Table of Contents
- 1. Habanera – Bizet (Carmen)
- 2. The Queen of the Night’s Aria – Mozart (The Magic Flute)
- 3. O Mio Babbino Caro – Puccini
- 4. Pour mon âme – Gaetano Donizetti
- 5. Deh vieni, non tardar – Mozart (Marriage of Figaro)
- 6. Che gelida manina – Puccini (La Bohème)
- 7. Tatiana’s Letter Scene – Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin)
- 8. Dido’s Lament – Henry Purcell (Dido and Aeneas)
- 9. O Sole Mio – Eduardo di Capua
- 10. Largo al Factotum – Rossini (The Barber of Seville)
- 11. Casta Diva – Bellini (Norma)
- 12. Nessun Dorma – Giacomo Puccini (Turandot)
- 13. La donne è mobile – Giuseppe Verdi (Rigoletto)
- 14. Quando m’en vo – Puccini (La Bohème)
- 15. Voi che sapete – Mozart (Marriage of Figaro)
- 16. Libiamo ne’ lieti calici – Verdi (La Traviata)
- 17. Flower Duet – Delibes (Lakme)
- 18. Vissi d’arte – Giacomo Puccini (Tosca)
- 19. Non mi dir – Mozart (Don Giovanni)
- 20. Un bel di vedremo – Puccini (Madame Butterfly)
- 21. Ombra Mai Fu – Georg Friedrich Handel (Xerxes)
- 22. Je veux vivre – Gounod (Romeo and Juliet)
- 23. L’Orfeo – Monteverdi (Savall)
- 24. Ride of the Valkyries – Wagner (Der Ring Des Nibelungen)
- 25. The Mad Scene – Salvadore Cammarano (Lucia Di Lammermoor)
- 26. O Fortuna – Carl Orff (Carmina Burana)
- 27. Andrea Bocelli – Canto Della Terra
Opera has a long and rich history, and its songs have become an integral part of classical music. From the soaring arias to the passionate duets, operas have inspired countless musicians and singers over the years. In this article, we explore the top 27 best opera songs that have captured audiences’ hearts and souls over time.
Opera songs are known for their dramatic storytelling, intricate melodies, and powerful vocals that convey emotions that transcend time and language barriers. These songs have become classics, and their enduring popularity is a testament to the power of opera. The list features a diverse mix of songs from famous operas such as La Traviata, Carmen, and The Marriage of Figaro, to name a few.
The article will delve into each song’s history, context, and musicality, exploring the nuances and beauty of each piece. Whether you are an opera aficionado or a newcomer to the genre, this list will surely inspire you to explore more of the world of opera. From the heart-wrenching arias to the triumphant overtures, each song on this list is a testament to the timeless and universal appeal of opera. So sit back, relax, and let the music transport you to another time and place as we explore the top 27 best opera songs.
1. Habanera – Bizet (Carmen)
Bizet’s “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen” is a fiery aria that embodies the spirit of the seductive gypsy woman. The powerful mezzo-soprano voice, accompanied by the bright and rhythmic castanets, sets the perfect stage for the character Carmen to captivate her audience. With its catchy melody and playful yet sultry lyrics, this song has been one of the most recognizable arias in opera history. The sensuousness of the “Habanera” has captured the imaginations of countless opera-goers and has been featured in popular culture, including television shows and films.
2. The Queen of the Night’s Aria – Mozart (The Magic Flute)
“The Queen of the Night’s Aria,” also known as “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” in German, is an incredibly famous and challenging piece of music from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” It is sung by the Queen of the Night and is considered to be one of the most challenging and virtuosic pieces of music in the soprano repertoire. The aria features incredibly high and fast runs, as well as dramatic and intense moments that require both technical skill and emotional depth from the performer. The Queen of the Night is a complex character, and this aria is a perfect showcase for her vengeful and manipulative nature. It is an iconic piece of music that has been featured in numerous films, TV shows, and even commercials, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable and beloved opera pieces of all time.
