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List of important operas

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List of important operas

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 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

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.[3] Giasone was the most popular opera of the 17th century.[4]
  • 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.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • 1692 The Fairy-Queen (Purcell). A semi-opera rather than a genuine opera, this is often thought to be Purcell's finest dramatic work.[6]

1700–1749

George Frideric Handel. Painting by Balthasar Denner, 1733.
  • 1710 Agrippina (Handel). Handel's last opera that he composed in Italy was a great success,[7] and established his reputation as a composer of Italian opera.[8]
  • 1711 Rinaldo (Handel). Handel's first opera for the London stage was also the first all-Italian opera performed on the London stage.[8]
  • 1724 Giulio Cesare (Handel). This Handel opera is noted for the richness of its orchestration.[8]
  • 1724 Tamerlano (Handel). This work is described by Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove Music Online, as possessing a "taut dramatic power".[8]
  • 1725 Rodelinda (Handel). Rodelinda is often praised for the fullness of the melodic writing among Handel's output.[8]
  • 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.[9]
  • 1731 Acis and Galatea (Handel). This is Handel's only work for the theatre that is set to an English libretto.[10]
  • 1733 Orlando (Handel). An opera that is described by Anthony Hicks as "remarkable" [8] and by Orrey as one of Handel's "best works".[10]
  • 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.[11]
  • 1733 Hippolyte et Aricie (Jean-Philippe Rameau). Rameau's first opera caused great controversy at its premiere.[12]
  • 1735 Ariodante (Handel). Both this opera and Alcina enjoy high critical reputations today.[8]
  • 1735 Alcina (Handel). Both this work and Ariodante were part of Handel's first opera season at Covent Garden.[8]
  • 1735 Les Indes galantes (Rameau). In this work Rameau added emotional depth and power to the traditionally lighter form of opera-ballet.[12]
  • 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.[12]
  • 1738 Serse (Handel). A deviation from the usual model of opera seria, Serse contains many comic elements rare in Handel's other works.[8]
  • 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.[13]
  • 1745 Platée (Rameau). Rameau's most famous comic opera. Originally a court entertainment, a 1754 revival proved extremely popular with French audiences.[12]

1750–1799

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aged 21 in 1777.

