Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Top 10 Best Opera Characters Of All Time

You know, I have been listening to a ton of opera lately. Of course, this is not abnormal (for me), but it did make me want to write a post on it. So, for all you people who were going to hang yourselves, shoot your date, or jump into a volcano if you didn't know (wink, wink to any and all opera nerds in here), I'm going to show you the best of the best characters in this amazing art. ;)
#10 - Don Alfonso from Cosi Fan Tutte (Women Are Like That)
Well, I'm not exactly sure how this guy got his way onto the list, but he's one charismatic, slippery fellow. He has a rather low opinion of the faithfulness of women, as implied by the statement of his which makes up the title for this opera. He is so charismatic, in fact, that he convinced two friends to aid each other in proving their own fiancées fickleness and infidelity. Don Alfonso sent Ferrando after Giuliarmo's girl, and Giuliarmo after Ferrando's girl, convincing them to prove which girl was most faithful, and ending up only proving exactly what Don Alfonso had been saying the whole time - women are like that. But, despite his cheapskate ways and his low opinion of female faithfulness, Don Alfonso somehow wormed his way into this list and my heart. :) I don't remember who played the really good Don Alfonso, but I just remember that it was in the 2006 version of Cosi Fan Tutte.  Don Alfonso's best aria is the one beginning the opera's first act, a trio song with Ferrando and Giuliarmo (sorry, but I cannot remember the name of it). I think that Don Alfonso is a baritone part, but I'm not sure.
Haha, yes, Don Alfonso is eating a banana. Not exactly sure why... :P
#9 - Adina from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
Oh my goodness, is this girl stubborn or what?! She is determined never to settle down with anyone, especially not faithful, unwavering, humble Nemerino, who has been seeking her hand for years. I mean, where is her sense?! But, somehow, you gotta like her (which is extremely frustrating). And nothing is more fun than seeing her finally fall from her throne in the end, walking out a chapel hand-in-hand with Nemerino after all, even despite all those obstacles she threw in the way herself. ;) The best version of Adina is done by Angela Gheorghiu. Adina's best aria is either Della Crudele Isotta (The Tale of Cruel Isolde), or Quanto Amore! (Such Love!). She is a soprano part.
#8 - Susannah from Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Susannah is much sought-after by men, surely, but she only wants her fiancée, Figaro. And the clever girl is ready to think up just about any scheme to get other men off her trail so she can marry him. This lovely, cunning lady is also responsible for making one of her suitors, The Conte Di Almaviva, willingly return to his poor wife by the end of the opera (as well as herself FINALLY getting to marry Figaro). Her best aria is a duet with the Contess Di Almaviva, called Sull'aria (the meaning of the title is debatable,  but the first line which it is a part of is supposed to mean A New Breeze Blows Through The Pines). Um, I might say the best playing of Susannah is by Cecelia Bartoli. Susannah often switches between being a soprano and mezzo-soprano part, but is intended to be a soprano.
#7 - Graf Danilo from Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)
I love this guy! Especially when he's played by either Thomas Hampson or Thomas Weinhappel (whom I call Thomas Pineapple, and whose Graf Danilo you absolutely must look up on Youtube!). I guess he's kind-of a cheat on this list, though, because he's actually from an operetta, not an opera. But, hey, we'll just turn a blind eye to that fact, right? ;) He's so funny. Even though his commanding officer, his fellows, and the lady herself are all trying to get him to woo a rich widow, he  doesn't want to. He does it at first only because of them. But then, bit by bit, he has his everything in it - all due to this particular widow's playful strategy against him. And, of course, he ends up with her (and no more mind-changes). ;) His best aria.... Oh man, that's hard. I might say it's Da Geh Ich Zu Maxim (not sure what it translates to, as I have never seen the translation, and do not know very much German). He is supposed to be a tenor part, but is often nowadays cast as a baritone instead.
#6 - Alfredo Germont from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Oh, poor, pitiable Alfredo! He's got a bit of a temper, yes, but I still was very tempted to weep for him during the two final acts of the opera. And I had to include him here, I just had to. After all, he's the male lead in this opera, which just happens to be my all-time favorite tragic opera ever (and one of my favorite operas period). However, even he was not my favorite character (as you'll see later on in this post). He is one of the most tragic male opera figures there is (that you can actually pity - most of them are tragic, but they mostly bring it upon themselves, so you cannot really pity them). Poor guy spent sooooo long loving Violetta Valery - even through her refusals - and then, he had her... for a short period of time. And the rest is just the way the opera goes, friends (unfortunately). The best playing of Alfredo is by David Miller. Alfredo is very much a tenor role, and his best aria is the Brindisi from this opera (it has a name, but is just called The Brindisi often - much like how Carmen's Act One aria in the opera Carmen is always called The Habenera rather than its actual name). 
The Miller couple, David and Sarah Joy, as Alfredo and Violetta of La Traviata.


