Best Operas of All Time – The Critics’ Picks

I collected 25 lists of the best operas of all time from the Internet and books and combined them into one list. These are not my personal opinions. The results of my list collecting are below, arranged by rank, with the operas on the most “Best Operas” lists at the top. This list includes every opera on at least two of the original source lists. For each opera I have included the title, including translation if necessary, composer, date and location of the opera’s initial performance and the language and author of the libretto. Where possible, I have also provided a description of the style or genre of the opera and recommendations for best recordings and videos. For the same list arranged chronologically, go HERE. For a list organized by composer, go HERE.

On 24 “Best Operas” Lists
CARMEN
Composer: Georges Bizet
Premiere: March 3, 1875. Paris, France
French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Bumbry, Freni, Vickers, Diaz, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, von Karajan (1967)
Recommended Video: Julia Migenes, Plácido Domingo. Directed by Francesco Rosi (1984)

On 23 Lists
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: May 1, 1786. Vienna, Austria.
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Style: Opera buffa
Recommended Recording: Te Kanawa, Popp, von Stade, Allen, Ramey, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Solti (1981)
Recommended Video: Hermann Prey, Mirella Freni, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Kiri Te Kanawa. Directed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle (1978)

On 21 Lists
LA TRAVIATA (THE FALLEN WOMAN)
Composer:Guiseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 6, 1853. Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Style: Grand opera
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Manuguerra, National Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Bonynge (1982)
Recommended Video: Plácido Domingo, Teresa Stratas. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1983)

LA BOHÈME (THE BOHEMIAN LIFE)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Feb. 1, 1896. Turin, Italy.
Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Tebaldi, d’Angelo, Bergonzi, Bastianini, Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra & Chorus, Serafin (1959)
Recommended Video: Mirella Freni, Adriana Martino, Gianni Raimondi. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1965)

On 20 Lists
DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE 
(THE MAGIC FLUTE)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: Sept. 30, 1791. Vienna, Austria.
German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Style: Zauberoper; singspiel
Recommended Recording: Lear, Peters, Wunderlich, Fischer-Dieskau, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Böhm (1964)
Recommended Video: Ulrik Cold, Josef Köstlinger, Irma Urrila, Håkan Hagegård. Directed by Ingmar Bergman (1975)

IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (THE BARBER OF SEVILLE)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Premiere: Feb. 20, 1816. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Style: Opera buffa, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Callas, Alva, Gobbi, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, Galliera (1956)
Recommended Video: Hermann Prey, Teresa Berganza. Directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1974)

TOSCA
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Jan. 14, 1900. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Callas, Gobbi, La Scala Chorus & Orchestra, de Sabata (1953)
Recommended Video: Raina Kabaivanska, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes. Directed by Gianfranco De Bosio (1976)

MADAMA BUTTERFLY
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Feb. 17, 1904. Milan, Italy (La Scala)
Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Tebaldi, Bergonzi, Cossotto, Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra & Chorus, Serafin (1959)
Recommended Video: Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, Cornell MacNeil, Allan Monk. Directed by Frédéric Mitterand (1995)

19 Lists
DON GIOVANNI 
(DON JUAN)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: Oct. 29, 1787. Prague, Czech State.
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Style: Dramma giocoso, opera buffa
Recommended Recording: Siepi, Danco, della Casa, Gueden, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Krips (1955)
Recommended Video: Ruggero Raimondi, John Macurdy, Edda Moser, Kiri Te Kanawa. Directed by Joseph Losey (1979)

18 Lists
RIGOLETTO
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 11, 1851. Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Style: Grand opera
Recommended Recording: Callas, di Stefano, Gobbi, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Serafin (1956)
Recommended Video: Gianni Raimondi, Rolando Panerai, Gianni Maffeo. Directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1982)

17 Lists
DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN: (2) DIE WALKÜRE
(THE RING OF THE NIBELUNGEN: (2) THE VALKYRIE)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: June 26, 1870. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Ludwig, Windgassen, Talvela, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Böhm (1966)
Recommended Video: Donald McIntyre. Directed by Patrice Chéreau (1980)

DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN: (4) GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG
(THE RING OF THE NIBELUNGEN: (4) TWILIGHT OF THE GODS)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: Aug. 17, 1876. Bayreuth, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Ludwig, Windgassen, Talvela, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Böhm (1966)
Recommended Video: Donald McIntyre. Directed by Patrice Chéreau (1980)

DER ROSENKAVALIER (THE KNIGHT OF THE ROSE)
Composer: Richard Strauss
Premiere: Jan. 26, 1911. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Harry von Kessler
Style: Comic opera
Recommended Recording: Schwarzkopf, Ludwig, Stich-Randall, Edelmann, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, von Karajan (1957)

16 Lists
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: June 10, 1865. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Ludwig, Windgassen, Talvela, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Böhm (1966)
Recommended Video: Nina Stemme, Robert Gambill. Directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff (2007)

DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN: (1) DAS RHEINGOLD
(THE RING OF THE NIBELUNGEN: (1) THE RHINE GOLD)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: Sept. 22, 1869. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Ludwig, Windgassen, Talvela, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Böhm (1966)
Recommended Video: Donald McIntyre. Directed by Patrice Chéreau (1980)

DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN: (3) SIEGFRIED
(THE RING OF THE NIBELUNGEN: (3) SIEGFRIED)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: Aug. 16, 1876. Bayreuth, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Ludwig, Windgassen, Talvela, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Böhm (1966)
Recommended Video: Donald McIntyre. Directed by Patrice Chéreau (1980)

FALSTAFF
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Feb. 9, 1893. Milan, Italy (La Scala)
Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito
Style: Commedia linica
Recommended Recording: Gobbi, Schwarzkopf, Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra, von Karajan (1956)

15 Lists
DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG (THE MASTER-SINGERS OF NUREMBERG)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: June 21, 1868. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Romantische, music drama
Recommended Recording: Schwarzkopf, Malaniuk, Hopf, Edelmann, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus, von Karajan (1951)
Recommended Video: Bernd Weikl, Manfred Schenk, András Molnár. Directed by Brian Large (1984)

AIDA
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Dec. 24, 1871. Cairo, Egypt.
Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Style: Opera ballo
Recommended Recording: Ricciarelli, Obraztsova, Domingo, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Abbado (1981)