1800–1832

A portrait of Rossini

1833–1849

Gaetano Donizetti

1850–1875

Richard Wagner

1876–1899

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

1900–1920

1921–1944

Giacomo Puccini

From 1945

Igor Stravinsky

Significant firsts in opera history

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

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ John Whenham, writing in Grove
  2. ^ a b c Ellen Rosand, writing in Grove
  3. ^
  4. ^ Viking p.191
  5. ^ Martha Novak Clinkscale, writing in Grove
  6. ^ a b Curtis Price, writing in Grove
  7. ^ 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'".
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove
  9. ^ Robert D. Hume, writing in Grove
  10. ^ a b Orrey p.64
  11. ^ Orrey pp.90–91
  12. ^ a b c d Graham Sadler, writing in Grove
  13. ^ Stanley Sadie, writing in Grove
  14. ^ Mary Hunter, writing in Grove
  15. ^ Viking pp.375–6
  16. ^ Viking pp.378–9
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Julian Rushton, writing in Grove
  18. ^ Viking p.381
  19. ^ Caryl Clark, writing in Grove
  20. ^ Viking p.393
  21. ^ Viking p.370
  22. ^ Orrey p.110
  23. ^ Orrey p. 113
  24. ^ Viking p.752
  25. ^ Orrey p.107
  26. ^ Orrey p.113
  27. ^ Orrey p.114
  28. ^ Gordana Lazarevich, writing in Grove
  29. ^ Viking pp.210–211
  30. ^ Viking p.59
  31. ^ Viking p.1002-1004
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Richard Osborne, writing in Grove
  33. ^ Viking p.1212-14
  34. ^ Viking p.1214-15
  35. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.136
  36. ^ Clive Brown, writing in Grove
  37. ^ a b Simon Maguire, writing in Grove
  38. ^ A. Dean Palmer, writing in Grove
  39. ^ Viking p.884; pp.917–18
  40. ^ a b William Ashbrook, writing in Grove
  41. ^ Viking p.38
  42. ^ Viking p.66
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Julian Budden, writing in Grove
  44. ^ Orrey p.132
  45. ^ Viking p.659-60
  46. ^ Viking p.70
  47. ^ Viking p.609
  48. ^ Viking p.277
  49. ^ Viking p.278
  50. ^ Viking p.1176
  51. ^ Viking p.71
  52. ^ Viking p.412
  53. ^ Viking p.280
  54. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.246 ff.
  55. ^ Viking pp. 660
  56. ^ Viking p.282
  57. ^ Viking p.92
  58. ^ a b Viking p.1125
  59. ^ a b Viking p.285
  60. ^ Viking p.584
  61. ^ a b c d Roger Parker, writing in Grove
  62. ^ Viking p.1177
  63. ^ Viking p.368
  64. ^ Viking p.1179
  65. ^ Viking p.288
  66. ^ Viking p.1127
  67. ^ Viking p.48
  68. ^ Viking p.1128
  69. ^ Viking p.1181
  70. ^ a b Viking p.1132
  71. ^ a b Viking p.94
  72. ^ Viking p.328
  73. ^ Viking p.726
  74. ^ Viking p.661
  75. ^ Viking p.1138
  76. ^ Viking p.968
  77. ^ Viking p.1184-86
  78. ^ Viking p.1139
  79. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.192
  80. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.193
  81. ^ Viking p.1143
  82. ^ Viking p.1144
  83. ^ Viking p.228
  84. ^ Viking p.735
  85. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on CD p.114
  86. ^ Viking p.1147
  87. ^ Viking p.97
  88. ^ Viking p.1149
  89. ^ Viking p.115
  90. ^ Viking p.736
  91. ^ Viking p.397
  92. ^ Viking p.664
  93. ^ Viking p.1196
  94. ^ Viking p.1098
  95. ^ Viking p.988
  96. ^ Viking p.1152
  97. ^ Viking p.116
  98. ^ Viking p.398
  99. ^ Viking p.990
  100. ^ Viking p.1198
  101. ^ Viking p.1099
  102. ^ a b Viking p.738
  103. ^ Viking p.131
  104. ^ Viking p.1188
  105. ^ Viking p.1190
  106. ^ Viking p.718
  107. ^ Viking p.1020
  108. ^ Viking p.992
  109. ^ Viking p.118
  110. ^ Viking p.1191
  111. ^ Viking p.1192
  112. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs p.53
  113. ^ Hugh Macdonald, writing in Grove
  114. ^ Viking p.1087
  115. ^ Viking p.624
  116. ^ Viking p.1201
  117. ^ Viking p.866
  118. ^ Viking p.252
  119. ^ Viking p.807
  120. ^ Viking p.625
  121. ^ Viking p.1022
  122. ^ Viking p.720
  123. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs p.54
  124. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.164-5
  125. ^ Viking p.618
  126. ^ Viking p.134
  127. ^ a b c Richard Taruskin, writing in Grove
  128. ^ Peter Ross, writing in Grove
  129. ^ Viking p.1094
  130. ^ Michele Girardi, writing in Grove
  131. ^ Viking p.564
  132. ^ a b c Rodney Milnes, writing in Grove
  133. ^ Ian Denley, in The New Grove
  134. ^ Jan Smaczny, writing in Grove
  135. ^ Viking p.203
  136. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p.269
  137. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp.281–7
  138. ^ Viking p.728
  139. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.304
  140. ^ Viking p.559
  141. ^ Viking p.1026
  142. ^ Viking p.729
  143. ^ Viking p.256
  144. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.285
  145. ^ Viking p.871
  146. ^ Viking p.502
  147. ^ Viking p.1028
  148. ^ Viking p.1241
  149. ^ Viking p.872
  150. ^ Viking p.635
  151. ^ Viking p.1029
  152. ^ Viking p.849
  153. ^ Viking p.1031
  154. ^ Peter Franklin, writing in Grove
  155. ^ Viking p.314
  156. ^ Viking p.137
  157. ^ Viking p.1045
  158. ^ Viking p.485
  159. ^ Viking p.168
  160. ^ Viking p.1251
  161. ^ Viking p.773
  162. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.286-7
  163. ^ a b c David Murray, writing in Grove
  164. ^ Christopher Palmer, writing in Grove
  165. ^ Viking p.505
  166. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.306
  167. ^ Viking p.1252
  168. ^ Viking p.953
  169. ^ a b Michael Kennedy, writing in Grove
  170. ^ Viking p.506
  171. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.297
  172. ^ Roger Nichols, writing in Grove
  173. ^ Orrey p.218
  174. ^ Viking p.477
  175. ^ Tibor Tallián, writing in Grove
  176. ^ Viking p.1076
  177. ^ a b John Tyrrell, writing in Grove
  178. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.310-11
  179. ^ Viking p.542
  180. ^ a b Stephen Hinton, writing in Grove
  181. ^ Viking p.980
  182. ^ Orrey p.220
  183. ^ Laurel E. Fay, writing in Grove
  184. ^ Viking p.1039
  185. ^ Richard Crawford, writing in Grove
  186. ^ Orrey p.219
  187. ^ Viking p.1120
  188. ^ Viking p.1041
  189. ^ Viking p.613
  190. ^ Viking p.480
  191. ^ Viking p.143
  192. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.316
  193. ^ Viking p.1115
  194. ^ Viking p.144
  195. ^ Viking p.803
  196. ^ Viking p.802
  197. ^ a b c Bruce Archibald, writing in Grove
  198. ^ a b c d e f Arnold Whittal, writing in Grove
  199. ^ Viking p.307
  200. ^ Viking p.793
  201. ^ Anthony Sellors, writing in Grove
  202. ^ Viking p.649
  203. ^ Viking p.1050
  204. ^ Viking p.462
  205. ^ Viking ref.152
  206. ^ Viking p.1208
  207. ^ a b c Geraint Lewis, writing in Grove
  208. ^ Jon Alan Conrad, writing in Grove
  209. ^ Viking p.794
  210. ^ a b Barbara B. Heyman, writing in Grove
  211. ^ Viking p.795
  212. ^ a b c d e f g h Andrew Clements, writing in Grove
  213. ^ a b Orrey, p.234
  214. ^ a b Adrian Thomas, writing in Grove
  215. ^ Viking p.159
  216. ^ Viking p.243
  217. ^ a b Paul Griffiths, writing in Grove
  218. ^ Viking p.854
  219. ^ David Osmond-Smith, writing in Grove
  220. ^ Tim Page, writing in Grove
  221. ^ Viking p.108
  222. ^ Viking p.1232
  223. ^ Viking p.18
  224. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p.8
  225. ^ Viking p.174
  226. ^ Oxford Illustrated p.31
  227. ^ Viking p.180
  228. ^ Stein (1999), paragraph six
  229. ^ Russell: "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online

Sources

Lists consulted

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. by Keith Anderson, Naxos, 2000"A-Z of Opera". 
  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. "The Rough Guide to Opera"Table of Contents of .  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.  
  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

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