The 25 Best Operas

A Listmania! list by Todd Carlsen
The list author says: "THE 25 BEST OPERAS and BEST OPERAS FOR BEGINNERS TO OPERA: Here are 25 of the best operas ranked in order of opera greatness. Beginners to opera may want to start with one of the top dozen best operas or any of the best operas with comedy and romance. Take a young person or family to the masterpiece comic opera Magic Flute by Mozart, which is the best opera masterpiece for older kids and families, although Magic Flute is an adult opera and terrific entertainment for adults. Opera greats Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner dominated their eras with the greatest operas. Rossini, Bizet, Donizetti and others created some of the best operas. The three operas by Mozart and Da Ponte are masterpieces not to be missed. Attend performances and decide what you think are the greatest operas. Hansel and Gretel is the best children's opera written for kids. These (revised) rankings of the 25 best operas are based on acclaim by experts, opera popularity, and this author's taste. Unlike other art forms, the human voice can have a powerful emotional expressiveness through opera singing -- especially when paired with terrific acting. Great opera musical scores can powerfully convey moods, themes, emotions and characters when integrated with the story. Add to that intriguing theatrics (sometimes lavish or clever). Anyone even remotely interested in opera should try one of the top ten operas or the best operas with some comedy. Exploring the greatest operas can be a lifetime hobby. Of course, taste is subjective and evolves. Some operas will appeal even more to classical music enthusiasts, while others are more theatrical. Opera enthusiasts often like new or challenging works. See the best operas and decide what you think are the best operas. Create your own top 25 or top 10 best operas list and revise it as you experience it. (I have adjusted the rankings several times since fall of 2010 as my opinions evolve and always after seeing one as I think about it further)."
Le Nozze di Figaro [Blu-ray]
1.  Le Nozze di Figaro [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Erwin Schrott
The list author says:
  "1. Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. A musical masterpiece, with comedy, by arguably the greatest opera music composer. The overture is very famous. Mozart blends masterpiece classical music with full vocal expressiveness and excellent theater."
$41.19   Used & New from: $35.96
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

La Boheme: The Film [Blu-ray]
2.  La Boheme: The Film [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Anna Netrebko
The list author says:
  "2. La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. This may be the favorite opera in the world. By a great master of opera. This approachable storyline was later used for the Broadway musical Rent. Includes the famous Musetta’s Waltz aria."
$24.96   Used & New from: $24.64
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)

Bizet: Carmen (The Metropolitan Opera LIVE in HD)
3.  Bizet: Carmen (The Metropolitan Opera LIVE in HD) DVD ~ Elina Garanca
The list author says:
  "3. Carmen by Georges Bizet. Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy. A sexy contender for most popular opera and a good first opera. Bizet was essentially a one-hit wonder in the world of opera -- but what a hit it was!"
$32.99   Used & New from: $14.99
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Don Giovanni [Blu-ray]
4.  Don Giovanni [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Ruggero Raimondi
The list author says:
  "4. Don Giovanni (Don Juan) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Amazing music that reaches the ultimate level of story expressiveness! A masterpiece, with some comedy, by arguably the greatest opera music composer. Mozart has extra appeal for classical music enthusiasts. Mozart blends masterpiece classical music with full vocal expressiveness and good theater."
$24.99   Used & New from: $14.36
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

Tosca: Live in Rome [Blu-ray] starring Placido Domingo
5.  Tosca: Live in Rome [Blu-ray] starring Placido Domingo DVD ~ Placido Domingo
The list author says:
  "5. Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. A violent, naughty and somewhat scandalous story that fits modern audiences. By a great master of opera. "Vissi d'arte," "Mia gelosa," "E lucevan le stelle," "Te Deum," "Ha piu forte sapore" and Recondita Armonia" are standout pieces."
$20.67   Used & New from: $15.60
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Verdi - Aida / Levine, Domingo, Millo, Metropolitan Opera
6.  Verdi - Aida / Levine, Domingo, Millo, Metropolitan Opera DVD ~ Aprile Millo
The list author says:
  "6. Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. A spectacular opera on a grand scale, including the March aria, by perhaps the greatest master of opera. See an expensive, premium opera house production of this if you can."
$21.24   Used & New from: $14.99
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