3. O Mio Babbino Caro – Puccini
“O Mio Babbino Caro” is a famous soprano aria from Puccini’s one-act opera “Gianni Schicchi.” It is sung by the character Lauretta who pleads with her father for permission to marry her lover. The aria is known for its sweet melody and expressive lyrics that showcase the character’s deep affection and longing for her lover. The piece has become a staple of the opera repertoire, often performed in concert settings as well as in the original opera. The song’s popularity is also reflected in its frequent use in popular culture, such as in films, television shows, and advertisements. Puccini’s skillful orchestration and the aria’s expressive vocal line make it an enduring favorite among both opera lovers and casual listeners alike.
4. Pour mon âme – Gaetano Donizetti
“Pour mon âme” is a challenging and lively aria from Donizetti’s comic opera “The Daughter of the Regiment.” The song is sung by the character Tonio, who is expressing his love for Marie, the daughter of the regiment. The piece is known for its incredible difficulty, as the tenor is required to hit a total of nine high C’s during the song, which has earned it the nickname “The Mount Everest of Tenor Arias.”
The aria opens with a jaunty and playful tune that sets the tone for the character’s jovial expression of his feelings. Tonio’s high notes are not just a technical feat, but also a way of conveying the overflowing joy and passion he feels for Marie. The song has become a popular staple for tenors, both for its technical challenges and its emotional resonance.
“Pour mon âme” has also been performed in a number of popular culture references, including the film “Moonstruck” and the TV show “The Simpsons.” The aria’s combination of technical difficulty and emotional depth has cemented its place as one of the most beloved and celebrated tenor arias in the opera repertoire.
5. Deh vieni, non tardar – Mozart (Marriage of Figaro)
“Deh vieni, non tardar” is an aria from the opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” (The Marriage of Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The song is sung by the character Susanna in Act IV, Scene 14, and it is one of the most famous arias from the opera. In the song, Susanna is trying to persuade her lover Figaro to come to her quickly and not to delay, as they have a plan to expose the Count’s infidelity. The melody of the song is light and playful, and it features a beautiful interplay between the voice and the orchestra. The aria is sung in Italian, and the lyrics express the urgency of Susanna’s desire for Figaro to come to her. The song has been performed by many sopranos, and it is a favorite among audiences for its beauty and expressive quality.
6. Che gelida manina – Puccini (La Bohème)
“Che gelida manina” is a romantic tenor aria from Act I of Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It is sung by the poet Rodolfo, who falls in love with the seamstress Mimi. In the aria, Rodolfo introduces himself to Mimi, asking her to warm his freezing hand. The melody is both simple and beautiful, with a tender and lyrical quality that perfectly captures the hopeful and romantic nature of the young poet. The aria is famous for its soaring high notes and the emotion it conveys, making it one of the most beloved and popular tenor arias in the opera repertoire. “Che gelida manina” is a true classic and a staple in any opera lover’s collection.
7. Tatiana’s Letter Scene – Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin)
Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” includes one of the most celebrated scenes in opera, the letter scene of Tatiana. In this stunning aria, Tatiana, a young girl who is deeply in love with the dashing Eugene Onegin, pours out her heart in a letter to him. Her emotions are conveyed through the music in a captivating and dramatic way, with the orchestra swelling and subsiding to mirror Tatiana’s emotional journey. The aria is a tour de force for any soprano, requiring vocal agility and expressive power. Tatiana’s character is portrayed with a depth and richness that makes her one of the most memorable heroines in all of opera, and her letter scene is a highlight of the work. The music is both lyrical and dramatic, with soaring melodies and moments of quiet introspection. Tatiana’s letter scene is a testament to the power of music to convey deep and complex emotions, and a reminder of why opera continues to captivate audiences around the world.
