, it goes without saying, that tragic stories make up some of our most loved stories, especially in the opera. Here are ten opera works with tragic ends that we feel you should check out if given the opportunity and you feel the need for a good cry.


1. Carmen

This story surrounds Don José, a soldier who is tempted by Carmen to the point where he abandons his post and his love Micaëla. Carmen is a gypsy girl who works in the factories. At one point Don José becomes associated with Carmen’s smuggler friends but her flirtatious ways leave him nothing but angry and jealous.

When Carmen grows bored of Don José, she tells him she is leaving him for Escamillo, a successful bullfighter. In a fit of rage, after Carmen rejects him by throwing away a ring he had given her as a present, Don José murders the object of his affection and doesn’t realize what he is doing until it is too late.

Here’s a very special version of Carmen available now online!


2. Tosca

Puccini wrote the score for this tale of political rivalry. Scarpia is the head of the secret police and he is in favor of royalism and he has been imprisoning the anyone who stands with the opposing republican ideology. One republican, Angelotti, manages to escape from prison meets up with Cavaradossi, who helps him hide from Scarpia.

Scarpia is arrested and tortured to give up his friend Angelotti but he refuses. Tosca, who is the lover of Cavaradossi, is made aware of his imprisonment. To save him she tells Scarpia where he can find Angelotti. Yet, the ideology of royalism comes to an end when they get word Napoleon has defeated his enemies at the Battle of Marengo.

Not to lose this little battle, Scarpia sentences Cavaradossi to be executed despite his promise to let him go. Tosca offers up her life for her love and when Scarpia moves near her she kills him. Still, the lovers do not escape and Cavaradossi is still shot by firing squad and Tosca commits suicide before taken away for Scarpia’s murder.


3. Ragtime

The next work is a musical that surrounds a quite a few characters including Sara and Coalhouse Walker, an African-American couple who has a child. Yet Walker is not aware that he is a father until he gets wind that Sara is living in New Rochelle with a white family. The family is Mother, who takes care of her home while her husband, Father, explores places like the North Pole.

Sarah ended up living with Mother when she buried her newborn baby in Mother’s garden. When the police capture her Mother says that Sarah and her newborn baby were her responsibility and they move in. Father opposes this throughout the play.

When Coalhouse discovers the whereabouts of Sarah he set out to win her back. It is then he learns of his child. Coalhouse and Sarah spend time together and declare their love and devotion to each other.

But when Coalhouse is the victim of hate crime Sarah stands up for him at a campaign rally for the vice-president a mistaken identity leads to tragic events that lead to Sarah’s death. Coalhouse grows angry at the injustice and his rage is heightened when Mother is given custody of his child.

This leads Coalhouse acting out with a violent threat and it all results in his death as well. Not only is this storyline in Ragtime tragic, but the theme of struggles versus privilege due to race is a tragedy.


4. Miss Saigon

Based around the famed Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, this next tear jerker was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. The plot follows Chris, an American soldier during and after the Vietnam war, and Kim, the girl he falls in love with.

The couple meets in a bar and after they quickly fall in love the United States evacuates all their soldiers from Saigon. The chaos separates Kim and Chris and he is sent back to the States without her, even though they had been married just before the evacuation.

Kim waits for Chris to return and has his baby. Chris pushes Kim to the back of his mind, believing her to be dead, and marries Ellen, an American woman he met after the war. When Chris learns of Kim and his son he tells Ellen. They decide to travel to Vietnam to find Kim and her child.

Kim, after learning Chris is back, is at first unaware that he has married another woman. When she does find out she asks Ellen to take her son back to America with Chris. Ellen rejects the idea wanting her own children with Chris. This results in Kim killing herself to ensure that Chris takes her son live in America.  


5. The Phantom of the Opera

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this next sad story starts when a pretty soprano is rehearsing until a prop falls and everyone fears it is the phantom. The soprano quits and Christine is put in her place. Christine is then reacquainted with childhood friend Raoul. She tells him of the “Angel of Music” that would appear to her when she was young and teach her how to sing. Raoul dismisses it as fantasy.

Little does Raoul know that the Phantom is watching and grows jealous as Raoul asks Christine on a date. When Raoul leaves, the Phantom appears disguised as the “Angel of Music” and she asks him to let everyone know he exists. He says that he will and brings her down to his hidden world under the opera house.

To the Phantom’s dismay, Christine and Raoul get engaged. She loves Raoul but feels obligated to the Phantom for her education. In a fiery rage fueled with jealousy the Phantom causes a great deal of havoc and destruction. Yet, Christine shows him compassion and he is vanquished. Christine and Raoul are reunited but the tragic Phantom never gets his love.


6. Aida

Our final tragic work follows the title character who is being held captive by the Egyptians as a slave, although they are unaware that she is an Ethiopian princess. Aida is in love with Radamès but so is Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian king. Radamès is ordered to lead a war against Ethiopia and Aida is confused as to where her loyalties lie, to father or lover.

Radamès is victorious and the Ethiopian king is captured, yet his identity and that of his daughter Aida are still unknown to the Egyptians. Amneris is insistent on finding out if Aida and Radamès are in love and tricks Aida into admitting it by telling her that Radamès has been killed in battle.

The king of Egypt announces that Radamès reward for winning the battle will be the hand of his daughter, Amneris, in marriage and succeeding him as king. Still, Radamès loves Aida and chooses to help her and her father escape. Radamès is captured and his penalty for treason is death by live burial. When waiting for his sentence to be executed he thinks back to Aida and hopes she has made it home.

But when he is put into the vault where he will be buried alive he finds Aida there waiting for him so they can die and live in eternity forever.


Check out here some of the best works of Verdi and other great operatic pieces presented on the best stages of the world! Which Giuseppe Verdi work is your favorite? Read more about his most recognized works on this post.

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