100 greatest operas . . . really?

Couldn’t resist posting this list I found (in cyberspace) of the 100 greatest operas ever written. What do you think about this list? How did the list maker do? Any work missing, in your estimation? Does Wagner deserve the top two spots, as listed? (In fact, nearly every Wagner is listed before we hit one Donizetti at #31.)

Why is it that we so seldom see some of these top 100 operas in performance (in the United States, at least)? For instance, Louise by Charpentier is a beautiful work, rarely performed. It’s as if every company hauls out the same 20-25 operas every year.

Lyric Opera of Chicago's Tristan and Isolde with Clifton Forbis and Deborah Voigt

1. Der Ring des Nibelungen – Richard Wagner
2. Tristan Und Isolde – Richard Wagner
3. Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
4. Otello – Giuseppe Verdi
5. The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
6. Aida – Giuseppe Verdi
7. La Boheme – Giacomo Puccini
8. Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
9. Der Rosenkavalier – Richard Strauss
10. Parsifal – Richard Wagner
11. Boris Godunov – Modest Mussorgsky
12. La Traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
13. Carmen – Georges Bizet
14. Die Meistersinger – Richard Wagner
15. The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
16. Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
17. Falstaff – Giuseppe Verdi
18. Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi
19. The Barber Of Seville – Gioacchino Rossini
20. Cavalleria Rusticana – Pietro Mascagni
21. Il Trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi
22. Turandot – Giacomo Puccini
23. Faust – Charles Gounod
24. Lohengrin – Richard Wagner
25. Peter Grimes – Benjamin Britten
26. Norma – Vincenzo Bellini
27. Tannhauser – Richard Wagner
28. I Pagliacci – Rugierro Leoncavallo
29. Pelleas and Mellisande – Claude Debussy
30. Porgy & Bess – George Gershwin
31. Lucia Di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti
32. Les Troyens – Hector Berlioz
33. Elektra – Richard Strauss
34. Cosi Fan Tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
35. Fidelio – Ludwig Van Beethoven
36. Eugene Onegin – Peter Illitch Tchaikovsky
37. La Gioconda – Amiliare Ponchielli
38. Wozzeck – Alban Berg
39. Incoronazione di Poppea – Claudio Monteverdi
40. Salome – Richard Strauss
41. Dido and Aneas – Henry Purcell
42. The Cunning Little Vixen – Leos Janacek
43. Orpheus and Eurydice – Christoph Willibald Gluck
44. Don Carlos – Giuseppe Verdi
45. Orfeo – Claudio Monteverdi
46. Der Freischutz – Carl Maria von Weber
47. Samson and Delilah – Camille Saint-Saens
48. Tales of Hoffman – Jacques Offenbach
49. Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdink
50. The Flying Dutchman – Richard Wagner
51. The Rake’s Progress – Igor Stravinsky
52. Manon – Jules Massenet
53. The Bartered Bride – Bedrich Smetana
54. The Huguenots – Giacomo Meyerbeer
55. La Forza Del Destino – Giuseppe Verdi
56. Manon Lescaut – Giacomo Puccini
57. Ariadne auf Naxos – Richard Strauss
58. Romeo and Juliet – Charles Gounod
59. L’Elisir D’Amore – Gaetano Donizetti
60. Lakme – Leo Delibes
61. Andre Chenier – Umberto Giordano
62. Werther – Jules Massenet
63. Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti
64. Jenufa – Leos Janacek
65. The Girl of the Golden West – Giacomo Puccini
66. La Sonnambula – Vincenzo Bellini
67. Turn of the Screw – Benjamin Britten
68. Duke Bluebeard’s Castle – Bela Bartok
69. William Tell – Gioacchino Rossini
70. The Masked Ball – Giuseppe Verdi
71. Julius Caesar – Georg Friedrich Handel
72. La Serva Padrona – Giovanni Pergolesi
73. Die Tote Stadt – Erich Wolfgang Korngold
74. Louise – Gustave Charpentier
75. Mefistofele – Arrigo Boito
76. I Puritani – Vincenzo Bellini
77. Semiramide – Gioacchino Rossini
78. L’Africaine – Giacomo Meyerbeer
79. Castor et Pollux – Jean-Philippe Rameau
80. La Cenerentola – Gioacchino Rossini
81. Pique Dame – Peter Illitch Tchaikovsky
82. Billy Budd – Benjamin Britten
83. La Fille du Regiment – Gaetano Donizetti
84. Le Prophete – Giacomo Meyerbeer
85. Le Coq D’or – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff
86. McBeth – Giuseppe Verdi
87. Les Pecheurs des Perles – Georges Bizet
88. The Pilgrim’s Progress – Ralph Vaughan Williams
89. Ernani – Giuseppe Verdi
90. Gianni Schicchi – Giacomo Puccini
91. Beatrice et Benedict – Hector Berlioz
92. Simon Boccanegra – Giuseppe Verdi
93. Prince Igor – Alexander Borodin
94. Nabucco – Giuseppe Verdi
95. The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
96. Euryanthe – Carl Maria von Weber
97. Dialogues des Carmelites – Frances Poulenc
98. Atys – Jean-Baptiste Lully
99. Thais – Jules Massenet
100. Martha – Friederich von Flotow



8 Comments

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8 Responses to 100 greatest operas . . . really?

  1. marquisa-attavanti

    Being Russian myself I’m actually surprised neither “Iolanta” nor “The Tsar’s Bride” are included but kickshaws like “Le Coq D’or” or “The Rake’s Progress” are here. No “Idomeneo”? “Carmen” and “Traviata” go AFTER “Godunov”? Verdi’s best “Don Carlo” deserves #44 and “Werther” # 62. No comments.
    Yeah, I agree with stray apropos “La clemenza”.

  2. NickU

    Top 10: Don Giovanni, Otello, Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, Ring, La Forza del Destino (OK, really shouldn’t make it to a Top 10, but it’s a personal favorite), La Boheme, Werther, Magic Flute, Falstaff

  3. … really? There actually exist 100 operas ?? :-)) Always thought there’s “Tosca” and the other one…
    I won’t even start to discuss what “best” means. There is no point in arguing if one title should or should not be above the other. I would certainly put those titles in some different order :-)

  4. Intriguing, but it does strike me as a little eccentric. (I was shocked to see only one Handel opera on here at all. Don Carlos buried in the middle, and below La Gioconda ? No Peter Grimes until 25?) Does the list’s source give any clues as to what criteria were used to compile it? I’m thinking that popularity in performance might explain things like Aida‘s place at entry 6 (really??) and the high placement of the unfinished Turandot. And although Rosenkavalier may be my personal favorite of the Strauss operas, I can’t understand why Salome isn’t in its place. John’s point about the omission of late twentieth-century works is a good one.

  5. stray

    Otello and Tristan should split the top spot, La Clemenza di Tito should be Mozart’s number 1, and Alcina over Giulio Cesare. imho. Also no way does L’Africaine beat out Billy Budd and Simon Boccanegra, sorry.

  6. Obvious omissions are Lulu, Rusalka and Iphigenie en Tauride. There’s also nothing written after about 1970 but as such lists go it’s not absurd.

  7. The Unrepentant Pelleastrain

    Hello Gale,

    Although I am a die-hard Wagnerian myself, the fact that ‘Pelleas et Melisande’ doesn’t even make it to the top 5 renders this list a bit of a joke.

    Just my opinion.

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