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All right, so let’s talk about opera… I hope you will indulge me and let me briefly touch on a few aspects of this topic useful to know before we submerge ourselves in this magnificent world. For those of you who are so eager  to get to the good stuff that they simply cannot bear to read this short intro, you can just scroll right down to the list of the arias below. First things first. You might think it’s a bit presumptuous, even cheeky of me to assume that you are probably a beginner and address you as if you are just getting to know the subject. I mean no disrespect, but following the simple principles of logical deduction you would hardly be looking up the 10 most beautiful arias if you were an expert in the field. Because by now you would most likely have accumulated a list of at least fifty favorites of your own! But if you are an opera connoisseur, who just happened to stumble upon my site, I hope you will still enjoy it and please believe me when I say I did not mean to be patronizing in any way :-). Opera is one of life’s greatest pleasures: there is nothing comparable to the ecstasy that envelops you while listening to the singers hit those high notes!  The sheer delight takes your breath away and you are quite unable to believe that any human being (as those artists obviously descend from a realm of some sort of divine, supernatural creatures!) is capable of producing a sound of such supreme and profound beauty.  But let’s start at the beginning. As we all know, there are two kinds of operas: opera seria (serious opera full of high drama and bodies dropping all over the place) and the opera buffa (comic opera), a much lighter fare with a lot of situational comedy and a somewhat happy ending. As far as the voice types are concerned there are three major ones in the female, as well as the male category. The highest singing female voice is the soprano; then we have the mezzo-soprano and the contralto, which is, of course, the lowest. The highest male voice is the tenor, then the baritone and last, but not least, the bass. These can be even further compartmentalized, but the familiarity with this basic classification should suffice for the purpose of this brief introduction. Of course, most of the masterpieces of the operatic repertory belong to the serious category and they all have one thing in common: at least one of the heroes dies in the grand finale. Often it does not end with one, however. Hell, sometimes they all have to go and the proverbial “last girl/boy standing” is a mere secondary figure (a mezzo or a baritone,) whom we would have gladly sacrificed to save the more worthy tenors and sopranos. The ways in which those beloved characters meet their demise are rather ingenious, as well as very original. They jump into avalanches, get bricked in inside a tomb (while still alive in case you wanted to point out that’s where most dead people kind of wind up anyway), willingly walk into fires, pretend to be a man to get stabbed in place of their unfaithful chauvinistic pig of a lover, have a rather close encounter with a Japanese sword or bungee jump from a roof of a building (sans the bungee). Well, the list goes on. Some are lucky enough to transition in a more natural way, thanks to every long suffering, olden-times tragic heroine’s best friend: the tuberculosis. Some, on the other hand,  do not share in that good fortune and get dragged to hell courtesy of the Lord of the Darkness himself…  So fun, fun, fun all around! Anyway, I think you get my point. Opera, for the most part, is not supposed to be realistic. The plot does not necessarily have to make sense. It’s all about the high drama intensified a hundredfold by the incredibly gorgeous singing. But even though they are often exaggerated, sometimes even caricatured, you can still recognize all the basic human emotions there: love, hate, envy, greed. We can identify with the characters, because they are driven in equal measures by good and evil. Not to mention the fact that you would be stunned by just how raunchy opera can be: it’s full of adultery, murder, betrayal, fallen  women and even incest. Seriously, some of the most controversial movies out there would be hard- pressed to keep up! If you have previously never really taken an interest in opera, but would like to get acquainted with this wonderful artistic form, then hopefully the list of the most beautiful arias below (please remember, however, that it is based strictly on my personal taste and by no means represents the best pieces chosen according to some universal standards) can help you out. At first I was going to present only ten, but since making choices proved to be extremely challenging I finally settled for sixteen.  They are all so different that you should definitely find something that will appeal to you. I also included three of the best renditions (again, in my humble opinion) with each one, so that you can get a feeling of how uniquely the same piece can be sung by the various artists. This way you will be able to already start developing an inkling as to what kind of interpretation pleases you the most. You will quickly discover how much you enjoy some of them, while others leave you cold. The perception of opera is a very individual experience and the same singer that will put you in a state of orgasmic nirvana might be appalling to somebody else. Just look at the fact that fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi are still at each other’s throats trying to establish who was the greatest diva of them all. Even though Callas prematurely passed away some 36 years ago, even now passions still run high (not to mention the guest appearance of an occasional fist or two) when this topic is addressed… And just for the record: I am fully aware