opera glassesWhat is covered here? Opera in this context refers to a staged dramatic musical work, wholly or mostly sung. The narrative is acted out (e.g. with costumes and lighting) rather than just implied by the music. It may be a comedy or tragedy, but both the text and music are integral. Generally, these fall within the "art music tradition". Musicals such as Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber are included on our Musicals page.


New @ the Library

Recent DVDs :

Adriana Lecouvreur, by Cilea.
Performers : Angela Gheorghiu (Adriana), Jonas Kaufmann (Maurizio), Olga Borodina (Principessa di Bouillon), Maurizio Muraro (Principe di Bouillon), Alessandro Corbelli (Michonnet) ; other soloists ; Royal Opera Chorus ; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House ; Mark Elder, conductor.
Angela Gheorghiu's soaring high notes as the celebrated French actress Adriana Lecouvreur are a delight and Jonas Kaufmann is also well cast as her lover Maurizio, Count of Saxony. The plot is based on the true story of Adriana Lecouvreur, an 18th-century actress at the Comédie Française, whose rival for the love of Maurizio, Count of Saxony, is the married Principessa di Bouillon.

Eugene Onegin, by Tchaikovsky.
"Five Stars - ... Krassimira Stoyanova is a stunning Tatyana with a sumptuous voice. Andrej Dunaev a plangent Lensky ... essential viewing" Opera Now Magazine May 2012
Performers include : Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatyana), Andrej Dunaev (Lensky), Bo Skovhus (Eugene Onegin), Mikhail Petrenko (Prince Gremin) ; ensemble cast ; Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera ; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra ; Mariss Jansons, conductor.

Check out our new book lists section for a complete list of all new classical CDs at the library, compiled every month.

Other recent items:


Have a look at the libraries' Classical Music recent picks for more new CDs, biographies of classical musicians and new scores.

MyLibrary is a free service which allows you to set up your own portal page to collect lists of new books, CDs and DVDs in the library. Our librarians compile these lists on a monthly basis across the different subject areas in the library's collection, and for many subjects these monthly lists are available going back a number of years.


Syndetics book coverGreat operas : a guide to 25 of the world's finest musical experiences, by Michael Steen.
"Michael Steen's The Lives and Times of the Great Composers was described as 'hugely informative and deliciously gossipy' by the Spectator. Great Operas is his accessible and entertaining user's manual to making the best of an opera - whether at home or at a live performance, interspersing the key facts with erudite commentary from a man for whom opera is a lifetime's passion." (drawn from Syndetics annocation)

Syndetics book coverRichard Wagner : the sorcerer of Bayreuth, by Barry Millington.
Millington is the editor of The Wagner Journal and has written and edited, several other books on Wagner. As a biography, this tries to cover the man, and his music, and his influence on later music and society - a very daunting task for anyone to complete in just over 300 pages. The illustrations including original document references and add to the story. "An admirably succinct and thoughtful treatment of Wagner and all that." (Wagneriana).

Syndetics book coverA history of opera : the last four hundred years, by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker.
As well as whisking us through the great composers from Monteverdi, part of the strength of this book is its exploration of opera in its social, political and literary context. While economics have never been irrelevant, as the twentieth century has progressed, new works have not only radically dwindled, but those which have surfaced have (generally) not captured the imagination of the modern world.

Syndetics book coverThe gilded stage : the social history of opera / Daniel Snowman.
"From Opera's beginnings in the courts of northern Italy to its spread across Europe and the world, The Gilded Stage is an operatic Grand Tour of opera houses, monarchs, artists, and audiences. An exceptionally elegant volume, "The Gilded Stage" is a must-have for every music lover." (Syndetics summary)

