Ge­orge Hall

Writer and edi­tor

BBC Music Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY JOHN AL­LI­SON, OLIVER CONDY, CHRISTO­PHER COOK, ELI­NOR COOPER, RE­BECCA FRANKS, GE­ORGE HALL, DANIEL JAFFÉ, DAVID NICE, ANNA PICARD, JEREMY POUND & STEPH POWER

‘Be­cause of its mesh­ing to­gether of mu­sic and drama, and its con­cen­tra­tion on char­ac­ter, ac­tion and ideas ex­pressed through mu­sic, opera is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing for those of us who have the joy of writ­ing about it.’

Opera is a mu­si­cal and a dra­matic form com­bin­ing vis­ual, au­ral and in­tel­lec­tual el­e­ments to­gether into one ex­pe­ri­ence greater than the sum of its parts. After four cen­turies, it con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate some of the great­est creative minds – not only com­posers and li­bret­tists, but also vis­ual artists, singers, mu­si­cians and film and stage direc­tors – and au­di­ence mem­bers as well as prac­ti­tion­ers have found in it the most com­plete and in­volv­ing aes­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence the per­form­ing arts has to of­fer. This is partly be­cause opera works on sev­eral lev­els si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The nar­ra­tive alone, even at its sim­plest, car­ries an emo­tional and in­tel­lec­tual charge. Many no­table writ­ers have cre­ated words through which the pro­tag­o­nists express them­selves: apart from ob­vi­ous opera spe­cial­ists like Lorenzo da Ponte, Ar­rigo Boito or Hugo von Hof­mannsthal, such fig­ures as Wil­liam Con­greve, John Dry­den, Carlo Goldoni, Voltaire, Gabriele D’an­nun­zio, Jean Cocteau, Co­lette, Ber­tolt Brecht, EM Forster, WH Au­den, Christo­pher Fry, Doris Less­ing and Italo Calvino have all con­ceived and cre­ated li­bret­tos.

Op­eras come in all shapes and sizes, from small works for a sin­gle per­former – such as Judith Weir’s ten-min­utes-long King Har­ald’s Saga, writ­ten for un­ac­com­pa­nied solo so­prano – to Wag­ner’s four-part epic Der Ring des Ni­belun­gen, one of the grand­est dra­matic schemes ever de­vised. For big op­eras there will be big forces, chal­leng­ing com­posers to cre­ate vast struc­tures for sub­stan­tial num­bers of per­form­ers suf­fi­ciently co­her­ent to ex­cite and main­tain the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion.

Then there is the fas­ci­na­tion of per­for­mance, most ob­vi­ously in terms of singers but also with con­duc­tors, direc­tors and designers adding their in­di­vid­ual in­ter­pre­ta­tions to works that are of­ten cen­turies old, and which have been per­formed count­less times and in al­most as many dif­fer­ent ways. Be­cause of this con­stant el­e­ment of re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion, opera is par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to changes of mean­ing in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions over pe­ri­ods of time: con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences ex­pe­ri­ence

L’ in­coro­n­azione di Pop­pea, Don Gio­vanni, Car­men or Peter Grimes in ways quite dif­fer­ent from how the very first au­di­ences re­ceived these works.

Above all, and de­spite be­ing the most col­lab­o­ra­tive art, it is the power of mu­sic that makes us re­turn re­peat­edly to opera’s mas­ter­pieces as our thoughts and feel­ings are stim­u­lated at the very deep­est level by its ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity to help us ex­plore not only our­selves but the en­tirety of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.

So which are the great­est op­eras ever to have been writ­ten? We in­vited 172 of to­day’s finest singers to nom­i­nate their all­time mas­ter­pieces. You can read the re­sults on the fol­low­ing eight pages, and on p32 you can see who chose which op­eras.

