Learn The Culture 2/10: 5 Most Famous Opera Plays That You Should Know About

Opera, as a genre, survived HUNDREDS of years of historical changes, wars, presidents, and politics, whereas Rap, Hip Hop, and Pop are barely in their inception stages. We also think that once the pandemic frees everyone up, it might become a flex. It is expensive, chic, historically relevant, upper class favored, in short, it has all the ingredients for being treated just as badass as a vacation on IG in the Turks and Caicos. If you want to stay ahead of the trend, read below which Opera plays are worthy of your time and attention. And by all means, do go at least ONCE in your lifetime to witness this incredible form of art.

5. Tosca

Albeit fifth on the list, this play is unanimously the Blue Rhymez Entertainment favorite. The reason being, it is a political thriller with many historical references. The other top popular opera plays are mostly about romance and unrequited love as you shall discover.

Premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14th, 1900, and adapted b Giacomo Puccini, Tosca is based on an 1887 French-language dramatic play. The play is set in Rome, with the Kingdom of Naples’s control of Rome threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. Tosca contains vivid depictions of torture, murder, and suicide. It also portrays much more relatable characters to the modern-day society than other equally antiquated operas, such as chief of police, a police agent, an escaped prisoner, a singer, a painter, a consul, and others.

Fun fact: the Italians gave it a lukewarm reception while Britons were much nicer to its initial impressions. And in time… critics changed their mind about Tosca over and over again both loving it and disregarding it as something worthy of attention.

4. The Magic Flute

The very Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the one who adapted a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder for the opera, naming it The Magic Flute. Considered one of the greatest operas ever written, Mozart’s lasting classic conveys the search for truth, reason, love, and enlightenment. It follows the adventures of Prince Tamino and the bird-catcher Papageno on their quest to rescue Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night.

The opera was premiered in Vienna on September 30th, 1791 at the suburban Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. He died shortly after, resulting in Mozart’s surviving wife, Constanze, sending the score of The Magic Flute to the electoral court in Bonn on December 28th, 1791. It took 24 years for the play to be officially published in 1815.

3. La Traviata

None other than Alexandre Dumas wrote La Dame aux Camélias which was adapted by Giuseppe Verdi into La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) for opera houses. Initially named Violetta, it was first performed on March 6th,1853 at La Fenice opera house in Venice.

La Traviata is all about titles, barons, heritage, families, in short – the Parisian high society. This girl Violetta moved to the countryside with Alfredo to leave behind the balls, the parties, the good stuff really. She also put everything up for sale to ensure their life in the country except the guy had no idea of the material sacrifice his woman was going through. When he found out, he left for Paris to make money but his dad visited them and asked Violetta to let his son go for the sake of their societal status. It’s a looong story afterward with a sad ending. But royalty has appealed since forever to mankind and the play has made bank for the opera houses hosting it.

2. Carmen

Adapted by Georges Bizet, Carmen is based on Prosper Mérimée’s novel from 1845. At the time it came out it was highly controversial as it explicitly showed immorality, lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage. Funniest part? Probably the saddest too. The author didn’t live to see the international acclaim Carmen has brought him. He died inexplicably and suddenly after the 33rd performance.

The play takes place in Southern Spain and it is about the naive Don José who lets himself be entirely seduced by the beautiful gypsy named Carmen. The guy is a soldier and dumps his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties for Carmen. (hem… Did Meghan Markle get inspired by this play?) Carmen falls for someone else and duh! Don José ends up killing Carmen in a jealous rage. Telenovelas for expensive taste!

1. La Bohème

Based on an 1851 novel, Giacomo Puccini left his mark quite literally forever on the opera culture with La Bohème. Although it is called a novel, the story does not have a unified plot. It goes into detail about young bohemians living their unconventional lives in a famous Parisian quarter. From them getting the landlord drunk and tricking him into not paying the rent, to the starving artists not being able to foot the bill at a cafe, to one particular character wanting to leave his girlfriend because she’s sick.

The first time the world has witnessed this play was on February 1st, 1896 at Teatro Regio, Turin, Italy. Apparently, the audience felt conflicted about La Bohème but compelled enough to talk about it as to prompt opera houses around the country and internationally to implement it in their schedules. Critics at the time loved the narrative style and performance neatness but argued that the music itself was uncomplicated and boring.

La Bohème goes to show that just because something is not favored by critics, it doesn’t mean it is by default a commercial failure. It won a whole Grammy Award in 1974 for Best Opera Recording.

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