List of important operas

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The operas listed cover all important genres, and include all operas regularly performed today, from seventeenth-century works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Purcell to late twentieth-century operas by Messiaen, Berio, Glass, Adams, Birtwistle, and Weir. The brief accompanying notes offer an explanation as to why each opera has been considered important. For an introduction to operatic history, see Opera. The organisation of the list is by year of first performance, or, if this was long after the composer's death, approximate date of composition.

Criteria for inclusion: This list provides a guide to the most important operas, as determined by their presence on a majority of compiled lists of significant operas: see the Lists consulted section for full details.

1600–1699[edit]

Portrait of Claudio Monteverdi holding the mask of tragedy, painting by Domenico Fetti, 1640.
  • 1607 L'Orfeo (Claudio Monteverdi). This is widely regarded as the first operatic masterwork.[1]
  • 1640 Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Monteverdi). Monteverdi's first opera for Venice, based on Homer's Odyssey, displays the composer's mastery of portrayal of genuine individuals as opposed to stereotypes.[2]
  • 1642 L'incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi). Monteverdi's last opera, composed for a Venetian audience, is often performed today. Its Venetian context helps to explain the complete absence of the moralizing tone often associated with opera of this time.[2]
  • 1644 Ormindo (Francesco Cavalli). One of the first of Cavalli's operas to be revived in the 20th century, Ormindo is considered one of his more attractive works.[2]
  • 1649 Giasone (Cavalli). In Giasone Cavalli, for the first time, separated aria and recitative.[2] Giasone was the most popular opera of the 17th century.[3]
  • 1651 La Calisto (Cavalli). The ninth of the eleven operas that Cavalli wrote with Faustini is noted for its satire of the deities of classical mythology.[4]
  • 1683 Dido and Aeneas (Henry Purcell). Often considered to be the first genuine English-language operatic masterwork. Not first performed in 1689 at a girls' school, as is commonly believed, but at Charles II's court in 1683.[5]
  • 1692 The Fairy-Queen (Purcell). A semi-opera rather than a genuine opera, this is often thought to be Purcell's finest dramatic work.[5]

1700–1749[edit]

George Frideric Handel. Painting by Balthasar Denner, 1733.
  • 1710 Agrippina (Handel). Handel's last opera that he composed in Italy was a great success,[6] and established his reputation as a composer of Italian opera.[7]
  • 1711 Rinaldo (Handel). Handel's first opera for the London stage was also the first all-Italian opera performed on the London stage.[7]
  • 1724 Giulio Cesare (Handel). This Handel opera is noted for the richness of its orchestration.[7]
  • 1724 Tamerlano (Handel). This work is described by Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove Music Online, as possessing a "taut dramatic power".[7]
  • 1725 Rodelinda (Handel). Rodelinda is often praised for the fullness of the melodic writing among Handel's output.[7]
  • 1728 The Beggar's Opera (Johann Christoph Pepusch). A satire of Italian opera seria based on a play by John Gay, the ballad opera format of The Beggar's Opera has proved popular even up to the current time.[8]
  • 1731 Acis and Galatea (Handel). This is Handel's only work for the theatre that is set to an English libretto.[9]
  • 1733 Orlando (Handel). An opera that is described by Anthony Hicks as "remarkable" [7] and by Orrey as one of Handel's "best works".[9]
  • 1733 La serva padrona (Giovanni Battista Pergolesi). La serva padrona became a model for many of the opera buffas that followed it, including those of Mozart.[10]
  • 1733 Hippolyte et Aricie (Jean-Philippe Rameau). Rameau's first opera caused great controversy at its premiere.[11]
  • 1735 Ariodante (Handel). Both this opera and Alcina enjoy high critical reputations today.[7]
  • 1735 Alcina (Handel). Both this work and Ariodante were part of Handel's first opera season at Covent Garden.[7]
  • 1735 Les Indes galantes (Rameau). In this work Rameau added emotional depth and power to the traditionally lighter form of opera-ballet.[11]
  • 1737 Castor et Pollux (Rameau). Initially only a moderate success, when it was revived in 1754 Castor et Pollux was regarded as Rameau's finest achievement.[11]
  • 1738 Serse (Handel). A deviation from the usual model of opera seria, Serse contains many comic elements rare in Handel's other works.[7]
  • 1744 Semele (Handel). Originally performed as an oratorio, Semele's dramatic qualities have often led to the work being performed on the opera stage in modern times.[12]
  • 1745 Platée (Rameau). Rameau's most famous comic opera. Originally a court entertainment, a 1754 revival proved extremely popular with French audiences.[11]

1750–1799[edit]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aged 21 in 1777.