EUGENE ONEGIN
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Premiere: March 29, 1879. Moscow, Russia.
Russian libretto by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Shilovsky.
Style: Lyric opera
Recommended Recording: Freni, Schicoff, Allen, von Otter, Staatskapelle Dresden, Levine (rec. 1987; rel. 1990)
Recommended Video: Bernd Weikl, Michal Docolomanský, Teresa Kubiak. Directed by Petr Weigl (1988)

OTELLO (OTHELLO)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Feb. 5, 1887. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito
Recommended Recording: Domingo, Scotto, Milnes, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Levine (1978).
Recommended Video: Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Justino Díaz. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1986)

14 Lists
FIDELIO
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Premiere: Nov. 20, 1805. Vienna, Austria.
German libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner
Style: Rescue opera
Recommended Recording: Norman, Coburn, Goldberg, Staatskapelle & Chorus, Haitink (1989)

13 Lists
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Premiere: Sept. 26, 1835. Naples, Italy.
Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammerano
Style: Dramma tragico, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Milnes, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Bonynge (1971)

IL TROVATORE (THE TROUBADOR)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Jan. 19, 1853. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammerano
Recommended Recording: Price, Cossotto, Domingo, Milnes, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Mehta (1969)

BORIS GODUNOV
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Premiere: Jan. 27, 1874. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Modest Mussorgsky
Recommended Recording: Lutsuk, Pluzhnikov, Putilin, Kirov Opera, Gergiev (1997) (1869 version)
Recommended Video: Alexander Pirogov, Nikandr Khanayev, Ivan Kozlovsky. Directed by Vera Stroyeva (1954)

PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE
Composer: Claude Debussy
Premiere: April 30, 1902. Paris, France.
French libretto by Claude Debussy
Recommended Recording: Söderström, Minton, Shirley, Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus, Boulez (1970)

PORGY AND BESS
Composer: George Gershwin
Premiere: Sept. 30, 1935. Boston, Massachusetts, US
English libretto by DuBose Heyward
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Haymon, Evans, Clarey, White, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, Rattle (1988)
Recommended Video: Cynthia Haymon, Willar White. Directed by Trevor Nunn (1993)

12 Lists
NORMA
Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
Premiere: Dec. 26, 1831. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Felice Romani
Style: Bel canto
Recommended Recording: Callas, Ludwig, Corelli, Zaccaria, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Serafin (1954)

LOHENGRIN
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: Aug. 28, 1850. Weimar, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Romantische Oper
Recommended Recording: Norman, Randová, Domingo, Fischer-Dieskau, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & State Opera Chorus, Solti (1986)
Recommended Video: Eva Marton, Leonie Rysanek, Leif Roar, Peter Hofmann. Directed by Brian Large (1986)

DON CARLOS
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 11, 1867. Paris, France.
French libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle
Style: Grand opera
Recommended Recording: Domingo, Ricciarelli, La Scala Chorus & Orchestra, Abbado (1983-1984)

PARSIFAL
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: July 26, 1882. Bayreuth, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Thomas, Hotter, Talvela, London, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Knappertsbusch (1962)
Recommended Video: Armin Jordan, Wolfgang Schöne, Martin Sperr. Directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (1982)

SALOME
Composer: Richard Strauss
Premiere: Dec. 9, 1905. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Strauss
Style: Musikdrama
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Hoffmann, Stolze, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Solti (1961)
Recommended Video: Teresa Stratas, Astrid Varnay. Directed by Götz Friedrich (1974)

WOZZECK
Composer: Alban Berg
Premiere: Dec. 14, 1925. Berlin, Germany.
German libretto by Alban Berg, based on Georg Büchner’s play
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Silja, Winkler, Waechter, Laubenthal, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Dohnányi (1979)

TURANDOT
Composer: Giacomo Puccini. Completed by Franco Alfano
Premiere: April 25, 1926. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni
Recommended Recording: Nilsson, Corelli, Scotto, Mazzini, Rome Opera Chorus & Orchestra, Molinari-Pradelli (1965)

PETER GRIMES
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: June 7, 1945. London, UK.
English libretto by Montagu Slater
Recommended Recording: Watson, Pears, Evans, Pease, Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus, Britten (1958)

11 Lists
L’ORFEO (ORPHEUS)
Composer: Claudio Monteverdi
Premiere: Feb. 24, 1607. Mantua, Italy.
Italian libretto by Alessandro Striggio
Style: Favola in musica; pastoral opera
Recommended Recording: Bostridge, Ciofi, Coote, Dessay, Le Concert d’Astree, Haïm (2003)

COSÌ FAN TUTTE (THUS DO THEY ALL)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: Jan. 26, 1790. Vienna, Austria.
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Style: Opera buffa
Recommended Recording: Janowitz, Fassbaender, Grist, Schreier, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & State Opera Chorus, Böhm (1974)

CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (RUSTIC CHIVALRY)
Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Premiere: May 17, 1890. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Varady, Pavarotti, Cappuccilli, National Philharmonia London Orchestra & Chorus, Gacazzeni (1976)
Recommended Video: Yelena Obraztsova, Plácido Domingo. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1982)

TANNHÄUSER
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: Oct. 19, 1845. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Romantische Oper
Recommended Recording: Dernesch, Ludwig, Kollo, Braun, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & State Opera Chorus, Solti (1962) (1861 Paris version).

10 Lists
DIDO AND AENEAS
Composer: Henry Purcell
Premiere: July, 1688. London, England.
English libretto by Nahum Tate
Style: English Baroque opera
Recommended Recording: von Otter, Varcoe, Dawson, English Concert Chorus, Pinnock (1988)

ORFEO ED EURIDICE (ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE)
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
Premiere: Oct. 5, 1762. Vienna, Austria.
Italian libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi
Style: Azioni teatrali, opera seria
Recommended Recording: Moffo, Raskin, Verrett, Collegium Musicum Italicum Instrumental Ensemble, Rome Virtuosi, Fasano (1965)

FAUST
Composer: Charles Gounod
Premiere: March 19, 1859. Paris, France.
French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
Style: Grand opera
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Corelli, Ghiaurov, London Symphony Orchestra, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Bonynge (1966)

JENŮFA
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Premiere: Jan. 21, 1904. Brno, Czech State.
Czech libretto by Leoš Janáček
Recommended Recording: Popp, Söderström, Randová, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Mackerras (1982)

