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Opera - Intro Recommendations, Please.

Britalian

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I've had the intention of committing some time to trying to appreciate the form for some time now.
What I'm looking for is something which is fairly undemanding in opera terms. Something with some memorable and rewarding melodies and harmonies, preferably.
So; no showing off your depth of obscurantism, please. Just something accessible which will act as a springboard to more demanding (and longer) works.
 

GQgeek

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I suggest starting with arias instead of whole operas. However, if you do want to listen through an entire recording, I'd suggest La Traviata or Carmen as a starting point, as opposed to say Wagner's ring cycle :p

My favorite arias, in rough order of preference:

O mio babbino caro
Un bel di
Nessun dorma
La fleur que tu m'avais jetee
Caro nome
Che gelida manina
Una furtiva lagrima
Vissi d'arte

Purely instrumental but it's from an opera:
Intermezzo (from Cavalleria Rusticana)

If you don't like any of these arias then I'd say that opera probably isn't for you. Just download these songs for now, but when you buy look for good recordings by good artists. Most of them are old.
 

metaphysician

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Fred Plotkin's "Opera 101" is a wonderful introduction if you're interested in learning more about opera. It's available at Amazon: <http://www.amazon.com/Opera-101-Complete-Learning-Loving/dp/0786880252/sr=8-1/qid=1159757448/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-1893172-0928160?ie=UTF8&s=books> Plotkin goes into the history of opera, the different forms, the different types of singer, etc. - all of the basics, and then walks the reader through several operas. He provides an exhaustive list of recommended recordings in an appendix. My own personal recommendation - start with Callas' famous performance in Tosca. Available on the cheap, too, from Amazon: <http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Callas-Stefano-cond-Sabata/dp/B0000E3HM3/sr=8-13/qid=1159757596/ref=sr_1_13/102-1893172-0928160?ie=UTF8&s=music>. It's without a libretto, but you can find one somewhere on the Internet. ETA: Actually, the libretto for the Callas recording is available on EMI's website: www.emiclassics.com, under the Historical Series.
 

mistahlee

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Originally Posted by metaphysician
My own personal recommendation - start with Callas' famous performance in Tosca.

That's good advice. Tosca is tuneful and short, and this recording (although in mono) is considered by many the best of any opera.

Also, plan to attend a performance of an opera and study up in advance.

In my opinion the da Ponte operas of Mozart (The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte) are the pinnacle of the form. Hopefully you will get to those in due course. Good luck.
 

stach

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If you're going to go see, try Carmen, Boheme or Butterfly.
 

GQgeek

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Originally Posted by stach
If you're going to go see, try Carmen, Boheme or Butterfly.

Seconded. Seeing a live performance is what really got me in to it. La Traviata in november!!
 

Britalian

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Thanks fellas.
G&S was what I didn't intend, but the other stuff sounds enticing. I've heard one or two of the arias - the football Pavaroti, for eg- and want to address something longer such as you all mention.
 

mr_economy

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La Traviata is quite a performance. I enjoyed it without having understood any of the language, as it was an Italian opera with subtitles screened in German, but that would make sense given it was in Berlin.
 

clarinetplayer

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How about "Tosca"? It's got sex, murder, politics, and intrigue. And melodies by Puccini.

For perfection, any opera by Mozart.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by DocHolliday
Gilbert and Sullivan, perhaps? Doesn't get much more accessible than that.
Technically they are ‘Operettas’…but I don’t know how ‘accessible’ they are. Sure, they are in English, but many of the words and meanings are most definitely of the Victorian era and not always so easily to decipher. Jon.
 

Manton

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Marriage of Figaro. Skip the recitatives. There is hardly a bad or even mediocre aria in the whole piece.
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by imageWIS
Technically they are "˜Operettas'...but I don't know how "˜accessible' they are. Sure, they are in English, but many of the words and meanings are most definitely of the Victorian era and not always so easily to decipher.

Really? I have a healthy interest in the Victorians/literature of the period, so perhaps I'm immune to this. I would never have considered the words or their meanings to be an obstacle to a casual listener. Seems like much less of one than, say, listening to a performance in Italian. "Pirates" seems, to me, to be the perfect intro for the unwilling opera listener. But maybe I underestimate how alien the period seems today.

Also, I second the suggestion of seeing a performance in person.
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by DocHolliday
Gilbert and Sullivan, perhaps? Doesn't get much more accessible than that.

If too obvious, maybe some Puccini?

Rossini's "Barber of Seville"?

+1 on Barber of Seville - it was the opera I started with when I decided to become more familiar with opera.
Puccini's definitely accessible, too.
 

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