Opera stim­u­lates our thoughts and feel­ings at the very deep­est level

20 Wag­ner Die Walküre (1870) The sec­ond in­stal­ment of the colos­sal Ring tetral­ogy is packed full of mu­si­cal won­ders With the Ring, Wag­ner re­de­fined the scope and scale of mu­sic drama. Com­posed over 26 years, the cy­cle em­bod­ies his ideal of the ‘Ge­samtkunst­werk’ (to­tal art work) in which po­etry, drama, mu­sic and stag­ing unite with a com­mon pur­pose. Wag­ner’s achieve­ment is over­whelm­ing, his am­bi­tion un­sur­passed. Yet only one of the four Ring op­eras has made it into our top 20. So, why Die Walküre? For a start, it con­tains per­haps Wag­ner’s best­known mu­sic: the ex­hil­a­rat­ing ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, which opens Act III. And there are many other high­lights – the vis­ceral open­ing storm; Sieg­mund’s hymn to the spring; Wotan’s Farewell; the Magic Fire Mu­sic. Die

Walküre also stands alone as a co­her­ent, com­pelling opera, an emo­tional roller­coaster of love, in­cest, grief, sac­ri­fice and be­trayal. 19 Han­del Gi­ulio Ce­sare (1724) A vast, rich score that dis­plays the com­poser’s sharply honed in­stinct for dra­matic pace At al­most three-and-a-half hours, Gi­ulio Ce­sare in Egitto is one of Han­del’s long­est and most elab­o­rate cre­ations (longer than Wag­ner’s Par­si­fal ), and yet this seem­ingly un­wieldy opera is ac­tu­ally del­i­cately bal­anced, beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned and al­ways en­gag­ing. Da capo arias are exquisitely paced, with Han­del’s un­der­stand­ing of the ex­pres­sive power of the hu­man voice un­ri­valled in Baroque mu­sic. The in­tri­cate plot, plac­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Cae­sar and Cleopa­tra at its cen­tre, never loses its fo­cus, thanks partly to Ni­cola Francesco Haym’s bril­liant li­bretto, but also to Han­del’s daz­zlingly orig­i­nal recita­tive work whose strik­ing mod­u­la­tions con­stantly sur­prise and de­light. In terms of or­ches­tra­tion, Han­del is at the very height of his con­sid­er­able pow­ers. 18 Verdi Fal­staff (1893) Verdi at his most in­ven­tive, prov­ing him­self a ge­nius of comedic char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion Ev­ery­thing about Verdi’s late comic opera about a plump, ar­ro­gant, cow­ardly knight leaps from the stage: its in­ge­nious li­bretto by the com­poser’s long-term col­lab­o­ra­tor, Ar­rigo Boito, com­bin­ing el­e­ments of three Shake­speare plays, The Merry Wives of

Wind­sor and both parts of Henry IV; the de­tail of the or­ches­tra­tions over which Verdi laboured, chang­ing and re­vis­ing right up to the day of the pre­miere; and its sheer wit, of­ten dis­played through Verdi’s sud­den and rapid changes of mu­si­cal pace and di­rec­tion. But it’s the crafts­man­ship of the mu­sic that most im­presses – Verdi rarely uses in­stru­ments sim­ply to dou­ble his singers, in­stead em­ploy­ing them for an ex­traor­di­nar­ily wide colour pal­ette. The de­mands on singers and play­ers are con­sid­er­able, but the re­sult is a glo­ri­ous work of un­bri­dled joy. 17 Mon­teverdi L’or­feo (1607) An ex­tra­or­di­nary cre­ation that sets its glit­ter­ing mu­sic at the ser­vice of the text Or­feo was not the first opera to have been writ­ten (see ‘What is opera?’ box op­po­site) but it was the first great opera. Here, in this vivid retelling of the clas­si­cal myth of Or­pheus, is the first ex­am­ple of a drama through­out which mu­sic con­sis­tently height­ens the text and fully ex­presses its emo­tions. Mon­teverdi draws on his rich com­po­si­tional pal­ette to su­perb ef­fect: in­stru­ments group around bright strings to de­pict pas­toral Thrace, while som­bre brass, par­tic­u­larly trom­bones, colour the Un­der­world. In his vo­cal writ­ing, Mon­teverdi

