Good opera singers/pieces/albums to start with?

I'm a fan of classical music and I'm starting to get intrigued by opera. I'm not sure where to start. What songs or albums would you recommend for someone who hasn't listened to much yet? And who are some iconic singers?

1 Answer

  • 7 years ago
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    Start with "Carmen"--it's got a lot of really familiar tunes (that many people will recognize even if they never listen to classical music), along with dancing, intrigue, sex, and violence.

    There is a filmed version starring Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson (a soprano rather than the mezzo-soprano meant to sing this role). I didn't really care for that much, but it's on DVD and fairly easy to find (check your public library--many libraries carry DVDs & CDs for free checkout).

    However, I found this production on Youtube--also with Placido Domingo, but there are other full versions on Youtube that you can check out (as well as other operas).

    If you have a local opera company in your city, I highly recommend you go to at least one live production. Colleges and universities with conservatories also perform full-length operas that are open to the public at bargain prices(as well as classical music recitals by students which are often free).

    There are also many, many inexpensive compilation cds which put together several popular arias or choruses from many different operas and usually feature some top-name singers (and even those more obscure to the public are going to be competent--they ARE professionals).

    One such collection which I found at a Half-Price bookstore is "100 Best Opera Classics"--6 CDs of opera's "greatest hits" (EMI records). If you hear anything you like, you can look up the full opera somewhere--either to listen to or watch.

    Other accessible operas for "newbies":

    "Die Zauberflote" (The Magic Flute) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (and almost everything else Mozart wrote, but "The Magic Flute" is frequently performed in English without too much harm--though the German fits the music better).

    Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" and "Aida" (the same story Elton John later used for his Broadway musical version).

    Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme". It's one of his most popular operas though again--not my favorite. Beautiful music though. The musical "Rent" was based on this opera (updated with people dying of AIDS instead of "consumption")

    Other Puccini operas might also be to a newcomer's liking since Andrew Lloyd Webber has been frequently accused of ripping of Puccini (and in some cases it has been rather blatant).

    "Madama Butterfly", "Turandot" (where the often badly sung "Nessun Dorma" comes from--hear it sung correctly for a change), and "Gianni Schicchi" (a short comedic opera) where the popular "O Mio Babbino Caro" is featured.

    Other operas:

    Gioacchino Rossini's "Il barbiere di siviglia" (Barber of Seville)--some of the music wound up in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. This is "La Cenerentola" which is a charming version of "Cinderella"--this production stars the remarkable Frederica Von Stade:

    Youtube thumbnail

    There is so much to pick from! Try "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Donizetti, Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci", Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffman" and even Delibes' "Lakme" (where the famous "Flower Duet" used in an airline commercial originated).

    If you're brave and have a long attention span, you might want to try some Wagner operas.

    Names of opera singers (past and present)--just a few of many talented singers. No particular order than just off the top of my head.

    Luciano Pavarotti

    Placido Domingo

    Maria Callas

    Joan Sutherland

    Marilyn Horne

    Lily Pons

    Jessye Norman

    Ruggero Raimondi

    Robert Merrill

    Samuel Ramey

    Renee Fleming

    Cecilia Bartoli

    Frederica Von Stade

    Thomas Hampton

    Susan Graham

    Janet Baker

    Teresa Berganza

    Monserrat Caballe

    Victoria de los Angeles

    Beverly Sills

    Kathleen Battle

    Ileana Cotrubas

    Joyce DiDonato

    Diana Damrau

    Just so many!

    Here is a link to a list of tenors:

    Youtube thumbnail

    Here is also a link if you simply would like to listen to some opera arias and other classical songs--no one 'famous" but she was a professional singer and these are beautifully and intelligently sung performances. I found her website by accident and frequently refer it to students wanting ideas on soprano repertoire.

    Source(s): I suggest you search Yahoo Answers for more opera suggestions--there is a whole Classical music section and this is a typical question.
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