I published my Ten Favorite Musicals list yesterday, so just for the hell of it, I'm going to post my Ten Favorite Operas today.
While my favorite kind of music is rock in its various manifestations, I also like Broadway style musicals, opera and classical music. I only became an opera fan when I was well into my 30s, largely because of the language thing (I suck at learning foreign languages). But with the coming of sub-titles, I took the plunge, and I've been an opera fan ever since.
Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of opera on Long Island, and the older I get, the less often I feel like going into the city. I used to like to go to City Opera a lot, before it lost its permanent home in Lincoln Center. But these days, as much as I love the Met, I rarely see live opera anymore.
Anyway, I'm definitely no expert, but I know what I like. So here are my ten favorite operas:
1. La Boheme - Puccini. Puccini is definitely my favorite opera composer. The music is beautiful for this one, and the story very sad -- they're so young, but so poor. For you show kids, this is the original version of Rent.
2. La Traviata - Verdi. Verdi would be my second favorite composer. The story here is in many ways similar to La Boheme -- they're young. They fall in love. She dies of consumption. Sorry for the spoilers.
3. Tales of Hoffman - Offenbach. When I was in my 20s, they used to show a version of this starring Placido Domingo every New Year's Eve on PBS. I wasn't ready for opera in general at that time, but the fantastic elements of this one appealed to me. Favorite line (translated into English): "Let's drink, and sleep in the gutter!" It fit in with my philosophy of life back then.
4. Turandot - Puccini. Used to be very underrated, until Pavarotti popularized the aria "Nessun Dorma". Gorgeous from beginning to end.
5. Aida - Verdi. Another tragic love story, done in grand spectacle. For you show kids, this what Elton John and Tim Rice based their musical on. An Egyptian story, and the Met version used to actually bring elephants on stage.
6. Eugene Onegin - Tchaikovsky. Sort of the Russian version of La Boheme and La Traviata, except the lovers live at the end, but they're apart and both miserable. Oh, and he kills his best friend in a duel. Like so many of the best operas, it's a real chucklefest.
7. Rigoletto - Verdi. The tale of a mean-spirited hunchback jester, his beautiful and innocent daughter, and a haughty, womanizing prince. Hilarity ensues. Not.
8. Carmen - Bizet. You might not think you're familiar with this opera, but I guarantee if you see it, you'll be like, "Oh, I know that one. Hey, I know that one, too!"
9. Don Giovanni - Mozart. An immoral womanizer, three young women, and a statue bent on revenge. Bring them all together, and hilarity ensues. (Actually, it does at times, though not so much at the end).
10. La Fanciulla del West - Puccini. An operatic western. Italian guys just love American cowboys. And why not?
Honorable Mention: Boris Godunov - Mussorgsky; Doctor Atomic - Adams; The Voyage - Glass; Romeo et Juliet - Gounod; Madama Butterfly - Puccini.
As for Wagner, I respect him, but I've never been able to love him. I need arias to keep me interested, and Wagner doesn't do arias. I'll keep working on him, though.
So that's my list.