#5 - Papageno from Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Okay, so he's not quite up to the same respectable level of Alfredo or Susannah. So he's a very obviously comic opera character. Well, he's one of the best - despite his tendency in the beginning to tell fibs, brag, or be melodramatic (hey - melodrama is allowed in the opera!). The main funny thing about Papageno was that he was very desperate to have a girl. And, unlike most opera men, not even a particular one. Just a girl - any girl - who was willing to be faithful to him and let him be faithful to her. In fact, he was so desperate to have a girl that he used a variety of methods to try and get one (from using the title's magic flute to try and call one, to summoning fairies to help him, to comically failing at hanging himself). But, he gets his wish in the end... ;) Also, something a bit bizarre about him is - well, you get the impression that he thinks he's a bird. At least, he talks about himself like he does. Who knows why? *shrugs* :P The best version of him is done by Thomas Weinhappel. Papageno is a baritone role, and his best aria to be sure is a duet (with a certain long-desired somebody he wanted) called Pa Pa Pa (And, no, there is no translation to that because it's not a word, it's a bird noise, haha). ;) :P
Haha, don't ask. :P ;) If you look up Papageno pictures, I would be willing to bet that you'd find far more ludicrous ones than this. Normally nowadays, he has rather unusual costumes. This is when he's trying to use the flute to summon a girl.


#4 - Escamillo the Toreador from Carmen
It's not altogether surprising that only one character from the opera Carmen made it here, haha. I mean, Carmen herself is a bit questionable (so why on earth did they name it after her...?). And then Don Jose goes insane by the end of it, so... :P However. Escamillo is absolutely hilarious/really cool. He is incredibly arrogant at times, but it's that funny sort-of arrogant that you can't really take seriously. Problem is, you do have to take it at least semi-seriously, because he really can do and has done everything he says. So... he's just as cool as he claims, the character. *shakes head* The best representation of him is either Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, or Thomas Weinhappel. Escamillo is a Bass/Baritone role, and his best aria is certainly Votre Toast! (I Speak A Toast!), also called The Toreador Song after him.
#3 - Figaro from Il Barbiere Di Siviglia (The Barber Of Seville) and Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Figaro is one of the only opera characters I know of who has a sequel. You see him first as that busybody, bossed-around barber, and then next thing you know - well, he hasn't really changed in character much actually, but now he's getting married to Susannah. Figaro, as I said, is a busybody to be sure. However, it seems that he gave up busybody-ing (at least for the moment) to marry Susanna, because in the latter of his two operas, it's Susannah that's doing most of the busybody-ing. However, he is still a bossed-around barber. I'd be willing to bet that anybody in this crowd has heard his very famous aria complaining about how he gets bossed around so much, Largo Al Factotum. It's his best aria! :D And Thomas Hampson is the best Figaro I've ever seen, especially at that aria (no others are even worth comparing). Figaro is a baritone role in the first opera, but can be switched from tenor or baritone in the second (it is written for a tenor).
#2 - Nemerino from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
I am beyond proud that Nemerino made it all the way to second place. I was worried that I'd just have a list of mostly anti-heroes or comically flawed characters on here like Alfredo, Adina, or Escamillo. But, no! Here is possibly the most virtuous character in the opera that I know. Granted he's ever-so-slightly naïve, but you kind-of have to expect that from a simple tramp, as Nemerino is (yeah, who knew that the most virtuous character in the opera was a common tramp?). *starts singing He's A Tramp* However, he's not a roamer. He has stayed in one town for almost his whole life, being faithful to one girl who doesn't even care about him (yet!). For years, the humble Nemerino has quietly sought Adina's favor. And you know what Adina does? She teases him, makes fun of him, and laughs at him (and even hits him with the wrong end of a horsewhip at one point). Is anybody else wondering about now why I put Adina on this list too...? :P But, you know, it all turns out. And along the way, Nemerino spends his last cent trying to get Adina, and even enlists himself in a regiment all for her hand. And you know what? It all pays off! The opera ends with Adina and Nemerino's wedding party (don't ask me how that happened because it's a very long story). Nemerino is a tenor role, and his best aria is Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Single Silent Tear). The best representation of him is by Roberto Alagna.
Lovely ole dreamer Nemerino... :)