Verdi - Rigoletto / Luciano Pavarotti, Ingvar Wixell, Edita Gruberova, Victoria Vergara, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Riccardo Chailly
7.  Verdi - Rigoletto / Luciano Pavarotti, Ingvar Wixell, Edita Gruberova, Victoria Vergara, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Riccardo Chailly DVD ~ G. Verdi
The list author says:
  "7. Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. A great first opera. By perhaps the greatest master of opera. One of the more famous roles in opera is the troubled hunchback jester Rigoletto. Has famous arias."
$22.81   Used & New from: $14.71
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

Mozart - Die Zauberflote [Blu-ray]
8.  Mozart - Die Zauberflote [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Simon Keenlyside
The list author says:
  "8. Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanual Schikaneder. The story is ridiculous, but the humor is entertaining, themes of brotherly love are noble, Queen of the Night aria is astonishing (MUST SEE!), and music by Mozart is terrific. This is a great opera for younger people and families, although written for adults and great for adults."
$29.89   Used & New from: $24.49
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews) | 2 customer discussions

Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte [Blu-ray]
9.  Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Nicolas Rivenq
The list author says:
  "9. Cosi fan Tutte (Girls Are Like That) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Amazing music! A masterpiece but needs YOUNG singers and great acting, especially YOUNG females. Cosi fan Tutte was once misinterpreted. Da Ponte poked fun at men in other operas; now young women -- with thoughtful ending. Mozart has extra appeal for classical music enthusiasts."
$29.89   Used & New from: $25.90
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Verdi: La Traviata Special Edition Blu-Ray - Exclusive Bonus Feature
10.  Verdi: La Traviata Special Edition Blu-Ray - Exclusive Bonus Feature DVD ~ Angela Gheorghiu
The list author says:
  "10. La Traviata (The Woman who Strayed) by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Very popular tragic romance drama by perhaps the greatest master of opera."
Used & New from: $10.78
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Puccini: Madama Butterfly
11.  Puccini: Madama Butterfly DVD ~ Patricia Racette
The list author says:
  "11. Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. A very popular tragic drama opera by a great master of opera."
$22.29   Used & New from: $17.12
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci / Mascagni - Cavalleria Rusticana / Domingo, Stratas, Pons, Bruson, Obraztsova, Pretre
12.  Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci / Mascagni - Cavalleria Rusticana / Domingo, Stratas, Pons, Bruson, Obraztsova, Pretre DVD ~ Yelena Obraztsova
The list author says:
  "12. Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.

Drama of vengeance with great singing roles by one-hit-wonder composers."
$21.19   Used & New from: $12.15
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews) | 2 customer discussions

Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana/Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (Metropolitan Opera)
13.  Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana/Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (Metropolitan Opera) DVD ~ James Levine
The list author says:
  "13. Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni.

Drama of vengeance with great singing roles by one-hit-wonder composers."
$17.98   Used & New from: $10.62
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
14.  Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia DVD ~ Kathleen Battle
The list author says:
  "14. Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) by Gioacchino Rossini. Libretto by Cesare Sterbini. A comic opera masterpiece. Includes the famous and very difficult baritone aria Largo al Factotum and the difficult soprano aria Una Voce poco Fa."
$29.63   Used & New from: $24.55
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Verdi - Falstaff / Royal Opera House
15.  Verdi - Falstaff / Royal Opera House DVD ~ Bryn Terfel
The list author says:
  "15. Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Arrigo Boito. A fine opera with comedy. Written when Verdi was in his 80th year and his last, Verdi was influenced by Wagner and the music is somewhat Mozart-like in its integration with the story."
$18.18   Used & New from: $12.61
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
16.  Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
The list author says:
  "16. Lucia Di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano. The story is underwhelming, but with a great virtuoso soprano, the difficult bel canto singing in a showstopper, including the mad scene and note reaches way up to high F."
Used & New from: $14.32
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Donizetti - L'Elisir d'Amore / Eschwe, Netrebko, Villazon, Wiener Staatsoper
17.  Donizetti - L'Elisir d'Amore / Eschwe, Netrebko, Villazon, Wiener Staatsoper DVD ~ Rolando Villazon
The list author says:
  "17. L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti. Libretto by Felice Romani. A great comic opera with romance. A terrific opera for beginners."
$22.49   Used & New from: $11.04
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

