Whether you're new to opera or a longtime fan, you'll enjoy these collections:
Ultimate Opera (Decca) – This 5-for-the-price-of-1 set is a great starter. Arias, duets and choruses from the major operas, including La Traviata, Carmen, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni and others. Features singers like Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Leonie Rysanek and Plácido Domingo.
Opera A to Z (Naxos) – This excellent introduction to opera features an illustrated and comprehensive 762-page book. The two-CD set includes a greatest-hits collection of opera arias and ensembles.
100 Best Verdi (EMI) – Selections from all of Verdi’s major operas. Singers include Maria Callas, Plácido Domingo, Renata Scotto and others.
We also like:
Beethoven: Fidelio (DG) – Kollo, Ludwig, Bernstein
Bellini: Norma (EMI) – Callas, Corelli, Serafin
Bizet: Carmen (Decca) – Resnik, del Monaco, Schippers
Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment (Decca) – Sutherland, Pavarotti, Bonynge
Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (EMI) – Callas, Di Stefano, Serafin
Janáček: Jenůfa (Decca) – Söderström, Ochman, Mackerras
Monteverdi: L’Incoronazione di Poppea (Harmonia Mundi) – Larmore, Laurens, Jacobs
Mozart: Don Giovanni (Decca) – Terfel, Fleming, Groop, Solti
Mozart: The Magic Flute (EMI) – Popp, Janowitz, Berry, Gedda, Klemperer
Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (Decca) – Te Kanawa, Popp, Von Stade, Allen, Solti
Puccini: La Bohème (Decca) – Gheorghiu, Alagna, Pappano
Puccini: Madama Butterfly (DG) – Freni, Carreras, Sinopoli
Puccini: Turandot (Decca) – Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballé, Karajan
Rossini: The Barber of Seville (Decca) – Bartoli, Nucci, Pappano
Verdi: Aida (EMI) – Caballé, Domingo, Muti
Verdi: La Traviata (Decca) – Gheorghiu, Alagna, Solti
Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (EMI) – Studer, Heppner, Weikl, Sawallisch
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (EMI) – Domingo, Stemme, Pape, Pappano
Weber: Der Freischütz (DG) – Janowitz, Mathis, Adam, Kleiber
Looking to delve into the nuts and bolts of opera? These books are great guides:
Weep, Shudder, Die: A Guide to Loving Opera by Robert Levine – An insightful and witty introductory guide with background information plus musical highlights to listen for in 50 of the most popular operas.
Ticket to the Opera by Phil Goulding – This entertaining book covers the gamut from the great operas, musical terms and recommended recordings to opera lore, gossip and portraits of famous singers and the roles they immortalized.
Opera for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck – A friendly, down-to-earth guide full of useful information that demystifies the art form.
A Night at the Opera by Sir Denis Forman – With an encyclopedic knowledge of opera and a dash of irreverence, Forman throws open the world of opera—its structure, composers, conductors and artists—in this informative book.
So When Does the Fat Lady Sing?: Questions and Answers about Life, Sex, Love, and–Oh, Yes– Opera by Michael Walsh – Former music critic for Time magazine, Walsh asks and answers the burning questions about opera.
Evenings at the Opera by Jeffrey Langford – A unique view of the stylistic development of nearly 200 years of opera history (from Mozart to Britten), and how the genre’s competing components of action, music and text combine to make effective music drama.