List of important operas

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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 Opera, the organisation of the list is by year of first performance, or, if this was long after the composer's death, approximate date of composition.

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[edit]

  • 1607 L'Orfeo (Claudio Monteverdi). 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.[2] Giasone was the most popular opera of the 17th century.[3]
  • 1651 La Calisto (Cavalli). Ninth of the eleven operas that Cavalli wrote with Faustini is noted for its satire of the deities of classical mythology.[4]
  • 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.[5]
  • 1692 The Fairy-Queen (Purcell). A semi-opera rather than a genuine opera, this is often thought to be Purcell's finest dramatic work.[5]

1700–1749[edit]

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, 1733
  • 1710 Agrippina (Handel). Handel's last opera that he composed in Italy was a great success,[6] and established his reputation as a composer of Italian opera.[7]
  • 1711 Rinaldo (Handel). Handel's first opera for the London stage was also the first all-Italian opera performed on the London stage.[7]
  • 1724 Giulio Cesare (Handel). Noted for the richness of its orchestration.[7]
  • 1724 Tamerlano (Handel). Described by Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove Music Online, as possessing a "taut dramatic power".[7]
  • 1725 Rodelinda (Handel). Rodelinda is often praised for the fullness of the melodic writing among Handel's output.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • 1731 Acis and Galatea (Handel). Handel's only work for the theatre that is set to an English libretto.[9]
  • 1733 Orlando (Handel). An opera that is described by Anthony Hicks as "remarkable" [7] and by Orrey as one of Handel's "best works".[9]
  • 1733 La serva padrona (Giovanni Battista Pergolesi). Became a model for many of the opera buffas that followed it, including those of Mozart.[10]
  • 1733 Hippolyte et Aricie (Jean-Philippe Rameau). Rameau's first opera caused great controversy at its premiere.[11]
  • 1735 Ariodante (Handel). Both this opera and Alcina enjoy high critical reputations today.[7]
  • 1735 Alcina (Handel). Both this work and Ariodante were part of Handel's first opera season at Covent Garden.[7]
  • 1735 Les Indes galantes (Rameau). In this work Rameau added emotional depth and power to the traditionally lighter form of opéra-ballet.[11]
  • 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.[11]
  • 1738 Serse (Handel). Deviation from the usual model of opera seria, Serse contains many comic elements rare in Handel's other works.[7]
  • 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.[12]
  • 1745 Platée (Rameau). Rameau's most famous comic opera. Originally a court entertainment, a 1754 revival proved extremely popular with French audiences.[11]

1750–1799[edit]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aged 21 in 1777

1800–1832[edit]

Gioachino Rossini, 1820 (International Museum and Library of Music, Bologna)

1833–1849[edit]

1850–1875[edit]

1876–1899[edit]

1900–1920[edit]

1921–1944[edit]

From 1945[edit]

Significant firsts in opera history[edit]