8. Dido’s Lament – Henry Purcell (Dido and Aeneas)
“Dido’s Lament” is a sorrowful and hauntingly beautiful aria from the opera “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell. The aria is also known as “When I Am Laid in Earth” and is sung by the character Dido, who is lamenting the loss of her love, Aeneas. The music starts with a simple, melancholic melody that slowly builds in intensity, expressing the depth of Dido’s sorrow. The lyrics are heartbreaking, with Dido pleading for death as she cannot bear the pain of losing Aeneas. The aria’s emotional power lies in its simplicity, with the sparse and elegiac melody perfectly conveying the depth of Dido’s anguish. It is a classic example of Baroque music, with the music and lyrics perfectly harmonized to create an unforgettable operatic moment. “Dido’s Lament” has been covered by many artists and remains a beloved aria in the operatic canon.
9. O Sole Mio – Eduardo di Capua
“O Sole Mio” is an Italian classic that has been covered by numerous artists in a variety of genres. Originally composed by Eduardo di Capua in 1898, the song’s lyrics, which speak about the beauty of the sun, are well-known across the world. The melody, which is lively and joyful, has been frequently used in popular culture, with snippets of the tune being used in everything from commercials to films. The song has been adapted and translated into numerous languages, and its influence on popular music cannot be understated. It has been covered by countless artists, including Elvis Presley, Bryan Adams, and Luciano Pavarotti. The song’s universal popularity and catchy melody make it a beloved classic that continues to be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.
10. Largo al Factotum – Rossini (The Barber of Seville)
“Largo al factotum” is an aria from Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville.” This song is widely popular and recognizable for its energetic melody and the repeated “Figaro” line throughout the lyrics. It is sung by the main character Figaro, who boasts about his skills as a barber and matchmaker. The song is set in a lively tempo, and Figaro’s excitement is reflected in the fast-paced and upbeat music. The character’s skill is evident from his intricate and impressive musical lines that convey his confidence in his ability to do just about anything. The song is also notable for its challenging vocal range, requiring a strong baritone voice capable of hitting the higher notes with precision and power. “Largo al factotum” has been featured in various films and TV shows, further cementing its place in popular culture. It is an exciting and playful piece that showcases the talent of the performer while also conveying the character’s personality and story.
11. Casta Diva – Bellini (Norma)
“Casta Diva” is an aria from Bellini’s opera “Norma.” The piece is known for its serene and beautiful melody, as well as its lyrical expression of the priestess Norma’s devotion to the moon goddess. The opening section of the aria, “Casta diva, che inargenti” (Chaste goddess, who silverest), is sung as a prayer to the goddess, and is followed by a series of expressive and lyrical passages. The aria has become one of the most famous and beloved pieces of the operatic repertoire, and is often performed by sopranos in concerts and recitals. Its beautiful melody and poetic lyrics continue to captivate listeners, making it a timeless masterpiece of the operatic world.
12. Nessun Dorma – Giacomo Puccini (Turandot)
“Nessun Dorma” is a classic aria from Puccini’s opera “Turandot”. The song, often considered one of the greatest tenor arias of all time, is sung by Calaf, the unknown prince who falls in love with the beautiful but icy Princess Turandot. The title “Nessun Dorma” translates to “None shall sleep” and is a reference to the challenge Turandot presents to her suitors. Calaf sings about his determination to win her heart and solve her riddles, proclaiming that even if no one else can sleep until the riddles are solved, he will still emerge victorious. The powerful and emotive vocals, combined with the grandiose orchestration, make this a quintessential opera moment that has transcended the world of classical music to become a universally recognized and beloved piece.
13. La donne è mobile – Giuseppe Verdi (Rigoletto)
“La donne è mobile” is an aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto.” This lively tune, performed by the Duke of Mantua, is known for its catchy melody and humorous lyrics. The Duke sings of his love for women, proclaiming that they are fickle and cannot be trusted. The bright, playful melody and the Duke’s enthusiastic performance make this aria a popular favorite among opera enthusiasts and novices alike. Despite its lighthearted tone, “La donne è mobile” is still a masterful piece of music, showcasing Verdi’s skill at creating memorable melodies that stick in the listener’s head long after the final note has been sung.
