10 Most Famous Opera Arias (part 2)
August 26, 2019
After an overview of 5 essential opera arias interpreted by the greatest lyric voices, let’s discover the 5 last pieces of our selection, with arias that are particularly appreciated worldwide and that you have probably already heard.
Donizetti – Una furtiva lagrima from L’Elisir d’Amore
Called « A furtive tear » in english, this aria is the romanza (which is a short poetic piece for voice and accompaniment) from act 2 of the Italian comic opera L’Elisir d’Amore composed by Gaetano Donizetti. It is sung by Nemorino (tenor) when he thought that the love potion he bought to win the heart of Adina, worked. In fact he doesn’t know that the recent death of his uncle made him rich and now really interesting for women of his village.
Interesting point: In an opera about fake potions and simulated emotions, this aria seems really tragic (it is set in B flat minor, known as a dark key). The vocal range extends from F3 to A♭4. The last occurrence of the word chiedo is a coloratura melisma of 24 notes covering the range F3 to G4.
Puccini – Mi chiamano mimi from La Bohème
Mi chiamano Mimi is an aria for soprano from La Bohème, one of the most famous operas by Giacomo Puccini. It takes place just before the famous tenor’s aria « Che gelida manina ». Originally, Puccini found it ordinary and wanted to delete it.
La bohème has become part of the standard Italien opera repertory, and is one of the most performed operas in the world. The world premiere performance took place in Turin in 1896, and despite various critics (some music critics find Puccini’s music insufficiently sophisticated or difficult), it quickly became popular and internationally renowned throughout the early 20th century.
Delibes – Flower Duet from Lakmé
The Flower Duet (from the french name Duo des fleurs or Sous le dôme épais) is a famous duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé. The aria takes place during act 1, and is a discussion between Lakmé and her servant Malika as they go to gather flowers near a river.
The duet’s time signature is 6/8 (like a Barcarolle, which reminds us of the river’s movement), which emphasises the fluid movement of the polyphony in echo of the two alternating and then mixing voices. This aria is one of the most used in cinema and advertisement as you can hear it in The Hunger (1983), True Romance (1993) or more recently in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2.
Lakmé was first premiered in Paris in 1883. Like Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers or Massenet’s Le roi de Lahore, Lakmé captures the Orientale atmosphere seen through Western eyes, something that was in vogue during the end of the 19th century in French operas.
Soon on Metronaut
Bellini – Casta Diva from Norma
Casta Diva is a famous aria of the tragedia lirica Norma composed by Vincenzo Bellini. The title role of Norma is known as one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire. It demands great vocal control of range, flexibility and dynamics.
In the post-war period, the title role of Norma was interpreted by famous voices, such as Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé.
Casta Diva is a cavatina (a short operatic aria in simple style without repeated sections) that takes place during Act I, in which Norma, the head priestess, leads her people in a mesmerising prayer to the goddess of the moon. This aria is a prime example of bel canto genre, which is an Italian way of singing, with prosodic singing, an highly articulated manner of phrasing, and a delivery varied by several types of legato and staccato. It requires a vocal range from F4 to C6.
This piece is so famous that you have probably heard it in movies, such as The Bridges of Madison County (1995) or Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
Mozart – The Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute
« Der Hölle Rache », commonly called the Queen of the Night aria is a piece sung by the Queen of the Night (coloratura soprano) in the 2nd act of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. This scene portrays a fit of anger in which the Queen places a knife into the hand of her daughter Pamina and presses her to assassinate her rival Sarastro. The rage expressed by the Queen while singing makes this aria memorable and very powerful.
The piece requires a very high tessitura, from A4 to C6, and is renowned as a difficult piece to sing. The first singer to perform this aria was Josepha Hofer, Mozart’s sister-in-law. Apparently, Mozart was impressed by his sister’s voice, she had an extraordinary high register and an agile voice, so that he wrote the two arias for the Queen in the Magic Flute for her voice.
You can sing these songs on our app Metronaut and benefit from our piano or orchestra accompaniments. Then you will never sing these beautiful pieces alone!