A bunch of well known operas (1-50)
In 2010 Talk Classical was hard at work compiling a list of best rated operas by its (operatically minded) members. For better or worse, list making and ranking is a beloved past time for TC-ers. Ranking beyond “I really like this, this and this, of which this is my favourite” is not my forte. But since I’m itching to start this blog yet I’m braindead from working nights, I thought it would be an acceptable compromise to go through this list with some of my own comments. So here are the first 50 spots as per 23/12/10:
1 Der Ring des Nibelungen (Wagner)
2 Tristan und Isolde (Wagner)
At the risk of appearing a boob, I don’t care about Wagner. The libretti deal with my least favourite topic – mythology – and the music sounds kind of ridiculous and plodding at the same time. The
singers shouters shout. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that one of Wagner’s inspirations for T&I was Bellini’s I Capuleti. That seems to me so strange as to not trust that I actually read it anywhere but that it was some sort of weird flight of imagination.
3 Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
When I saw it here at ROH a couple of weeks ago the thought hit me during the final act finale that “this is the best opera ever written”, although I don’t know that in normal circumstances (ie, now, at home, sat on the sofa) I care one way or another. What is important is that It’s always great fun and it lends itself to any revival provided the humour is not drained out of it by Guth.
4 Giulio Cesare (Handel)
Another one that’s fun to watch and listen to. What can I say? I like Handel, I like elaborately decorated da capo arias and I’m nuts about Ancient world settings (but not so Ancient they fall off history). This has got it all.
5 Les Troyens (Berlioz)
It’s a bit much but Berlioz was at least wacky as all get-out.
6 Don Giovanni (Mozart)
The rake punished. We’ve got it all: sex, murder, seduction, free for all partying, a wedding, social classes mixing, a stalker extraordinaire, a talking statue and an epic ending. They really knew how to work it back in the 1780s.
7 La Traviata (Verdi)
Early-ish Verdi is the Verdi that I can get down with. Musically this is still belcanto so it gets my approval. After the almost fun act I, the story gets a bit lame, but, hey! people still want to see it in the 21st century. I’ve done well just listening.
8 La Boheme (Puccini)
Whilst not a Puccini fan, I like watching this one. I don’t think I ever got a hankering to just listen to it, but I saw several productions which kept me interested at least until Musetta’s big moment. Speaking of which, I would have liked it a lot better had it had more Musetta and less Mimi. Mimi is such a meh, typical 19th century opera babe: she’s good, she’s in love, she dies.
9 Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss)
Strauss, Hofmannstahl and the 18th century free-wheelin’ ways. ’nuff said. I’m always amused by how philosophical young Octavian gets after a good shag. I wouldn’t put it beyond S&H to be taking the piss out of Hamlet’s monologue with this scene.
10 Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (Wagner)
I hear it’s a comedy.
11 Die Zauberflote (Mozart)
I can and will rave about Mozart day and night but this one is a bit of a mystery to me. Might be the supernatural angle but I ain’t quite feelin’ it.
12 Carmen (Bizet)
Carmen is fun and she’s right about Don Jose: the chap’s a bore. I bet he wished she was some sort of Mimi. Luckily, she didn’t get the memo about the typical 19th century operatic heroine and we’re spared the sentimentality. Probably the best death scene; runs shoulder to shoulder with Don Giovanni’s, in any case (and not for nothing, these two would have some fun together).
13 Parsifal (Wagner)
14 Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)
Il Barbiere is a curious work. I like listening to it, but I don’t get all ga-ga in the aftermath.
15 Otello (Verdi)
I’ve been very dutiful with Verdi: I tried. I listened to the version with Domingo, Milne and co. but I could only make it through 1 1/2 acts. The frantic pace was unintentionally humorous. And I don’t really care about any of the characters.