An opinionated opera list

My top eleven, as of right now, in no particular order:
Puccini’s La bohème
Bizet’s Carmen
R. Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten
Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann
Tchaikowsky’s Pikovaya Dama (The Queen of Spades)
Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana
Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri
Mozart’s Così fan tutte
Shostakovich’sLady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Notice, no Verdi operas made the list this time.

Funniest opera which claims not to be a comedy: Verdi’s Il trovatore
Purportedly comic opera which has never made me laugh, not even once: Donizetti’s La fille du régiment
Best ending of an opera: Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites
Worst ending of an opera: Verdi’s Don Carlo(s)
Opera in most desperate need of a sequel: Tchaikowsky’s Eugene Onegin
Opera which would make a really nifty animated movie: Les contes d’Hoffmann
Opera with the most characters I’d want to punch in the nose if I met them: Puccini’s Turandot
Opera which really ought to be replaced by a disc of highlights: Handel’s Giulio Cesare
Favorite installment of Der Ring des Nibelungen: Götterdämerung
Some operas I have never seen: Bellini’s La sonnambula, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs des Perles
Most underrated and underperformed Verdi opera: Un ballo in maschera
Most overrated and overperformed Verdi opera: Aida
Creepiest opera: (tie) Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, Alban Berg’s Wozzeck
Best opera overture: (tie) J. Strauss’ Die fledermaus, Rossini’s Guillaume Tell
Opera which should be sanctioned by the United Nations as a human rights violation: Busoni’s Doktor Faust
Opera for which I would personally lead a multinational search to hunt down and burn every extant copy of the score: Pfitzner’s Palestrina
Opera for which performing venues should negotiate a commercial tie-in with the makers of Tylenol: Glass’ Einstein On The Beach
Best ballet music from an opera: (tie) Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, Borodin’s Prince Igor, Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride
Number of the above operas which I would watch or listen to if I knew the ballet was cut: 0
Best operetta (Viennese division): Lehar’s The Merry Widow
Best operetta (English division): Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance
Best operetta (Spanish division): Breton’s La verbena de la paloma
Best operetta (French division): Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers
Best tenor arias: “Languir per una bella ” from L’Italiana in Algeri, “Che gelida manina” from La boheme, “Di quella pira” from Il trovatore
Best baritone arias: “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, “Credo in un dio crudel” from Verdi’s Otello, Yeletsky’s aria from The Queen of Spades
Best bass arias: “Ella giammai m’amo”/”Elle ne m’aime pas” from Don Carlo(s), “La del ciel nell’arcano profondo” from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Claggart’s monologue from Britten’s Billy Budd
Best soprano arias: “Deh vieni, non tardar” from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, “Der Hölle Rache” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, “Con onor muore” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
Best mezzo arias: “Nacqui all’affano” from Cenerentola, Judgment scene from Aida, “Voi che sapete” from Le Nozze di Figaro
Best contralto arias: “Je crains de lui parler la nuit” from The Queen of Spades, “Re dell’abisso, affrettati” from Un ballo in maschera
Best choral scenes: Humming chorus from Madama Butterfly, “Wach Auf” from Meistersinger, “Ineggiamo al signor” from Cavalleria Rusticana Coronation scene from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov
Best mad scenes
: Lucia di Lammermoor, Boris Godunov



  1. Dr. Weevil

    A few questions and comments:
    1. What do you have against Busoni and Pfitzner? Is it the music, the plots (like those are important), or what?
    2. If you had still been in the northeastern U.S. this past season, you could have seen Manon Lescaut in Washington and Les Pecheurs de Perle in Philadelphia. I missed them both myself, though, and will also miss La Sonnambula, coming up in August in Santa Fe.
    3. I’m curious: what’s the most obscure opera you’ve seen? I mean the one you think the fewest of your readers have seen or ever will. To be fair, leave out first productions and works by living authors. What makes me ask is that I saw Salieri’s Falstaff last night at Wolftrap: very nice, and not likely to be repeated any time soon, though it is (surprisingly) available on DVD.
    4. One more question: What opera not in the repertory should be?
    Just wondering . . . .