ELEKTRA
Composer: Richard Strauss
Premiere: Jan. 25, 1909. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Style: Music drama
Recommended Recording: Borkh, Madeira, Schech, Fischer-Dieskau, Dresden Staatskapelle, Böhm (1962)
Recommended Video: Leonie Rysanek, Astrid Varnay. Directed by Götz Friedrich (1981)

9 Lists
L’INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA (THE CORONATION OF POPPAEA)
Composer: Claudio Monteverdi
Premiere: 1642-1643. Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello
Recommended Recording: Donath, Söderström, Berberian, Esswood, Vienna Concentus Musicus, Harnoncourt (1974)

DIE FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER (THE FLYING DUTCHMAN)
Composer: Richard Wagner
Premiere: January, 1843. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Wagner
Style: Romantische Oper
Recommended Recording: Hale, Rydl, Behrens, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra & State Opera Chorus, Dohnányi (1991)

LES TROYENS (THE TROJANS)
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Partial premiere: Nov. 4, 1863. Paris, France.
Full premiere: Dec. 6-7, 1890. Karlsruhe, Germany.
French libretto by Hector Berlioz
Style: Grand opera
Recommended Recording: Veasey, Vickers, Lindholm, Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus, Davis (1969)

8 Lists
L’ELISIR D’AMORE (THE ELIXIR OF LOVE)
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Premiere: May 12, 1832. Milan, Italy.
Italian libretto by Felice Romani
Style: Opera buffa, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Cossa, Ambrosian Singers, English Chamber Orchestra, Bonynge (1972).

MANON
Composer: Jules Massenet
Premiere: Jan. 19, 1884. Paris, France.
French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: de los Angeles, Legay, Dens, Paris Opera-Comique Orchestra & Chorus, Monteux (1955)

I PAGLIACCI (THE CLOWNS)
Composer: Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Premiere: May 21, 1892. Milan, Italy.
Italian libretto by Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Corelli, Amara, Gobbi, Zanasi, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Matačić (1960)
Recommended Video: Plácido Domingo, Teresa Stratas.  Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1982)

LADY MACBETH OF THE MTSENSK DISTRICT
Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
Premiere: Jan. 24, 1934. Leningrad, USSR.
Russian libretto by Alexander Preis and Dmitri Shostakovich
Recommended Recording: Vishnevskaya, Gedda, Patkov, Krenn, Ambrosian Opera Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Rostropovich (1978)
Recommended Video: Galina Vishnevskaya, Markéta Hrubesová. Directed by Peter Weigl (1992)

7 Lists
IDOMENEO
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: Jan. 29, 1781, Munich, Germany.
Italian libretto by Giambattista Varesco
Style: Dramma per musica; opera seria
Recommended Recording: Milne, Frittoli, Hunt Lieberson, Bostridge, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mackerras (2001)

DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL (THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere: July 16, 1782. Vienna, Austria.
German libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner with adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie
Style: Singspiel
Recommended Video: Eva Mei, Patrizia Ciofi, Rainer Trost, Kurt Rydl. Directed by George Blume (2002).

LES HUGUENOTS
Composer: Giacomo Meyerbeer
Premiere: Feb. 29, 1836. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps
Style: Grand opéra
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Arroyo, Tourangeau, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, New Philharmonia, Bonynge (1969)

SIMON BOCCANEGRA
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 12, 1857. Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Recommended Recording: Cappuccilli, Freni, Carreras, Ghiaurov, La Scala Chorus & Orchestra, Abbado (1977)

DIE LUSTIGE WITWE (THE MERRY WIDOW)
Composer: Franz Lehár
Premiere: Dec. 30, 1905. Vienna, Austria.
German libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein
Style: Operette
Recommended Recording: Schwarzkopf, Steffek, Gedda, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, Matačić (1962)

BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE
Composer: Béla Bartók
Premiere: May 24, 1918. Budapest, Hungary.
Hungarian libretto by Béla Balázs
Recommended Recording: Ramey, Marton, Hungarian State Orchestra; Fischer (1987)

THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Premiere: Nov. 6, 1924. Brno, Czechoslovakia
Czech libretto by Leoš Janáček
Recommended Recording: Popp, Jedlička, Randová, Vienna Philharmonic, Mackerras (1981)

DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER (THE THREEPENNY OPERA)
Composer: Kurt Weill
Premiere: Aug. 31, 1928. Berlin, Germany.
German libretto by Bertolt Brecht
Style: Ballad opera
Recommended Recording: Lenya, Neuss, Hesterberg, Trenk-Trebitsch, Southwest German Radio Orchestra & Chorus, Brückner-Rüggeberg> (1958)

WAR AND PEACE
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Premiere: June 12, 1946. Leningrad, USSR.
Russian libretto by Mira Mendelson
Recommended Recording: Miller, Vishnevskaya, Ciesinski, Paunova, Petkov, French Radio Orchestra & Chorus, Rostropovich (1986)

THE RAKE’S PROGRESS
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Premiere: Sept. 11, 1951. Venice, Italy.
English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman
Style: Number opera
Recommended Recording: Langridge, Pope, Ramey, Walker, Dobson, London Sinfonietta & Chorus, Chailly (1983)

BILLY BUDD
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: Dec. 1, 1951. London, UK.
English libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier
Recommended Recording: Langridge, Egerton, Keenlyside, Tomlinson, London Symphony Orchestra, Hickox (1999)

6 Lists
GIULIO CESARE IN EGITTO (JULIUS CAESAR IN EGYPT)
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Feb. 20, 1724. London, England.
Italian libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym
Style: Opera seria, drama per musica
Recommended Recording: Lamore, Schlick, Fink, Rorholm, Concerto Köln, Jacobs (2002)

LA SERVA PADRONA (THE SERVANT TURNED MISTRESS)
Composer: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Premiere: Sept. 5, 1733. Naples, Italy.
Italian libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico
Style: Intermezzo, opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Marshall, Valentini-Terrani, London Symphony Orchestra, Abbado (1985)

LA CENERENTOLA (CINDERELLA)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Premiere: Jan. 25, 1817. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Jacopo Ferreti
Style: Dramma giocoso, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Berganza, Alva, Capecchi, Montarsolo, Scottish Opera Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, Abbado (1971)