Verdi - Otello / Domingo, Fleming, Morris, Croft, Levine, Moshinsky, Metropolitan Opera
18.  Verdi - Otello / Domingo, Fleming, Morris, Croft, Levine, Moshinsky, Metropolitan Opera DVD ~ Plácido Domingo
The list author says:
  "18. Otello by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Arrigo Boito. Shakespeare drama opera."
$23.81   Used & New from: $14.23
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

Verdi - Il Trovatore / Levine, Milnes, Marton, Pavarotti, Metropolitan Opera
19.  Verdi - Il Trovatore / Levine, Milnes, Marton, Pavarotti, Metropolitan Opera DVD ~ James Levine
The list author says:
  "19. Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano. Includes the difficult Di Quella Pira aria."
$22.81   Used & New from: $11.41
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Puccini: Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera
20.  Puccini: Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera DVD ~ James Levine
The list author says:
  "20. Turandot by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Memorable and popular. By a great master of opera although a weak story. Includes the very famous aria Nessun Dorma."
$23.01   Used & New from: $12.89
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
21.  Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier DVD ~ Renée Fleming
The list author says:
  "21. Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) by Richard Strauss. Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Romance and comedy, although a bit long and probably not a great first opera."
$26.98   Used & New from: $22.98
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, Metropolitan Opera
22.  Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, Metropolitan Opera DVD ~ Ben Heppner
The list author says:
  "22. Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) by Richard Wagner. This masterpiece opera with comedy is marred by Wagner's association with antisemitism. Wagner's dramatic expressiveness in music, including leitmotifs, advanced Western music and shaped music today."
$34.64   Used & New from: $30.64
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

Wagner - Lohengrin / Peter Hofmann, Karan Armstrong, Bernd Weikl, Elizabeth Connell, Leif Roar, Woldemar Nelsson, Bayreuth Opera
23.  Wagner - Lohengrin / Peter Hofmann, Karan Armstrong, Bernd Weikl, Elizabeth Connell, Leif Roar, Woldemar Nelsson, Bayreuth Opera DVD ~ Gotz Friedrich
The list author says:
  "23. Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. The most approachable Wagner opera on this list. Includes great music and what has become the Bridal Chorus."
$30.35   Used & New from: $21.97
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde  (Barenboim, Bayreuth Festival)
24.  Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim, Bayreuth Festival) DVD ~ Waltraud Meier
The list author says:
  "24. Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde) by Richard Wagner. Dramatic and controversial story of forbidden and eternal love for advanced opera enthusiasts. The chromaticism  pushed the boundaries of music and changed the course of Western art. The difficult singing requires herculean endurance, and the production scale is enormous. This is considered by some to be #1, and torture to others."
$26.18   Used & New from: $17.74
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen [Blu-ray]
25.  Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] DVD ~ The Metropolitan Opera
The list author says:
  "25. Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), actually a series of long operas, by Richard Wagner. Legendary themes. Die Walkure (The Valkyrie) is the most popular of the ring operas and includes the famous Ride of the Valkyries."
$116.79   Used & New from: $92.43
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews) | 2 customer discussions

Humperdink: Hansel and Gretel [Blu-ray]
26.  Humperdink: Hansel and Gretel [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Diana Damrau
The list author says:
  "Special Honorable Mention: Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck. Libretto by Adelheid Wette. The best children's opera."
$33.79   Used & New from: $24.99
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Bellini - Norma / Patane, Caballe, Vickers, Veasey, Theatre Antique d'Orange
27.  Bellini - Norma / Patane, Caballe, Vickers, Veasey, Theatre Antique d'Orange DVD ~ Montserrat Caballé
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Norma by Bellini. Libretto by Felice Romani. A first-rate virtuoso soprano is required for the phenomenal singing, including Casta Diva."
$35.96   Used & New from: $28.32
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Rossini - La Cenerentola / Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Paolo Montarsolo, Claudio Desderi, Laura Zannini, Claudio Abbado
28.  Rossini - La Cenerentola / Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Paolo Montarsolo, Claudio Desderi, Laura Zannini, Claudio Abbado DVD ~ Frederica von Stade
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: La Cenerentol (Cinderella) by Gioacchino Rossini. Libretto by Giacomo Ferretti. A fine romantic comedy and a good first opera for beginners."
$24.96   Used & New from: $20.96
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

Donizetti: Don Pasquale [Blu-ray]
29.  Donizetti: Don Pasquale [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Anna Netrebko
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention:  Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti. Libretto by Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffini. A fine opera with comedy. Includes the difficult baritone aria Bella Siccome Un Angelo."
$26.28   Used & New from: $15.36
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