‘lyri­cal scenes’ from Pushkin’s iconic novel. At the heart of the story is the de­fin­i­tive ar­ro­gant aris­to­crat, One­gin, who re­jects the un-bound ado­ra­tion of coun­try-girl Tatanya. His thought­less be­hav­iour leads to the death of Len­sky, his great­est friend, though not be­fore Len­sky de­liv­ers the dark and de­spon­dent ‘Faint echo of my heart’. An opera of op­po­sites, Tchaikovsky pits Tatyana’s rus­tic and open-hearted mu­si­cal lan­guage against One­gin’s starkly cyn­i­cal one. Later, when the ta­bles are turned, One­gin’s change of heart is made plain in his sud­den har­monic shift to the ro­man­tic fig­ure he should al­ways have been, while Tatyana is now stuck in a re­moved mi­nor key. His re­al­i­sa­tion has come too late, and the dam­age he caused can­not be un­done. 12 Verdi La travi­ata (1853) Verdi re­serves his great­est melodies and rich­est har­monies for this tale of love and duty Now the most-per­formed opera in the world, it’s hard to be­lieve that dur­ing Verdi’s life­time La travi­ata was seen as a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment after the epic his­toric op­eras of Il trova­tore and Rigo­letto. The se­cret of its longevity pop­u­lar­ity is surely Verdi’s in­tri­cate, three-di­men­sional char­ac­ters, whom he brings to life with soar­ing melodies and heartrend­ing swells of har­mony. Most com­pelling of all is the ‘fallen woman’ of the ti­tle, Vi­o­letta, who is forced to choose be­tween love and hon­our. Ul­ti­mately, she proves her good­ness by sac­ri­fic­ing her own hap­pi­ness for that of a woman she does not know. Suc­cumb­ing to con­sump­tion, she bids life, her lover Al­fredo and a usu­ally weepy au­di­ence farewell with the achingly beau­ti­ful aria ‘Ad­dio del pas­sato’, ‘Farewell past happy dreams’. 11 De­bussy Pel­léas et Mélisande (1902) De­bussy’s five-act master­piece steers clear of Wag­ner’s dom­i­nant world Like many fin de siè­cle French com­posers, De­bussy was at one point a fer­vent Wag­ne­r­ian.

But in his only com­plete opera he sought to re­alise his own rather dif­fer­ent ideal of opera. Here, as in Mon­teverdi’s op­eras of 300 years be­fore, mu­sic would serve the text. Pel­léas et Melisande was the re­mark­able re­sult: a sub­dued, mys­te­ri­ous ex­plo­ration of a fated love tri­an­gle, the an­tithe­sis of Wag­ner’s Tris­tan und Isolde. De­bussy con­jures a half-lit, at­mo­spheric dream-world, in which the dy­nam­ics rarely go above mez­zo­forte and si­lence is as pow­er­ful as mu­sic. Mau­rice Maeter­linck’s epony­mous sym­bol­ist play of 1892 is set al­most ver­ba­tim; and, like Mu­sorgsky in his own opera Boris Go­dunov,

De­bussy es­chews melody and mim­ics speech pat­terns in the vo­cal lines. It’s one of the opera world’s strangest, most spell­bind­ing and pro­found achieve­ments. 10 Wag­ner Tris­tan und Isolde (1865) A rev­o­lu­tion­ary chord her­alds the start of mod­ern opera and a new way of think­ing Around 1857 Wag­ner, reach­ing a creative block with the Ring, de­cided mean­while to com­pose a pop­u­lar, eas­ily per­formable opera on the Tris­tan leg­end. Be­ing Wag­ner, what he came up with was a vastly pro­found psy­chodrama whose very open­ing chord chal­lenged tra­di­tional har­mony, in­spir­ing and lib­er­at­ing a sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tion of com­posers. So much so, that Tris­tan has been called ‘the first mod­ern opera’, a unique wa­ter­shed be­yond which mu­sic changed for good.

Very lit­tle ac­tu­ally hap­pens on­stage, in the man­ner of Wag­ner’s beloved Greek tragedies. But the score is vi­brantly alive both with the lovers’ pas­sion and a more tran­scen­dent yearn­ing, for surcease, rest, es­cape from a cruel ex­is­tence. Its score in­ter­twines mo­tives in darkly sen­su­ous chro­matic har­monies which find res­o­lu­tion only in death. It un­doubt­edly re­flects Wag­ner’s per­sonal un­hap­pi­ness, and his af­fair (prob­a­bly more ide­alised than real) with Mathilde We­sendonck, but also his in­ter­ests in Bud­dhism and Schopen­hauer’s phi­los­o­phy. It’s never been his most pop­u­lar work, but its power is enor­mous, even over­whelm­ing – which for some devo­tees is the point – and its great­ness un­de­ni­able. 9 Verdi Otello (1887) The Ital­ian com­poser as you’ve never heard him teams up with one of the opera world’s sharpest li­bret­tists There are storms in opera and there are storms. But there is no mu­si­cal storm quite

so shat­ter­ing as the tidal wave of sound that Verdi un­leashes at the start of Otello. Is this the end of the world, with those trum­pets sum­mon­ing the dead from their graves?

