Opera is the art form to unite all art forms, created out of drama, music, poetry, literature and art… In its relatively short 400-year history, opera has come to dominate classical music in its ambition, scope and expense – the grandest of operas will employ thousands. It creates heroes out of its artists, attracts unwelcome – and often unfair – accusations of elitism, and is the ultimate symbol of a progressive society, evidenced by the number of brand new opera houses springing up from China to Oman. But opera is also intensely intimate, individual members of a 2,000-strong audience undergoing a personal experience, the composer communicating directly and uniquely with each of us. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to compare the power of an operatic performance with a religious ceremony. After all, the origins of opera lie in religious festivals in Ancient Greece.
But which are the greatest operatic masterpieces of them all? We wanted to ask the people at the heart of this most magnificent of musical genres – opera singers themselves. Over 170 voted in our poll, with some fascinating results. And whether or not you agree with our Top 20, we’d love to hear from you, so do email us at music@classical-music. com and share your delight and/or frustrations!
Lastly, do look out in future issues (and on p14) for details of small changes to the Radio 3 schedules, including an exciting monthly programme on the pipe organ. As an organist myself, I’m rather delighted.
In its short 400-year history, opera has come to dominate classical music