R. Strauss - Salome
30.  R. Strauss - Salome DVD ~ Teresa Stratas
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Salome by Richard Strauss. For mature audiences and not a good first opera due to the shocking story and advanced music."
$29.98   Used & New from: $14.23
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

Wagner: Parsifal
31.  Wagner: Parsifal DVD ~ Horst Stein / Bayreuth Festival
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Parsifal by Richard Wagner. Dramatic pseudo-religious themes for advanced opera enthusiasts. This is supreme art of the deepest order."
$35.49   Used & New from: $27.88
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Mozart - Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail / Nielsen, Watson, van der Walt, Magnusson, Moll, Tobias, Solti, Covent Garden Opera
32.  Mozart - Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail / Nielsen, Watson, van der Walt, Magnusson, Moll, Tobias, Solti, Covent Garden Opera DVD ~ Kurt Moll
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) by Mozart. Libretto by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie der Jüngere. This entertaining comic Singspiel (with talking and singing) is not as great as Mozart's four great operas but includes a rare great singing role for a bass, including the aria Ha, Wie Will Ich Triumphieren to low D. Great music."
$17.16   Used & New from: $15.74
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Massenet: Manon (featuring Renee Fleming and Marcelo Alvarez)
33.  Massenet: Manon (featuring Renee Fleming and Marcelo Alvarez) DVD ~ Massenet
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Manon by Massenet. Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille. Easy music for anyone."
$28.76   Used & New from: $17.93
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Mozart - Idomeneo Remastered
34.  Mozart - Idomeneo Remastered DVD ~ Luciano Pavarotti
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Idomeneo by Mozart. Libretto by Giambattista Varesco. With this opera seria (classical melodrama), Mozart shattered the confines of the form with amazing Mozart opera music and expresiveness."
$31.96   Used & New from: $21.36
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Gounod: Faust
35.  Gounod: Faust DVD ~ Angela Gheorghiu
The list author says:
  "Honorable Mention: Faust by Gounod. Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Mephistopheles is a legendary character. This opera drama elicits mixed reviews and falls in and out of popularity. Not a good first opera."
$38.68   Used & New from: $21.03
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Eyewitness Companions: Opera (EYEWITNESS COMPANION GUIDES)
36.  Eyewitness Companions: Opera (EYEWITNESS COMPANION GUIDES) by Leslie Dunton-Downer
The list author says:
  "This is a great picture book introduction to opera and the benchmark reference guide at a general level, with terrific pictures. It includes basic summaries of the best operas. This book pairs well with the book Ticket to the Opera."
Used & New from: $4.61
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Ticket to the Opera: Discovering and Exploring 100 Famous Works, History, Lore, and Singers, with Recommended Recordings
37.  Ticket to the Opera: Discovering and Exploring 100 Famous Works, History, Lore, and Singers, with Recommended Recordings by Phil G. Goulding
The list author says:
  "This is a terrific reference book on opera and the greatest operas. It pairs well with the Eyewitness Companions picture book. The author's rankings are very interesting (although Mozart is ranked way too low and beginners should be wary of the high Wagner ratings and others dramas)."
$14.38   Used & New from: $0.01
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Mozart's Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through 'The Magic Flute'
38.  Mozart's Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through 'The Magic Flute' by Classical Kids
The list author says:
  "MUST HAVE! This is THE BEST opera CD for kids and simply a great CD for kids. Buy it now and give it to a child you know for a gift. Must have! The Magic Flute by Mozart was written for adults but is great for kids."
$12.39   Used & New from: $1.80
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

A Passion for Opera: Learning to Love It: The Greatest Masters, Their Greatest Music
39.  A Passion for Opera: Learning to Love It: The Greatest Masters, Their Greatest Music by Peter Fox Smith
The list author says:
  "This is a good book for advanced reading about opera and the best operas. The Eyewitness Companions book is better for starting."
$20.37   Used & New from: $0.39
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

World's Very Best Opera for Kids
40.  World's Very Best Opera for Kids by World's Very Best Opera for Kids
The list author says:
  "Outstanding! Opera hits sung in English for kids. A great introduction to the art of opera! Great fun for adults to learn and understand the works."
$12.39   Used & New from: $6.48
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Author

Todd Carlsen
Qualifications: Curious Enthusiast of Good Music and Performances
Last updated: 4/20/14
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