book jacket The rough guide to opera written by Matthew Boyden ; with contributions from Joe Staines.
"The Rough Guide to Opera is a unique handbook on the most thrilling of art forms, spanning four hundred years of music drama. The title features lively biographical sketches of some 150 composers from Claudio Monteverdi to Poul Ruders, animating the main events of their careers and revealing their social and musical context. Entertaining accounts of hundreds of operas both famous and neglected and comprehensive reviews of over a thousand CDs from recent digital releases to the best historical recordings. From historical figures like Caruso to contemporary stars like Bryn Terfel, Renee Fleming and Daniel Barenboim, discover the finest singers and conductors on record. Superb photographs, drawings, and CD cover images make this title an Opera-lover's essential." (Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFashion designers at the opera, by Helena Matheopoulos.
In this sumptuous book, leading figures in the world of fashion - Giorgio Armani, Marc Bohan, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, Miuccia Prada, Zandra Rhodes, Emanuel Ungaro, Gianni Versace, and Viktor & Rolf - are profiled, together with illustrations of their costume designs. Helena Matheopoulos's interviews with many of the designers illuminate the journey that led each to the opera and the challenges of working in a demanding new medium.

The Grove book of opera singers, edited by Laura Macy.
"Covering over 1500 singers from the origins of opera to the present day, this is the most comprehensive guide to opera singers in the English language. Articles from The New Grove Dictionary of Opera and Grove Music Online have been fully revised and updated and new entries have been commissioned on contemporary singers such as Angelika Kirchschlager and Sanford Sylvan." "Each entry is written by an expert in the field and special attention has been paid to identifying first performances of important roles. "The index of roles identifies the creator of over 2000 roles from the operatic repertory, from Monteverdi's Orfeo to Previa's Blanche Dubois. The book is thus an important source of information about the singers for whom the great operatic roles were first composed." (Book Jacket)



Amazon cd jacket The very best of Kiri Te Kanawa, Various opera arias. 2 CDs.
One of a series of "very best of" famous singers. Each is a double CD set, and also includes other signature songs, as well as wide range of opera arias.
Also in the series are Beniamino Gigli, Nicolai Gedda, and Victoria De Los Angeles.


Amazon cd jacket Italian night, music by Verdi, Bellini, Rossin. Performed bty Angela Gheorghiu, soprano ; Sergej Larin, tenor ; Bryn Terfel, baritone ; Rundfunkchor Berlin ; Chorus master, Gerd Muller-Lorenz ; Claudio Abbado, conductor.
Contents include : Overture, Chorus of Hebrew slaves (Nabucco) / G. Verdi -- "Eccomi in lieta vesta" (I Capuleti ed I Montecch) / V. Bellini -- "E lui-- o mio Rodrigo" (Don Carlo), "Vedi! le fosche notturne" (Il trovatore) / G. Verdi -- Overture (La forza del destino) ; "Forse la soglia attinse" (Un ballo in maschera) ; "Fuoco di gioia", (Otello) ; Triumph march, "Gloria all'Egitto" (Aida) ; Overture (I vesperi siciliani) / G. Verdi -- Overture (Il barbiere di Siviglia) / G. Rossini.


In print @ the library

See also...

The library also has some subscription databases available to library members - check out our MyGateway Music Page, and search across thousands of articles on a range of music-related topics.

Online Databases

NAXOS Music Library

Logon with your library card to stream more than 276,000 audio tracks from over 20,000 CDs, with more CDs being added monthly. Includes almost all the standard classical repertoire, so it contains an extensive collection of medieval music..

It includes the complete catalogues of Naxos, BIS, Chandos and others. Contains liner notes plus opera synopses and libretti, composer and artist biographies, and other useful information.

Alexander Street Music Online

Logon with your library card to Music Online, to search over 120,000 classical music recordings from EMI, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Artemis- Vanguard, Sanctuary Classics, Vox and many more.