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

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ John Whenham, writing in Grove
  2. ^ a b c d Ellen Rosand, writing in Grove
  3. ^ Viking p. 191
  4. ^ Martha Novak Clinkscale, writing in Grove
  5. ^ a b c Curtis Price, writing in Grove
  6. ^ 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'".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anthony Hicks, writing in Grove
  8. ^ Robert D. Hume, writing in Grove
  9. ^ a b Orrey p. 64
  10. ^ Orrey pp. 90–91
  11. ^ a b c d Graham Sadler, writing in Grove
  12. ^ Stanley Sadie, writing in Grove
  13. ^ Mary Hunter, writing in Grove
  14. ^ Viking pp. 375–76
  15. ^ Viking pp. 378–79
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Julian Rushton, writing in Grove
  17. ^ Viking p. 381
  18. ^ Caryl Clark, writing in Grove
  19. ^ Viking p. 393
  20. ^ Viking p. 370
  21. ^ Orrey p. 110
  22. ^ a b Orrey p. 113
  23. ^ Viking p. 752
  24. ^ Orrey p. 107
  25. ^ Orrey p. 114
  26. ^ Gordana Lazarevich, writing in Grove
  27. ^ Viking pp. 210–11
  28. ^ Viking p. 59
  29. ^ Viking pp. 1002–04
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Richard Osborne, writing in Grove
  31. ^ Viking pp. 1212–14
  32. ^ Viking pp. 1214–15
  33. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 136
  34. ^ Clive Brown, writing in Grove
  35. ^ a b Simon Maguire, writing in Grove
  36. ^ A. Dean Palmer, writing in Grove
  37. ^ Viking pp. 884, 917–18
  38. ^ a b William Ashbrook, writing in Grove
  39. ^ Viking p. 38
  40. ^ Viking p. 66
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Julian Budden, writing in Grove
  42. ^ Orrey p. 132
  43. ^ Viking pp. 659–60
  44. ^ Viking p. 70
  45. ^ Viking p. 609
  46. ^ Viking p. 277
  47. ^ Viking p. 278
  48. ^ Viking p. 1176
  49. ^ Viking p. 71
  50. ^ Viking p. 412
  51. ^ Viking p. 280
  52. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp. 246 ff.
  53. ^ Viking p. 660
  54. ^ Viking p. 282
  55. ^ Viking p. 92
  56. ^ a b Viking p. 1125
  57. ^ a b Viking p. 285
  58. ^ Viking p. 584
  59. ^ a b c d Roger Parker, writing in Grove
  60. ^ Viking p. 1177
  61. ^ Viking p. 368
  62. ^ Viking p. 1179
  63. ^ Viking p. 288
  64. ^ Viking p. 1127
  65. ^ Viking p. 48
  66. ^ Viking p. 1128
  67. ^ Viking p. 1181
  68. ^ a b Viking p. 1132
  69. ^ a b Viking p. 94
  70. ^ Viking p. 328
  71. ^ Viking p. 726
  72. ^ Viking p. 661
  73. ^ Viking p. 1138
  74. ^ Viking p. 968
  75. ^ Viking pp. 1184–86
  76. ^ Viking p. 1139
  77. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 192
  78. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 193
  79. ^ Viking p. 1143
  80. ^ Viking p. 1144
  81. ^ Viking p. 228
  82. ^ Viking p. 735
  83. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on CD, p. 114
  84. ^ Viking p. 1147
  85. ^ Viking p. 97
  86. ^ Viking p. 1149
  87. ^ Viking p. 115
  88. ^ Viking p. 736
  89. ^ Viking p. 397
  90. ^ Viking p. 664
  91. ^ Viking p. 1196
  92. ^ Viking p. 1098
  93. ^ Viking p. 988
  94. ^ Viking p. 1152
  95. ^ Viking p. 116
  96. ^ Viking p. 398
  97. ^ Viking p. 990
  98. ^ Viking p. 1198
  99. ^ Viking p. 1099
  100. ^ a b Viking p. 738
  101. ^ Viking p. 131
  102. ^ Viking p. 1188
  103. ^ Viking p. 1190
  104. ^ Viking p. 718
  105. ^ Viking p. 1020
  106. ^ Viking p. 992
  107. ^ Viking p. 118
  108. ^ Viking p. 1191
  109. ^ Viking p. 1192
  110. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs, p. 53
  111. ^ Hugh Macdonald, writing in Grove
  112. ^ Viking p. 1087
  113. ^ Viking p. 624
  114. ^ Viking p. 1201
  115. ^ Viking p. 866
  116. ^ Viking p. 252
  117. ^ Viking p. 807
  118. ^ Viking p. 625
  119. ^ Viking p. 1022
  120. ^ Viking p. 720
  121. ^ Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Discs, p. 54
  122. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp. 164–65
  123. ^ Viking p. 618
  124. ^ Viking p. 134
  125. ^ a b c Richard Taruskin, writing in Grove
  126. ^ Peter Ross, writing in Grove
  127. ^ Viking p. 1094
  128. ^ Michele Girardi, writing in Grove
  129. ^ Viking p. 564
  130. ^ a b c Rodney Milnes, writing in Grove
  131. ^ Ian Denley, in The New Grove
  132. ^ Jan Smaczny, writing in Grove
  133. ^ Viking p. 203
  134. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p. 269
  135. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp. 281–87
  136. ^ Viking p. 728
  137. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 304
  138. ^ Viking p. 559
  139. ^ Viking p. 1026
  140. ^ Viking p. 729
  141. ^ Viking p. 256
  142. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 285
  143. ^ Viking p. 871
  144. ^ Viking p. 502
  145. ^ Viking p. 1028
  146. ^ Viking p. 1241
  147. ^ Viking p. 872
  148. ^ Viking p. 635
  149. ^ Viking p. 1029
  150. ^ Viking p. 849
  151. ^ Viking p. 1031
  152. ^ Peter Franklin, writing in Grove
  153. ^ Viking p. 314
  154. ^ Viking p. 137
  155. ^ Viking p. 1045
  156. ^ Viking p. 485
  157. ^ Viking p. 168
  158. ^ Viking p. 1251
  159. ^ Viking p. 773
  160. ^ Oxford Illustrated pp. 286–87
  161. ^ a b c David Murray, writing in Grove
  162. ^ Christopher Palmer, writing in Grove
  163. ^ Viking p. 505
  164. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 306
  165. ^ Viking p. 1252
  166. ^ Viking p. 953
  167. ^ a b Michael Kennedy, writing in Grove
  168. ^ Viking p. 506
  169. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 297
  170. ^ Roger Nichols, writing in Grove
  171. ^ Orrey p. 218
  172. ^ Viking p. 477
  173. ^ Tibor Tallián, writing in Grove
  174. ^ Viking p. 1076
  175. ^ a b John Tyrrell, writing in Grove
  176. ^ Oxford Illustrated, pp. 310–11
  177. ^ Viking p. 542
  178. ^ a b Stephen Hinton, writing in Grove
  179. ^ Viking p. 980
  180. ^ Orrey p. 220
  181. ^ Laurel E. Fay, writing in Grove
  182. ^ Viking p. 1039
  183. ^ Richard Crawford, writing in Grove
  184. ^ Orrey p. 219
  185. ^ Viking p. 1120
  186. ^ Viking p. 1041
  187. ^ Viking p. 613
  188. ^ Viking p. 480
  189. ^ Viking p. 143
  190. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 316
  191. ^ Viking p. 1115
  192. ^ Viking p. 144
  193. ^ Viking p. 803
  194. ^ Viking p. 802
  195. ^ a b c Bruce Archibald, writing in Grove
  196. ^ a b c d e f Arnold Whittal, writing in Grove
  197. ^ Viking p. 307
  198. ^ Viking p. 793
  199. ^ Anthony Sellors, writing in Grove
  200. ^ Viking p. 649
  201. ^ Viking p. 1050
  202. ^ Viking p. 462
  203. ^ Viking p. 152
  204. ^ Viking p. 1208
  205. ^ a b c Geraint Lewis, writing in Grove
  206. ^ Jon Alan Conrad, writing in Grove
  207. ^ Viking p. 794
  208. ^ a b Barbara B. Heyman, writing in Grove
  209. ^ Viking p. 795
  210. ^ a b c d e f g h Andrew Clements, writing in Grove
  211. ^ a b Orrey, p. 234
  212. ^ a b Adrian Thomas, writing in Grove
  213. ^ Viking p. 159
  214. ^ Viking p. 243
  215. ^ a b Paul Griffiths, writing in Grove
  216. ^ Viking p. 854
  217. ^ David Osmond-Smith, writing in Grove
  218. ^ Tim Page, writing in Grove
  219. ^ Viking p. 108
  220. ^ Viking p. 1232
  221. ^ Viking p. 18
  222. ^ a b Oxford Illustrated p. 8
  223. ^ Viking p. 174
  224. ^ Oxford Illustrated p. 31
  225. ^ Viking p. 180
  226. ^ Stein (1999), paragraph six
  227. ^ Russell: "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online