#1 - Violetta Valery from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Ha! I bet all of you were super surprised not to see a guy opera character's name here on numero uno. Well, I can tell you, so was I. When I compiled the list, and somehow found Violetta's name on top, I nearly had a heart attack right there. But, if any opera character deserves it, she does. I can tell you, no opera character ever made me cry like Violetta. Read the plot to the opera and you'll know half the reason, but not the whole. Read the translation... then you'll know. You can never know the full sadness of Violetta until you read the translation of her songs... especially the very last one. No one can ever put into words the character of Violetta! Poor girl... She was in a bad business for so very long in the beginning (read the opera's plot and you'll know what I mean), and then gave it up to be with faithful Alfredo. But then, something happened. Something which caused her to choose - most sorrowfully - to separate from Alfredo. And it was all because of her past, which she has been endlessly regretting for so long. But she chooses to give up her own life of happiness - even to have her greatest love, Alfredo, hate her - just so that another can have joy and a steady life. I can't spoil too much of the details, but I can tell you that the ending is super sad. Oh, if only I could pen the words of that last aria she sang... Asking for forgiveness for her past, always only praying that Alfredo would come back, and that they could somehow reunite. And Alfredo does come back... Just in time to relieve Violetta's so long-endured suffering... and just in time to see her die of the terrible illness that had been long-consuming her. I know, right! TERRIBLE ENDING!!! But, I suppose that's the opera for you. :'( Go and see Angela Gheorghiu's famous acting of Violetta. Watch it with the translation. I guarantee that you will cry. Violetta is a soprano part, and her best aria is Sempre Libera.


Well, that's all of them. The ten best characters in the greatest musical art existent. Whether comic like Papageno, or tragic like Violetta, or kind-of in the middle like Escamillo, I have enjoyed (and been in agony over) every single performance of them. And I highly suggest looking them up - whether it's on Youtube, or whether you're taking a bold move and just buying a dvd of one of these operas (P.S. look up plot and details of opera always before you buy a disc of it - even some of the ones I have mentioned here can be made distasteful by certain years or casts, and I do realize that there is a skip button on a remote for a reason sometimes).
So what did you think? Which character sounded most appealing to you? Which opera sounded the best? Do you think you'd prefer comic, tragic, or comique (tragic, ironic comedy) operas? (an example of each would be L'Elisir D'Amore, La Traviata, and Romeo And Juliet or Carmen.) Are you banging your fists against the keyboard to comment because you're bored out of your mind after reading this post? ;)

4 comments:

  1. Oh my word, Belle, you make me feel like such an uncultured swine!!! I need to get into opera now! All of these sound lovely and you get the added benefit of learning some other languages??? I'm in!!! I like listening to Josh Groban and Andrea Bochelli, so I'll probably like it???

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    1. Haha, yes you do! But believe me, if not knowing opera makes you uncultured, then 79% of the world is uncultured, so don't feel shame. :) Yes! They are SO LOVELY! Oh, yes, while I don't like Bocelli, I like Groban, and they're fair introductions to it. The best introduction to it that I can offer you, though, without just offering you real opera, is Il Divo. They are the same rough genre as Josh Groban, called popera (a mix of opera and pop), except - unlike Groban - are more to the operatic side. I think you'll like it! :D

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    2. I AM PERFECTLY WILLING TO BELIEVE THAT 79% OF THE WORLD IS UNCULTURED. :)

      I'm surprised that you don't like Bocelli, as he seems MUCH more operatic than Groban. But I definitely like Groban more, too!!!

      I will definitely check out Il Divo!!!

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    3. Haha, indeed.
      Um, Bocelli sings a genre that is more operatic to be sure, whereas JG just sings classical crossover most of the time. However, technically speaking, Groban's natural voice is far more flawless in the operatic tone than Bocelli's. Plus, I have a rather unusual thing about Bocelli where he just bores me somehow...? Not sure why. So I prefer Josh Groban. :P
      Oh, yes - you won't regret it!!!! :D

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