If you are an opera enthusiast, you probably know that this genre originated in Italy. It’s a homeland for the most famous composers such as Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi. But do you know which ones of their works are called the greatest operas of all time? Today, let’s get you acquainted with 4 Italian operas worth watching!

Rigoletto (1851) by Giuseppe Verdi

The masterpiece by Verdi and the librettist Francesco Maria Piave has its roots in the 1832 play Le roi s'amuse, written by Victor Hugo. In 1850 Italian opera house La Fenice of Venice asked Verdi to compose a new opera and let him choose texts for his music.

Once he went for Hugos’s gritty and controversial depiction of the king Francis I of France, Verdi and Piave had to face a ban from censors who deemed the opera repugnant, immoral, and obscenely trivial. Therefore, Verdi moved the action of the opera to Mantua and renamed the characters to avoid direct references.

You’ll meet libertine and deceitful Duke, sardonic, servile, and quirky Rigoletto (Duke’s jester), innocent and loving Gilda (Rigoletto’s daughter), and a bunch of other characters from Mantua. You’ll see the devastating consequences of giving credit to a curse and wreaking revenge.

La Traviata (1853) by Verdi

This immensely popular opera by Verdi and Piave is based on the work of another big artist –  La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas. The novelist was also a playwright, so he adapted the book for the stage. When visiting Paris, Verdi saw it and – inspired – started composing music for the story.

Speaking of the story – the main character of La Traviata, Violetta, is a courtesan, tired of her profession. At the beginning of the opera, she meets candid and committed Alfredo, who’s been her admirer for a long time. She gives him a go, but Alfredo’s father tries to get in the way of their peaceful country life. Come and see how true love wins!

Tosca (1990) by Giacomo Puccini

The libretto was written by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa on the basis of Victorien Sardou's French playwright with the same title. The action takes place in Rome in June 1800 and lasts only for 24 hours. But in such a short time, Puccini cruelly takes the life of all the main characters!

It’s an intensely tragic depiction of a love triangle between two lovers – the singer Floria Tosca and the painter Mario Cavaradossi – and the police chief Scarpia who lusts after the eponymous character. Apart from the deadly mix of love, passion, torture, and murder, the main characters are entangled in political intrigue which makes the intriguing plot of Tosca even more gripping.

Aida (1871) by Verdi

The music by Giuseppe Verdi and the libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni were written for the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo. Shortly after its Egyptian premiere, it received great enthusiasm in Italy and other countries.

Aida, an Ethiopian prince and a slave of Amneris is in love with Radamès – and he’s in love with her as well. The problem is he’s chosen to lead the army at war with Ethiopia. After his victory on the battlefield, he’s to marry Amneris – the Egyptian king’s daughter…

The greatest operas – concerts in Rome

You can either choose one of the above-mentioned titles or attend a concert with many of the greatest Italian opera arias of all time! At Waldensian Church and Methodist Church, you can listen to such compositions as:

  • "La donna è mobile", "Rigoletto Quartet" from Rigoletto,
  • "Libiamo ne’ lieti calici" from La Traviata,
  • "Vissi d’arte", "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca,
  • "Celeste Aida" from Aida.

Tickets are available!