50 arias you’ll love


… Or at least that’s what my friend Grace is promising me. I’d asked her for a list of favorite arias, you see, because I am illiterate when it comes to operas and arias. It’s odd that I’m not an opera person. I’ve always loved classical music, and revel in the luxury of attending performances at the symphony, the ballet. I’ve sung in choirs since my youth, and one of the best things about going to Mass, sporadically as I do, is the singing. But for whatever reason, sitting and watching opera leaves me feeling very restless.

But I can still appreciate a beautiful melody. And every now and then, I hit upon an aria that steals my breath and my heart, it’s so beautiful. I have my own little top 5 list. I’m going to bet that you are familiar with most of these, too. I discovered them through movies and commercials and other lowbrow forms of entertainment. Hey, what can I say? I embrace my lowbrow side, too. Where would the world be without Taco Bell, Budweiser beer, and opera in TV commercials? To hell In a hand basket, my friend.


Here’s my list (note: the last two aren’t operas, really, so they only count for half a point each)

  1. Catalani: La Wally – Ne Andrò Lontano (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8jCe9Yj1I8)
  2. Puccini: Gianni Schicchi – O Mio Babbino Caro (featured in the opening credits of Room With a View and I’ve talked about this one before here: https://www.theclassicalgirl.com/a-perfect-moment-via-o-mio-babbino/
  3. Bellini: Norma – Casta Diva
  4. Puccini: Turandot – Nessun Dorma (*See below)
  5. Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Barcarolle (featured in the movie Life is Beautiful)
  6. Grieg: Peer Gynt – Solveig’s Cradle Song. This one’s so exquisite, you have to hear it.

(Here’s the link in case my embeds are malfunctioning.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgBuJNyese4)

But back to my friend, Grace. When, six months ago, she brought up how much she’d enjoyed seeing Bellini’s Norma, multiple times now, I’d mentioned my opera illiteracy. Knowing she was much better educated than I in opera, I asked for her advice. “Ooh, let me compile a list for you,” she told me. “I’ll whittle it down to my favorites.”

Well. The list was 50 favorites (which I’m going to call “arias” in this post to keep it simple but really there are quartets, too, and choruses, and such, but you’re okay with that, right? Good).

Lucky me: Grace burned me three CDs to accompany her list. My habit is to listen to one CD over and over, getting a feel for which one speaks to me. You know how it is: sometimes you’ll have an instant favorite on the first listen. Some take several listens. Sometimes, by the 10th listen, you’ve grown tired of your initial favorite, and you’ve been drawn in, utterly beguiled, by one that you didn’t even register during the first few listens.

Here’s what was on the first CD. Are any of these your favorites?

  1. Beethoven       Fidelio             Chorus of the Prisoners
  2. Beethoven       Fidelio             Mit ist so wunderbar
  3. Bellini              Norma             Oh! Di Qual Sei Tu Vittima
  4. Bellini              Norma             Oh! Qual Traspare Orrible
  5. Bellini              Norma             Mira, O Norma
  6. Bellini              Norma             Si, Fino All’ore Estreme
  7. Bellini              Norma             In Mia Man Alfin Tu Sei
  8. Von Weber      Der Freischutz Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle
  9. Gounod           Romeo et Juliet Ah! j…
  10. Donizetti         Lucia Di Lammermoor
  11. Donizetti         Lucia Di Lammermoor
  12. Donizetti         Lucia Di Lammermoor
  13. Verdi               Rigoletto         Gaultier Malde’ Caro Nome
  14. Verdi               Rigoletto         E il sol dell’ anima
  15. Verdi               La Traviata      E Strano! E Str
  16. Verdi               La Traviata      Sempre Libera
  17. Gounod           Faust               Salut! Dem

Among three or four rising favorites at this point, here’s the hands’ down winner: Carl Maria Von Weber’s Der Freischutz. “Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle” is performed here by Anna Tomowa-Sintow:


Here’s Grace’s second CD list

  1.  Gounod           Faust               Ballet Music
  2. Mozart               Cosi Fan Tutte            Soave sia il vento
  3. Mozart               Magic Flute     Chorus of Priests
  4. Mozart              Magic Flute     Der Vogelfanger bin …
  5. Mozart               Magic Flute     Dies Bildness is bezaubernd
  6. Mozart              Magic Flute     O Isis un Osiris
  7. Nicolai             Merry Wives of Windsor
  8. Puccini             La Boheme      O Soave Fa…
  9. Puccini              Turandot         Nessun Dorma
  10. Puccini              Gianni Schicchi O Mio babbino caro
  11. Puccini                La Boheme      Chegelida manina
  12. Rossini            Barber of Seville          Ecoo, ridente in cielo
  13. Rossini            Barber of Sevillw        Una voco poco fa
  14. Verdi               Rigoletto                     La Donna E Mobile
  15. Verdi               Rigoletto                     Bellla Figlia Dell’amore
  16. Verdi               Il Trovatore     D’ amor sulla ali rosee
  17. Bellini              Norma             Casta Diva

* Pause for a commercial break, and that’s great, because that’s precisely what it is: a commercial. For beer. But oh, what a splendid commercial, using Bellini’s Nessun Dorma from my Top 5 list. It’s not just funny to watch, but to listen to, because they’ve changed the words. You’ve GOT to watch this. Kudos to Carleton Draught [beer] for an absolutely brilliant commercial.


And here’s the third of Grace’s list, which brings us to the aforementioned 50 arias we’ll love. Thank you, Grace!

  1. Bellini              I Puritani         O Rendeterni La (JS)
  2. Bellini              La Sonnambula            Ah! Se U
  3. Bellini              La Sonnambula            Ah! Non Credo mirati
  4. Bellini              La Sonnambula            Ah! Non giunge
  5. Bellini              I Puritani         O Rendetemi La          (AN)
  6. Bellini              I Puritani         Vien, Diletto, E
  7. Wagner            Flying Dutchman        Spinning Chorus
  8. Wagner            Die Meistersinger
  9. Wagner            Tannhauser     Entry of guests
  10. Wagner            Tannhauser     Pilgrim’s chorus
  11. Wagner            Lohengrin        Bridal chorus
  12. Wagner            Lohengrin        Procession
  13. Wagner            Parsifal            Grail chorus
  14. Von Weber       Der Freischutz            Huntsmen’s chorus
  15. Mozart               The Magic Flute Bei Mannern, welche

3 thoughts on “50 arias you’ll love”

  1. I should have called the list “Opera Favorites” since obviously not all these selections are arias. I couldn’t resist a few quartets and choral numbers. Another mistake: on disc 3 I mistakenly added O Rendeterni La from Bellini’s I Puritani twice. However, the first one is by Joan Sutherland and the second version is by Anna Netrebko. Might be interesting to compare them.


    • I suppose I could retitle the post to say “50 arias and other opera favorites and/or similar kinds of music pieces you’d love” but that would read kinda long. ; )

      So, I’m just going to cheat and call them arias.

      And thanks again, Grace! I’m having so much fun learning more about arias (and stuff).

    • Grace, I couldn’t resist adding that I’m very glad you included the other pieces, such as the quartets. I’m so enjoying the Beethoven Fidelio quartet, “Mir ist so Wunderbar” (no. 2 on CD 1). I listened to it this morning, over and over.

      And since we’re expanding the definition of what constitutes an aria, well, my goodness, I HAVE to include “Abendsegen” from Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel. That IS an opera, actually. It’s just that the piece doesn’t feel “aria.” But it’s sooo beautiful. Others, do check it out. I blogged about it here: http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/hansel-gretel-abendsegen-14-angels/


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