Memorable Opera Duets and Arias

Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti

Aria: Operatic Solo

The aria, that is, operatic solo, is why opera buffs attend performances. Opera is the Olympics of Singing, and the solos are the main events. There are also some fantastic duets.

Here are a few of what I consider the best.

Nessun Dorma

("Let No One Sleep") from Turandot by Puccini

Context: A Chinese princess, Turandot, offers her hand in marriage to any man who can answer three riddles she poses. If a suitor fails, he'll be beheaded. The Prince of Tartary takes the chance, and answers all three riddles correctly. Turandot begs her father, the Chinese emperor, to prevent the marriage, but he insists it take place as a matter of honor. However, the Prince makes her an offer: if she can guess his real name before dawn, she can kill him anyway. Turandot accepts, and then proclaims that EVERYONE in Beijing is to stay awake that night, trying to guess the Prince's name, and if it's not guessed, EVERYONE will be killed. (Pretty cold, wouldn't you say?)

This was the signature song of the late great tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

O Mio Babbino Caro

("O My Dear Father") from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini

Context: Rinuccio and Lauretta, daughter of Gianni Schicchi, want to marry, but Gianni Schicchi initially wants nothing to do with Rinuccio's family because they are elitists and greedy. But Gianni Schicchi relents after hearing his daughter's plea that she will kill herself if she can't have Rinuccio.

Libiamo Ne' Lieti Calici

("Let Us Drink from This Goblet of Joy") from La Traviata by Verdi

Context: Violetta, a courtesan (lady of free morals) in Paris, gives a party. ("La Traviata" means "fallen woman".) Violetta sings this famous drinking song. If it doesn't make you want to hoist one, you must be in a coma.

Listen to Placido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti (The “Three Tenors”)...

Sempre Libera

("Always Free") from La Traviata by Verdi

Context: At the above mentioned party, Violetta has met Alfredo, and wonders if he could turn out to be the love of her life. But she decides that she must be free to be with anyone in her life, and sings the aria.

The first minute of the video is dialogue. The singing begins at the one-minute mark. You might want to scan ahead to the singing.

Canzonetta Sull' Aria

("A Little Song on the Breeze") from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart

Context: Countess Rosina Almaviva, wants to get proof of her husband Count Almaviva's infidelity. She gets her maid, Susanna, to invite him to have an affair. The method used is a note dictated by the Countess, which is a metaphorical invitation to a tryst in a garden. The duet is basically the contents of the note.

This duet was featured in the 1994 prison movie The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. In the movie, the Robbins character tries to calm the prisoners in the prison yard by playing the duet over the public address system. The Freeman character says about the song (ironically since the song is about entrapment):

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't wanna know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think it was something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than a person in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage, and every last prisoner in Shawshank felt free."

Sous Le Dôme Epais Où Le Blanc Jasmin

("Under a Dome of White Jasmine" — popularly called "The Flower Duet") from Lakmé by Delibes

Context: In nineteenth century India, Lakmé, the daughter of a Hindu priest, and her servant Mallika, are gathering flowers by a river.

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Près des Remparts de Séville

(“The Seguidilla”) from Carmen by Bizet

Context: Carmen, a young woman imprisoned for starting a brawl, seduces her jailer into allowing her to escape. Sample lyrics (translated):

I will go to the place of my friend, Lillas Pastia.

I will go to dance the Seguidilla

And to drink Manzanilla

Yes, but all alone, one gets bored,

And the real pleasures are for two;

Here it is the weekend;

Who wants to love me? I will love him!

Who wants my soul? It¹s for the taking.

Un Bel Di

(“One Beautiful Day”) from Madame Butterfly by Puccini

Context: I saved the best for last! My all-time favorite aria is sung by the legendary Maria Callas. It's 1904, and Pinkerton, an American naval officer stationed in Nagasaki Japan, makes a marriage of convenience to a young Japanese woman nicknamed Butterfly. But Pinkerton leaves, and Butterfly sings the aria, which describes her expectation that one day Pinkerton will return.

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Comments 63 comments

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...well you beat me to it ....or else I would have been the one to post this most beautiful labor of hub love to my Facebook page with pride and joy - and you have obviously made some very great choices here - and I appreciate the fact you take the time to explain the motive and theme and story context behind each aria - as a footnote - I had the pleasure twice of seeing the great Pavarotti in recital (once in Maple Leaf Gardens believe or not - it was a hockey arena - and I would imagine 10,000 -12,000 people were there - and in a smaller opera house known as Roy Thomson Hall .....

