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LINKS TO VIDEO PERFORMANCES OF GREAT ARIAS


by Bob Parvin


Introduction

Arias by Composer and Opera
B, (Bellini), C, D, (Donizetti), F, G, H, (Handel), K, L, M, (Massenet), (Mozart),
O, P, (Puccini), (Rossini), S, (R. Strauss), T, (Verdi), (Wagner)

Other Arias

Opera Overtures

Opera Galas

Opera Concerts

Some of the "100 Greatest Singers"

Operettas

Musicals

Crossovers


INTRODUCTION

In the US there is the notion that opera is an art form that only appeals to an elite and a few eccentrics who listen to the Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. However, this may be changing. Opera companies are reaching out for a wider audience. Great opera DVDs are more available at affordable prices. Also, YouTube is helping to make opera accessible with video clips of arias and ensembles. YouTube is a wonderful resource not only for opera lovers but also for people who are testing the water. I have made links to about 2,500 YouTube video performances comprising about 800 arias and ensembles from 159 operas by 48 composers.

I hope this page will be useful both to beginners and opera fans. I have included the major arias in the selected operas and with many arias I have included more than one rendition to give more choices and to make it possible to compare different singers of different eras having different vocal and dramatic capabilities and giving different interpretations. With the advent of video recording the works of great singers of yesteryear are just as relevant for our enjoyment today as the works of current singers. Although Sills and Pavarotti passed away in 2007, we can still see and hear them performing, often in their prime, on many video clips and DVDs.

If you want to search the links below for a specific singer, for example, you can use the Find function on your web browser. If you want to search YouTube on your own, go to YouTube and enter a search term (a composer, opera, aria, or singer). For example, if you want to find La Traviata arias sung by Renee Fleming, type both her name and the opera name (Fleming La Traviata). You can search for particular concerts and galas such as a "Metropolitan Opera Gala" (there are several) and see what aria performances are included.

I have placed asterisks in front of 60 arias that are the most well known and that may be the most familiar or most appealing to beginners. The aria performances that are marked with the pound sign (#) are from the opera performance on the suggested DVD.

When you view a YouTube video and want to see a full screen picture, click the square containing four arrows just below the lower right-hand corner of the picture. To reverse the action, move the mouse a bit to reveal the square and click it or press Escape in the up right-hand corner of your keyboard.

I used the extensive Aria Database for reference purposes. It gives considerable information about the major arias in each opera including the words with English translations.

I also referred to The Grove Book of Operas (2006), which is a good one-volume reference book on operas that has detailed synopses of 264 operas for opera buffs and mentions practically all of the arias and ensembles.

An aria is best appreciated when heard in the context of the opera, and the least expensive way of seeing and hearing operas is playing DVD opera videos. For many of the operas I have suggested DVDs receiving the top five-star rating in most cases from most of the reviewers for amazon.com where I buy my DVDs, either new ones from amazon.com or used or new ones from their "marketplace." Be sure to read the reviews and find out about the strong and weak points of the opera performance.

I have also included DVD suggestions for galas and concerts featuring great arias and singers and for operettas and musicals, which nearly covers the bases in American musical theater.

Occasionally, a video will be withdrawn, and there will be a message something like this: "This video has been removed by the user." When I catch them, I remove them. If you find one, I hope there will be other links to renditions to see and hear.

I would also like to hear your suggestions for YouTube performances that you feel should be added. I am very grateful for one responder, Marly Harris who is a trained opera singer, for suggesting many great aria performances that I have added to this page.

You can send an e-mail message to me, Bob Parvin, at bandcparvinXhotmail.com. Substitute @ for X. (I'm trying to hide my address from spammers.)


FOR BEGINNERS

Admittedly, opera like a dry dinner wine is something of an acquired taste. I wouldn't argue that opera is "better" musical theater than, say, operetta or musical comedy (both of which are included below), but it has more artistic complexity to appreciate. It is like comparing a fresh Beaujolais wine with a fine barrel-aged Burgundy. Both can be very enjoyable, but Burgundy has a greater complexity to appreciate.

For an example of opera's complexity listen to Joyce DiDonato and follow the score animation in this aria: D'amore al dolce impero. To make matters even more difficult, English speakers must master the Italian pronunciation and the Rossini style of singing.

There was a time when it was enough for an opera singer to stand up there and sing beautifully, but after Maria Callas and others came along, the great opera performers had to be singer-actors who "become" a character and use their voices and bodies to convey the character's deepest feelings. For an example go to Sola, perduta, abbandonata and see and hear Mirella Freni who becomes Manon Lescaut expressing her feeling of abandonment.

To get an overview of opera, it is helpful to begin by recognizing the four eras in which operas have been written, the styles of each period, and representative composers you will meet:

  • Baroque (1600-1750) - Handel (1685-1759)
  • Classical (1750-1825) - Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Romantic (1825-1900) - Verdi (1813-1901)
  • 20th Century or Modern (1900-) - Britten (1913-1976)

Operas of the classical and romantic periods are the most user friendly operas for beginners.

One of my early objections to opera is the sung dialogue (recitative) between arias, which replaces the spoken dialogue in operetta and musical comedy and tells the story. Now that we have supertitles at the opera and subtitles on DVDs we can read what is being said.

