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Top 10 Greatest Operas

by Schiesl
fact checked by dickensgirl

I, like JFrater, am a lover of opera and have performed in a few as well. Here is my list of the 10 best operas of all time. The items are picked through online voting and my own personal preferences, here ya go! [JFrater would like to publicly protest the exclusion of any 20th Century operas, but defers to the wisdom of the contributor.]


Jacopo Peri

This one is on the list only because it is the first opera ever written! Though almost none of it survives today, I believe the first of anything should be on a list! (Many historians, and JFrater, believe Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th century “Ordo virtutum” is the first opera, but it is not known if it was ever staged, Daphne was). The clip above is not from Daphne, but Peri’s music is very hard to find, so this is a clip of a counter-tenor singing an excerpt from Invocazione di Orfeo.


Der Freischütz
Carl Maria von Weber

This, although not well known or well liked, is one of my favorite German operas. Inspired by German folk music and the romantic ideals of the day. It is the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil so he can shoot straighter and win the heart of a woman. But, as in many cases, he dies. The Wolf Glen Scene is very creepy and awesome.


The Barber of Seville
Gioacchino Rossini

From Largo al Factotum to the amazing overture, it has one of the most recognizable first 10 minutes of any opera. This is about a man named Count Almaviva trying to win the heart of a beautiful girl, with the help of Figaro, the local barber.


Madame Butterfly
Giacomo Puccini

The story takes place in Japan in the 1890’s. Tamaki Miura became famous for her part in this opera! This is about a young Geisha woman named Butterfly and her love triangle with Lt. Pinkerton and Suzuki.


Don Giovanni
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This is a two act opera based on Don Juan. Motzart is famous for having both comedy and dramatics in his operas and this is no different. It also contains one of my favorite operatic scenes where Don Giovanni doesn’t repent for his sins and is sent to hell, great part!


La Traviata
Giuseppe Verdi

This story follows the courtesan Violletta and her love of a man named Alfredo. She has Tuberculosis and is dying. Sadly, as in most operas, she dies and it takes a long time. She dies in the arms of her love Alfredo. Some very beautiful and amazing arias throughout this work. Fantastic!


Der Ring des Nibelungen
Richard Wagner

This is technically more than one opera, but has been shoved together as one. It is the longest opera ever written. The four operas are called:

Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold)
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)

As you will see in the clip above, the Ring Cycle contains some of the greatest and most well known of Wagner’s music.


The Marriage of Figaro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Part two of the three part series of Figaro (leading off with Rossini’s Barber of Seville or #9). This opera takes place entirely in one day in Count Almaviva’s Palace. It is famous for its mistaken identities and wonderful comedy woven throughout the opera, and of course the overture.


Georges Bizet

The opera of Carmen the Gypsy girl and her love of Don Jose. Like most operas, the love doesn’t last long and they start fighting and Carmen is killed in the end. Famous for its overture, the Song of the Toreador, and Habanera!


La Boheme
Giacomo Puccini

It is the most performed and most well liked opera of this and probobly any time! It is the inspiration for the musical “Rent!” and is similar in many ways, except they don’t have AIDS they have TB, well Mimi does and she of course dies.

Feel free all of you opera lovers to start arguing and I’m sure there will be a blood bath over this one. Sadly for some, I couldn’t find a good recording sorry, but I hope this suffices.

Contributor: Schiesl

fact checked by dickensgirl