(you, not the performers. Although that would be interesting)
Can’t make it to Milan to see an opera at La Scala? I feel your pain. Maybe this will help.
If you’re curious about opera, but didn’t know where to start, here’s a low-budget way (meaning, in this case, free) to see what it’s all about…in your pajamas if you’d like.
The Opera Platform website is intended for those new to opera as well as seasoned attendees and is intended to promote European opera companies. A number of operas have been made available as video on demand and include subtitles. A new opera is added each month, and is available on demand for six months. See their About Us page for more details. The site features operas by Wagner, Sibelius, and Verdi (La Traviata) to name a few, and Puccini’s La Boheme will be added soon.
Need a little background info before you dive into the operas? There are numerous books dedicated to demystifying opera (headed to the library? Dewey decimal number 782.1). Don’t have that much time? Sinfini Music has put together a number of comic strips outlining the plots of famous operas. You can find the comic strips here.
While these are great on-ramps to opera, there is no substitute for the thrill of live performance. If you like what you hear, check the web for local opera companies and performances in your area. There are a lot of talented folks out there who would love to have you come out and enjoy all the hard work, time, and devotion they put into their craft. They’d also prefer that you not attend in your pajamas.
No opera in your area? Head to your local library or favorite online merchant. Many operas are available not only on CD but DVD as well (including BluRay). Nothing beats a live performance, but the sound and visual quality of the recordings are typically top-notch. I saw Les Troyens by Berlioz on BluRay and it was spectacular.
So settle into your chair, wherever it may be, and get ready for a treat. If you see something you think is great, let us all know so we can see it too!
Postscript: After writing this, I found two great operas on pristine LPs at my local thrift shop. Total cost: $3.90.
- Wagner’s Tannhäuser, with soprano Birgit Nilsson and tenor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Deutsche Oper Berlin conducted by Otto Gerdes
- Verdi’s Aida, with soprano Montserrat Caballé and tenor Placido Domingo, New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti.
which led me to find the Riccardo Muti’s recording label website on which one can stream Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under his direction.
Must. stop. finding. links.