1800–1832[edit]

A portrait of Rossini

1833–1849[edit]

Gaetano Donizetti

1850–1875[edit]

Richard Wagner

1876–1899[edit]

Giuseppe Verdi, the celebrated portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1886 (National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome).

1900–1920[edit]

1921–1944[edit]

Giacomo Puccini

From 1945[edit]

Igor Stravinsky

Significant firsts in opera history[edit]

Operas not included in the above list, but which were important milestones in operatic history.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ John Whenham, writing in Grove
  2. ^ a b c d Ellen Rosand, writing in Grove
  3. ^ Viking p.191
  4. ^ Martha Novak Clinkscale, writing in Grove
  5. ^ a b Curtis Price, writing in Grove
  6. ^ Viking p.418: According to John Mainwaring, Handel's first biographer, 'The theatre at almost every pause resounded with shouts of "Viva il caro Sassone". They were thunderstruck by the sublimity of his style: for never had they known till then all the powers of harmony and modulation so closely arrayed and forcibly combined'".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove
  8. ^ Robert D. Hume, writing in Grove
  9. ^ a b Orrey p.64
  10. ^ Orrey pp.90–91
  11. ^ a b c d Graham Sadler, writing in Grove
  12. ^ Stanley Sadie, writing in Grove
  13. ^ Mary Hunter, writing in Grove
  14. ^ Viking pp.375–6
  15. ^ Viking pp.378–9
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Julian Rushton, writing in Grove
  17. ^ Viking p.381
  18. ^ Caryl Clark, writing in Grove
  19. ^ Viking p.393
  20. ^ Viking p.370
  21. ^ Orrey p.110
  22. ^ Orrey p. 113
  23. ^ Viking p.752
  24. ^ Orrey p.107
  25. ^ Orrey p.113
  26. ^ Orrey p.114
  27. ^ Gordana Lazarevich, writing in Grove
  28. ^ Viking pp.210–211
  29. ^ Viking p.59
  30. ^ Viking p.1002-1004
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Richard Osborne, writing in Grove
  32. ^ Viking p.1212-14
  33. ^ Viking p.1214-15
  34. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.136
  35. ^ Clive Brown, writing in Grove
  36. ^ a b Simon Maguire, writing in Grove
  37. ^ A. Dean Palmer, writing in Grove
  38. ^ Viking p.884; pp.917–18
  39. ^ a b William Ashbrook, writing in Grove
  40. ^ Viking p.38
  41. ^ Viking p.66
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Julian Budden, writing in Grove
  43. ^ Orrey p.132
  44. ^ Viking p.659-60
  45. ^ Viking p.70
  46. ^ Viking p.609
  47. ^ Viking p.277
  48. ^ Viking p.278
  49. ^ Viking p.1176
  50. ^ Viking p.71
  51. ^ Viking p.412
  52. ^ Viking p.280
  53. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.246 ff.
  54. ^ Viking pp. 660
  55. ^ Viking p.282
  56. ^ Viking p.92
  57. ^ a b Viking p.1125
  58. ^ a b Viking p.285
  59. ^ Viking p.584
  60. ^ a b c d Roger Parker, writing in Grove
  61. ^ Viking p.1177
  62. ^ Viking p.368
  63. ^ Viking p.1179
  64. ^ Viking p.288
  65. ^ Viking p.1127
  66. ^ Viking p.48
  67. ^ Viking p.1128
  68. ^ Viking p.1181
  69. ^ a b Viking p.1132
  70. ^ a b Viking p.94
  71. ^ Viking p.328
  72. ^ Viking p.726
  73. ^ Viking p.661
  74. ^ Viking p.1138
  75. ^ Viking p.968
  76. ^ Viking p.1184-86
  77. ^ Viking p.1139
  78. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.192
  79. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.193
  80. ^ Viking p.1143
  81. ^ Viking p.1144
  82. ^ Viking p.228
  83. ^ Viking p.735
  84. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on CD p.114
  85. ^ Viking p.1147
  86. ^ Viking p.97
  87. ^ Viking p.1149
  88. ^ Viking p.115
  89. ^ Viking p.736
  90. ^ Viking p.397
  91. ^ Viking p.664
  92. ^ Viking p.1196
  93. ^ Viking p.1098
  94. ^ Viking p.988
  95. ^ Viking p.1152
  96. ^ Viking p.116
  97. ^ Viking p.398
  98. ^ Viking p.990
  99. ^ Viking p.1198
  100. ^ Viking p.1099
  101. ^ a b Viking p.738
  102. ^ Viking p.131
  103. ^ Viking p.1188
  104. ^ Viking p.1190
  105. ^ Viking p.718
  106. ^ Viking p.1020
  107. ^ Viking p.992