Otello was writ­ten by a com­poser who was al­ready into his sev­en­ties and who thought that he had re­tired. But, given the op­por­tu­nity, he was also a com­poser who em­braced the idea of re­new­ing his mu­si­cal style as con­fi­dently as a man half his age. And nowhere more so than in the Act I love duet for Otello and Des­de­mona.

Verdi had a mas­ter li­bret­tist work­ing with him who was also more than half in love with Wil­liam Shake­speare. Ar­rigo Boito shaves off Act I of Shake­speare’s tragedy and con­cen­trates the ac­tion in Cyprus, so that in a good pro­duc­tion of Otello you never look at your watch. You’re on the edge of your seat as evil, in the shape of Iago, con­fronts flawed good­ness, the Moor of Venice, and in­no­cence is mur­dered. The death of Des­de­mona would make stones – and us – weep. 8 Mozart Don Gio­vanni (1787) An opera of per­fect pro­por­tions, both the­mat­i­cally and mu­si­cally bal­anced It was ETA Hoff­mann, whose own sto­ries were to in­spire many great mu­si­cal mas­ter­works, who called Don Gio­vanni ‘the opera of all op­eras’. Mozart’s art has of­ten been com­pared with Shake­speare’s, above all per­haps for the com­poser’s com­plete and life­like blend of the comic and tragic: their co-ex­is­tence is ac­tu­ally the essence of all Mozart’s oper­atic mas­ter­pieces, and Don

Gio­vanni – aptly la­belled a dramma gio­cosa

– is the work in which they are most in­ti­mately wo­ven to­gether.

Peo­ple’s long fas­ci­na­tion with the Don Juan leg­end, first made into a play by a Span­ish poet-monk in the early 17th cen­tury, meant that by Mozart’s time there were count­less Don Juan shows around. But Mozart – whose mu­sic would have been im­pos­si­ble with­out alchemy of Da Ponte’s words – gave life, as it were, to the su­per­nat­u­ral, in the form of the Com­menda­tore’s statue. In Le­porello’s Cat­a­logue Aria he cre­ated a piece un­like any­thing else in all opera. The work that Rossini claimed he would most liked to have com­posed him­self is driven from start to fin­ish with time­less power and bril­liance. 7 Mon­teverdi L’in­coro­n­azione di Pop­pea (1643) Mon­teverdi gets to the hearts of his char­ac­ters with mu­sic of spell­bind­ing beauty and verve Much as Verdi’s Fal­staff is a com­pen­dium of a life­time’s mu­si­cal in­ter­ests, L’ in­coro­n­azione

di Pop­pea is a work in which a life­time’s sound­worlds con­trast and col­lide. Mu­si­col­o­gists have de­bated its au­then­tic­ity: the over­ture has been at­trib­uted to Francesco Cavalli, and the fi­nal duet, ‘Pur ti miro’, has been claimed as the work of Benedetto Fer­rari or Francesco Sacrati be­fore be­ing re­turned, as it were, to Clau­dio Mon­teverdi.

Pre­miered in 1643, Mon­teverdi’s last opera is Vene­tian to the core: a morally am­bigu­ous, multi-lay­ered drama of court in­trigues, con­tract killings and bro­ken prom­ises among the high- and low-born sub­jects of a psy­chotic em­peror. When mod­ern lis­ten­ers shud­der at the tri­umph of Cu­pid as Pop­pea is crowned, they should remember that in the wake of this ap­par­ent happy end­ing comes yet more vi­o­lence. From Pop­pea and Nero’s first smoul­der­ing, post-coital duet, ‘Sig­nor, deh non par­tire’, to the as­trin­gent chro­mat­ics of ‘Non morir Seneca’, the hyp­notic beauty of Arnalta’s ground bass lul­laby, ‘Obliv­ion soave’, and the shat­tered des­o­la­tion of Ot­tavia’s ‘Ad­dio Roma’, the writ­ing is un­fail­ingly psy­cho­log­i­cally acute. 6 Puc­cini Tosca (1900) A roller­coaster opera of high emo­tions that fea­tures some of Puc­cini’s finest or­ches­tra­tions First per­formed in Rome in 1900, Tosca was Gi­a­como Puc­cini’s fifth opera, com­posed at the be­gin­ning of his for­ties. He drew the sub­ject from the play La Tosca by the ad­mired French drama­tist Vic­to­rien Sar­dou, who had writ­ten it as a ve­hi­cle for the great ac­tress Sarah Bern­hardt that quickly turned into a ma­jor the­atri­cal suc­cess; the co­pi­ous de­tail of the li­bretto’s real his­tor­i­cal set­ting, mean­while, pushed it in the di­rec­tion of the pre­vail­ing verismo aes­thetic.