that some of you will wonder why I have not included such well-known and cherished arias like “Habanera” from Carmen, “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, “La Donna e mobile” from Rigoletto or “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville, to mention just a few. Well, the reason for that is the fact that even the most culturally sheltered person has run into this melody at some stage of their lives (and please don’t worry if the titles don’t ring a bell, I promise you,  you will recognize them as soon as the music starts playing). They are so ever-present in the media and the pop-culture that I thought it would be a much better use of space to introduce you to some of the less prominently featured arias. So let’s assume that you listened to all (or even just a few) of my suggested picks. If you are thrilled by what you heard (or at least slightly intrigued), the next step would be to watch a whole opera on a DVD (I have a section on my web-site where I review those) or listen to the CD recordings. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with an actual opera house, then you can embark on a wonderful adventure of going to see a live performance.  Opera is one of the rare forms of storytelling where you actually benefit from knowing the plot beforehand, so please make sure that you are familiar with the storyline in advance. The reason for that is simple: the great majority of operas are performed in a foreign language, so unless you are fluent in Italian, French, German or Russian (most productions feature one of those), then you might find yourself somewhat struggling to understand why the two middle-aged characters, who according to your Program are supposed to be in their late teens, spent the better part of two hours singing love arias to each other to ultimately end up getting assassinated by an outraged youngster (who is supposed to be the soprano’s  father, but in fact could easily be her son) for no apparent reason. Opera houses usually do provide surtitles to help you follow the action, but the more prepared you are the better. If you have a chance it really helps to listen to the music a few times before the actual big night, this way you know what to expect and can enjoy it even more. Please trust me when I say there are few things in the world quite as fabulous as experiencing an opera first-hand! So you don’t need any more convincing? But can frankly not imagine what kind of high-powered persuasion techniques you would have to apply to talk your Beloved into coming along? You have visions of this argument escalating to quite epic, pardon, operatic dimensions with you possibly having to drag your partner’s slightly mutilated, lifeless body to the event? Being rather relieved to have seen “Weekend at Bernies” and thus at least possessing a rudimentary idea about how to go about the whole thing? The homicidal faux pas not even being your fault (per se), as it only happened after he/she said they would only go over their dead body. And you, having been just sufficiently influenced by the eventful plots full of tragic events to get slightly confused, took them up on their offer? But, lo and behold, there is indeed a much more humane way of convincing them! Additional bonus: you will not spend the rest of your days in prison or a psychiatric facility. On the downside, however, nobody will probably write an opera about you… Well,  you can’t have it all! So anyway, here is what you do: light a few candles, put some lovely fresh flowers into a vase, open a bottle of champagne, slip into a little black dress (or the male equivalent thereof, unless, of course, you are both into cross-dressing) and play a CD of your favorite arias in the background. You can buy some ready compilations or make your own by downloading your chosen selection from places like iTunes or Amazon. I personally would  recommend: And when you both sit there in the candlelight, with the scent of fresh flowers around you, sipping champagne and listening to this enchanting music, you will see how incredibly erotic such an occasion can be. Please trust the author, as she knows exactly what she’s talking about, ehem, ehem… After an evening like that you should not have any further problems convincing your Darling that a night filled with such cultural entertainment can easily and happily end in a sort of activity very much appreciated by both sides. Teaching by association. A most effective and  rewarding method. A lot of people never undertake the journey of exploring the opera because they are simply scared, they think it’s just too fancy and complicated for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth! All right, perhaps you will not learn it all in one day, but it’s not about you being a walking encyclopedia, it’s about you loving what you hear! And if you decide to give opera a chance it will enrich your life and offer you sensations you have never even dreamt of experiencing before. So all that is left for me to say is: enjoy, as you have just become a part of this sublime world! The 10 Most Beautiful Opera Arias (+6 Bonus Tracks) 1. Title: Casta Diva (Pure Goddess) Opera: Norma  by Vincenzo Bellini (libretto Felice Romani) This aria is sung by a soprano (the title character Norma).  