14. Quando m’en vo – Puccini (La Bohème)
“Quando m’en vo” is an enchanting aria from Act II of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème”. The song, also known as “Musetta’s Waltz,” is sung by the flirtatious Musetta, as she attracts the attention of her old lover, Marcello. The tune is light and dance-like, with the waltz rhythm evoking a sense of romance and delight. Musetta’s voice is sweet and delicate, as she describes how she is the center of attention everywhere she goes, and how she enjoys being admired by all the men around her. The song’s melody is catchy and easily recognizable, making it one of the most popular arias in the opera repertoire. Puccini’s masterful composition creates an atmosphere of carefree love and seduction, making “Quando m’en vo” a delightful piece to listen to, whether you are an opera aficionado or simply someone who appreciates beautiful music.
15. Voi che sapete – Mozart (Marriage of Figaro)
“Voi che sapete” is a beautiful and popular aria from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous opera, “The Marriage of Figaro”. It is sung by the character Cherubino, a young page who has a crush on the Countess Almaviva, and expresses his feelings of confusion and longing for love. The aria is known for its beautiful melody and the emotive way it conveys the character’s emotions. The song starts with a light and playful tune before taking a more serious and melancholic tone in the second half, highlighting Cherubino’s inner turmoil and yearning for the Countess. The lyrics talk about the confusion and frustration that comes with love, making it a relatable song that many people can connect with. Overall, “Voi che sapete” is a timeless piece of music that showcases Mozart’s skill in creating beautiful, emotional arias that continue to captivate audiences to this day.
16. Libiamo ne’ lieti calici – Verdi (La Traviata)
“Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” is a lively and joyous drinking song from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata.” The song is sung by the main characters, the young Parisian courtesan Violetta and the wealthy playboy Alfredo, as they celebrate their newfound love and the pleasures of life. The music is characterized by its catchy melody, sprightly rhythm, and lush orchestration, with the voices of the singers soaring over the accompaniment. The lyrics are in Italian and express the characters’ appreciation for the good things in life, as they raise their glasses in a toast to love, beauty, and happiness. The song has become one of the most famous and popular opera arias of all time, and is often performed as a standalone piece in concert halls and on stages around the world. Its infectious energy and celebratory mood make it a true crowd-pleaser that can get even the most reserved audience members tapping their toes and humming along.
17. Flower Duet – Delibes (Lakme)
“Flower Duet” is a famous duet for sopranos from Delibes’ opera “Lakmé”. It’s a beautiful, delicate and soothing piece that features two female characters, Lakmé and her servant Mallika, as they gather flowers by a river. The two women express their love for nature and for each other, singing in harmony about the beauty that surrounds them. The melody of “Flower Duet” is instantly recognizable, and its use in popular culture, such as in advertising and film soundtracks, has made it a beloved and timeless piece of music. The piece is characterized by its light, airy quality, which perfectly captures the essence of a beautiful, sunny day in nature. The soaring vocal lines of the two sopranos weave in and out of each other, creating a lush and mesmerizing tapestry of sound. Overall, “Flower Duet” is a stunning example of the power and beauty of opera, and continues to be one of the most beloved pieces in the genre.
18. Vissi d’arte – Giacomo Puccini (Tosca)
“Vissi d’arte” is an aria from the second act of the opera “Tosca” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. The song is sung by the character Tosca and is a hauntingly beautiful reflection of her despair and anguish. In the aria, Tosca laments her situation, questioning why she, who has always lived a virtuous life, is now suffering so much. She also pleads for divine help and asks why God has abandoned her. The melody is simple and melodic, yet incredibly emotional, with the soprano voice soaring and ebbing in perfect harmony with the music. The song has become a popular choice for sopranos and is often considered one of Puccini’s most poignant works. “Vissi d’arte” is a powerful and moving aria, highlighting the beauty and tragedy of opera, and the profound human emotions it can evoke.
19. Non mi dir – Mozart (Don Giovanni)
“Non mi dir” is an enchanting aria from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni”. It is a showpiece of the soprano repertoire with a challenging range and complex vocal embellishments. The aria is sung by Donna Anna as she tries to persuade Don Ottavio to take revenge on Don Giovanni for murdering her father. It begins with a soft and gentle introduction before the voice takes flight in a series of dazzling runs and trills. The melody is playful and full of life, with the orchestra providing a delicate accompaniment. The overall effect is one of grace and beauty, perfectly capturing Donna Anna’s character and her emotions. Mozart’s skill in creating a rich tapestry of sound, incorporating both voice and orchestra, is on full display in “Non mi dir”, making it a memorable and beloved piece of music.