Thank you for your dedication with this fabulous hub - it's quite an honor and a thrill and my favorite opera is La Traviata by Verdi - particularly the film adaptation starring Placido Domingo and my favorite piece of music is Prelude to Act One from this opera .....

lake erie time ontario canada 12:02pm


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Colin / Epi / Poet Laureate of HubPages,

I promised that I would let you know when this Hub was published. An entry on your Facebook Wall was the best way I knew to do that.

We heard Pavarotti in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor concert venue in Los Angeles, on September 24, 2005. The concert was part of his worldwide farewell concert tour.

Imagine sitting outdoors with a glass of wine and listening to the great tenor sing...


missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

Daisy this is a wonderful hub! I am so glad Sunshine shared it! I'm not sure how I missed this on my HP feed. It must have been the holiday rush. My family and I are big music fans. Dad was known to play opera as I grew up (one of my favorite memories of him). My daughter is a musician through and through. She is a soprano and is in her 2nd year of Choral Studies. I will be sure to share this amazing hub with her.

If you have never heard Sissel sing 'Pie Jesu' you must! It is available on YouTube. My daughter sang it at my Dad's funeral.

Pavarotti's "Nessun Dorma" is heaven on earth!

Wonderful hub - voted up!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Well done! I see a few favorites here and some new artist that I now want to hear. Very well done and well written.. BRAVOOOOOOO.. *warning* you don't want me to sing it to you. We will leave that to the experts.. :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Most interesting. I'm not a huge fan of opera, but there are a few selections I enjoy...I tend to prefer comic operettas, specifically, Gilbert and Sullivan.

I don't like soprano voices--they always seem so intent upon "the notes" that you cannot understand what they are saying. But I do enjoy hearing a good tenor; never mind that the lyrics are in French or Italian--with the male voices, you can still make out the pronunciation, and perhaps learn the song.

I think my favorite is Placido Domingo. Pavarotti, to me, doesn't seem to sing with passion anymore--it looks like he's just standing there singing as if doing any other job. With Domingo, I can feel his emotional involvement in the song.

Ah, but the three tenors--oh, yes! Even Pavarotti improves when part of that group.

Thanks for posting a most informative hub. Bookmarked to listen later--when hubby is not in the house--he can't stand opera of any kind. ;-)

Voted up, interesting, beautiful, and awesome.


BRIAN SLATER profile image

BRIAN SLATER 4 years ago from Nottingham Uk

Hi Daisy- great tribute hub to some of the finest singers on the planet. Maria Callas is one of my favorites and like you Madam Butterfly is awesome. There is acouple Of these I've not heard so will be coming back for more. Voted up well done,:)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

missolive,

Thanks for your kind words. I had one italian grandfather, but I don't remember him playing any opera! Pie Jesu is very solemn, and not the easiest solo to do right - your daughter must be quite talented.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

tammyswallow,

You probably don't want to hear ME sing to YOU, either! If good singing were catching, I'd be Kiri Te Kanawa by now! As it is, I'll do everyone a favor and confine it to the shower. (Except I reserve the right to try a few unapproved notes with the chorus the next time I'm an opera super.)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

MsLizzy,

Thanks for your great post. You may not be aware that Pavarotti passed away a few years ago, but Placido Domingo is fortunately still with us - actually literally with us in Southern California, as he is artistic director of the Los Angeles opera, and still sings.

I've always liked light opera, and offer you two of my favorite pieces:

Lippen Schweigen (My Lips are sealed). This is commonly called the Merry Widow Waltz, from the operetta of the same name. (The idea is when you are in love, touches and glances say more than words.) In this video, it's performed by the late great Joan Sutherland:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EicwnaS3P4

joansutherland

Here's another good one: Mein Herr Marquis(The laughing Song) from Strauss the Younger's operetta Die Fledermaus, sung by Carla Maffioletti with Andre Rieu's orchestra:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajbi9dwuYiE


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Brian,

Thanks for stopping by. You're right - they don't make them like Maria Callas anymore.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Ugh! ***Slapping self upside the head for a serious 'senior moment!'*** I had heard, and since forgotten, that Pavarotti is no longer with us.

Thanks for those links--I'll be sure to look them up--they sound like fun songs. (I think my youngest was part of the backup chorus with the San Francisco Girls Chorus in the S.F. Opera production of Die Fledermaus...MANY years back.... I'll have to ask her...)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

MsLizzy -

Click on the links I gave, and you will be taken right to videos of the operetta arias being sung on youtube.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks for bringing this out. Do you like any of the new singers out there? I love Josh Grobran, Charlotte Church, and especially Sarah Brightman and Deliver Me. It isn't as traditional but I think they were all inspired by the greats. Great hub.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I love Sull'Aria--I just sang this duet with a friend of mine not too long ago--I sang the Countess--and it was great fun---


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Tammy,

I do enjoy the singers you mentioned. Have you attended any of their performances? We were London, England several years ago and got to see three musical theater productions. Sarah Brightman was starring in one, but she was ill on the evening we were there, so we heard her understudy.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

You're so multi-talented! Were you performing in a full production of the Marriage of Figaro?