More music databases

We have many more music databases - have a look at our MyGateway Music Page

Useful Websites

  • Oxford Music Online.
    Contains The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., (2001, 29 vols). Features more than 50,000 articles on musicians, composers, musicologists, instruments, genres, terms and much more. Use your library card to log in.
  • Operabase.
    Searchable database of opera performances and artists, festivals, reviews, links, and much more.
  • Opera today
    Opera news, commentary, and reviews from around the world; has RSS feed.
  • The Aria Database is a diverse collection of information on over 1000 operatic arias. Designed for singers and non-singers alike, the Database includes translations and aria texts. Search by aria, composers, opera, or role.
  • Operaglass. Although hardly inspiring to look at, this is a mine of links and other information about opera for both the beginner and enthusiast.
  • NZopera.com..
    The official website for performance information of the NBR New Zealand Opera company.
  • Presto classical
    Read reviews and details of new releases.

Searching the Catalogue

Composers through the centuries

(These links will jump you further down the page)

Beginnings c 1600

Claudio Monteverdi:

Claudio Monteverdi's operas are generally attributed as the 'first' fully fledged, and for that reason alone they are definitely worth a listen.

Syndetics book coverL'Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi. performed by Roberta Invernizzi (La Musica, Euridice, Eco) ; Georg Nigl (Orfeo) ; Sara Mingardo (Messaggera & Speranza) ; other soloists ; Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala ; Concerto Italiano, basso continuo ; Rinaldo Alessandrini, conductor.
Another DVD worth sampling from Monteverdi is L'Incoronazione di Poppea, performed by Rene Jacobs, conductor ; Concerto Koln.

Henry Purcell (1659-1695), English :

If the first opera is attributed to Monteverdi, the first English opera is attributed to Purcell. He also wrote a large number of songs, chamber music, and incidental music for theatre.

Amazon cd jacket King Arthur : dramatick opera, by Henry Purcell ; libretto by John Dryden ; Salzburger Festspiele 2004. Performers include Isabel Rey, Barbara Bonney, sopranos ; Birgit Remmert, contralto ; Michael Schade, tenor ; Oliver Widmer, baritone ; Michael Maertens (King Arthur) ; Christph Kail (Aurelius) ; Dietmar Konig (Oswald) ; Sylvie Rohrer (Emmeline) ; Ulli Maier (Matilda) ; Christoph Bantzer (Merlin) ; Concentus Musicus Wien ; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor.
Another DVD worth sampling from Purcell is The fairy queen, performed by William Christie, conductor ; Glyndbourne Chorus.

The Baroque period


Handel composed a number of operas, but they've never enjoyed the same general popularity as his choral works like the oratorio the Messiah.

Syndetics book coverThe Handel collection.
Performed by Placido Domingo (Bajazet) ; Monica Bacelli (Tamerlano) ; Ingela Bohlin (Asteria) ; Jennifer Holloway (Irene) ; Luigi de Donato (Leone) ; Orchestra of the Teatro Real ; Paul McCreesh, conductor.
It dates from 1724, a year in which Handel also composed two other operatic maserpieces: Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare. There is an interview with the conductor Paul Mccresh on Disc One serves as an excellent introduction into this form of opera.

Syndetics book coverTamerlano [videorecording] : opera in three act / music by Georg Friedrich Handel ; an Opus Are-Teatro Real co-production. Contains : Rodelinda : opera in three acts ; Theodora : oratorio in three parts; A night with Handel (A night with Handel is a performance-based film of arias set in contemporary London by night.) which contains excerpts from Rinaldo, Ottone), Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda, Sosarme, Orlando, Ariodante and Il moderato.

Classical Period

From 1750-1830 many more operas were being composed, and more composers were trying their hand at this genre, with sometimes highly extravagant productions. What follows is just a sample to whet your appetite.


Amazon dvd jacket Don Giovanni, music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ; text by Lorenzo da Ponte ; Salzburg Festival 2008, from the House for Mozart. performed by Christopher Maltman (Don Giovanni) ; Erwin Schrott (Leporeallo) ; Annette Dasch (Donna Anna) ; Matthew Polenzani (Don Ottavio) ; Dorothea Ruschmann (Donna Elvira) ; Ekaterina Siurina (Zerlina) ; Alex Esposito (Masetto) ; Anatoli Kotscherga (Il Commendatore) ; Wiener Philharmoniker ; Bertrand de Billy, conductor.

Other operas by Mozart well worth visiting are The marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), , and Cosi fan Tutte .

Beethoven wrote only the one, but it is regarded as a dramatic masterpiece.

Syndetics book coverFidelio / Ludwig van Beethoven. performed by Ganther Groissback (Don Fernando), Alfred Muff (Don Pizarro), Jonas Kaufmann (Florestan), Camilla Nylund (Leonore), (Rocco) ; Orchestra and Chours of the Zurich Opera House ; Nikolaus Harononchourt, conductor.


Amazon dvd jacket Il puritani, performed by Anna Netrebko, soprano ; Maria Zifchak, mezzo-soprano, Eduardo Valdes, Eric Cutler, tenors ; Franco Vassallo, baritone ; Valerian Ruminski, John Relyea, basses ; The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet ; Patrick Summers, conductor.


Syndetics book coverL'elisir d'amore : opera in due atti / Gaetano Donizetti ; a Gran Teatre del Liceu production.
Performed by Maria Bayo (Adina), Roland Villazon (Nemorino), Jean-Luc Chaignaud (Belcore), Bruno Pratici (Dulcamara), Cristina Obregon (Gianetta) ; Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu ; Daniele Callegari, conductor.


Amazon dvd jacketIl barbiere di Siviglia, by Rossini ; from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Figaro, the title character, is a matchmaker and man about town as well as a barber. He devises a way to get Rosina to marry Almaviva instead of her guardian, to whom she is already engaged. Taken from performances in July 2009 at London's Royal Opera House, this DVD sees Joyce DiDonato perform her role in a wheelchair after she broke her fibula during an earlier show.

Romantic (late 19th century)

The whole plot, spectacle, drama and size of production reached a new scale during this era. While political (some might say revolutionary) or tragic themes were also found in earlier operas, they became the hallmark of this generation.


Syndetics book coverLa traviata : an opera in 3 acts / LA Opera presents ; [music by] Giuseppe Verdi ; Marta Domingo, stage director ; produced for television by Moshe Barkat ; directed for television by Brian Large.
Performers include : Renee Fleming (Violetta Valery) ; Rolando Villazon (Alfredo Germont) ; Renato Bruson (Giorgio Germont) ; supporting soloists ; Los Angeles Opera Orchestra ; Los Angeles Opera Chorus ; James Conlon, conductor.
Other DVDs worth sampling from Verdi are Falstaff, and Simon Boccanegra.


Syndetics book coverCarmen / [music by] Georges Bizet ; libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, based on the novella by Prosper Merimee.
Carmen, a beautiful sultry gypsy, woos the corporal Don Jose. Their relationship leads to his rejection of his former love, mutiny against his superior, and joining a gang of smugglers. His jelousy when she turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo leads him to murder Carmen.


Wagner's name is synonymous with opera. Much of popular conceptions (and misconceptions) about opera today stem from his massive opera Ring Cycle opera series. His operas were vast, long, with super-hero themes (drawn often from German folk-lore). Read more about his operas in The complete operas of Richard Wagner, by Charles Osborne.

Amazon dvd jacket Die Walkure, a production of Unitel and Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia" Valencia.
Richard Wagner's dream of a Gerantkunstwerk becomes reality through La Fura des Baus' visual fantasy and blending of video technology, lighting and props (often formed of human beings): Their 3d computer projections and organic structures built of athletic performers that recall "Cirque du Soleil" are predestined for Wagner's visionary expressive world. Other DVDs in the same cycle include Siegfried, and Das Rheingold.

Syndetics book coverDie Meistersinger von Nuremberg : oper in drei Aufzagen / a production of UNITEL in co-production with CLASSICA in cooperation with the Weiner Staatsoper.
Performers include : Falk Struckmann (Hans Sachs), Ain Anger (Veit Pogner), Adrian Erd (Sixtus Beckmesser), Johan Botha (Walther von Stolzing), Michael Schade (David), Ricarda Merbeth (Eva), ; Orchester und Bahnerorchester der Wiener Staatsoper ; Christian Thielemann, conductor.