DER FREISCHÜTZ (THE MARKSMAN)
Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
Premiere: June 18, 1821. Berlin, Germany.
German libretto by Friedrich Kind
Style: Romantische Oper
Recommended Recording: Seefried, Holm, Wächter, Bavarian State Radio Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Jochum (1959)

DON PASQUALE
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Premiere: Jan. 3, 1843. Paris, France.
Italian libretto by Giovanni Ruffini and Gaetano Donizetti
Style: Opera buffa, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Hendricks, Canonici, Quilico, Bacquier, Opera de Lyon, Ferro (1990)

MACBETH
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 14, 1847. Florence, Italy
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and Andrea Maffei
Recommended Recording: Milnes, Cossoto, Raimondi, Carreras, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, New Philharmonia, Muti (1976)

LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (THE POWER OF FATE)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Nov. 22, 1862. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Recommended Recording: Price, Domingo, Milnes; London Symphony Orchestra, Levine (1976)

PRODANÁ NEVESTA (THE BARTERED BRIDE)
Composer: Bedřich Smetana
Premiere: May 30, 1866. Prague, Czech State.
Czech libretto by Karel Sabina
Style: Comic opera
Recommended Recording: Dvorský, Beňačková, Novak, Czeck Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Košler (1982)
Recommended Video: Peter Dvorský, Gabriela Beňačková. Directed by Frantisek Filip (1981)

DIE FLEDERMAUS (THE BAT)
Composer: Johann Strauss II
Premiere: April 5, 1874. Vienna, Austria.
German libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée
Style: Operette
Recommended Recording: Varady, Popp, Prey, Kollo, Weikl, Bavarian State Opera Chorus & Orchestra, Kleiber (1976)

LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN (THE TALES OF HOFFMANN)
Composer: Jacques Offenbach
Premiere: Feb. 10, 1881. Paris, France.
French libretto by Jules Barbier
Style: Opéra bouffe
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Tourangeau, Domingo, Suisse Romande Orchestra, Bonynge (1971)
Recommended Video: Moira Shearer, Robert Helpman.  Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1951).

PIQUE DAME (THE QUEEN OF SPADES)
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Premiere: Dec. 19, 1890. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky
Recommended Recording: Freni, Atlantov, Hvorostovsky, Forrester, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ozawa (1991)

MANON LESCAUT
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Feb. 1, 1893. Turin, Italy.
Italian libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo, Marco Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Freni, Pavarotti, Croft, Taddei, Bartoli, New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus, Levine (1993)

KÁTYA KABANOVÁ
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Premiere: Nov. 23, 1921. Brno, Czechoslovakia
Czech libretto by Vincenc Červinka
Recommended Recording: Söderström, Dvorsky, Kniplova, Krejcik, Vienna Philharmonic, Mackerras (1976)

THE TURN OF THE SCREW
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: Sept. 14, 1954. Venice, Italy.
English libretto by Myfanwy Piper
Style: Chamber opera
Recommended Recording: Lott, Langridge, Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Bedford (1993)

DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES (DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES)
Composer: Francis Poulenc
Premiere: January, 1957. Milan, Italy (La Scala)
French libretto by Francis Poulenc

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: June 11, 1960. Aldeburgh, UK.
English libretto by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears
Recommended Recording: Deller, Harwood, Harper, Veasey, Pears, London Symphony Orchestra, Britten (1966)

5 Lists
ALCINA
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: April 13, 1735. London, England
Italian libretto by Riccardo Broschi
Style: Opera seria.

LES INDES GALANTES (THE GALLANT INDIES)
Composer: Jean-Philippe Rameau
Premiere: Aug. 23, 1735. Paris, France.
French libretto by Louis Fuzelier
Style: Opéra-ballet

IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE (IPHIGENIA IN TAURIS)
Composer: Christoph Wilibald Gluck
Premiere: May 18, 1779. Paris, France.
French libretto by Nicolas-François Guillard.
Style: Tragédie en musique
Recommended Recording: Montague, Aler, Allen, Argenta, Monteverdi Choir, Lyon Opera Orchestra, Gardiner (1985)

GUILLAUME TELL (WILLIAM TELL)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Premiere: Aug. 3, 1829. Paris, France.
French libretto by Étienne de Jouy and Hippolyte Bis
Style: Grand opera, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Milnes, Freni, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Chailly (1978-1979) (Italian translation)

RUSLAN AND LYUDMILA
Composer: Mikhail Glinka
Premiere: Nov. 27, 1842. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Valerian Shirkov, Nestor Kukolnik and N. A. Markevich.
Recommended Recording: Rudenko, Nestorenko, Maslennikov; Bolshoi Theatre, Simonov (1979)

NABUCCO (NEBUCHADNEZZAR)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 9, 1842. Milan, Italy (La Scala)
Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera

LA DAMNATION DE FAUST (THE DAMNATION OF FAUST)
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Premiere: Dec. 6, 1846. Paris, France.
French libretto by Hector Berlioz
Style: Concert opera
Recommended Recording: Veasey, Gedda, Bastin, Ambrosian Singers, London Symphony Orchestra, Davis (1973)

LA GIOCONDA
Composer: Amilcare Ponchielli
Premiere: April 8, 1876. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito
Style: Opera ballo; grand opera
Recommended Recording: Callas, Cossotto, Cappuccilli, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Votto (1959)

SAMSON ET DALILA (SAMSON AND DELILAH)
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Premiere: Dec. 2, 1877. Weimar, Germany
French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire.
Recommended Recording: Domingo, Obraztsova, Bruson, Lloyd, Paris Orchestra & Chorus, Barenboim (1978)

KHOVANSHCHINA (THE KHOVANSKY AFFAIR)
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Premiere: Feb. 21, 1886
Russian libretto by Modest Mussorgsky.
Recommended Recording: Haugland, Atlantov; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Abbado (1989)

PRINCE IGOR
Composer: Alexander Borodin
Premiere: Nov. 4, 1890. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Alexander Borodin
Recommended Recording: Martinovich, Ghiuselev, Ghiaurov, Sofia Festival Orchestra & National Opera Chorus, Tchakarov (1990)

WERTHER
Composer: Jules Massenet
Premiere: Feb. 16, 1892. Vienna, Austria.
French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann
Style: Drame lyrique
Recommended Recording: Bergonzi, Casoni, Trimarchi, San Carlo Opera Orchestra & Chorus, De Fabritiis (1969)
Recommended Video: Brigitte Fassbinder, Peter Dvorsky. Directed by Peter Weigl (1985)