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

I've been madly in love with Pavarotti for years-- even saw him perform once-- what a man. What a voice. You had me hooked on this hub because you started out with him, but I enjoyed all the videos and you picked wonderful arias as well as wonderful artists. Great hub. I love it.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

robie2,

Thanks for commenting. We were fortunate enough to have heard Pavarotti in concert at the Hollywood Bowl at the beginning of his year-long farewell concert tour.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Hi Daisy,

I cam back for another look--You might think about doing another hub with some in English maybe--or contemporary--there are some beautiful arias out there in Engish--Ain't it a Pretty Night for instance---just stuff--- Nice hub!!!


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Daisy, excellent job. I wrote a similar hub to yours, but you beat me on the photo/youtube links. These are some really beautiful numbers.

Take care and voted up on you wonderful hub

John


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

Thanks so much for the return visit. I've been compiling a list of Hub suggestions. I'll add arias sung in English to it.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

John,

It's nice to meet you. I see from your HubPages profile that you're from Los Angeles. Do you get much chance to attend performances at the Hollywood Bowl?


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I've never been an opera fan, but you might get me to change my mind!:)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Thanks, Sunshine!

Don't think of it as *opera*... Think of it as *beautiful music*...


Curiad profile image

Curiad 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

This is an awesome hub, written very well and included some of the best vocals ever created.

Thank you!

Voted Up!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mark,

I'm glad you enjoyed my article. It was an especially fun one to write.


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 4 years ago

A great selection. A lot of thought went into it.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

rjsadowski,

It's nice to meet you. Do you have a favorite piece of music among the ones I included in my article?


Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 4 years ago from California

You picked some of my favorite Operas! I love Madame Butterfly. I did Gilber and Sullivan's "The Mikado" several years ago and played Katishaw. Loved every minute of it! Voted way up and shared!

Beautiful hub Miss Daisy. Happy Happy Birthday!

Lisa


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Lisa,

Thanks for reading my article, and thanks for the March 18th birthday greetings.

This was really an enjoyable article to write. It took a while to compile the selections for this Hub, though...I kept listening to the music rather than write about it.


SanneL profile image

SanneL 4 years ago from Sweden

Aahhh. . .this hub is truly music to my ears! you have picked some wonderful pieces. Listen to Placido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti in La Traviata, well it can't be much better than that. However, the Flower Duet is another favorite of mine, and who doesn't love the Greek opera singer, the great Maria Callas. Beautiful hub. I will be back to this hub, just to listen to the brilliant music. Voted up and sharing.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Sannel,

Thanks for commenting in another of my Hubs and sharing it. Did you ever hear any of the *Three Tenors* perform live? We were fortunate enough to have attended a Pavorotti concert during his year-long farewell tour. Surprisingly, he didn't sing Nessun Dorma.


Duchess OBlunt 4 years ago

Wonderful collection! My all time favourite is the Flower Duet. Such harmony!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Duchess O'Blunt,

Thanks for reading and commenting in my Hub. This was a very enjoyable article to write. It took a while...I kept stopping to listen to all the wonderful music.


Suelynn profile image

Suelynn 4 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

Daisy Mariposa: I have had thoughts about writing in a similar vein but so glad to find your Hub. As the music and voices soar, so does my heart. I can barely imagine watching Pavarotti at the Hollywood Bowl, wineglass in hand! Wow! When goosebumps rise all along my arms, I know that the music has found its way home. It doesn't fail.

Voted up and across.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Susan (Suelynn),

It's great to "see" you again. Thanks for listening to my Hub and commenting. I hope this music has helped to heal the sorrow you've been experiencing in recent weeks.


Suelynn profile image

Suelynn 4 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

Thank you so much for saying, Daisy - whose heart could not but soar when listening to genius? Warm hugs to you.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Susan (suelynn),

Thanks for visiting again. Please take care of yourself, and get back to writing whenever you can...perhaps some more warm remembrances of your father?


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Wow, how did I miss this. Its packed with my favorite Arias, its chock full of little background details and the cream on this luscious cake is to be able to listen to all of them as I read your wonderfully written hub. top notch, Daisy! Love it! voted up/across and will be coming back again and again.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thank you for *listening* to my Hub and commenting in it.

(I just love to write "*listening* to my Hub.")

As always, I appreciate your continued support.

