Panama (spwebdesign) wrote,
Panama
spwebdesign

A couple of years ago, soprano Leslie Garrett had a series on SkyTV where she identified "20 Operas to see before you die." Her list, in no particular order (that is, in the order they were listed on the Sky website):

  • Bizet's Carmen
  • Rossini's The Barber of Seville
  • Mozart's Don Giovanni
  • Verdi's Aida
  • Delibes' Lakme
  • Mozart's The Magic Flute
  • Puccini's Madame Butterfly
  • Tan Dun's The First Emperor
  • Wagner's Tristan and Isolde
  • Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress
  • Puccini's La Boheme
  • Mozart's La Clemenza Di Tito
  • Rameau's Les Paladins
  • Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin
  • Wagner's Lohengrin
  • Verdi's Macbeth
  • Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
  • Puccini's Gianni Schicchi
  • Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole
  • Wagner's Parsifal

Of these, I've seen 10 (C, TBoS, DG, TMF, MB, LB, LCdT, EO, TMF, GS), been in 3 (C, LB, EO), and listened to 11 (same as I've seen plus TRP). I know absolutely nothing about the Tan Dun, the Rameau, and the Ravel, and very little about Lakme.

But I'm not sure I agree with this list. I suppose I can't argue too much with the operas I've neither seen nor heard, though I do know about them, and in all honestly I can't say anything about the ones I know nothing at all about. But then, should an opera unknown to an opera singer be included on a list of 20 must-see operas?

I suppose if I were to come up with a list, it would look something like this (noting that I haven't seen all of the following either):

  • Bizet's Carmen
  • Rossini's The Barber of Seville
  • Mozart's Don Giovanni
  • Verdi's Aida
  • Strauss' Salome
  • Mozart's The Magic Flute
  • Puccini's Tosca
  • Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier
  • Wagner's Tristan and Isolde
  • Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress
  • Puccini's La Boheme
  • Berg's Wozzeck
  • Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
  • Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin
  • Donizetti's Elixir of Love
  • Verdi's Rigoletto
  • Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
  • Britten's Peter Grimes
  • Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
  • Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites

Lohengrin was the last opera I cut from the list, because I realized I had left Donizetti off, and no list of must-see opera is complete without at least one Donizetti opera. Not having seen Lohengrin, it was the natural choice, as I don't really know if it would be a better opera than Meistersinger, Siegfried, or Flying Dutchman — clearly, I am not a Wagnerian! I also struggled with Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, which is one of my favorite operas, but I left it off because I feel the Debussy is probably more "important" and not too dissimilar because I suddenly realized I had left Peter Grimes off the list, an unforgivable omission, and because I felt I needed to include the Purcell (over Monteverdi's Orfeo or Coronation of Poppea or anything by Rameau, whose operas I only know the tiniest snippets of) as a representative or early opera. Also, maybe I should have left off Rigoletto and included instead Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. I think it would be better to expand this to a list of 25, in which case I would also include Bluebeard's Castle, Lohengrin, Pagliacci, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, and Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande… and now suddenly I want to expand this list to 30 — too many great must-see operas!

What would you add or leave out?

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