The arias give the characters a chance to express their thoughts and feelings and give the singers an opportunity show their stuff. Some arias are so melodic they stick in our heads like a hit song.

To test the opera waters, a beginner might start with the most popular arias below that are marked with an asterisk. Many other very accessible arias are included but are not as well known. To hear an hour's worth of great popular arias go to Best Opera Arias: Turandot, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Boheme, Aida, Norma....

Just as one needs to prepare for a Shakespeare play, one needs to do some homework before an opera. The first step is to read the story if it is not familiar. I have included links to the stories, most of which are from Naxos. For more complete synopses go to OperaGlass Opera Index and Stories of the Operas. For a short biography of the composer and a commentary on the opera go to The opera corpus in Wikipedia.

A second step in preparation for an opera (live or DVD) is to listen to its major arias listed below. Then you will appreciate them more when you hear them in the opera.

For an explanation of voice types see Voice Types in Opera. There are opera fans who focus mainly on the music, orchestra and voice (timbre and technique). Others, like myself, who are less well-versed in the techniques and give considerable weight to the theatrical aspects of the performance (the acting, appearance, and stage sets). When you get great music and voice and also great acting along with a great production you have a great performance.

To better understand the opera voice and the tenor voice in particular, go to What makes a great tenor voice?, which is narrated by the exciting tenor, Rolando Villazon. Also see Fach for a good explanation of "fach" and for a classification of voices and roles based on fach.

For the biographies of important opera singers try Wikipedia. See Category:Opera singers. If you know the voice category, go that route, but if you don't know the voice, enter the name on the left side of the page and search. To see the Web pages of singers, go to Opera Singers.

The traditional aria names (incipits) are the first line of the aria or ensemble as in "Le veau d'or est toujours debout!" from Gounod's Faust. In a few cases they also have common English names, and in the case of the Faust aria it is the "Song of the Golden Calf."

If you want to sound like an opera devotee, go to Operas and Composers: A Pronunciation Guide. Also see Opera Pronunciation, which has a lot of other good information about operas. For help with opera terms and their pronunciation go to Pronunciation Guide: Opera Terms. For the Websites of specific current opera singers go to Opera Singers. If pronouncing the names of the Italian arias is a problem for you as it is for me, go to Italian Pronunciation.

Here is a well-written introduction to some great arias and operas: Some Operatic Arias for Non-opera Fans: The Men and Some Friendly Operatic Songs for Non-Operatic Fans: The Ladies.

For an index of opera companies go to Opera Company Pages on the World Wide Web. For a geographical index go to Index of opera home pages organized geographically, by continent, country. For example, you can find that Billings, Montana, is the home of Rimrock Opera Company. Since not all small opera companies have Web pages, you can search for the city and "opera."

Opera DVDs

The ultimate opera experience is to get a good seat in an opera house presenting a good production of an appealing opera with an inspired performance by great singer-actors and by the orchestra and conductor, but that too seldom happens. Furthermore, the tickets to the top houses are very pricey especially if you get a seat where you don't need binoculars. However, since the advent of opera DVDs, we can have a great opera experience for all of the viewers in the room for about $20-30 including popcorn.

DVDs offer other advantages as well. We aren't limited to the current singers and productions. We can reach back in time for great performances with some of the great artists of yesteryear and current older artists when they were in their prime. We can watch the opera any time we wish including when we don't feel like going out. If the voice is small, we hearing-challenged people can turn up the volume. The balance between the orchestra and the singers is usually better, so singers don't get drowned out. The DVDs usually have subtitles so that we can easily follow the story.

Some opera DVDs are movie-type productions that have the advantage of studio-quality singing and sound recording and realistic settings, but the lip-synching can sometimes be a bit too noticeable. Also, the singer's concentration on lip-synching and the lack of an audience may inhibit the acting. However, Jean-Pierre Ponelle has directed some great opera movies. Most DVD operas are stage productions from some of the great opera houses, which I like because I feel as if I'm sharing the experience with the audience.

With DVDs we have a "first row seat" where we can hear every vocal nuance and see every facial expression. For me this intimacy makes DVD operas more engaging than live performances from where I usually sit at the opera. We don't have to look around someone's head, listen to their coughs, or smell their perfume. We don't have to wait out intermissions, but we can pause anytime to microwave the popcorn or make a pit stop. Many people enjoy the festive experience of going out to dinner and to the opera, but at my age I value the privacy, convenience, comfort, and economy of watching opera at home more than the glamour and glitter and the intriguing unpredictability of live theater. My wife and I watch a DVD opera almost every Saturday night. The cost is about the same as going to the movies, but we can replay the DVD as many times as we want. Finally, whether you live in New York City or Havre, Montana, you can enjoy great opera performances from the World class opera houses on DVDs. All you need is a DVD player and TV.

Here is a marvelous opera aria DVD to start with: The Opera Gala from Baden-Baden.

To see 36 aria and ensemble performances by great artists (some a bit past their prime) on DVD, I also recommend Metropolitan Opera Gala - James Levine's 25th Anniversary (1996).