Mu­si­cally, in Tosca Puc­cini broke new ground in rep­re­sent­ing the vi­o­lent ac­tions – tor­ture, at­tempted rape, mur­der and ex­e­cu­tion – that per­vade the drama, as well as in the darker emo­tions that these acts both en­gen­der and feed on. In por­tray­ing these dark sit­u­a­tions and char­ac­ters – no­tably the un­for­get­table evil po­lice chief Scarpia – in his score, Puc­cini opened up novel ar­eas of har­monic and orches­tral ex­pres­sion.

To its first au­di­ences Tosca rep­re­sented a new kind of opera – one that was fast mov­ing, re­al­is­tic and vi­o­lent, as well as de­lib­er­ately shock­ing. Long be­fore the term was coined, Puc­cini here cre­ated an oper­atic genre: the po­lit­i­cal thriller. 5 Brit­ten Peter Grimes (1945) In this evoca­tive, bleak work, Brit­ten ratch­ets up the ten­sion within a small coastal vil­lage Brit­ten’s first full-scale opera pre­miered less than a month after Nazi Ger­many’s de­feat. By the decade’s end it was a world­wide hit, and to­day re­mains one of the few English op­eras in the in­ter­na­tional reper­tory. Peter Grimes him­self – an im­prac­ti­cal dreamer with anger is­sues, whose bruised young ap­pren­tices have the un­for­tu­nate ten­dency of dy­ing – is hardly the most sym­pa­thetic role. Yet Brit­ten’s sym­pa­thetic skill in writ­ing for voices, honed over 15 years of song­writ­ing, brings a gallery of very English char­ac­ters vividly to life. What haunts the lis­tener above all, though, is his evo­ca­tion of the ever-present sea, ev­i­dent from the very open­ing in­quest: stac­cato wood­wind, brisk and busi­ness-like, dom­i­nate the scene at first; yet when Grimes steps into the dock, soft, long-breathed string ca­dences sug­gest not only his in­tro­spec­tive na­ture but also the rise and fall of waves on the beach out­side. Then, with the first Sea In­ter­lude, we are out­doors and we hear the bright, keen­ing

sound of high strings, with the swell of low brass sug­gest­ing the power of the sea it­self. This, and the cho­rus, forged from in­di­vid­u­als at the vil­lage dance into an alarm­ing, blood­lust­ing beast, are the ever-present ‘el­e­men­tal forces’ which seal Grimes’s fate. 4 Berg Wozzeck (1925) Se­ri­al­ism at its most ex­pres­sive – a bru­tal tale told with mock­ing wit and ex­treme ten­der­ness Al­ban Berg’s ex­pres­sion­ist first opera is as vis­cer­ally wrench­ing to­day as the au­di­ence found the pre­miere in Berlin in 1925 – and it re­mains as so­cio-po­lit­i­cally rad­i­cal; one of most pow­er­fully in­ci­sive, in­flu­en­tial works in the en­tire reper­toire, re­lat­ing the tragedy of an or­di­nary sol­dier who is driven to mad­ness and bru­tal mur­der by the grotesque cru­elty of his sup­posed su­pe­ri­ors.

It was the ero­sion of hu­man­ity that Berg wit­nessed dur­ing and after World War I that drove him to adapt Ge­org Büch­ner’s sem­i­nal, un­fin­ished 1837 play, Woyzeck, first staged in 1913. The re­sult­ing Wozzeck would prove to be one of the most sear­ing por­traits any­where of a mind, a re­la­tion­ship and a so­ci­ety in har­row­ing col­lapse.