One of the most prominent artists performing it was Maria Callas, who to this day is widely recognized as one of the best Normas of all times. Norma has become an integral part of the Bel Canto repertory and has enjoyed many revivals and exciting stage adaptations. Casta Diva is probably Bellini’s most famous composition. It shows off his style to perfection, namely the constant repetition of the musical motif with  variations in scale and intensity. The opera takes place during the Roman conquest of Gaul. The heroine meets her Maker by willingly stepping into the flames accompanied by her lover, proconsul Pollione. Why would anybody do that you ask? Well, it turns out that the Roman dignitary decided to exchange the Druid Priestess Norma for a younger model, namely the alluring virgin Adalgisa. As you can imagine Norma did not appreciate being dumped and experienced a slight psychotic episode, involving planning the murder of her children. In the end she thought better of it, but after some futile attempts to forcibly win back Pollione’s love decided the best solution for her problems would be getting herself burned at the stake. That, of course, miraculously reinvigorated the guy’s feelings for her and they decided to take the little trip into the fire together. Now, if that is not romantic…  Some of the most beautiful renditions delivered by:  -  Maria Callas:  - Joan Sutherland:  -  Beverly Sills:  2. Title: Un bel di vedremo (One Beautiful Day) Opera: Madame Butterfly  by Giacomo Puccini (libretto Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa). The role of Cio-Cio San was created to be sung by a soprano. This highly dramatic work is one of the most popular operas around the world (according to the www.operabase.com statistics it was number 7 on  the list of the most performed operas during the 2011/2012 season). It has also served as inspiration for the popular musical Miss Saigon. Madame Butterfly contains popular at the time elements of exoticism: the setting, costumes and musical motifs convey the contemporary fascination with  far-away lands and customs. In this beautiful aria Cio-Cio San expresses her hope that one day her husband will return to her, even though nobody else believes it and she is universally encouraged to forget him and get on with her life. You can hear her deep emotion and desperate longing in every  gorgeous note of this incredibly moving piece.  The action of the opera takes place in Nagasaki (Japan) around 1900. Also this young lady dies for love and honor:  she makes a rather close acquaintance with her father’s hara-kiri knife to be exact… And all that for the vile Pinkerton, one of the most repulsive characters ever created in opera! You just literally want to run up the stage and kick him in his private parts every time he opens his mouth. Selfish and completely unaware of his cruelty he is not even worthy to be Butterfly’s shoe- shine. Unfortunately, the poor girl remains completely oblivious to that fact and loves him with a blind devotion verging on the slightly terrifying. At this point I can only say that a couple of nice feministic, bra-burning girl-friends would have been highly desirable to beat some sense into our heroine. I mean seriously, you’re going to kill yourself over this creep?!? Some of the most successful artists performing this part were:  - Victoria de los Angeles:  -  Renata Scotto:  -  Angela Gheorghiu: 
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NAVIGATION MENU THE 10 MOST BEAUTIFUL OPERA  ARIAS
All right, so let’s talk about opera… I hope you will indulge me and let me briefly touch on a few aspects of this topic useful to know before we submerge ourselves in this magnificent world. For those of you who  are so eager to get to the  good stuff that they simply  cannot bear to read this short  intro, you can just scroll right down to the list of the arias below. First things first. You might think it’s a bit presumptuous, even cheeky of me to assume that you are probably a beginner and address you as if you are just getting to know the subject. I mean no disrespect, but following the simple principles of logical deduction you would hardly be looking up the 10 most beautiful arias if you were an expert in the field. Because by now you would most likely have accumulated a list of at least fifty favorites of your own! But if you are an opera connoisseur, who just happened to stumble upon my site, I hope you will still enjoy it and please  believe me when I say I did not mean to be  patronizing in any way :-). Opera is one of life’s greatest pleasures: there is nothing comparable to the ecstasy that envelops you while listening to the singers hit those high notes!  The sheer delight takes your breath away and you are quite unable to believe that any human being (as those artists obviously descend from a realm of some sort of divine, supernatural creatures!) is capable of producing a sound of  such supreme and profound beauty.  But let’s start at the beginning. As we all know, there are two kinds of operas: opera seria (serious opera full of high drama and bodies dropping all over the place) and the opera buffa (comic opera), a much lighter fare with a lot of situational comedy and a somewhat happy ending. As far as the voice types are concerned there are three major ones in the female, as well as the male category. The highest singing female voice is the soprano; then we have the mezzo- soprano and the contralto, which is, of course, the lowest. The highest male voice is the tenor, then the baritone and last, but not least, the bass. These can be even further compartmentalized, but the familiarity with this basic classification should suffice for the purpose of this brief  introduction. Of course, most of the masterpieces of the operatic repertory belong to the serious category and they all have one thing in common: at least one of the heroes dies in the grand finale. Often it does not end with one, however. Hell, sometimes they all have to go and the proverbial “last girl/boy standing” is a mere secondary figure (a mezzo or a baritone,) whom we would have gladly sacrificed to save the more worthy tenors and sopranos. The ways in which those beloved characters meet their demise are rather ingenious, as well as very original. They jump into avalanches, get bricked in inside a tomb (while still alive in case you wanted