ANDREA CHÉNIER
Composer: Umberto Giordano
Premiere: March 28, 1896. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Luigi Illica.
Style: Verismo
Recommended Recording: Caballé, Pavarotti, Nucci, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Chailly (1984)

RUSALKA
Composer: Antonín Dvořák
Premiere: March 31, 1901. Prague, Czech State.
Czech libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil.
Style: Lyric opera

ARIADNE AUF NAXOS (ARIADNE ON NAXOS)
Composer: Richard Strauss
Premiere: Oct. 25, 1912. Stuttgart, Germany
German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Recommended recording: Janowitz, King, Geszty, Zylis-Gara, Dresden State Opera, Kempe (1968)

DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN (THE WOMAN WITHOUT A SHADOW)
Composer: Richard Strauss
Premiere: Oct. 10, 1919. Vienna, Austria
German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal

L’ENFANT ET LES SORTILÈGES (THE CHILD AND THE SPELLS)
Composer: Maurice Ravel
Premiere: March 21, 1925. Monte Carlo, Monaco.
French libretto by Colette.
Style: Children’s opera
Recommended Recording: Ogeas, Collard, Berbie, Gilma, French Radio National Orchestra & Chorus, Maazel (1960)

LULU
Composer: Alban Berg
Premiere: 1937. Zurich, Switzerland.
German libretto by Alban Berg.
Recommended recording: Wise, Fassbaender, Schöne, Straka, Orchestre Nationale de France; Tate (1991)

MOSES UND ARON (MOSES AND AARON)
Composer: Arnold Schoenberg
Premiere: June 6, 1957. Zurich, Switzerland. (Composed 1930-1932.)
German libretto by Arnold Schoenberg
Recommended Recording: Mazura, Langridge, Haugland, Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Solti (1984)

LE GRAND MACABRE (THE GRAND MACABRE)
Composer: György Ligeti
Premiere: April 12, 1978. Stockholm, Sweden.
German libretto by György Ligeti and Michael Meschke.
Recommended Recording: Weller, Davies, Walmsley-Clark, Smith, Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Howarth (1991)

4 Lists
ORLANDO
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Jan. 27, 1733. London, England.
Italian libretto by George Frideric Handel
Style: Opera seria
Recommended Recording: Joshua, Mannion, Bardon, Summers, Les Arts Florissants, Christie (1996)

IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (THE BARBER OF SEVILLE)
Composer: Giovanni Paisiello
Premiere: Sept. 26, 1782. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Italian libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini

SEMIRAMIDE
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Premiere: Feb. 3, 1823. Venice, Italy
Italian libretto by Gaetano Rossi
Style: Opera seria, bel canto

I PURITANI (THE PURITANS)
Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
Premiere: Jan. 24, 1835. Paris, France.
Italian libretto by Carlo Pepoli
Style: Bel canto
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov, Cappuccilli, Royal Opera House Chorus; London Symphony Orchestra, Bonynge (1973)

ORPHEE AUX ENFERS (ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD)
Composer: Jacques Offenbach
Premiere: Oct. 21, 1858. Paris, France.
French libretto by Ludovic Halévy; revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux
Style: Opéra bouffe

UN BALLO IN MASCHERA (THE MASKED BALL)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiere: Feb. 17, 1859. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Antonio Somma.
Recommended recording: Price, Pavarotti, Bruson, Gruberova, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Solti (1982)

ROMÉO ET JULIETTE (ROMEO AND JULIET)
Composer: Charles Gounod
Premiere: April 27, 1867. Paris, France.
French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré

MEFISTOFELE (MEPHISTOPHELES)
Composer: Arrigo Boito
Premiere: March 5, 1868. Milan, Italy (La Scala).
Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito.
Recommended Recording: Freni, Caballé, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov, National Philharmonic Orchestra, de Fabritiis (1982)

LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST (THE GIRL OF THE WEST)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Dec. 10, 1910. New York, New York, US
Italian libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini
Recommended Recording: Tebaldi, del Monaco, MacNeill, Santa Cecilia Academy Chorus & Orchestra, Capuana (1958)

IL TRITTICO: GIANNI SCHICCHI (THE TRIPTYCH: GIANNI SCHICCHI)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Premiere: Dec. 14, 1918. New York, New York, US
Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano

IL TRITTICO: SUOR ANGELICA (THE TRIPTYCH: SISTER ANGELICA)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini.
Premiere: Dec. 14, 1918. New York, U.S.
Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano

DOKTOR FAUST (DOCTOR FAUST)
Composer: Ferruccio Busoni. Finished by Philipp Jarnach.
Premiere: May 21, 1925. Dresden, Germany.
German libretto by Ferruccio Busoni.
Recommended Recording: Fischer-Dieskau, Cochran, de Ridder, Bavarian Radio Orchestra & Chorus, Leitner (1970)

THE MAKROPULOS AFFAIR
Composer: Leoš Janáček
Premiere: Dec. 18, 1926. Brno, Czechoslovakia.
Czech libretto by Leoš Janáček.
Recommended Recording: Söderström, Dvorsky, Krejcik, Zitek, Vienna Philharmonic, Mackerras (1978)

AUFSTIEG UND FALL DER STADT MAHAGONNY
(RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY)
Composer: Kurt Weill
Premiere: March 9, 1930. Leipzig, Germany
German libretto by Bertolt Brecht.

FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS
Composer: Virgil Thomson
Premiere: Feb. 7, 1934. Hartford, Connecticut, US
English libretto by Gertrude Stein.
Recommended Recording: Orchestra of Our Time; Thome (1981)

MATHIS DER MALER (MATTHIAS THE PAINTER)
Composer: Paul Hindemith
Premiere: May 28, 1938. Zurich, Switzerland.
German libretto by Paul Hindemith.
Recommended Recording: Fischer-Dieskau, Schmidt, Wagemann, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Kubelik (1978)

EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH
Composer: Philip Glass
Premiere: July 25, 1976. Avignon, France.
Contains writings by Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Lucinda Childs.
Style: Minimalist opera
Recommended Recording: Riesman, Philip Glass Ensemble; Glass, Gibson, Childs (1976)

SAINT FRANÇOIS D’ASSISE (ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI)
Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Premiere: Nov. 28, 1983. Paris, France.
French libretto by Olivier Messiaen.