Wozzeck’s hal­lu­ci­na­tions of apoc­a­lypse be­come more than just metaphors, pro­pelled by a lush, atonal score that is at once exquisitely or­ches­trated and rig­or­ously struc­tured in a kind of homage to clas­si­cal forms; all the bet­ter to give heartrend­ing voice, through Wozzeck and his equally doomed Marie, to a night­mare re­al­ity in which the poor and vul­ner­a­ble are tor­mented and aban­doned. 3 Richard Strauss Der Rosenkava­lier (1911) Strauss’s opera may be stylis­ti­cally old-school, but its mu­sic and vo­cal scor­ing are sub­lime Why do so many peo­ple re­gard Der

Rosenkava­lier as a guilty plea­sure? Is it be­cause the high­lights, like the ti­tle char­ac­ter Oc­ta­vian’s Pre­sen­ta­tion of the Rose to young So­phie and the fa­mous Trio, are too beau­ti­ful to be true? Strauss in­tended them that way, with the char­ac­ters step­ping out of time, but his first wholly orig­i­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Vi­en­nese poet and play­wright Hugo von Hof­mannsthal is also shrewd and pointed.

Its of­ten acidic wit con­trasts with med­i­ta­tions on tran­sience us­ing as mouth­piece the cen­tral char­ac­ter of the Marschallin, the 32-year-old woman with whom the pub­lic iden­ti­fies, and lend­ing this ‘com­edy for mu­sic’ a depth to match its most ob­vi­ous model, Mozart’s The Mar­riage of Fi­garo.

The plot, fea­tur­ing a ridicu­lous older suitor and the teenage girl to be mar­ried off to him, a stylish young buck with an older woman as lover who comes along to save the girl, is drawn from Molière and other French sources. But Hof­mannsthal in 1911 was cre­at­ing a myth­i­cal Vi­enna that stretched from the nom­i­nal set­ting of the opera, the 1740s, up to the brink of the First World War; and Strauss, in­cor­po­rat­ing waltzes as well as some of the dis­so­nances fa­mil­iar from the opera’s con­trast­ing pre­de­ces­sor, Elek­tra, com­posed his most en­cy­clo­pe­dic master­piece of a score. 2 Puc­cini La bo­hème (1896) Close, but no cigar, though Puc­cini’s ro­man­tic opera is still a mas­ter­class in story-telling

La bo­hème is about as per­fect as an opera can be. It’s con­cise, it’s packed with de­li­cious melody and it’s about be­ing young and in love. And even bet­ter, young love un­done by death. Like Romeo and Juliet, James Dean, Jimi Hen­drix and Kurt Cobain, the best die young, thus rob­bing age of its wrin­kled victory. We weep for our­selves in the clos­ing bars of the opera when Rodolfo sud­denly re­alises that Mimì has gone. And woe be­tide the the­atre that brings up the house­lights too soon.

If the drama is taut then the score is as ex­pan­sive as any­thing Puc­cini com­posed.

The duet for the young lovers that closes

Act I is a mas­ter­class in cre­at­ing char­ac­ter through mu­sic and in ma­nip­u­lat­ing an au­di­ence’s feel­ings. Musetta’s waltz at the Café Mo­mus is as teas­ing as the woman her­self. But al­most bet­ter is the se­quence of num­bers in Act III at the Bar­rière d’en­fer, the farewell duet for Mimì and Rodolfo, then Musetta and Mar­cello quar­relling that ef­fort­lessly slips into the quar­tet, ‘Ad­dio dolce sveg­liare alla mat­tina’.

How does Puc­cini do it? With short mu­si­cal themes that de­fine each of his char­ac­ters and their worlds and which – mas­ter or­ches­tra­tor that he was – are con­jured back into the score in a way that makes them sound the same but al­ways dif­fer­ent.

Now turn the page to dis­cover which opera has been voted the great­est by our ros­ter of singers, and see p32 for a list of who voted for what…

tan­gled re­la­tions: Roberta Alexan­der (cen­tre left) as Jen∞fa at Glyn­de­bourne in 1992

fool­ish heart:

Eu­gene One­gin as played by Dmitri Hvoros­tovsky at the Royal Opera House in 2015

all-con­sum­ing: Ce­sare Val­letti as Al­fredo and Maria Cal­las as Vi­o­letta in Verdi’s La travi­ata in 1958

bed times: Bar­bara Han­ni­gan and Laurent Naouri in De­bussy’s Pel­léas et Mélisande in Aix-en-provence, 2016

face painter:

Pavarotti read­ies him­self for the role of Cavara­dossi in Tosca in San Fran­cisco, 1978

se­rial sit­u­a­tion: John Tom­lin­son as the Doc­tor and Simon Keenly­side as Wozzeck at the Royal Opera House in 2013

mas­terly marschallin: Elis­a­beth Sch­warzkopf in Der Rosenkava­lier in 1960

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