List of important operas

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This list provides a guide to the most important operas, as determined by their presence on a majority of compiled lists of significant operas: see the "Lists Consulted" section for full details. The operas listed cover all important genres, and include all operas regularly performed today, from seventeenth-century works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Purcell to late twentieth-century operas by Messiaen, Berio, Glass, Adams, Birtwistle, and Judith Weir. The brief accompanying notes offer an explanation as to why each opera has been considered important. For an introduction to operatic history, see Opera. The organisation of the list is by year of first performance, or, if this was long after the composer's death, approximate date of composition.

Contents

1600–1699

  • 1607 L'Orfeo (Claudio Monteverdi). This is widely regarded as the first operatic masterwork.[1]
  • 1640 Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Monteverdi). Monteverdi's first opera for Venice, based on Homer's Odyssey, displays the composer's mastery of portrayal of genuine individuals as opposed to stereotypes.[2]
  • 1642 L'incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi). Monteverdi's last opera, composed for a Venetian audience, is often performed today. Its Venetian context helps to explain the complete absence of the moralizing tone often associated with opera of this time.[2]
  • 1644 Ormindo (Francesco Cavalli). One of the first of Cavalli's operas to be revived in the 20th century, Ormindo is considered one of his more attractive works.[2]
  • 1649 Giasone (Cavalli). In Giasone Cavalli, for the first time, separated aria and recitative.[2]Giasone was the most popular opera of the 17th century.[3]
  • 1651 La Calisto (Cavalli). The ninth of the eleven operas that Cavalli wrote with Faustini is noted for its satire of the deities of classical mythology.[4]
  • 1683 Dido and Aeneas (Henry Purcell). Often considered to be the first genuine English-language operatic masterwork. Not first performed in 1689 at a girls' school, as is commonly believed, but at Charles II's court in 1683.[5]
  • 1692 The Fairy-Queen (Purcell). A semi-opera rather than a genuine opera, this is often thought to be Purcell's finest dramatic work.[5]

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