20. Un bel di vedremo – Puccini (Madame Butterfly)
“Un bel di vedremo” is a poignant and emotional aria from Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”. It is sung by the character of Cio-Cio San, who awaits the return of her lover, Pinkerton, who had left her after their wedding. She remains hopeful that he will return to her someday, despite the passing of time and the doubts of those around her. The melody is gentle and flowing, with a sense of longing and bittersweet anticipation, as Cio-Cio San dreams of the day she will see Pinkerton again. Puccini’s use of the orchestra to support the vocal line, with delicate strings and winds, adds to the atmosphere of the aria. The climax of the piece is powerful and passionate, as Cio-Cio San’s hope and love reach their pinnacle, before fading back into the gentle melody. “Un bel di vedremo” is a beautiful and moving example of Puccini’s ability to convey deep emotions through music.
21. Ombra Mai Fu – Georg Friedrich Handel (Xerxes)
“Ombra Mai Fu” is a beautiful aria composed by Handel, which comes from his opera “Xerxes”. The piece is performed in the beginning of the opera, where the protagonist Xerxes sings about the beauty of the shade of a tree. The song is often referred to as “Handel’s Largo” due to its stunning slow tempo and the gorgeous melody. It is also famous for its recurring lyrical phrase, “Ombra mai fu” (Never was there a shade). The piece is usually sung by a male voice and is accompanied by a simple and elegant orchestral arrangement, featuring mainly strings and a harpsichord. The song’s tranquil mood and serene atmosphere make it a perfect piece to reflect on nature’s beauty and the importance of finding peace in life.
22. Je veux vivre – Gounod (Romeo and Juliet)
“Je veux vivre” is a beautiful aria sung by Juliet in Gounod’s opera “Romeo and Juliet”. It is a joyful and energetic piece, expressing the young girl’s love for life and her desire to experience everything the world has to offer. The lyrics are playful and light-hearted, with Juliet describing how she wants to dance, sing, and laugh, all while surrounded by flowers and the beauty of nature. The melody is equally joyful, with a lively and cheerful tune that captures the essence of Juliet’s character. This aria is a favorite among sopranos, showcasing their vocal agility and ability to convey a wide range of emotions. It is often performed in recitals and competitions, as well as in productions of “Romeo and Juliet”. Overall, “Je veux vivre” is a beautiful and captivating piece that perfectly captures the essence of youthful exuberance and joie de vivre.
23. L’Orfeo – Monteverdi (Savall)
Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, as performed by Jordi Savall, is a stunning musical masterpiece that brings to life the story of Orfeo, the legendary musician and poet of Greek mythology. This Baroque-era opera is a triumph of dramatic storytelling and musical innovation, with its richly layered orchestration and beautiful vocal harmonies.
Savall’s interpretation of L’Orfeo is a masterful performance that captures the emotional depth and complexity of Monteverdi’s work. From the hauntingly beautiful opening notes to the dramatic finale, Savall’s deft touch and musical sensitivity bring every moment of this iconic opera to life.
One of the highlights of this recording is the incredible ensemble work between the singers and musicians. The intricate interplay between the instruments and voices creates a rich and vibrant sound that perfectly complements the sweeping drama of the story.
The vocal performances on this recording are also truly exceptional. The singers bring a stunning range of expression and emotion to their roles, imbuing each character with a sense of depth and humanity that is both powerful and moving.
Overall, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo as performed by Jordi Savall is a timeless masterpiece that is sure to captivate and inspire anyone who loves great music and great storytelling. With its gorgeous melodies, rich harmonies, and powerful emotional resonance, this is a work that will continue to be beloved for generations to come.