Amazon dvd jacket Eugene Onegin / [music by] Tchaikovsky.
Tatiana falls in love with Onegin who urges her to forget him. Onegin kills a man in a duel and travels abroad. Six years later he meets Tatiana again, but she is married. Performed by Renee Fleming, soprano ; Elena Zaremba, contralto ; Svetlana Volkova, Laris Shevchenko, mezzo-soprano ; Ramon Vargas, Jean-Paul Fouchecourt, tenor ; Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone ; Keith Miller, Richard Bernstein, Sergei Aleksashkin, bass ; The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet ; Valery Gergiev, conductor..

Early Twentieth Century


Chronologically Puccini's operas sneak into the beginning of the twentieth century. Whilst he hardly brings grand innovation to the historical stream of opera, he has composed some of the most popular operas of any period, with his highly melodic writing.

Syndetics book coverTurandot / Puccini ; a production of UNITEL and Palau De Les Arts "Reina Sofia" Valencia.
Performers include : Maria Guleghina (Turandot), Alexia Voulgaridou (Liu), Marco Berti (Calaf), Javier Agullo (Altoum), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Timur), Fabio Previati (Ping), Vincene Esteve (Pang), Roger Padullus (Pong), Zubin Mehta, conductor.

Syndetics book coverLa boheme / Giacomo Puccini ; a Royal Opera House production.
Performers : Teodor Ilincai (Rodolfo), Hibla Gerzmava (Mimi), Gabriele Viviani (Marcello) ; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House ; concert master, Peter Manning ; conductor, Andris Nelsons.
In an attic apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris, a group of young artists are living together in poverty. Their neighbour, the little seamstress Mimi, introduces herself, seeking a light for her candle, when Rodolfo is left alone. They fall in love...

Richard Strauss:

Syndetics book coverElektra : tragic opera in one act, by Richard Strauss ; libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal after Sophokles ; Unitel Classica presents, Salzburger Festspiele, from the Grosses Festspielhaus.
This 2010 production of Elektra for the Salzburg Festspiele is impressive, with Nikolaus Lehnhoff's staging and a top drawer cast such as Irene Theorin, Waltraud Meier, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Rene Pape, with Daniele Gatti conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. "This Elektra should be used as a textbook example of how to bring contemporary relevance to an opera without disfiguring it to the point where it becomes wholly unrecognizable." (Amazon customer)

Later Twentieth Century


Syndetics book coverPeter Grimes / Benjamin Britten ; libretto by Montagu Slater ; a production for television from Snape Maltings staged by Joan Cross.
"Fisherman Peter Grimes is ostracized following the death of his apprentice. Despite the friendship of the schoolteacher Ellen Orford, Grimes is pursued by the village, finally descending into madness and inevitable tragedy"--Container.

Phillip Glass:

Syndetics book coverKoyaanisqatsi = Life out of balance / Francis Ford Coppola presents an Institute for Regional Education presentation ; a film by Godfrey Reggio.
Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word meaning variously: crazy life, life in turmoil, life disintegrating, life out of balance, and a state of life that calls for another way of life. Uniting breathtaking imagery with a haunting score, this experimental film contrasts the tranquil beauty of nature with the frenzied hum of contemporary urban society.

John Adams:

Syndetics book coverDoctor Atomic / composer, John Adams ; libretto, Peter Sellars from original sources ; stage director, Peter Sellars.
J. Robert Oppenheimer began an experiment that formed a threat to the whole of humanity, and whose scientific results still do today. The question of the moral implications of the atomic bomb is raised in Adams opera.
Performers include : Gerald Finley (J. Robert Oppenheimer) ; Jessica Rivera (Kitty Oppenheimer) ; Eric Owens (General Leslie Groves) ; Richard Paul Fink (Edward Teller) ; James Maddalena (Jack Hubbard) ; Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest ; Koor van De Nederlands Opera ; Lawrence Renes, conductor.


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