NIXON IN CHINA
Composer: John Adams
Premiere: Oct. 22, 1987. Houston, Texas, US
English libretto by Alice Goodman.
Style: Minimalist opera

3 Lists
HIPPOLYTE ET ARICIE
Composer: Jean-Philippe Rameau
Premiere: Oct. 1, 1733. Paris, France.
French libretto by Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin
Style: Tragédie en musique

CASTOR ET POLLUX
Composer: Jean-Philippe Rameau
Premiere: Oct. 24, 1737. Paris, France.
French libretto by Pierre-Joseph-Justin Bernard
Style: Tragédie en musique, tragédie lyrique
Recommended Recording: Schele, Scovotti, Leanderson, Souzay, Vienna Concentus Musicus, Harnoncourt (1972)

SERSE (XERXES)
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: April 15, 1738. London, England.
Italian libretto by an unknown author.
Style: Opera seria

ALCESTE
Composer: Christoph Wilibald Gluck
Premiere: Dec. 26, 1767. Vienna, Austria.
Italian libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi
Style: Opera seria
Recommended Video: von Otter, Groves, Beuron, Tezier, English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner. Directed by Brian Large (1999).

IL MATRIMONIO SEGRETO (THE SECRET MARRIAGE)
Composer: Domenico Cimarosa
Premiere: Feb. 7, 1792. Vienna, Austria.
Italian libretto by Giovanni Bertati.
Style: Opera buffa
Recommended Recording: Patterson, Williams, Banditelli, Eastern Netherlands Orchestra, Bellini (1991)

MÉDÉE (MEDEA)
Composer: Luigi Cherubini
Premiere: March 13, 1797. Paris, France.
French libretto by François-Benoît Hoffmann
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Callas, Scotto, Pirazzini, La Scala Orchestra & Chorus, Serafin (1957) (Italian translation)

FRA DIAVOLO (BROTHER DEVIL)
Composer: Daniel Auber
Premiere: Jan. 28, 1830. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Mesplé, Berbié, Gedda, Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra & Jean Laforge Ensemble Choir, Soustrot (1984)

LA SONNAMBULA (THE SLEEPWALKER)
Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
Premiere: March 6, 1831. Milan, Italy.
Italian libretto by Felice Romani.
Style: Opera semiseria, bel canto
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov, London Opera Chorus; National Philharmonic Orchestra, Bonynge (1980)

BENVENUTO CELLINI
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Premiere: Sept. 10, 1838. Paris, France.
French libretto by Léon de Wailly and Henri Auguste Barbier
Style: Opera semiseria
Recommended Recording: Gedda, Eda-Pierre, Bastin, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Davis (1973)

LA FILLE DU RÉGIMENT (THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT)
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Premiere: Feb. 11, 1840. Paris, France.
French libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard.
Style: Opéra comique, bel canto
Recommended recording: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Sinclair, Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus, Bonynge (1971).

ERNANI (HERNANI)
Composer: Guiseppe Verdi
Premiere: March 9, 1844. Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave.
Style: Dramma lirico

LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES (THE PEARL FISHERS)
Composer: Georges Bizet
Premiere: Sept. 30, 1863. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré

HÄNSEL UND GRETEL (HANSEL AND GRETEL)
Composer: Engelbert Humperdinck
Premiere: December 23, 1893. Weimar, Germany
German libretto by Adelheid Wette
Style: Märchenoper; children’s opera
Recommended Recording: Schwarzkopf, Grümmer, Felbmayer, Philharmonia Orchestra, Loughton High School Chorus, von Karajan (1953)

ADRIANA LECOUVREUR
Composer: Francesco Cilea
Premiere: Nov. 6, 1902. Milan, Italy.
Italian libretto by Arturo Colautti.
Style: Verismo

THE LEGEND OF THE INVISIBLE CITY OF KITEZH AND THE MAIDEN FEVRONIYA
Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Premiere: Feb. 7, 1907. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Vladimir Belsky.

LE COQ D’OR (THE GOLDEN COCKEREL)
Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Premiere: Oct. 7, 1909. Moscow, Russia.
Russian libretto by Vladimir Belsky.

PALESTRINA
Composer: Hans Pfitzner
Premiere: June 12, 1917. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Hans Pfitzner.
Recommended Recording: Jurinac, Ludwig, Wunderlich, Vienna State Opera Orchestra & Chorus, Heger (1964)

HÁRY JÁNOS
Composer:Zoltán Kodály
Premiere: 1926. Budapest, Hungary.
Hungarian libretto by Béla Paulini and Zsolt Harsányi
Style: Singspiel

BETROTHAL IN A MONASTERY
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Premiere: Nov. 3, 1946. Leningrad, USSR.
Russian libretto by Sergei Prokofiev and Mira Mendelson

THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: July 12, 1946. Glyndebourne, UK.
English libretto by Ronald Duncan.
Style: Chamber opera
Recommended Recording: Pears, Harper, Baker, Shirley-Quirk, English Chamber Orchestra, Britten (1970)

THE CONSUL
Composer: Gian Carlo Menotti.
Premiere: March 1, 1950. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
English libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti.

KING PRIAM
Composer: Michael Tippett
Premiere: May 29, 1962. Coventry, UK.
English libretto by Michael Tippett.
Recommended Recording: Bailey, Harper, Allen, Langridge; London Sinfonietta & Chorus; Atherton (1980)

DEATH IN VENICE
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Premiere: June 16, 1973. Aldeburgh, UK.
English libretto by Myfanwy Piper.
Recommended Recording: Pears, Shirley-Quick, Bowman, English Chamber Orchestra, Bedford (1974)

A NIGHT AT THE CHINESE OPERA
Composer: Judith Weir
Premiere: July 8, 1987. Cheltenham, UK.
English libretto by Judith Weir.

2 Lists
RINALDO
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Feb. 24, 1711. London, England.
Italian libretto by Giacomo Rossi.
Recommended Recording: Orgonášová, Bartoli, Fink, Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood (1999)

ACIS AND GALATEA
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Summer, 1718. Little Stanmore, England.
English libretto by John Gay
Style: Pastoral opera

RODELINDA
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Feb. 13, 1725. London, England
Italian libretto by Nicol Francesco Haym
Style: Opera seria

ARIODANTE
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Jan. 8, 1735. London, England.
Italian libretto by an unknown artist.
Style: Opera seria

SEMELE
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Premiere: Feb. 10, 1744. London, England.
English libretto by William Congreve.

