Greatest love stories
Opera have always been based on real human emotion: jealousy, betrayal, joy, anger but most of all love.
This Valentine’s Day we reveal the greatest love stories we’ve staged at Grange Park Opera.
Roméo et Juliette
Charles Goudnod’s opera is in five acts and follows the story of Shakespeare’s tragedy. It is soaringly passionate as well as heartbreaking, making the play a perfect operatic subject.
The world of Renaissance Verona is used to frame the love story of heartbreaking tragedy punctuated by four beautiful duets from the lead characters.
Gounod made his own tweak to Shakespeare’s ending: he delays Romeo’s death so that the lovers have a brief onstage reunion and sing a final duet, in which they ask for God’s forgiveness for their suicide before dying in each other’s arms.
Puccini’s classic tear-jerker, La Bohème, features one of operas most-loved and best-known love stories.
Mimi and Rodolfo fall in love almost instantly when she knocks on his door one snowy evening.
La Bohème contains some of opera’s best-loved music. Act 1 features some of the world’s most famous arias: Rodolfo’s ‘Che gelida manina’ (your tiny hand is frozen) and ‘Sì, mi chiamano Mimì'(‘Yes, they call me Mimi’) and their soaring love duet ‘O soave fancuilla’ (‘O lovely maid in the moonlight’) when Rodolfo and Mimi first declare their love for each other.
Verdi’s La traviata follows the love between a courtesan, Violetta Valery, who makes the greatest sacrifice for her lover, Alfredo Germont. Alfredo is determined to cure Violetta of her tuberculosis, and the couple leave Paris and begin a contented life in the country.
But Violetta’s happiness is destroyed when Alfredo’s father Giorgio pays her a visit and convinces her to leave Alfredo as their scandalous relationship is bringing shame upon his family. It isn’t until Violetta is on her deathbed that Alfredo learns the truth behind her departure.
Verdi packed La traviata full of beautiful arias. De’ miei bollenti spiriti is sprightly and touches on stirring devotion, with “a passionate spirit” and “the fire of youth”.
The Elixir of Love
Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love is a comic opera, un melodramma giocoso, but it still focuses very much on heartbreak.
Nemorino is sick with love for the beautiful and unobtainable Adina. After hearing the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Nemorino wonders if a love potion might do the trick to win her. A travelling quack doctor sells him a cure for all his problems: the elixir of love. But time is running out – Adina has agreed to marry the pompous Sergeant Belcore.
The aria Una furtiva lagrima has all the hallmarks of a romantic classic. Donizetti was no stranger to a good comedy, but here the focus is very much on heartbreak – “A single secret tear from her eye did spring,” is how it begins, and it gradually sees the narrator falling in love with the girl.
Tristan und Isolde
Wagner’s story of illicit love is based on a medieval legend and is a romantic tragedy of love and death, told through sublime music.
Tristan, a knight of Cornwall, and Isolde, Princess of Ireland, have fallen in love but she has been promised in marriage to his uncle, King Marke of Cornwall. Together they plot to take poison but Isolde’s maid Bragäne swaps it for a love potion which only magnifies their love for each other. Their passion continues after Isolde and King Marke are married until they are discovered. Tristan, killed by the king’s servant, dies in Isolde’s arms. She collapses and they are reunited in death.
Wagner created a landmark for the development of western music with his score for Tristan und Isolde. The very first chord, the “Tristan chord” is a significant move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord. Throughout the opera, Wagner uses a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony, and polyphony, doing so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas.