"Britten in Bloom"
I thought to myself, thought I, 'I must put some British operas in this list'; and having thought that the title came naturally. Then I started actually thinking about Britten operas and how much I actually dislike them. Besides, Boyo and Gadjo have got Benji nicely covered...
Dido and Aeneas - Purcell
Often touted - wrongly - as the first English opera (Cupid and Death having achieved that distinction under the Commonwealth), Dido is, however, the first worth reviving. I've sung in the chorus a couple of times, once achieving the distinction of being "the tenor echo". Like Gianni Schicchi (see previous posting), it's known as much for its main female aria as for the rest of the piece. But both are cracking...
A Midsummer Marriage - Tippett
"Keep Britten Tidy - don't Tippett in the street!" as old Music Faculty graffiti had it. Tippett certainly wrote better vocal parts than Britten. Discuss.
The Mikado - Sullivan
And indeed - though it pains me to say it - Gilbert. Purists will howl that this isn't an opera but merely an operetta. But in preparation for that, I have cleaned and loaded my purist gun. This is such a cracking show, and has a special place in my affections as being the first in which I played the tenor lead on stage, opposite a young Elizabeth Menezes as Yum-Yum...
And three that don't fit anywhere:
L'Incoronazione di Poppea - Monteverdi
Back to early opera for a bit - this is an absolute corker of a piece, and refreshingly brutal for the time. The love duet with male and female voices entwining in the same register is spectacularly erotic. Anyone who casts Nero as a baritone should be shot for cloth-earedness. You 'as bin warned.
Boris Godunov - Mussorgskiy
Another that I like for similar reasons to Siegfried - forget the dodgy politics and wallow in the glorious soupy romaticism. This opera proves that to be a successful Tsar, it's not adequate being Godunov - you also need to be Stroganoff.
Jenufa - Janacek
One of the first genuinely modern operas - prose text, gritty subject matter. Nonetheless it's a compelling piece and a nice refresher for those who assume opera revolves around a German-Italian axis.