to point out that’s where most dead people kind of wind up anyway), willingly walk into fires, pretend to be a man to get stabbed in place of their unfaithful chauvinistic pig of a lover, have a rather close encounter with a Japanese sword or bungee jump from a roof of a building (sans the bungee). Well, the list goes on. Some are lucky enough to transition in a more natural way, thanks to every long suffering, olden-times tragic heroine’s best friend: the tuberculosis. Some, on the other hand,  do not share in that good fortune and get  dragged to hell courtesy of the Lord of the  Darkness himself… So fun, fun, fun all around! Anyway, I think you get my point. Opera, for the most part, is not supposed to be realistic. The plot does not necessarily have to make sense. It’s all about the high drama intensified a hundredfold by the incredibly gorgeous singing. But even though they are often exaggerated, sometimes even caricatured, you can still recognize all the basic human emotions there: love, hate, envy, greed. We can identify with the characters, because they are driven in equal measures by good and evil. Not to mention the fact that you would be stunned by just how raunchy opera can be: it’s full of adultery, murder,  betrayal, fallen women and even incest. Seriously,  some of the most controversial movies out there  would be hard-pressed to keep up! If you have previously never really taken an interest in opera, but would like to get acquainted with this wonderful artistic form, then hopefully the list of the most beautiful arias below (please remember, however, that it is based strictly on my personal taste and by no means represents the best pieces chosen according to some universal standards) can help you out. At first I was going to present only ten, but since making choices proved to be extremely challenging I finally settled for sixteen.  They are all so different that you should definitely find something that will appeal to you. I also included three of the best renditions (again, in my humble opinion) with each one, so that you can get a feeling of how uniquely the same piece can be sung by the various artists. This way you will be able to already start developing an inkling as to what kind of interpretation pleases you the most. You will quickly discover how much you enjoy some of them, while others leave you cold. The perception of opera is a very individual experience and the same singer that will put you in a state of orgasmic nirvana might be appalling to somebody else. Just look at the fact that fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi are still at each other’s throats trying to establish who was the greatest diva of them all. Even though Callas prematurely passed away some 36 years ago, even now passions still run high (not to mention the guest appearance of an occasional fist or two) when this topic is addressed… And just for the record: I am fully aware that some of you will wonder why I have not included such well-known and cherished arias like “Habanera” from Carmen, “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, “La Donna e mobile” from Rigoletto or “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville, to mention just a few. Well, the reason for that is the fact that even the most culturally sheltered person has run into this melody at some stage of their lives (and please don’t worry if the titles don’t ring a bell, I promise you,  you will recognize them as soon as the music starts playing). They are so ever- present in the media and the pop-culture that I thought it would be a much better use of space to introduce you to some of the less prominently featured arias. So let’s assume that you listened to all (or even just a few) of my suggested picks. If you are thrilled by what you heard (or at least slightly intrigued), the next step would be to watch a whole opera on a DVD (I have a section on my web-site where I review those) or listen to the CD recordings. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with an actual opera house, then you can embark on a wonderful adventure of going to see a live performance.  Opera is one of the rare forms of storytelling where you actually benefit from knowing the plot beforehand, so please make sure that you are familiar with the storyline in advance. The reason for that is simple: the great majority of operas are performed in a foreign language, so unless you are fluent in Italian, French, German or Russian (most productions feature one of those), then you might find yourself somewhat struggling to understand why the two middle-aged characters, who according to your Program are supposed to be in their late teens, spent the better part of two hours singing love arias to each other to ultimately end up getting assassinated by an outraged youngster (who is supposed to be the soprano’s  father, but in fact could easily be her son) for no apparent reason. Opera houses usually do provide surtitles to help you follow the action, but the more prepared you are the better. If you have a chance it really helps to listen to the music a few times before the actual big night, this way you know what to expect and can enjoy it even  more. Please trust me when I say there are few things in the world quite as fabulous as experiencing an opera first-hand! So you don’t need any more convincing? But can frankly not imagine what kind of high-powered persuasion techniques you would have to apply to talk your Beloved into coming along? You have visions of this argument escalating to quite epic, pardon, operatic dimensions with you possibly having to drag your partner’s slightly mutilated, lifeless body to the event? Being rather relieved to have seen “Weekend at Bernies” and thus at least possessing a rudimentary idea about how to go about the whole thing? The homicidal faux pas not even being your fault (per se), as it only happened after he/she said they would only go over their dead body. And you, having been just sufficiently influenced by the eventful plots full of tragic events to get slightly confused, took them up on their offer? But, lo and behold, there is indeed a much more humane way of convincing them! Additional bonus: you will not spend the rest of your days in prison or a psychiatric facility. On the downside, however, nobody will  probably write an opera about you… Well, you  can’t have it all! So anyway, here is what you do: light a few candles, put some lovely fresh flowers into a vase, open a bottle of champagne, slip into a little black dress (or the male equivalent thereof, unless, of course, you are both into cross- dressing) and play a CD of your favorite arias in the background. You can buy some ready compilations or make your own by downloading your chosen selection from places like iTunes or  Amazon.  And when you both sit there in the candlelight, with the scent of fresh flowers around you, sipping champagne and listening to this enchanting music, you will see how incredibly erotic such an occasion can be. Please trust the author, as she knows exactly what she’s talking about, ehem, ehem… After an evening like that you should not have any further problems convincing your Darling that a night filled with such cultural entertainment can easily and happily end in a sort of activity very much appreciated by both sides. Teaching by association. A most effective and rewarding  method. A lot of people never undertake the journey of exploring the opera because they are simply scared, they think it’s just too fancy and complicated for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth! All right, perhaps you will not learn it all in one day, but it’s not about you being a walking encyclopedia, it’s about you loving what you hear! And if you decide to give opera a chance it will enrich your life and offer you sensations you have never even dreamt of experiencing before. So all that is left for me to say is: enjoy, as you have just become a part of this sublime world! The 10 Most Beautiful Opera Arias (+6 Bonus Tracks) 1. Title: Casta Diva (Pure  Goddess) Opera: Norma  by Vincenzo Bellini (libretto Felice Romani) This aria is sung by a soprano (the title  character Norma).  One of the most prominent artists performing  it was Maria Callas, who to this day is widely  recognized as one of the best Normas of all  times. Norma has become an integral part of the Bel Canto repertory and has enjoyed many revivals and exciting stage adaptations. Casta Diva is probably Bellini’s most famous composition. It shows off his style to  perfection, namely the constant repetition of  the musical motif with variations in scale and  intensity. The opera takes place during the Roman  conquest of Gaul. The heroine meets her Maker by willingly stepping into the flames accompanied by her lover, proconsul Pollione. Why would anybody do that you ask? Well, it turns out that the Roman dignitary decided to exchange the Druid Priestess Norma for a younger model, namely the alluring virgin Adalgisa. As you can imagine Norma did not appreciate being dumped and experienced a slight psychotic episode, involving planning the murder of her children. In the end she thought better of it, but after some futile attempts to forcibly win back Pollione’s love decided the best solution for her problems would be getting herself burned at the stake. That, of course, miraculously reinvigorated the guy’s feelings for her and they decided to take the little trip  into the fire together. Now, if that is not  romantic…  Some of the most beautiful renditions  delivered by:  -  Maria Callas:  - Joan Sutherland:  -  Beverly Sills:  2. Title: Un bel di vedremo (One  Beautiful Day) Opera: Madame Butterfly  by Giacomo Puccini (libretto Luigi Illica and  Giuseppe Giacosa). The role of Cio-Cio San was created to be  sung by a soprano. This highly dramatic work is one of the most  popular operas around the world (according to  the www.operabase.com statistics it was  number 7 on the list of the most performed  operas during the 2011/2012 season). It has also served as inspiration for the popular musical Miss Saigon. Madame Butterfly contains popular at the time elements of exoticism: the setting, costumes and musical  motifs convey the contemporary fascination  with far-away lands and customs. In this beautiful aria Cio-Cio San expresses her hope that one day her husband will return to her, even though nobody else believes it and she is universally encouraged to forget him and get on with her life. You can hear her  deep emotion and desperate longing in every  gorgeous note of this incredibly moving piece.  The action of the opera takes place in  Nagasaki (Japan) around 1900. Also this young lady dies for love and honor:  she makes a rather close acquaintance with her father’s hara-kiri knife to be exact… And all that for the vile Pinkerton, one of the most repulsive characters ever created in opera! You just literally want to run up the stage and kick him in his private parts every time he opens his mouth. Selfish and completely unaware of his cruelty he is not even worthy to be Butterfly’s shoe-shine. Unfortunately, the poor girl remains completely oblivious to that fact and loves him with a blind devotion verging on the slightly terrifying. At this point I can only say that a couple of nice feministic, bra- burning girl-friends would have been highly desirable to beat some sense into our heroine. I mean seriously,  you’re going to kill yourself over this creep?!? Some of the most successful artists  performing this part were:  - Victoria de los Angeles:  -  Renata Scotto:  -  Angela Gheorghiu: 
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