Welcome! This blog explores opera – the warhorses, the familiar, those you may have heard of in a reference book, and the very obscure indeed.
We live in an extraordinary age. The average person has more access to opera than at any time in the past.
The great houses of the world – the Met in New York, La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opéra – broadcast their productions to millions around the world.
You can find a recording of nearly any opera you name on YouTube. (Want to know what Canepa’s Riccardo III, Kreutzer’s Nachtlager in Granada or Godard’s Dante are like?)
Scores and contemporary musical criticism are on IMSLP and the Internet Archive, while l’Art Lyrique Français is a staggering compendium of French opera. Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s website, has illustrations, costumes, and set designs from the original productions. The Archivio storico Ricordi has a wealth of iconography from Verdi to verismo.
What is performed today, though, is only the tip of the proverbial. Many obscure operas are just as good as those everybody knows.
They may, though, only be known in their home country. (Moniuszko’s Straszny dwór and Paliashvili’s Abesalom da Eteri are wonderful, but not played outside Poland and Georgia.)
They may have failed in their lifetime, or they may have been enormously popular for decades and then disappeared (Meyerbeer).
Even giants like Strauss and Wagner composed operas that deserve to be better known. (There are fine things in Friedenstag and Feuersnot, while Das Liebesverbot is more fun than Tristan und Isolde.)
And some forgotten operas do deserve to be forgotten – but it’d be interesting to find out why.
You might also be interested in my other writings on opera: