Figaro, Figaro, Figggaaarrroooo

Sydney Opera House

If you’re like me, your only true exposure to opera was through cartoons.  One of my all-time favorites is “The Rabbit of Seville“, which featured Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (I especially love the way Bugs “massages” Elmer’s head, and then builds a fruit salad on top!). I’ll also bet many of us could hum several tunes without realizing they’re actually opera. This month, dare yourself to try a little of one of the most misunderstood and underrated musical genres. Here’s a few items to get you started:

Try NPR’s Curious Listener’s Guide to Opera for a start. It offers a short history, an accessible list of tunes, and  just enough information on the plotlines to get you into trouble.  Other books for beginners include Opera for Dummies (which is a tad less serious) and Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera. For those of you with more experience, look into Getting Opera: A Guide for the Cultured but Confused or A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to the Plots, the Singers, the Composers, the Recordings. For a little art with your opera, check out Fantastic Opera by John Martinez. This is an illuminated book, with incredible pictures representing some of the most beloved operas.

Once you’ve got your feet wet, wade into our great classical music collection. Here are compilations to give you a taste of some of the most famous songs and performances:

Now you’re ready to dive into opera! Check out one of these classic operas on CD:

Congratulations! You have now become an amateur connoisseur of Opera. (See, it wasn’t so hard.) But in case you’re not ready to leave your new world just yet, here are a few more fun opera items:

FICTION – Novels that feature opera or singers:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Gramercy Park by Paula Cohen

Puccini’s Ghosts by Morag Joss

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather


INTERNET – More opera resources:

Operabase – a database of opera performances through the years

Opera-Opera – plot summaries for most operas

Opera Glass – a compendium of all sorts of opera-related items from Stanford University

One response to this post.

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