A great DVD performance of a full comic opera is L'Elisir d'Amore. It's a good story and has great singing, acting, and staging.

If you don't have a DVD player, here is a low-end and low-priced player that has good reviews: Philips DVP3560/F7 DVD Player. If your TV has an HDMI connectuon, you will need to buy a cable. For a short, inexpensive HDMI cable go to HDMI Cable 2M (6 Feet). (You don't need to pay more than $10 for a satisfactory cable.) With this player you can be enjoying high quality DVD video rather than waiting for the price of Blu-ray disc players and discs to come down.

Opera Books, CDs, and Broadcasts

Opera for Dummies by Pogue and Speck is an entertaining and informative book if you like the "Dummies" breezy style. It gives general information and synopses of the most popular operas. (I always check amazon.com's "marketplace" for used and new books.)

Here are three other books that are written for anyone interested in opera:

If you would like a CD with popular arias, I recommend The Most Famous Opera Arias, and, for operatic duets, The Most Famous Opera Duets. Buy both of these two CDs for about $8.

To listen to operas on the air, listen to the Saturday afternoon radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera, or if you don't have a local FM station that carries the broadcast listen live online by going to WETA.

The bottom line is that opera is now accessible to nearly everyone!



ARIAS BY COMPOSER AND OPERA

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)

Bellini, Vincenzo (1801-1835)

Berlioz, Hector (1803-1869)

Bernstein, Leonard (1918-1990)

Bizet, George (1838-1875)

Boito, Arrigo (1842-1918)

Britten, Benjamin (1913-1976)

Catalani, Alfredo (1854-1893)

Charpentier, Gustave (1860-1956)

Cilea, Francesco (1866-1950)

Debussy, Claude (1862-1918)

Delibes, Leo (1836-1891)

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797-1848)

Dvorak, Antonin (1841-1904)

Flotow, Friedrich von (1812-1883)

Gershwin, George (1898-1937)

Giordano, Umberto (1857-1948)

Gluck, Christoph Willibald (1714-1787)

Gounod, Charles-François (1818-1893)

Halevy, Fromental (1799-1862)

Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)

Haydn, Franz Joseph (1732-1809)

Korngold, Erich (1897-1957)

Lehar, Franz (1870-1948)

Leoncavallo, Ruggiero (1857-1919)

Mascagni, Pietro (1863-1945)

Massenet, Jules (1842-1912)

Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791-1864)

Monteverdi, Claudio (1567-1643) - First opera composer whose works are still peformed

Moore, Douglas (1893-1969)

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)

Mussorgski, Modest(1839-1881)

Offenbach, Jacques (1819-1880)

Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista (1710-1736)

Ponchielli, Amilcare (1834-1886)

Puccini, Giacomo (1858-1924)

Purcell, Henry (1659-1695)

Rossini, Gioacchino (1792-1868)

Saint-Saens, Camille (1835-1921)

Strauss, Johann (1804-1849)

Strauss, Richard (1864-1949)

Stravinsky, Igor (1882-1971)

Tchaikovsky, Peter Illyich (1840-1893)

Thomas, Ambroise (1811-1896)

Verdi, Giuseppe (1813-1901, see his portrait above)

Wagner, Richard (1813-1883)

Weber, Carl Maria von (1786-1826)

OTHER ARIAS

Here are some miscellaneous arias and songs:

OPERA OVERTURES

Here are some well known opera overtures:

OPERA GALAS

Opera galas and concerts can provide a luscious feast of great arias and ensembles. Here are some DVD suggestions for outstanding opera galas:

OPERA CONCERTS

Here are some DVD suggestions for some notable opera concerts:

YouTube concerts:

Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky Concert in Red Square, Moscow, June 19, 2013
Plácido Domingo & Sondra Radvanovsky in Concert, Toronto 2011
Concert in Prag, with Joseph Calleja, January 2013

SOME OF THE "100 GREATEST SINGERS"

To see all of the "100 greatest singers" according to one person's opinion go to 100 Greatest Singers.

OPERETTAS

Now we will turn our attention to operettas. The line between opera and operetta is sometimes thin, but operettas are usually "fluffier" and contain a significant amount of spoken dialogue. The first link in each listing is to the YouTube choices of video song performances for the operetta. The second link is to the suggested DVD offering at amazon.com.

Bernstein, Leonard (1918-1990)

Gilbert, Sir William S. (1836-1911) & Sullivan, Sir Arthur (1842-1900)

Lehar, Franz (1870-1948)

Offenbach, Jacques (1819-1880)

Strauss, Johann (1804-1849)

Kalman, Emmerich (1882-1953)

MUSICALS

Musical comedy has a similar appeal in America as operas do in Europe. Here are links to DVD movie musicals at amazon.com and to YouTube show tune performances from the musical but usually not from the DVD. To find other songs, go to YouTube and enter the name of the musical and see what choices are offered. For example, to see videos for Sound of Music tunes, go to Sound of Music.

DVD suggestions for collections of musicals:
CROSSOVERS

Can opera singers sing popular music? Some can and do. Check out these crossovers:

The Wide, Wide World of Anne Sofie van Otter

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