All of us opera lovers have our favorite authors, but if you have heard as much opera as I have, you´ll know what world-class means. So, this can be considered the best of the best!
Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
This is my personal number one, a French Impressionist (I love impressionists!) who lived in the latter XIX Century and was regarded as France greatest living composer in his time. Many of you will know his incredible mantra, the best-selling classical music piece (although it doesn´t have any vocals) “Bolero”, but he wrote many master pieces. He made his characters speak with emotion and involved the orchestra only to emphasize the dramatization which was revolutionary and beautiful at the same time. There are several things he didn´t do that are very important to put him as number one:
- He was not prolific; he wrote little but very intricate, passionate and skillful work. The only two operas under his name are better than half a dozen of his pairs.
- He didn´t write many religious work which was kind of a must at the time and I personally really dislike.
- He wasn´t only interested in music, he included some great poetry to his operas and that made the world of difference.
Favorite Opera: L’heureespagnole
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
Wagner is one thing when you hear him on record, but is another, very different and much better when you acquire full recognition of his Gesamtkunstwerk which means: the complete work of art. He took care of the visuals, the libretto and the music for his compositions, which made him an incredible artist from every point of view. He is number two in this list because of his influence in the whole world of opera that came after him. He was a very controversial figure and much of his work was revised later and said to be flooded with antisemitism, but that´s just a misjudging of his work. He was a complete artist, a renaissance man at its best.
Favorite Opera: Parsifal
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)
He came from humble origins and climbed the social ladder to the very top in his life. He is a complete classic, I know,but he composed some of the greatest music pieces I have ever heard in my life. Besides, he wrote original material late in his eighties and lived almost 90 years in a time in which people didn´t. Apart from his amazing work as a musician, he was an awesome philanthropist giving music away for causes like earthquakes relief. I don´t know what happens to me exactly with Italians, it must be the ferocity or the passion or both, but they reach other levels of emotion with me, deeper layers.
Favorite Opera: Requiem
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
Needless to say he was Russian, but it´s absolutely imperative to know he was a composer during the Romantic Period. He composed some of the most personal and magnificent pieces in the history and made a path for Russian music to breakthrough into Western Europe. The Saint Petersburg Conservatory was only starting out at the time Tchaikovsky attended (founded in 1862) and the musical relevance of Russia changed dramatically after him. His style is mixed and often intricate, but is very similar to life itself, which I find most pleasing.
Favorite Opera: The Queen of Spades
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
We couldn´t leave the biggest heavyweight champions of the world out of this “best of the best of the opera according to me”. There is very, very little to be said about the magnificent talent and prodigious talent that hasn´t been said before, but try it for yourself and find out how incredible Mozart actually is.
Favorite Opera: Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Well, it´s true that he started composing in the shades of Mozart, but he may very well be the pivotal piece in the transformation between classical and romantic periods of western music. He is regarded by many as the most influential composer in the history of music and while Mozart will always be the one with the highest virtuosity, Ludwig still is the one who changed the rules of the game. The most interesting and heart-breaking fact for any composer is that most of his greatest work came in the final 15 years of his life, during which he was almost completely deaf.
Favorite (and only) Opera: Fidelio