  108. ^ Viking p.118
  109. ^ Viking p.1191
  110. ^ Viking p.1192
  111. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs p.53
  112. ^ Hugh Macdonald, writing in Grove
  113. ^ Viking p.1087
  114. ^ Viking p.624
  115. ^ Viking p.1201
  116. ^ Viking p.866
  117. ^ Viking p.252
  118. ^ Viking p.807
  119. ^ Viking p.625
  120. ^ Viking p.1022
  121. ^ Viking p.720
  122. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs p.54
  123. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.164-5
  124. ^ Viking p.618
  125. ^ Viking p.134
  126. ^ a b c Richard Taruskin, writing in Grove
  127. ^ Peter Ross, writing in Grove
  128. ^ Viking p.1094
  129. ^ Michele Girardi, writing in Grove
  130. ^ Viking p.564
  131. ^ a b c Rodney Milnes, writing in Grove
  132. ^ Ian Denley, in The New Grove
  133. ^ Jan Smaczny, writing in Grove
  134. ^ Viking p.203
  135. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p.269
  136. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp.281–7
  137. ^ Viking p.728
  138. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.304
  139. ^ Viking p.559
  140. ^ Viking p.1026
  141. ^ Viking p.729
  142. ^ Viking p.256
  143. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.285
  144. ^ Viking p.871
  145. ^ Viking p.502
  146. ^ Viking p.1028
  147. ^ Viking p.1241
  148. ^ Viking p.872
  149. ^ Viking p.635
  150. ^ Viking p.1029
  151. ^ Viking p.849
  152. ^ Viking p.1031
  153. ^ Peter Franklin, writing in Grove
  154. ^ Viking p.314
  155. ^ Viking p.137
  156. ^ Viking p.1045
  157. ^ Viking p.485
  158. ^ Viking p.168
  159. ^ Viking p.1251
  160. ^ Viking p.773
  161. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.286-7
  162. ^ a b c David Murray, writing in Grove
  163. ^ Christopher Palmer, writing in Grove
  164. ^ Viking p.505
  165. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.306
  166. ^ Viking p.1252
  167. ^ Viking p.953
  168. ^ a b Michael Kennedy, writing in Grove
  169. ^ Viking p.506
  170. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.297
  171. ^ Roger Nichols, writing in Grove
  172. ^ Orrey p.218
  173. ^ Viking p.477
  174. ^ Tibor Tallián, writing in Grove
  175. ^ Viking p.1076
  176. ^ a b John Tyrrell, writing in Grove
  177. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.310-11
  178. ^ Viking p.542
  179. ^ a b Stephen Hinton, writing in Grove
  180. ^ Viking p.980
  181. ^ Orrey p.220
  182. ^ Laurel E. Fay, writing in Grove
  183. ^ Viking p.1039
  184. ^ Richard Crawford, writing in Grove
  185. ^ Orrey p.219
  186. ^ Viking p.1120
  187. ^ Viking p.1041
  188. ^ Viking p.613
  189. ^ Viking p.480
  190. ^ Viking p.143
  191. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.316
  192. ^ Viking p.1115
  193. ^ Viking p.144
  194. ^ Viking p.803
  195. ^ Viking p.802
  196. ^ a b c Bruce Archibald, writing in Grove
  197. ^ a b c d e f Arnold Whittal, writing in Grove
  198. ^ Viking p.307
  199. ^ Viking p.793
  200. ^ Anthony Sellors, writing in Grove
  201. ^ Viking p.649
  202. ^ Viking p.1050
  203. ^ Viking p.462
  204. ^ Viking ref.152
  205. ^ Viking p.1208
  206. ^ a b c Geraint Lewis, writing in Grove
  207. ^ Jon Alan Conrad, writing in Grove
  208. ^ Viking p.794
  209. ^ a b Barbara B. Heyman, writing in Grove
  210. ^ Viking p.795
  211. ^ a b c d e f g h Andrew Clements, writing in Grove
  212. ^ a b Orrey, p.234
  213. ^ a b Adrian Thomas, writing in Grove
  214. ^ Viking p.159
  215. ^ Viking p.243
  216. ^ a b Paul Griffiths, writing in Grove
  217. ^ Viking p.854
  218. ^ David Osmond-Smith, writing in Grove
  219. ^ Tim Page, writing in Grove
  220. ^ Viking p.108
  221. ^ Viking p.1232
  222. ^ Viking p.18
  223. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p.8
  224. ^ Viking p.174
  225. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.31
  226. ^ Viking p.180
  227. ^ Stein (1999), paragraph six
  228. ^ Russell: "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online

Sources

  • Boyden, Matthew, et al. (1997). Opera, the Rough Guide. ISBN 1-85828-138-5. 
  • Czajkowski, Paul; Edward Greenfield; Ivan March; Robert Layton (ed.), The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs 2005 - 2006: The Key Classical Recordings on CD, DVD and SACD. ISBN 0-14-102262-0
  • Encyclopædia Britannica: Macropedia Volume 24, 15th edition. "Opera" in "Musical forms and genres". ISBN 0-85229-434-4
  • Grout, Donald Jay and Claude V. Palisca (1996). A History of Western Music, 5th edition. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-96904-5
  • Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 19 January 2007), grovemusic.com, subscription access. (Various entries on operas, composers and genres)
  • Orrey, Leslie and Milne, Rodney. Opera: A Concise History. World of Art, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20217-6. 
  • Parker, Roger (ed). (1994). The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816282-0. 
  • Russell,Craig H., "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed September 18, 2008), (subscription access)
  • Stein, Louise K. (1999), La púrpura de la Rosa (Introduction to the critical edition of the score and libretto), Ediciones Iberautor Promociones culturales S.R.L. / Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales, 1999, ISBN 84-8048-292-3 (reprinted with permission of the publisher on Mundoclasico.com). Accessed 5 September 2008.
  • The Viking Opera Guide (1993). ISBN 0-670-81292-7 Contributions are by noted specialists in their fields.
  • Warrack, John; West, Ewan (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. ISBN 0-19-869164-5. 

Lists consulted[edit]

This list was compiled by consulting nine lists of great operas, created by recognized authorities in the field of opera, and selecting all of the operas which appeared on at least five of these (i.e. all operas on a majority of the lists). The lists used were:

  1. "A-Z of Opera by Keith Anderson, Naxos, 2000". 
  2. "The Standard Repertoire of Grand Opera 1607–1969", a list included in Norman Davies's Europe: a History (OUP, 1996; paperback edition Pimlico, 1997). ISBN 0-7126-6633-8.
  3. Operas appearing in the chronology by Mary Ann Smart in The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (OUP, 1994). ISBN 0-19-816282-0.
  4. Operas with entries in The New Kobbe's Opera Book, ed. Lord Harewood (Putnam, 9th ed., 1997). ISBN 0-370-10020-4
  5. "Table of Contents of The Rough Guide to Opera".  by Matthew Boyden. (2002 edition). ISBN 1-85828-749-9.
  6. Operas with entries in The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera ed. Paul Gruber (Thames and Hudson, 1993). ISBN 0-393-03444-5 and/or Metropolitan Opera Stories of the Great Operas ed. John W Freeman (Norton, 1984). ISBN 0-393-01888-1
  7. List of operas and their composers in Who's Who in British Opera ed. Nicky Adam (Scolar Press, 1993). ISBN 0-85967-894-6
  8. Entries for individual operas in Warrack, John, and Ewan West (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869164-5. 
  9. Entries for individual operas in Who's Who in Opera: a guide to opera characters by Joyce Bourne (Oxford University Press, 1998). ISBN 0-19-210023-8

Operas included in all 9 lists[edit]