Sources

  • Boyden, Matthew; et al. (1997). Opera, the Rough Guide. ISBN 1-85828-138-5. 
  • Czajkowski, Paul; Edward Greenfield; Ivan March; Robert Layton (ed.), The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs 2005–2006: The Key Classical Recordings on CD, DVD and SACD. ISBN 0-14-102262-0
  • Encyclopædia Britannica: Macropedia Volume 24, 15th edition. "Opera" in "Musical forms and genres". ISBN 0-85229-434-4
  • Grout, Donald Jay and Claude V. Palisca (1996). A History of Western Music, 5th edition. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-96904-5
  • Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 19 January 2007), grovemusic.com, subscription access. (Various entries on operas, composers and genres)
  • Orrey, Leslie & Milne, Rodney. Opera: A Concise History. World of Art, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20217-6. 
  • Parker, Roger (ed). (1994). The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816282-0. 
  • Russell,Craig H., "Manuel de Zumaya", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed September 18, 2008), (subscription access)
  • Stein, Louise K. (1999), La púrpura de la Rosa (Introduction to the critical edition of the score and libretto), Ediciones Iberautor Promociones culturales S.R.L. / Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales, 1999, ISBN 84-8048-292-3 (reprinted with permission of the publisher on Mundoclasico.com). Accessed 5 September 2008.
  • The Viking Opera Guide (1993). ISBN 0-670-81292-7 Contributions are by noted specialists in their fields.
  • Warrack, John; West, Ewan (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. ISBN 0-19-869164-5. 

Lists consulted[edit]

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. "A–Z of Opera by Keith Anderson, Naxos, 2000". 
  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. "Table of Contents of The Rough Guide to Opera".  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. ISBN 0-19-869164-5. 
  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[edit]