As you can imagine, this article took a long time to write...I listened to each aria and duet many times.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Love this hub and love your picks! The three tenors, Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carraras are my favorite opera singers and Carmen my favorite opera - glad you included it! Voted up!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Daisy, I have listened to them all without headphones...yeeeaaahhhh cos I'm in on my own! Heaven! We have the same favourite and I know next to nothing about opera but Callas touches me!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Julie (Jools99),

Thanks for reading, listening to, and commenting in one of my favorite Hubs. I'm glad you had the opportunity to listen without headphones.

You don't have to know anything about opera in order to enjoy beautiful music.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Oh Daisy - How can I thank you for this heavenly concert? If I were to list my favorites it would mirror your own and in the same order. I grew up listening to "One fine day" as my mother would play this again and again. She was anointed in opera. She could recite the history, background or every opera and explain what each was about.

Thank you, thank you for this musical, operatic treasure. Voted up and across (not funny) and sharing!


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 4 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Grazi DaisyMariposa. You have given us some great arias here and added insightful summaries that help guide novices like me through the various operas.

I have always loved Luciano and have a tape of a live performance he gave in his hometown (Modena?) back in 1980s when he was at his brilliant best. A powerful voice capable of great tenderness.

I will work my way through the videos!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

chef-de-jour,

It's nice to "see" you again. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my article and listening to the music. With both paintings in museums and classical music, having some background information helps one enjoy the work even more.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey (vocalcoach),

Thank you for listening to my article, commenting in it, and sharing it. I appreciate your continued support of my work.

I worked for an opera company for a few years doing fundraising. One evening I walked into the makeup trailer to say "hello" prior to my attending a performance of Aida. The next I knew, I was "volunteered" to do body painting of the male supernumeraries and chorus members.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

Now, you're talking my language! I love Opera, and you picked some of my favorites here. "One Fine Day" is certainly a favorite.

I would so have loved to have heard the Three Tenors in person, but I have many of their records.

Voted UP and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (mary615),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. It was difficult picking the arias / duets. I didn't want the Hub to be too long, and there were so many great pieces from which to choose.

I would have also loved to hear the Three Tenors perform, and like you, I have some of their recordings. We heard Luciano Pavarotti perform at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California. It was during his last series of concerts around the world, and we could see that he was already ill. (He cancelled a few concerts after the one we attended.)

Pavarotti's concert was wonderful! Rather than remember a favorite aria or other musical piece sung by Pavarotti, however, I remember most what he didn't sing...Nessun Dorma. That was a bit of a disappointment.


Nina Scott 3 years ago

A really excellent article and a superb selection both of pieces and performers. Thank you!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nina,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I appreciate your very kind words.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 3 years ago from UK

One of my favorite hubs... great collection here Daisy. Good to come back for a revisit. shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thanks for stopping by again. I appreciate it.

I'm so glad I got to hear Pavarotti during his final concert tour. He was already noticeably ill and, unfortunately, did not sing Nessun Dorma.


LastRoseofSummer2 profile image

LastRoseofSummer2 3 years ago from Arizona

Well, basically every one on this list is a favorite of mine! I am sure you have heard "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's "Les pêcheurs de perles". If you haven't, you have got to listen to it right away! It is probably one of the best duets in the world!

Thank you so much for a great hub with such beautiful music! I love opera!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

LastRoseofSummer2,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I'm glad you liked my selection of musical pieces. I'm not certain whether I have heard "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's "Les pêcheurs de perles." I'll look for a copy of the opera and refresh my memory regarding it.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Still loving this hub!


LastRoseofSummer2 profile image

LastRoseofSummer2 3 years ago from Arizona

Oh, yes, Daisy you've got to listen to it! In particular, go out on YouTube and listen to the recording of the duet with Robert Merrill and Jussi Bjorling. I'd post the link here, but I'm not entirely sure how HubPages feels about people posting links in the comments section.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

Thanks for visiting again. I appreciate your support of my writing and your love of music.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

LastRoseofSummer2,

Thanks for visiting again. I'll look for the duet on YouTube.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Wow! You're knowledge knows no bounds. What a great hub about opera. Though I am not a big fan I do appreciate the beauty of a good opera and the magnificent voices. Pick a favorite? That's a little like asking me to a pick my favorite candy out of a box of chocolates.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Shared too.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (tillsontitan),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub. I appreciate your very kind words and your support of my writing.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 11 months ago from Dubai

Am not familiar with operatic solo until I read your hub. Thank you for sharing, enlightened. I always learn something new when I read your hubs.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 11 months ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I appreciate your very kind words. I love to write what I call "gently educational" Hubs.

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