Opera has always been a vehicle for great emotions. The musicality and beauty of its arias seduces even the most neophytes. There is a whole variety of them, and corresponding to all possible tessitura. Whether you wish to sing your love, express your anger or confide your sorrow, singing an opera aria could well become your personal catharsis.
Do you need a special voice to sing opera?
Chest, power, volume, pitch, the voice of an opera singer often meets a number of criteria defined by musical constraints and by the interpretation required. Depending on the type of voice of the performer, the character played will appear more or less pleasant, nasty, funny or naive.
If you wish to sing famous tunes with conviction, choose those that seem to correspond to your temperament and your way of singing. Here are a few examples of the desired voice characteristics for different characters:
- The hero : tenor
- The heroine: lyrical soprano
- The young woman, the maid : light soprano
- The young man, the transvestite, the maid : mezzo-soprano
- The seductress, the villain: dramatic mezzo-soprano
- The witch, the elderly woman: counter viola or viola
- The father, the husband, the lover: baritone
- The king, the wise, the wicked: bass
These indications vary according to the composer, the period, and the personal abilities of the singer. You can therefore completely take up an opera aria for baritone as a soprano if you wish, by adjusting the key.
The most famous arias from famous operas
You’ve probably heard them in a commercial, on the radio or at a concert. These very famous arias from the world’s most frequently performed operas thrill audiences with their technical prowess and the lively emotion carried by the text. Even if you don’t understand Italian or German, you will certainly be struck by the intensity of the interpretations.
Love is a rebellious bird” in Carmen
Consecrated and recognized by the popular milieu, Carmen’s opera remains one of the most sung and appreciated. Stromae himself is largely inspired by it in his eponymous song.
The story of this extravagant, seductive woman with a strong character, who prefers to die free rather than live under the yoke of love, has transcended generations. In this melodious tune, the heroine expresses her particular vision of seduction and love, which flees from those who seek it but finds those who do not wait for it.
The Aria of the Queen of the Night” in Mozart’s The Magic Flute
Attention, here is a piece that is not accessible to everyone, and for good reason. “L’air de la reine de la nuit” represents a true dramatic soprano feat, both by its high notes reaching the counter-flat, and by its energetic trills. It takes at least as much to match the anger of this evil queen, who asks her own daughter to kill her opponent, the sorcerer, or else the girl will be repudiated.
Sempre libera” in La Traviata, by Verdi
This opera was an almost immediate success, after a somewhat misunderstood first performance. Passion for forbidden love, sacrifice and tragic destiny are intertwined in this moving composition which leaves the beautiful part to the heroine, a courtesan mortally afflicted with tuberculosis.
In this air of a rare technical difficulty, Violetta reveals her emotions in the face of the conveniences that consider her “lost”, the very meaning of the word “traviata”.
Non più andrai” in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro
The Figaro character imagined by Beaumarchais comes to life and color under the notes of the most famous composer of all time. In this aria, the valet Figaro picturesquely describes the amusements that the young Cherub, an inveterate lover of all women, will no longer be allowed to have once he enters the army. Despite the apparent ease of the melody, it is a piece that requires all the power of a well-placed voice.
Largo al factotum” in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville
Once again based on a text by Beaumarchais, this time set to music by the Italian Rossini, this opéra-bouffe is the beginning of the marriage of Figaro. In this aria, the barber Figaro presents himself with panache and humor, interrupting the Count’s serenade towards the young Rosina. The speed of the eighth notes and the flow make this baritone piece as pleasant as it is technical.
Un bel di vedremo” in Madame Butterfly, by Puccini
Madame Butterfly is a delicate love story between a young geisha and a reluctant American officer, who marries her out of fantasy and then returns to America to get married. The poor Japanese woman ends up committing suicide, entrusting him with the son of their union. In the air of “Un bel di verdemo”, the young lady tries to convince herself that her lover will return, dazzled by her passion and faith.
Una furtiva lacrima” in L’Elisir d’amore, by Donizetti
Adina, a rich farmer, is courted by Nemorino, a simple peasant, whom she rejects tirelessly. When the latter becomes an ideal party as a result of an inheritance, all the peasant women of the region want to marry him.
Adina then understands the reality of her feelings and tries to make Nemorino understand the content of her love. It is in this air that the peasant who has become rich recognizes a tear in Adina’s eyes at the dawn of his departure for war, irrefutable proof for him that she loves him. The two lovers can then finally be reunited.
Nessun Dorma” in Turandot, by Puccini
The hero of this opera unfinished by its composer (who died before he had finished writing the last scene) falls in love with Princess Turandot, cruel but superb, who kills all the suitors unable to solve his enigmas. After passing the tests, the young man gives the princess the opportunity to withdraw from their engagement. In this scene, he entrusts his apprehension to the night, fearing to lose the love of his life, but not being able to impose his feelings on her.
Air du Toréador” in Carmen, by Bizet
Another unforgettable aria from this nugget-laden opera is sung by the toreador Escamillo, Carmen’s second lover after Don José. The accompanying chorus also closes the last scene, during which Don José stabs his lover rather than let her go. Here, Escamillo makes a colorful entrance greeted by the crowd before entering the arena.
Air des clochettes” in Lakmé, by Delibes
This aria, very difficult due to the presence of extremely high notes going all the way up to the E-flat, is part of a French opera less known to the general public. The young Hindu girl Lakmé falls madly in love with the British officer Gerald. Lakmé’s father, having discovered his passion for a foreigner, asks him to sing this aria in public so that the officer will betray himself by recognizing the girl’s voice.