Tosca

    By Giacomo Puccini

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    Tosca, one of Puccini’s greatest and most popular operas, is a supreme example of music’s power to enthral the audience. In his introductory essay to this guide, Bernard Williams discusses the enduring quality of its appeal. Bernard Keeffe, in his article, analyses different aspects of the score, no…

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    Idomeneo

    By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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    Mozart wrote Idomeneo when he was twenty-four years old, and the opera was described by Albert Einstein as ‘one of those works that even a genius like Mozart could write only once in his life’. It is one of most astonishing achievements of an altogether astonishing career. In this newly commissioned…

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    La bohème

    By Giacomo Puccini

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    Puccini’s La bohème is one of the most beloved and enduring operas of all time. In this guide, William Ashbrook evaluates the opera’s initial reception, the reasons for its wide appeal and Verdi’s influence on the composition. Nicholas John discusses the tortuous evolution of the libretto over the c…

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    A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    By Benjamin Britten

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    A Midsummer Night’s Dream was Benjamin Britten’s seventh major opera and had its premiere at Aldeburgh in 1960. Britten and his partner Peter Pears prepared a condensed version of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy for the libretto, using (with the exception of a single line) only the original text. In…

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    Eugene Onegin

    By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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    Eugene Onegin is the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s operas. Entitled ‘Lyrical Scenes after Pushkin’ by the composer, the work takes as its basis the poem of the same name by the great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. Its story of the unrequited love of Tatyana for the world-weary Onegin has exerted…

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    Simon Boccanegra

    By Giuseppe Verdi

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    Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra exists in two versions: that of the 1857 original and that of the 1881 revision. The texts of the libretto of both versions are included in this guide, with a number of essays which focus on the differences between the two. Rodolfo Celleti provides the story’s historical con…

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    Der fliegende Holländer

    By Richard Wagner

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    Der fliegender Hollander is the first of Wagner’s operas considered to be representative of his mature style. Originally taken from a story by the poet Heinrich Heine, it embodies one of the major themes that recur throughout Wagner’s work, that of a central character seeking redemption through a lo…

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    Carmen

    By Georges Bizet

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    ‘Carmen’ is one of the most enduringly popular of all operas and the most powerful of Georges Bizet’s works. Following its premiere at the Opera-Comique in Paris in 1875, it went on to be performed at all the major opera houses in the world. With its soaring depictions of passion, obsession and jeal…

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    La Traviata

    By Giuseppe Verdi

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    ‘La Traviata’ was Giuseppe Verdi’s eighteenth opera and shows him at the height of his middle-period powers. Adapted from ‘La Dame aux Camelias’ by Alexandre Dumas fils, it portrays the love between the courtesan Violetta Valery and the young Alfredo Germont in fashionable Parisian society, with its…

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    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

    By Richard Wagner

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    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is the only comedy among Richard Wagner’s mature works. Unusually for Wagner, it is set in a historically specific time and place, sixteenthcentury Nuremberg, and tells of a song contest among the town’s guildsmen. It nevertheless explores the same themes of renewal, r…

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    Otello

    By Giuseppe Verdi

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    Otello, Verdi’s penultimate opera, was composed more than a dozen years after Aida, which he had intended to be his last work for the stage. He was persuaded by his publisher Giulio Ricordi to work with the librettist Arrigo Boito on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello; the resulting work is one…

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    Così fan tutte

    By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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    Following the great successes of Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte was the last of the three operas that Mozart wrote with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Although well received at its premiere in Vienna in 1790, it was then largely neglected until the mid-twentieth century. Its c…

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