LA BUONA FIGLIUOLA (THE GOOD-NATURED GIRL)
Composer: Niccolò Piccinni
Premiere: Feb. 6, 1760. Rome, Italy.
Italian libretto by Carlo Goldoni
Style: Opera buffa.

LA CLEMENZA DI TITO (TITUS’ CLEMENCY)
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Premiere: Sept. 6, 1791. Prague, Czech State.
Italian libretto by Caterino Mazzolà.

L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI (THE ITALIAN GIRL IN ALGIERS)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini.
Premiere: May 22, 1813.  Venice, Italy.
Italian libretto by Angelo Anelli.
Style: Dramma giocoso.

LE COMTE ORY (THE COUNT OF ORY)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Premiere: Aug. 20, 1828. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson.
Style: Opera buffa.

HANS HEILING
Composer: Heinrich Marschner.
Premiere: May 24, 1833. Berlin, Germany.
German libretto by Eduard Devrient
Style: Romantische.

A LIFE FOR THE TSAR
Composer: Mikhail Glinka.
Premiere: Nov. 27, 1836. St. Petersburg, Russia.
Russian libretto by Nestor Kukolnik, Baron Yegor Fyodorovich Rozen, Vladimir Sollogub and Vasily Zhukovsky.
Recommended Recording: Martinovich, Pendachanska, Toczyska, Sofia Festival Orchestra, Tchakarov (1989)

MARTHA
Composer: Friedrich von Flotow
Premiere: Feb. 21, 1844. Paris, France.
German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese
Style: Romantic comic opera

DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR (THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR)
Composer: Otto Nicolai
Premiere: March 9, 1849. Berlin, Germany.
German libretto by Salomon Hermann Mosenthal
Style: Spieloper; singspiel
Recommended Recording: Mathis, Wunderlich, Frick, Bavarian State Opera Orchestra & Chorus; Heger (1963)

LE PROPHÈTE (THE PROPHET)
Composer: Giacomo Meyerbeer
Premiere: April 16, 1849. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe
Style: Grand opera

LES VÊPRES SICILIENNES (THE SICILIAN VESPERS)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi.
Premiere: June 13, 1855. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier.
Style: Grand opera.

BÉATRICE ET BÉNÉDICT
Composer:Hector Berlioz
Premiere: Aug. 9, 1862. Baden-Baden, Germany.
French libretto by Hector Berlioz
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Veasey, Watts, Mitchinson, London Symphony Orchestra, Davis (1996)

LA BELLE HÉLÈNE (FAIR HELEN)
Composer: Jacques Offenbach.
Premiere: Dec. 17, 1864. Paris, France.
French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.
Style: Opéra bouffe; operette

L’AFRICAINE (THE AFRICAN WOMAN)
Composer: Giacomo Meyerbeer
Premiere: April 28, 1865. Paris, France.
French libretto by Eugène Scribe
Style: Grand opera

LAKMÉ
Composer: Léo Delibes
Premiere: April 14, 1883. Paris, France.
French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille.
Style: Opéra comique
Recommended Recording: Sutherland, Vanzo, Bacquier, Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra, Bonynge (1967)

LOUISE
Composer: Gustave Charpentier
Premiere: Feb. 2, 1900. Paris, France.
French libretto by Gustave Charpentier and Saint-Pol-Roux.
Style: Frence verismo
Recommended Recording: Cotrubas, Berbié, Domingo, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Ambrosia Opera Chorus, Prêtre (1976)

A VILLAGE ROMEO AND JULIET
Composer: Frederick Delius
Premiere: Feb. 21, 1907. Berlin, Germany.
English libretto by Frederick and Jelka Delius.
Recommended Video: Dana Moravkova, Michel Dlouhy. Directed by Peter Weigl (1992)

DON QUICHOTTE (DON QUIXOTE)
Composer: Jules Massenet
Premiere: Feb. 19, 1910. Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Monaco
French libretto by Henri Caïn

L’HEURE ESPAGNOLE (THE SPANISH HOUR)
Composer: Maurice Ravel
Premiere: May 19, 1911. Paris, France.
French libretto by Franc-Nohain.
Style: Comédie musicale

IL TRITTICO: IL TABARRO (THE TRIPTYCH: THE CLOAK)
Composer: Giacomo Puccini.
Premiere: Dec. 14, 1918. New York, U.S.
Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami.

DIE TOTE STADT (THE DEAD CITY)
Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Premiere: Dec. 4, 1920. Hamburg & Cologne, Germany
German libretto by Erich and Julius Korngold.
Recommended Recording: Kollo, Neblett, Prey; Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leinsdorf (1975)

THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev.
Premiere: Dec. 30, 1921. Chicago, U.S.
French libretto by Sergei Prokofiev
Style: Satirical opera.
Recommended Recording: Bacquier, Viala, Perraguin; Lyon Opera Chorus & Orchestra, Nagano (1989)

KING ROGER
Composer: Karol Szymanowski.
Premiere: June 19, 1926. Warsaw, Poland.
Polish libretto by Karol Szymanowski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz .
Recommended Recording: Hiolski, Zagórzanka, Ochman, Grychnik, Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Wit (1990)

OEDIPUS REX (OEDIPUS THE KING)
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Premiere: May 30, 1927. Paris, France (as oratorio). Feb. 23, 1928. Vienna, Austria (as opera)
French libretto by Jean Cocteau; translated into Latin by Abbé Jean Daniélou
Style: Opera-oratorio

CAPRICCIO 
Composer: Richard Strauss.
Premiere: Oct. 28, 1942. Munich, Germany.
German libretto by Richard Strauss and Clemens Krauss.

AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS
Composer: Gian Carlo Menotti
Premiere: Dec. 24, 1951. New York, New York, U.S. (televised).
English libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti.
Style: Television opera
Recommended Recording: Rainbird, Haywood, Dobson, Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus, Menotti (1986)

THE MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE
Composer: Michael Tippett.
Premiere: Jan. 27, 1955. London, UK.
English libretto by Michael Tippett.

SUSANNAH
Composer: Carlisle Floyd.
Premiere: Feb. 24, 1955. Talahassee, Florida, US.
English libretto by Carlisle Floyd.

ELEGY FOR YOUNG LOVERS
Composer: Hans Werner Henze.
Premiere: May 20, 1961. Schwetzingen, Germany.
English libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman
Recommended Recording: Schudel, Lloyd-Morgan, Richard, Berlin Chamber Opera Orchestra, Jones (1989).

DIE SOLDATEN (THE SOLDIERS)
Composer: Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
Premiere: Feb. 15, 1965. Cologne, Germany.
German libretto by Bernd Alois Zimmerman.

THE BASSARIDS
Composer: Hans Werner Henze.
Premiere: Aug. 6, 1966. Salzburg, Austria.
English libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

14 thoughts on “Best Operas of All Time – The Critics’ Picks

  1. Pingback: Kill Da Wabbit: Introducing the Opera Lists | Make Lists, Not War

  2. Bob Weisenberg

    Thanks you for doing this. It’s just what I was looking for. I’m already familiar with many of the operas on this list, but others I have not heard, and some are very surprising and new to me. I was about to go look at a whole bunch of lists myself, but you have made that unnecessary. One small suggestion, rank the “by composer” list by the opera’s rank on your list. Great work, and I really appreciate all the time that went into it. It will be my guide to expand my opera horizons.

    Reply
    1. beckchris Post author

      Bob:

      Thanks for the comment – I’m glad you are getting what you need from Make Lists, Not War. Your suggestion is an interesting one. I am a big fan of chronological order, but I might add the rankings to the chronological list without actually changing the order – that way you would be able to pick out which ones were more highly-ranked without losing the historical information.

      John B.

      Reply
      1. Bob Weisenberg

        That’s perfect, John. That way I get both the chronology and the ranking.

        For example, I’ve only heard one Handal Opera (the incredible “MET live in HD” production). I want to hear more, but I would like to know which Handal operas are ranked most highly, as opposed to picking my next one at random.

        I don’t share your “list problem”, but I sure am glad you have one, so we can all benefit from your work. I’m sure many other people feel just as appreciative, but who don’t take the time to tell you.

        I was about to ask you for recommended recording, but then I realized you’ve already included them above. I have Spotify, which always has many versions of each opera, usually the very one I’m looking for.

        I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of your site.

        Thanks again.

        Bob

  3. G Lazarette

    A word of advice. Don’t try to compile lists of things you know absolutely nothing about. This list is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. beckchris Post author

      Ouch!

      Actually, in your blunt, impolite way, you have hit on an important fact about meta-lists – you don’t have to know anything about the underlying matters to make a meta-list. All you have to know how to do is (a) find lists that other people made and (b) count the number of lists an item is on. Anyone with an Internet connection and basic arithmetic can do that, even you, Mr./Ms. Lazarette. So, when you say, “This list is ridiculous”, what you are really saying is, “It is ridiculous that out of 20 ‘Best Operas’ lists found on the Internet (made mostly by critics and academicians), there are no operas on all 20 lists, there is only one opera on 19 of the lists (Carmen), there are only two operas on 18 of the lists (Le Nozze di Figaro and Il Barbiere di Siviglia), only three operas on 17 of the lists (The Magic Flute, La Traviata and Madama Butterfly) and so on.”

      So you see, your complaint is with the lists I found on the Internet, not me. I have my own personal opinions about opera, but I would not include them in a list entitled, “Best Operas of All Time – The Critics’ Picks.”

      Reply
    2. Bob Weisenberg

      As you can see from my comments above, I love this list and your approach. The methodology is not only completely legitimate, but, at least for me, superior than relying on the opinion of just one expert. And, for me, it is vastly preferable to seeking out all the lists you cover on my own. Many thanks, and don’t be discouraged by loose, unspecific, and misinformed criticism like this.

      Reply
      1. beckchris Post author

        Thanks, Bob. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with the lists – that’s one of the enjoyable things to do with them. But I want to make sure everyone understands how I make the lists, so they know what they are disagreeing with.

    3. J X

      I know I’m late to the party, but this is a fantastic list! I’ll be glad to search for a few of the plays / recordings that I’m not familiar with, and never made it on my radar.

      As for Lazarette, great, you think the list is ridiculous? How about you expand on your “intelligent” observation and explain WHY this list is ridiculous and how YOU would create the aforementioned list with your keen ear? It’s all nice that everyone criticizes, yet never can articulate why they criticized in the first place.

      This is 2016, show some basic intelligent debating skills.

      Reply
  4. Mawmbo Iguana

    Your cry for help is heard. So much for the tree in the forest. Thank you for your agony and your ecstasy. It is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  5. Sean Osborn

    FUN website – thank you!!!
    LOL, it’s funny how different this list is from some others. When I was playing in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, we figured a very short list of Operatic masterpieces: La Boheme, Othello, Gotterdammerung, Wozzek, and Le Nozze di Figaro. Some near-masterpieces I would include are: Tosca, Peter Grimes, Sweeny Todd, Cosi Fan Tutte, Carmen, probably some others. My personal favorite opera is “Il Trittico.” Boris Gudonov, Faust, and Fliegende Hollander are WAY too high on this list IMO, and not very good operas to begin with.

    Reply
    1. beckchris Post author

      Thanks for your input on the Best Operas list. I can’t take credit (or blame) for the list since it is not based on my personal opinions but on the opinions of other folks who made “Best Operas” lists – all I do is collect the lists (although I tend to prefer lists made by critics, academics, editors and other experts over amateur lists) and tally up which operas are listed the most often. If I had to give my favorites, it would be a very short list, as I have only listened to a few operas all the way through and have only actually watched two operas live – both of them early Baroque operas. I agree that some of the greatest entertainment value of lists is in disagreeing with them, and I particularly value your opinion as someone who has played so many of these operas. Thanks again,

      John Becker

      Reply
  6. HAL DILBECK

    Thank you for this effort and for explaining the role your judgment plays in the compilation. We need the judgment of a constructive person at the meta-level of evaluatiing motives and competence of list-makers. Your preference for lists prepared by people who have some time in rank should be pursued. Also, you have attracted Sean Osborn to share the experience and opinion of a highly qualified person. I hope you find the time to continue your work.

    Reply

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