24. Ride of the Valkyries – Wagner (Der Ring Des Nibelungen)
“Ride of the Valkyries” is a powerful and majestic orchestral piece composed by Richard Wagner for his opera “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” This iconic piece is famous for its soaring brass and percussion melodies, which conjure images of thunderous horsemen charging into battle.
The opening notes of “Ride of the Valkyries” immediately evoke a sense of grandeur and heroism, with its sweeping strings and brass fanfares. The piece then builds to a climax with the entrance of the percussion section, which adds a driving rhythm that propels the music forward.
One of the most striking features of the piece is the use of leitmotifs, or musical themes associated with specific characters or ideas. Wagner expertly weaves these motifs throughout the music, creating a rich tapestry of sound that underscores the drama of the opera.
“Ride of the Valkyries” has become an iconic piece of classical music, with its triumphant energy and unforgettable melodies inspiring countless films, TV shows, and other forms of popular culture. Whether heard in its original operatic context or as a standalone concert piece, this music remains a timeless and exhilarating masterpiece that never fails to thrill and inspire.
25. The Mad Scene – Salvadore Cammarano (Lucia Di Lammermoor)
“The Mad Scene” is a haunting and emotionally charged aria from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor,” with music composed by Gaetano Donizetti and libretto by Salvadore Cammarano. This scene is a dramatic and unforgettable moment in the opera, in which the character Lucia, driven to madness by grief and despair, delivers a gripping vocal performance.
The music of “The Mad Scene” is a tour-de-force of operatic storytelling, with Donizetti’s masterful score capturing the shifting emotions of Lucia’s descent into madness. The aria begins with a mournful and melancholic melody, reflecting Lucia’s deep sadness and despair. As the scene progresses, the music grows more frenzied and discordant, reflecting Lucia’s growing madness and confusion.
The vocal performance required for this scene is demanding and complex, with the singer required to convey a wide range of emotions and navigate intricate melodic passages. When performed well, however, the result is a breathtaking and deeply moving performance that leaves a lasting impression on the audience.
Overall, “The Mad Scene” is a masterpiece of operatic drama, showcasing the power of music and storytelling to evoke the deepest emotions of the human experience. Whether experienced within the context of the full opera or as a standalone performance, this aria remains a stunning and unforgettable work of art.
26. O Fortuna – Carl Orff (Carmina Burana)
“O Fortuna” is a powerful and iconic choral piece from the cantata “Carmina Burana,” composed by Carl Orff. The piece features a full choir and orchestra, with a driving percussion section that adds to the sense of urgency and drama.
The music of “O Fortuna” is intense and unforgettable, with its opening notes immediately setting the stage for a powerful and emotive performance. The choir sings in Latin, with lyrics that speak of the fickle and unpredictable nature of fate and fortune. The music is richly layered and complex, with overlapping vocal lines that create a sense of grandeur and majesty.
The piece is particularly famous for its use in film and television, with its powerful and dramatic energy lending itself to a wide range of contexts. Whether heard in its original context as part of “Carmina Burana” or in a standalone performance, “O Fortuna” remains a thrilling and unforgettable work of art, showcasing the power of music to evoke the full range of human emotions.
27. Andrea Bocelli – Canto Della Terra
“Canto della Terra” is a stirring and emotional aria performed by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. The song’s title translates to “Song of the Earth,” and the music evokes a sense of the natural world’s beauty and power.
The song is built around Bocelli’s powerful and expressive vocals, which convey a deep sense of emotion and passion. The lyrics speak of the beauty of the earth and the transcendent power of love, and Bocelli’s performance imbues each word with a sense of depth and meaning.
The music of “Canto della Terra” is sweeping and dramatic, with lush orchestration that complements Bocelli’s vocals perfectly. The song features a number of soaring instrumental passages that build to a thrilling climax, before resolving into a peaceful and uplifting final section.
Overall, “Canto della Terra” is a stunning work of art, showcasing the power of music to evoke deep emotions and connect us to the beauty and wonder of the world around us. Bocelli’s performance is particularly noteworthy, with his incredible voice lending a sense of drama and intensity to the piece that is truly unforgettable.